Isaiah 53, “Why Did Christ Suffer?”

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1456053183_thumb.pngWe are coming up on Good Friday this week when the Church gives special attention to the sufferings of Christ. Actually we remember his death every time we partake of Holy Communion. The Scriptures tell us that as we break the bread and drink the cup, we remember Christ’s broken body and shed blood — we remember Christ’s death until he comes again. Furthermore, our message is Christ and him crucified. We preach Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.

Today we want to think of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We find an astonishing description of his suffering in Isaiah 52 and 53. I say “astonishing” because this description of Christ’s sufferings was given by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before the birth of our Lord.

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 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. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-12 ESV).


The Jewish religion, Judaism, has always been at odds with Christianity over the interpretation of Isaiah 53 and many other passages that point to Jesus Christ. But we read in Luke 24, that after his resurrection, Christ himself went through the Scriptures with his apostles and showed them how the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to him.

Several passages in the New Testament confirm that Isaiah was speaking of the suffering of Christ. For example, in Acts 8, we read that Philip met up an Ethiopian eunuch, the Minister of Finances for Ethiopia; he was reading Isaiah 53.

Acts 8:32-35 ESV Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

So the Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53, but did not know who Isaiah was talking about. Philip told him that Isaiah was talking about Jesus.

John tells us that the unbelief of the Jews was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:1,

John 12:37-38 ESV Though he [Jesus] had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Peter also quotes Isaiah 53, telling us that Christ left us an example that we should follow in his steps.

But why did he suffer?

We were created in the image of God. We are creatures who seek to understand. We naturally look for meaning. And so we ask ourselves, “Why?” Why did Christ suffer?

When we speak of the sufferings of Christ, we stand before mystery; we stand on holy ground:

1 Timothy 3:16 ESV Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

“He was manifested in the flesh.” This is the incarnation. The Word became flesh, the Son of God became the Son of Man. God took upon himself humanity. Isaiah describes Christ on earth growing up before the Father as a young plant, tender, vulnerable. He is threatened as an infant by a hostile King Herod. As an adult, he is subject to all the weaknesses of humanity: he is weary, he sleeps, he thirsts, he bleeds, he dies.

“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (53:2). Jesus was not what the Jews were hoping for in the Messiah. They wanted someone who would overthrow the Romans, someone who would guarantee them prominence, prestige, and power. They wanted to make him king; they wanted him to wear a crown; he came to bear a cross. So as Isaiah prophesied,

Isaiah 53:3a ESV He was despised and rejected by men;

Matthew 27:39-44 ESV And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Isaiah describes him as

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV).

Isaiah writes of Christ’s appearance on the cross.

Isaiah 52:14 ESV As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

As we consider suffering, we often attempt to establish cause. Why is this person suffering? Why is another sick? Is it a failure to look after their health?

Job had been the richest man of the East, but lost everything including his health. His three friends — miserable comforters — were certain that there was sin in his life that had brought on the judgment of God. But they were wrong.

In John 9, Jesus comes up on a man who was born blind. The disciples seek to establish blame. “Who sinned?” they ask, “this man or his parents that he would be born blind?”

Looking at Christ on the cross, what are we to think? Isaiah says,

“…yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4c-d ESV).

Stricken, smitten, afflicted — by God! We are tempted to ask, “What did he do to deserve this treatment? What did he do to deserve such a horrible death?”

Why did He suffer? Isaiah gives us the answer.


“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).

Why did he suffer? For what sins did the Crucified One suffer? He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. It was not for himself or his sins that he suffered. Our griefs, our sorrows — what we merited, what we deserved, he took upon himself.

  • He was pierced for our
  • He was crushed for our
  • The chastisement upon him brought us peace with God.
  • His wounds bring about our healing.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).

We are wandering sheep. We have followed our ways rather than God’s ways. We do our own thing. We do it our way. We follow our own inclinations.

1 Peter 2:24 ESV He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Application: See him there, on the cross? Do you realize that Christ suffered because of your sins? My sins and yours, nailed him to the cross. Christ suffered because of our sins.

Why did He suffer? He suffered because of our sins. But secondly,


Isaiah 53:7 ESV He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

He was a voluntary victim. He is the great high priest who presented himself.

Matthew 26:53 ESV Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

At any moment he could have put a stop to it all. As they spit in his face, and struck him, and ripped the beard from his face, and lacerated his back with a whip, and drove the crown of thorns into this brow, and nailed him to the cross — at any moment he could have called it off. But he was a voluntary victim. He gave himself for us.

Philippians 2:5-7 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Romans 5:6-8 ESV For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Heb 9:11-14 ESV “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Christ gave himself for us.

Galatians 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Mat 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Joh 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Tit 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

He accepted to suffer and give himself for us, and he did it because he loved us.

Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Joh 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Rom 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

Application: Christ accepted to suffer in your place, in your stead, because he loved you.


We may be tempted to think that the cross was a tragic accident. That something went terribly wrong. John tells us that Christ came to his own people, but even his own people did not receive him. But this was no accident. This was the plan of God.

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV).

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached,

Acts 2:23 ESV this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Two chapters later, the believers prayed,

Acts 4:27-28 ESV for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

We are all implicated in the death of Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike. But it was the Father’s plan and a demonstration of His love as well as the love of the Son.

1 John 4:9-10 ESV In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

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

Propitiation is the satisfaction of justice. God could not simply overlook our sins and still be righteous. If it is proved in a court of law that a man is guilty of murder, we expect the judge to pass sentence on the murderer rather than let him off. And if the judge simply excuses the crime, we would say that the judge is corrupt.

God cannot simply let us off the hook. He is righteous and just. The penalty must be paid, but our sins and iniquities are too great. We cannot pay for our own deliverance. God Himself paid the penalty. The Word became flesh. The Son of God became the Son of Man that he might stand in our place, and pay the penalty for our sins. The death of Christ on the cross was no accident. It was the plan of God. The Father gave His Son. The Son gave himself.

Application: Christ suffered because that was the only way that God could save us.


“Many… many… many”

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12 ESV).

Christ died not for a few, but for all. John tells us that Christ is the propitiation not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2). Christ died for your sins. Christ died that you might be justified.

Psalm 2:8 ESV Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Revelation 5:9-10 ESV And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Application: Are you one of the many who have been justified?

II.   Christ suffered

  1. Because of our sins
  2. Because he accepted to suffer: it was voluntary.
  3. Because it was the will of the lord to crush him with suffering
  4. To justify many.

Redemption’s Song

© J. Gary Ellison, April 4, 2012

See Him there upon the cross
As He dies in shame?
We are the ones who nailed Him there,
We are the ones to blame.

It was for crimes He had not done,
Our sins that caused His pain.
He knew no sin, the Righteous One,
For sinners He was slain.

O Lamb of God on sacred tree
Twas there You died for me
To take away my sin and shame
That righteous I might be.

That Holy One did bear our sin
No other one could do.
He is the Lamb, the spotless One,
Who died for me and you.

Holy, innocent, undefiled,
On Him our sins were laid,
To cleanse us from our awful deeds
The penalty He paid.

O Righteous One, I hear you now,
“It’s finished! It is done!”—
The work on Calvary’s bloody cross—
The victory’s been won!

They laid Him in a borrowed grave
He would not use it long.
God raised Him up that He might save,
This is Redemption’s song.

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, (John 1:11-12 ESV).

You can receive Christ right where you are by confessing you sin to him and asking him to be your Lord and Savior.


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

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



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

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

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


1.1.The Question: Who Sinned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps it was his parents:

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

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

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

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

1.2.The Answer

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.3.The Solution

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

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

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

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

In two verses, John describes the healing:

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

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

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

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


2.1.The Blind Man Sees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first steps of faith in Jesus begin simply.

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


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

3.1.Not On the Sabbath!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.2.The Second Step of Faith

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

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


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

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

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

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


5.1.Name of the Game: Intimidation

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

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

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

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

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

5.2.Tell Us Again!

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

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

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

Step 1: The man called Jesus.

Step 2: He is a prophet from God.

Step 3: I’m a disciple.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This man worships Jesus.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Four questions:[12]

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

Three statements:

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

Ask Jesus to open the eyes of your heart.

See also “Gospel of John”:

[1]Shabbath 7:2

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

[3]John Piper

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

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

[6]John Piper

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

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

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

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

[11]John Piper

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


John 08:31-36, “Life’s Greatest Freedom!”

Jesus Will Set You Free
Jesus Will Set You Free (Photo credit: Kevin Shorter)

Freedom. Every year, around the world, many countries celebrate independence. In less than two months, here in Vanuatu we will celebrate 34 years of independence on July 30, 2014. When we think of independence, we think of freedom. Freedom is one of the great ideas associated with independence. Freedom. But what is freedom? Today I’d like to speak to you about Life’s Greatest Freedom…


What is life’s greatest freedom? We live in a free country. We have many freedoms. We have

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom to live and to travel
  • Freedom to work
  • Freedom to marry and to raise a family
  • Freedom to vote

We can be grateful for these freedoms. We can be thankful for the heritage that we have that enables us to enjoy these freedoms. It is a great thing to take responsibility. It is wonderful for a people to be able to govern themselves, choose their own leaders, provide for their own children, and live in a way that glorifies the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Long God yumi standup.

We also have freedom from certain things. We have…

  • Freedom from tyranny
  • Freedom from oppression
  • Freedom from persecution
  • Freedom from slavery

But are we really free?

Many people think that they are free but have never experienced the freedom that God wants to give them.

We have been considering the message of the Gospel of John. Last week we saw that Jesus is the Light of the World. As he was teaching in the temple, “many believed in him” (John 8:30). And so we arrive at…

John 8:31-36 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

So we come today to this most important passage about life’s greatest freedom. This passage contains one of those verses that is so well-known, that we don’t really know it at all. How many times have we heard the phrase, “The truth will set you free”? Many universities around the world take a motto from this passage. These universities are places of higher learning. They are interested in knowledge and in the communication of knowledge. Universities sometimes think that they have a corner on truth and knowledge. And as I said, some of them have adopted the motto, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

But the problem with this motto is that it is taken out of its context. This motto, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” is often used without any consideration of who said it, to whom it was addressed, or the conditions that are necessary to receive the benefit of this promise.



2.1.      The Addressees

First we should note that Jesus makes a great promise in these verses, but that promise is addressed to a particular group of people. Jesus is not making a general promise that applies to all people in all places at all points of time. Jesus is not saying that all people will know the truth. He is not saying that everyone will be set free. This promise is made to those who are truly his disciples. Verse 30 says that many of the Jews believed in him as a result of his teaching in the temple. The next verse says, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

2.2.      Jesus’ Promise

Second, this not some general principle that knowledge leads to freedom. Jesus is not telling us that education will set people free. Education can be good, but education is not the solution to the problems that we face in society today. There are many people with great knowledge who have not found freedom. The Book of Revelation speaks of those who have “learned what some call the deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24). They are not free.

In the beginning, God told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Up to that point, everything was good. Everything that Adam and Eve knew was good and they were free. But with disobedience came the knowledge of evil. That knowledge of evil did not liberate; it enslaved. That knowledge of evil did not lead to freedom; it led to bondage, slavery.

It is not general knowledge that leads to freedom. It is the knowledge of the truth that leads to freedom.

2.3.      THE Truth

Jesus says, “…you will know THE TRUTH, and THE TRUTH will set you free.” Some deny the possibility of knowing the truth. Some deny the existence of the truth. “There is no absolute truth,” they say. Is that true? It is absolutely true that there is no absolute truth? You see, such a statement is self-defeating. To state that there is no truth is to make a truth claim. If you say that all truth is relative, you are contradicting yourself for you have just made a truth statement about all truth, not just some truth.

Jesus speaks about THE truth, the truth that sets men free.

The Bible mentions “the truth” 76 times. The Bible speaks of…

  • Knowing the truth (Joh 8:32)
  • Believing the truth (2Th 2:12)
  • Listening to the truth (2Ti 4:4)
  • Speaking the truth (Pro 12:17)
  • Bearing witness to the truth (Joh 5:33)
  • Rejoicing in the truth (1Co 13:6)
  • Loving the truth (2Th 2:10)
  • Being established in the truth (2Pe 1:12)
  • Standing in the truth (Joh 8:44)
  • Keeping in step with the truth (Gal 2:14)
  • Walking in the truth (3Jo 1:4)
  • Practicing the truth (1Jo 1:6)
  • Obeying the truth (Rom 2:8)

It also warns about…

  • Swerving from the truth (2Ti 2:18)
  • Wandering from the truth (Jam 5:19)
  • Turning away from the truth (Tit 1:14)
  • Exchanging the truth for a lie (Rom 1:25)
  • Suppressing the truth (Rom 1:18)
  • Being false to the truth (Jam 3:14)
  • Opposing the truth (2Ti 3:8)

But the promise that Jesus makes here is “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”


If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

3.1.      Different levels of belief

The Jews took issue with Jesus over the question of freedom. Many of them had professed to believe in Jesus. It seems that they had taken the first steps of discipleship: they believed on him.

But Jesus knows that there are many levels of belief.

  • Some believed that Jesus was a man sent from God, like one of the prophets.
  • Some believed that he was going to set them free from the Romans.
  • Some believed because of the miracles that they saw.

Jesus knows that there are people today who know and believe that he lived.

  • Some believe that he lived and died and rose again, but it has no impact on their lives.
  • Some believe because their parents believed.
  • Some believe because they grew up in the church.
  • Some believe because other people in their village believe.

Jesus knows about all about the different ways that people believe in him. So Jesus said to these believing Jews:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This was a shocking statement to the Jews. They reacted strongly to what Jesus had said. They were supposed to be believers, but they couldn’t believe what Jesus had just said.

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

Jesus had said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The implication was that although they believed, they did not know the truth and that they were not free.

How would you like to be a slave? Nobody wants to be a slave. Nobody wants to be called a slave. If someone were to tell you that you were a slave, you would probably be insulted. And even if we were slaves, we wouldn’t want someone reminding us of the fact that we were slaves! Imagine being a slave and having someone walk past you every day saying, “Hi slave!” We wouldn’t like it one bit! How much less would we like it if believing we were free, someone were to tells that we were slaves! Jesus told these believing Jews that they were in effect slaves: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“We are the offspring of Abraham!” Don’t you know who we are? You’re a Jew! We’re Jews! We are the offspring of Abraham. We are his seed. Don’t you know who our many times great grandfather is? He’s Abraham! We are the descendants of Abraham!

Jesus is telling us that freedom is not a question of genealogy. It is not a question of physical descent. Freedom is not the result of having the right father or grandfather. You can be a direct descendant of Abraham and not be free. In fact, Jesus is telling all of these descendants of Abraham that they needed the freedom that Jesus alone could give them.

“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”

This is an amazing statement: “We have never been enslaved to anyone!” It was made in the heat of the moment. They are angry at what Jesus said. By offering them freedom, Jesus implied that they were slaves, and they were offended. They quickly respond that they were the offspring of Abraham and had never been enslaved to anyone.

How quickly we forget! How little we know our own situation! The Jews had been slaves for 430 years in Egypt. They had been forced to make bricks of mud and straw. Pharaoh was killing off their baby boys to keep their population under control. It was only by the strong hand of the Lord and 10 plagues that God had delivered them from bondage in Egypt by the hand of Moses.

“We have never been enslaved to anyone,” they said. Had they forgotten about the Assyrians who carried away the 10 tribes of the north, never to return again? Had they forgotten about the Babylonians who had carried the Jews away into captivity for 70 years? Had they forgotten about Persian rule, and the Greeks, and the fact that they were under the dominion of Rome when Jesus spoke those words?

And yet, Jesus was not talking about political slavery. He was not talking about other countries or empires that had ruled over Israel in the past or present. He was talking about something much more cruel. He was talking about a slavery that was worse than their 430 years in Egypt, working in the hot sun, making bricks for others to build with. He was talking about something far worse than having authorities rip baby boys from their mothers’ arms and throwing them to the crocodiles in the Nile river.

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

When we look at the world today, we can be thankful that we don’t live in countries like Syria where the government is killing hundreds of citizens every week.

We can be thankful that we don’t live in a country like North Korea where there is no freedom of religion.

We can be thank that we don’t live in a Muslim country like Iran where Pastor Josef has been in jail for five years and is awaiting execution simply because he is a Christian. Assemblies of God churches have been shut down. Church members have been arrested and others have lost their jobs for one reason: they are Christians.

We can be thankful that we don’t live in a country like Sudan or Eritrea where Christians are raped, tortured and killed.

We have

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom to vote
  • And many other freedoms.

But Jesus is not talking about freedom from political oppression. He is talking about a far greater freedom. He is talking about freedom from a far greater oppression. Jesus is talking about freedom from the slavery of sin.

 3.2.      Slavery to Sin

John 8:34 ESV Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

This is a very solemn statement that Jesus makes. He draws our attention to its importance by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” He wants us to know that this is a most serious issue: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

  • It does not matter what country you live in.
  • It does not matter whether your country is independent or not.
  • It does not matter what political freedoms you have.
  • It does not matter whether you are Jewish or not.
  • It does not matter who father or grandfather or great-grandfather was.
  • It does not matter what church you belong to.

“Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” He did not say that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. He said that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. He is talking about the habitual sins that rule over your life. He is talking about sins that dominate and control. He is talking about those sins that we can’t get rid of. It might be any of a thousand sins:

  • Pride
  • Self-destructive habits
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Kava
  • Abuse
  • Uncontrolled anger
  • Lust
  • Pornography
  • Adultery
  • Fornication
  • Self-abuse
  • Private sins
  • Evil thoughts
  • Jealousy
  • Covetousness

Anything sin that is controlling your life: you are a slave to it. You think you are free. You are not free; you are a slave. The man who sins does not do what he likes; he does what sin likes (Barclay).

2 Peter 2:19 ESV They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

 3.3.      Jesus Gives us a Warning

Now here is a warning:

John 8:35 ESV The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

Slaves to sin will not enter the kingdom of God (v. 35).

The slave does not remain in the house forever. Jesus is saying that if you are a slave to sin, you will not remain in his house. Slaves to sin will be removed from the Father’s house.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:5 ESV For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

3.4.      Jesus Also Gives Us a Promise

But at the same time that Jesus gives us a warning, he give us a promise:

You can be free from the slavery of sin! The son remains forever. The son has rights that the slave does not have. Jesus is telling us that He can set us free.

John 8:36 ESV So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

How are we set free?

Jesus has already given us the steps to freedom from sin:

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


4.1.      STEP ONE: Abide in my word.

Abiding in my word is the mark of a real disciple. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Abiding in the word means that

  • We have determined to live in the word of Christ.
  • We have determined to live by the word of Christ.
  • We are continuously reading, studying, and listening the word of Christ.
  • We are continuously reflecting and meditating on His word.
  • We hold fast to the word of Christ.
  • We DO what he commands.

This is the mark of a true believer, the mark of a true disciple. Jesus said that we are to make disciples of all peoples everywhere, teaching them to obey everything that He has commanded us (Matthew 29:19).

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” A true disciple obeys the word. This is the condition to life’s greatest freedom: IF you abide in my word. The promise of being set free from sin is only for those who abide in God’s word.

 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46 ESV).

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21 ESV).

How often we wish to think that we are Christians, but Jesus said to those who believed that the mark of the true Christian is living according to his word: “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples” (Joh 8:31 NET).

4.2.      STEP TWO: You will know the truth.

You will know the truth of God’s word. You will know the truth about Christ. You will know who he is. You will know that He is the Son of God. You will know that He was in the beginning with God and was God. You will know that all things were made by Him and without Him was not anything that was made. You will know that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. You will know that he is the only God who is at the Father’s side (1:18). You will be able to worship Him in spirit and truth, because you will know the truth. You will know that he went to the cross not only to bear the punishment for our sins, but to break the power of sin so that we would no longer be the slaves of sin and that sin would no longer have dominion over us.

4.3.      STEP THREE: The truth will set you free.

Christ, who is himself the way, the truth, and the life, will set you free. You will know Him, and He will set you free from sin. You will experience the greatest freedom there is: freedom from sin.

 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36 ESV).

This is the gospel. This is the joyful news! Free from the tyranny of sin!

 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. 19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life (Romans 6:16-22 NLT).

“Well,” you say, “what about grace?”

Paul tells us in Titus 2 that grace will not leave you a slave to sin:

 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14 ESV).

Everywhere the Bible gives the same message: Christ came that we might experience life’s greatest freedom. How about your life? Are you a slave to sin, or has Christ set you free?

Here is the condition to experience life’s greatest freedom: “If you abide in my word,” Jesus said. Get into the Word of God. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Obey it. Allow God’s Word to set you free.

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

True disciples don’t simply believe. They live according to the Word. They obey God.

You will know the truth about Christ, and the truth will set you free. Who is the truth? The Son is the way, the truth, and the life. “If the Son sets you free, you will be really free.” You will experience life’s greatest freedom.

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”:

John 01:35-51, “Finding the Messiah”


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.


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.


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 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.”


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.