Category Archives: Gospel of John

‘Soar Like Eagles’ #15 ‘Wasting Your Life’ on Jesus John 12:1-11

This story of Mary anointing our Lord shortly before His death can have a profound influence on our walk with the Lord because of a statement from a sermon by the late Chinese preacher, Watchman Nee. It’s found in the last chapter of his book, The Normal Christian Life titled, “The Goal of the Gospel.”

Nee points out that in the parallel accounts in Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9) and Luke (7:37-39), all the disciples joined Judas in scolding Mary for wasting this expensive perfume on Jesus when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

But Jesus defends Mary by replying Matthew 26:13 (ESV)  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Nee says (p. 186) that Jesus “intends that the preaching of the Gospel should issue in something along the very lines of the action of Mary here, namely, that “people should come to Him and ‘waste themselves’ on Him.’” Or, to state it another way (p. 187), the gospel is “to bring each one of us to a true estimate of His worth.”

If Jesus is the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field, then it’s not a waste to sell everything you have to buy that pearl or buy that field. Jesus is worthy for you to devote all you are and all you have to Him.

So this is a story about how not to waste your life.

It’s also a story about motivation: why do you do what you do for the Lord? Do you serve Him for the satisfaction you get when you see results? It is satisfying to see Him use you, but that’s the wrong motivation.

Do you serve Him because it helps others? Again, it’s gratifying to see others helped, but that’s the wrong motivation for serving Him.

The truest motive for serving Christ is because He is worthy of everything you can do for Him and because you love Him and want to please Him because He gave Himself for you on the cross. We learn this from Mary’s act of devotion.

But John contrasts Mary’s act of devotion with Judas’ self-centered focus and with the evil plans of the chief priests, who now not only want to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus, whose resurrection was resulting in many believing in Jesus. So the story’s lesson is: A life spent in selfless devotion to Jesus is not wasted, but a life spent on self is totally wasted.

This story illustrates Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35-36 (ESV)  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Jesus repeats this idea (John 12:25), “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”

What does Mary show us? She denied herself and “hated her life” for Jesus’ sake by her extravagant act of devotion to Him, and she gained that which would not be taken from her.

Judas greedily wished that he could have pocketed some of Mary’s gift. In a few days, he would sell Jesus for a paltry sum of 30 pieces of silver, which he would eventually throw to the ground and leave. But he forfeited his soul.

1. You will not waste your life if you spend it in selfless devotion to Jesus.

To put it another way, to “waste” your life on Jesus is to save your life. Mary’s act reflects four components of selfless devotion:

A. Selfless devotion is costly.

Mary’s anointing Jesus with this perfume was costly in at least three ways:

1) Selfless devotion costs you financially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my stuff?”

Pure nard was a spice that came from the Himalaya Mountains in the far north of India. It had to be imported to Israel at great cost. We don’t know where Mary got this 12-ounce jar of perfume. Perhaps it was a family heirloom. Judas estimates that it could have been sold for 300 denarii, which was equivalent to about 300 days’ pay for a working man (Matt. 20:2).

The Lord rebukes them (John 12:8), “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” He was not saying that we should not help the poor, but He was saying, “I am more worthy of your unselfish devotion than all the world’s poor put together!” He was accepting the worship that Mary gave Him because she rightly saw that He is worthy of all that we can give Him and even more. As Isaac Watts put it (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”): Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small: Love so amazing, so divine Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Many years ago, a minister went down and watched what each person put in or didn’t put in the offering plate as it was passed. Some of his people were angry, others were embarrassed, but all were surprised.

Then he went to the pulpit and preached on the Lord standing near the treasury in the temple and watching what each person put in, including the widow and her two mites. He reminded them that the Lord watches the collection every Sunday to see what His people give.

So let me ask: Is your devotion to the Lord costing you financially? If others looked at how you spend your money, would they conclude that you must love Jesus a lot?

2) Selfless devotion costs you socially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my pride?”

Matthew and Mark say that Mary anointed Jesus’ head, but John says that she anointed His feet. There is no contradiction if she anointed both. Matthew and Mark mention Jesus’ head because anointing the head signified kingship.

John mentioned her anointing Jesus’ feet because it was the lowly task of a servant to wash a guest’s feet. In the next chapter John tells how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an act of great humility that we should follow.

But Mary didn’t use a towel. Rather, she wiped the Lord’s feet with her hair. Respectable Jewish women never let down their hair in public. In fact, it was considered a mark of a woman of loose morals (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 577).

But Mary was so caught up with her devotion to Christ that she didn’t stop to consider what others might think about her.

So ask yourself, “Do I treasure Jesus more than my pride?” Or, am I more concerned about what others think about me? People may think you’re a zealot or a religious fanatic. But what matters is what Jesus thinks about your selfless devotion to Him.

3) Selfless devotion costs you some criticism: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my reputation?”

Judas led the attack, but the other disciples echoed his criticism. Matthew 26:8 reports, “But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, ‘Why this waste?’”

They were only being pragmatic and sensible. The money could have benefitted many poor families. But instead, it was all wasted on Jesus. Or, was it wasted?

B. Selfless devotion stems from personal love and gratitude.

Although the text doesn’t state it directly, Mary’s action obviously stemmed from her love for Jesus and her gratitude for His raising her brother from the dead.

Love for Christ should be the motive in all that we do for Him. Judas postured himself as being concerned for the poor, but even if he had given some of the money to the poor, he would not have been motivated by love for Christ. People can give great sums of money to the Lord’s work, but their real motive may be that they want others to know how generous they are.

