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

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

Made-Up Minds

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

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

That’s what we find in John 11.

No Neutral Ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Was a Dangerous Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unconscious Prophecy

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

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

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

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

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

But Caiaphas spoke better than he knew.

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

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

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

Leon Morris says this of Caiaphas:

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

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

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

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

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

Hardened hearts.

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

Made-up minds. Hardened hearts.

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

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

So what will you do with Jesus?

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

Turn to him and be saved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also “Gospel of John”:

Sabbath Day Controversies

Sabbath Day Controversies copy

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

1. Sabbath Day Controversies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus himself talks about this conflict in John 7:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus told him to cool it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. To expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

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

  1. To show the real reason for the Sabbath.

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

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


 2. Different Interpretations Cannot All Be Right

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

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

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

2.1.     Murder

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

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

2.2.     Adultery

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

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

2.3.     Divorce

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

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

2.4.     Vows

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

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

2.5.     Justice

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

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

2.6.     How to Treat Your Enemies

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

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

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

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

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

2.8.     Selective Obedience

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

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

Jesus confronts them about their selective obedience in Matthew 15:

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


3. Where Did the Sabbath Come From?

3.1.     The Institution of the Sabbath

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

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

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

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

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

Again, there is no mention of a Sabbath.

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

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

God raised up Moses and Aaron.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.2.     The Meaning of the Sabbath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.3.     The Perversion of the Sabbath

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

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

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

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


4. The Sabbath in the New Testament

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

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

Jesus told him to keep the commandments.

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

Jesus did not tell him to keep the Sabbath.

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

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

James also quotes from the Ten Commandments:

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

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

4.1.     The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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

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

4.2.     The First Day of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.3.     The Lord’s Day

In Revelation 1:10, the Apostle John says,

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

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


Concluding Remarks

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

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

The Sabbath is a sign:

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also “Seventh Day Adventism“:

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

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, John 10. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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


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

1.1.     Chapter and Verse!

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

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

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

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

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

1.2.     Continuation from Chapter 9

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

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

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

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

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

2.        False Shepherds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

So it is the Pharisees who do not understand.

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

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

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

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

3.1.     The Sheepfold

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

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

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

3.2.     The Door

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

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

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

3.3.     The Shepherd

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

3.4.     The Sheep

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

3.5.     Other Sheep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

4.1.     Addition

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

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

4.2.     Subtraction

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

4.3.     Multiplication

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

4.4.     Division

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


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

See also “Gospel of John”:

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

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

John 8:2-12

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

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

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

What is guilt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC: KRISTYN GETTY – The Power of the Cross

Guilt in the Garden

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

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

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

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

“Adam, where are you?”

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

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

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

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

Guilt. How should we deal with it?

The Woman Caught in Adultery

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

Shame and guilt are written all over this story.

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

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

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

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

God’s verdict was clear:

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

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

The Trap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Answer

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

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

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

But Jesus is full of compassion for the woman.

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

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

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

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


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

What does he write?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alone with Jesus

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

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

“Woman, where are they?”

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

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

“No one, Lord.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Condemnation

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


Paul says it this way in Romans 8:

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

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

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

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

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

What Do You Do with Your Guilt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



[3]Steve Zeisler,

[4]Jon Bloom,

See also “Gospel of John”: