Truth

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…

Introduction

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.         THE PROMISE OF FREEDOM

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.”

3.         THE SHOCKING TRUTH

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.         THREE STEPS TO FREEDOM

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”:

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John 02:01-11, “Believing”

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:1-11 ESV).

BELIEVE

What do you believe? Does it matter what you believe? If, for example, you believe that all religions lead to God, will that make it true? Is truth a matter of opinion, or does it remain the same whether or not we believe it? If we are sincere, can we be wrong?

A few years ago I took a flight from Port Vila to Brisbane. When I arrived at Brisbane, I was to take a train to another terminal to catch another flight to Sydney. I found the station where I was to board the train and confirmed it with the woman at the counter who told me that the train would arrive in two minutes. Sure enough, in two minutes a train arrived and I got on to go to the other terminal where I would catch the plane for Sydney. After some time, I began to see signs for the Golden Beach near Brisbane. Another train passenger told me that I was on the wrong train going the wrong direction. I had believed that I was simply transferring to another airport terminal. I was sincere. But I was sincerely wrong.

Pastor Rick Warren says, “You can be sincere, but you can be sincerely wrong. The fact is, it takes more than sincerity to make it in life. It takes truth.”

Many people put a lot of emphasis on belief. Many books are written about believing. Motivational speakers talk about the power of belief. We are told

  • to believe in ourselves,
  • to believe in our potential,
  • to believe in belief.

We are told that believing is more important than what you believe. We are told that we have the power to create our own reality by believing. Even Christians get caught up in the false teaching that we should believe in our ability to create reality by our thoughts and words and belief and faith.

Is that what the Bible is talking about when it talks about faith and believing? Is our faith and hope in ourselves or is our hope in Jesus?

SONG: MY HOPE IS JESUS, ADRIAN LEWIS, HILLSONG – 4:12 (14 second lead)

JOHN, THE GOSPEL OF BELIEF

Today we want to continue looking at the Gospel According to John. This Gospel has been called “The Gospel of Belief.” John’s Gospel is the Gospel of belief because he emphasizes believing more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined. Those three gospels combined only mention believing 35 times, 65 times if we add the noun “faith.” But John uses the verb “to believe” 98 times. In fact, he writes this entire Gospel so that we would believe.

But John’s purpose is not simply to encourage us to believe. He wants us to believe something specific. His summary statement of purpose is found in 20:30-31,

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

It has been said that this gospel is

  1. A selective gospel: Jesus did many other signs which are not written in this book.
  2. An attested gospel: Jesus did these signs in the presence of the disciples.
  3. A purposeful gospel: It has a purpose: These signs are written so that you may believe.
  4. An interpretive gospel: The signs signify that Jesus is the Christ.
  5. A definitive gospel: Jesus is the Son of God.
  6. An effective gospel: by believing you may have life in his name.

So John’s purpose is not simply to encourage faith or belief, he wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Is that important? Is it important that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the one and only Son of God? John says that this is the way that we may have life, and the life that he is talking about is eternal life which is nothing less than knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ, both now and for eternity.

This is what Jesus said in his prayer to his Father in John 17:3,

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

Eternal life begins now. As John says in his first letter, 1 John 1:3,

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).

The Truth

Belief is not enough. Sincerity is not enough. We must believe the truth:

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” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

Is it important that we believe the truth? Absolutely!

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24 ESV).

Knowing the truth, believing the truth, and living according to the truth is absolutely essential.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36 ESV).

Yes, John wants us to believe something specific.

  • That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27 ESV).
  • That the Father sent him (John 11:42 ESV).
  • That Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him (John 14:11 ESV).
  • That Jesus is God (John 13:19 ESV).

Belief alone is not enough. Belief in belief is empty. Faith in faith is meaningless. Our faith must have an object. We must believe some thing. We must believe the truth.

Today truth has been relativized. People believe that there are many different truths. You have your truth and I have my truth. What is true for you is not necessarily true for me. What is true for me is not necessarily true for you. Whatever works for me is true for me, and whatever works for you is true for you.

But that does not work! It does not work in math, or accounting, or science, or physics, or any other field of study. 2 plus 2 is 4, even if we believe that it is something else. If you go to the bank believing that 2 plus 2 is 10, and that you believe that you have 10,000 vatu in your account, you may be sincere, but the bank will tell you that you are sincerely wrong. Airplanes are carefully constructed with strict adherence to the laws of aerodynamics so that the plane will actually fly and carry its passengers safely from one place to another.

So why should we think we can have our own private truth about God who, the Bible says, cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18)? Why should we think that it matters little or not at all what we believe about Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

  • Belief in false gods is not enough.
  • Believing the wrong things about God and about His Son leads to false worship.
  • Sincerity is not enough.

Believing In Jesus Christ

And John has written so that we might know the truth and believe the truth. John wants us to believe the truth about Jesus Christ. And yet, he wants us to believe more than that. He wants us to believe in Jesus Christ. In other words, it is not simply a question of believing certain truths or facts about Jesus Christ, though that is important. John is calling for personal faith in Jesus Christ, a personal knowledge of Christ, entering into a personal relationship, communion, and fellowship with Christ.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13 ESV).

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:14-18 ESV).

Seven Signs

John is calling for active faith, active belief in and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God whom God has designated as the only means of salvation. So John gives seven signs performed by Jesus Christ that point to who he is.

Now some people are always looking for signs. They see a sign and want to see another one, never understanding that a sign is meant to sign-ify something. A sign has sign-ificance—meaning—because it points beyond itself. When you see a sign on the road indicating the distance to your destination, you don’t stop and camp out at the sign. As you are going up toward Panginisu, you will see a sign for Port Vila that says 109km. If your destination is Port Vila, you don’t stop when you arrive at the sign. You keep going because the sign has told you vital information that you needed to know.

John has recorded seven signs that tell us vital information about Jesus. They tell us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

  1. Jesus changes the water into wine (John 2:1-11).
  2. He healed the official’s son who was at the point of death (John 4:47-54).
  3. He healed the man who had been lame for 38 years (5:5).
  4. He multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed the multitude of 5,000 plus women and children (John 6:1-15).
  5. Jesus walked on water (John 6:16-21).
  6. Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind (John 9).
  7. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11).

John also records seven great “I am” statements made by Jesus:

  1. I am the bread of life that came down from heaven (6:35, 48, 51). He is the source of life.
  2. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5).
  3. I am the door of the sheepfold (10:7, 9).
  4. I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14). He lays his life down for his sheep.
  5. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25). He would rise from the dead.
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6). He is the only way to the Father.
  7. I am the true vine (15:1).

John’s purpose is to lead us to believe in Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? It means that we understand who he is, that we put our trust in him, and that we follow him as his disciples.

  1. We understand who he is. John’s opening verse tells us who Christ is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John tells us in 5:18 that every time that Jesus called God his own Father, he was making himself “equal with God.” Jesus tells Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Thomas, seeing the resurrected Christ, calls him, “My Lord and my God.”
  2. We must trust him for our salvation: He is the only way to the Father.
  3. We show our love to him by obeying him:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15 ESV).

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:23-24 ESV).

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (John 15:10 ESV).

THE FIRST SIGN

In John chapter 2, we come to the first miracle that Jesus performed. John uses the word sign instead of miracle because he wants us to see that the miracles of Jesus were signs of who he was and is. This passage concludes with these words:

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:11 ESV).

The Setting: A Wedding

In chapter 1, we heard the testimony of John the Baptist, that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Andrew and John, two of the Baptist’s disciples, heard his testimony and followed Jesus. Andrew then announced to his brother Peter that they had found the Messiah. Jesus found Philip, and Philip found Nathanael. So at the end of chapter 1, Jesus already has a group of disciples. Now we read in chapter 2 that

…there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration (John 2:1-2 NLT).

Jesus’ presence at the wedding was his seal of approval on marriage. Sometimes I am asked if the marriage between unbelievers is really a marriage or if new converts should get married again. Let’s be clear about this. Marriage is God’s gift not only to Christians, but to humanity. You don’t have to be a Christian believer for your marriage to be valid. Marriage is a gift from God. Human marriage is a reflection of the true marriage that will take place when Christ returns for the Church which is his bride. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 5:31-32,

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV).

So Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding celebration in Cana.

The Situation: A Shortage of Wine and a Mother’s Concern

The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother [who as also there] told him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come” (John 2:3-4 NLT).

Literally Jesus said, “Woman, what to me and to you?” which means “Woman, what has this concern of yours to do with me?”

What we see here is a mother’s concern, but not just any mother. This is the mother of Jesus. It was to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that the angel Gabriel had appeared telling her that as a virgin she would bear a child who would be very great, who would be the Holy One of God, the Son of the Most High, the Son of God. His name would be Jesus, which means Savior, and he would reign as King over Israel forever.

As a virgin, Mary gave birth to that child. She and Joseph, being warned in a dream, had fled King Herod’s wrath by night. They had returned from Egypt and seen Jesus grow in stature and wisdom and in favor with God and man. They had seen him at the age of 12, amazing the elders in the temple. Mary had deeply contemplated all these things in her heart. She had watched. She had waited. Perhaps she had heard the testimony of John the Baptist. She saw that Jesus was gathering disciples. Now at the wedding, the wine supply had run out. This seemed to be the time:

“They have no more wine,” she told him.

Mary knew that the prophets Elijah and Elisha had worked miracles to supply oil in time of need. Surely this was the time for Jesus to supply the need, to manifest himself so that everyone would know who he was. Perhaps also she wanted to be vindicated against those who had accused her of immorality, who had said that she could not be a virgin when she was pregnant with Jesus.

“Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus does not address Mary as “Mother,” but as “Woman.” This is a term of respect that Jesus used on occasion when addressing women. But Jesus is here putting distance between himself and his mother. It is not her responsibility to determine when or where or how he is to manifest himself. That is not her position. She must learn that she can no longer approach him as his mother. She must come to him, not as his mother, but as his disciple.

His hour had not yet come. The hour that Jesus was talking about was his hour to return to his Father (John 13:1).

Mary no longer presumes to tell Jesus what to do. She simply speaks to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Six Stone Jars and a Sign

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons (John 2:6 NLT).

That’s about 100 liters. These stone water jars were probably used to wash certain utensils and the hands of the guests (cf. 3:25). The “water represents the old order of Jewish law and custom, which Jesus was to replace with something better.”[1]

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17 ESV).

Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”

When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions (John 2:7-8 NLT).

Jesus did not touch the water jars or the water. He simply gave instructions which the servants followed:

  • Fill the jars with water.
  • Now dip some out.
  • Take it to the master of ceremonies.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (John 2:9-10 NLT).

Notice how discreet Jesus is in this miracle. He does not draw attention to himself. There is no big announcement as to what he has done. The master of ceremonies did not even know where the wine had come from. Jesus had not given in to the temptation to make a big display and to show himself.

In Luke 4:9-11, Satan had tempted Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels would carry him so that he would not even hurt his foot on a stone. “Do something dramatic! Show yourself!”

In John 7:4, the unbelieving brothers of Jesus tell him, “If you can do such wonderful things show yourself to the world!”

Here in John 2, the mother of Jesus had suggested that he do something spectacular, that it was time for people to know who he really was.

But Jesus responded to the need in a way that would not draw attention to himself. He performed the sign without even touching the jars or the water. He drew no attention to himself so that only the servants and Jesus’ disciples knew that the wine had been water. They were the only ones who knew that Jesus had turned the water into wine.

It takes great power and great intelligence to turn water into wine. With all our advanced technology today, we still have no idea how to turn water into wine. Yet, all around us is evidence of God’s great power and intelligence. God is continuously turning water into grapes and oranges and bananas and papayas and tomatoes and avocados and mangoes. All around us are plants—factories, if you will—which turn water into every kind of fruit and vegetable. It takes great intelligence to know how to do that. And yet this time, Jesus did it without even using a grape vine.

Jesus did this as the first of his miraculous signs, in Cana of Galilee. In this way he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11 NET).

He manifested his glory. That’s what we read in the Prologue, the introduction of this Gospel:

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

The glory that Jesus manifested was the glory of the only Son of the Father. And his disciples believed in him. They believed that he was the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

… these [miraculous signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31 ESV).

SONG: CHRIS TOMLIN – KING OF GLORY

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