But the Lord looks on the hidden motives of our hearts, not on our outward actions.

C. Selfless devotion flows from knowing Jesus personally.

John 12:7 (ESV) Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 

Mary had just poured out the precious perfume, so she couldn’t keep it to anoint Jesus after He died. And, how much did she understand about Jesus’ impending death when none of the disciples saw it coming?

Mary knew more about the infinite worth of Jesus than even the apostles did at this point. Her personal knowledge of Jesus, gained by sitting at His feet, led her to this act of selfless devotion.

If you want to follow Mary’s example of devotion to Jesus, you have to follow her example of sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His word. Every time we encounter Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet—first, learning from Him; then, pouring out her sorrow to Him; and now, expressing her love and devotion to Him.

You won’t love the Lord as you should unless you’ve spent much time at His feet. You do that by spending consistent time in the Word and in prayer.

D. Selfless devotion results in action.

Mary didn’t just think about this radical display of love, but then allow reason to prevail and not do it. Rather, she did it! Good intentions are nice, but it takes good actions to produce results. This story highlights three results that flow from selfless devotion: one from Mary, one from Martha, and one from Lazarus:

1) Action results in the fragrance of Christ surrounding your life.

John 12:3 says, “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Can people smell the fragrance of Christ on you? You ask, “What does it smell like?” It smells like the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23): Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Does your home smell like that? Do others sense from the fragrance of your life that you spend much time at Jesus’ feet, worshiping Him in selfless devotion?

2) Action results in witness for Christ.

Here, we’re looking at Lazarus. The text tells us three things about him:

  1. First, Jesus had raised him from the dead (John 12:1).
  2. Second, he was reclining at the table in fellowship with the Lord who had raised him from the dead (John 12:2).
  3. Third, his resurrected life resulted in many coming to see him and believing in Jesus as a result John 12:9-11 (ESV) When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11  because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
  4. You will totally waste your life if you spend it on yourself.

John tells us about Judas’ greed in verse 6: He really wasn’t concerned about the poor, but he was a thief. He had the money box and used to help himself to the funds. If Mary had given her perfume to sell and give to the poor, some of that money would have ended up in Judas’ pocket!

But now the future looked dim. Jesus kept talking about His death, not His reign. This incident pushed Judas over the top. When Jesus came to Mary’s defense with more talk about His death, Judas decided to go to the authorities and betray Jesus.


Mary’s action reveals the proper basis for evaluating your actions: Did you do what you did because you love and treasure Jesus? She didn’t do this out of duty or pragmatism, but out of sheer devotion for Christ.

Mary did what she did because she had a perception of Christ that even the apostles at this point lacked. She knew that He was worthy of extravagant love. She gained this knowledge of Christ by sitting at His feet. When Jesus is your treasure, you will spend your life in selfless devotion to Him.

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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Gospel of John


‘Soar Like Eagles’ #14 The Great Act – Lazarus John 11

ThePowerofGod672x378_lg“If Jesus can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing”

During a good portion of my lifetime, science has been used to oppose the Bible and the Christian faith. In thousands of classrooms across our country, professors and teachers have asked their students, “Does anyone here believe in the Bible?” or “Is anyone here a Christian?”

For too many years now, unbelieving scholars and teachers have been scoffing at Christians and their faith, hoping to shame us into silence. They wish to convince themselves and others that faith is “believing in what isn’t real or true.”

Is our faith ill-founded? Does our faith hang by an intellectual thread? Is faith required because there is too little evidence to support the claims of the Bible? Not at all!

In this message, I am going to suggest something absolutely amazing, at least in the light of those scholars who are also scoffers. I am going to suggest that faith in Jesus Christ is the only reasonable response to biblical revelation. I will further say that it is unbelief that is unbelievable, and that faith in Jesus Christ is the only “reasonable” response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In our text, Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave with a prayer and a shout. Providentially, a crowd is present at the grave sight, not only to witness this miracle, but to participate in it.

As a result of this amazing miracle, many of those who are there come to a faith in Jesus and the Messiah. Some do not, and these folks report what has happened to the Jewish religious leaders, who set in motion a plan to arrest and kill Jesus.

By their own words, these leaders of Israel reveal that their unbelief is not due to a lack of evidence, but stems from their desire to protect their own selfish interests.

It is the life-threatening illness of Lazarus which results in a desperate message from Martha and Mary, urging Jesus to come back to the little village of Bethany, just a stone’s throw from Jerusalem.

Jesus deliberately delays His journey to Bethany until Lazarus dies. When He finally arrives near the home of the two sisters He loves, Lazarus has already been buried for four days. Both sisters are perplexed by our Lord’s delay, but both nevertheless reaffirm their faith in Him. By the end of verse 37, Jesus has just arrived at the tomb where Lazarus is buried. It is here that we take up the account.

* THE GREAT ACT (11:38-40)

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. {39} “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” {40} Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?””

Lazarus is buried in a cave, with a stone covering the opening. This sounds strikingly similar to the burial sight of our Lord (e.g. Matthew 27:60). The raising of Lazarus almost looks like a dress rehearsal for the resurrection of our Lord in the near future. Jesus orders the stone to be rolled away. We can’t be sure who Jesus orders to move the stone, or who actually does move it. It could be the disciples, of course, but it may just as well be others, such as some of those who have come to mourn with Mary.

I am inclined to think that Jesus deliberately employs those other than His disciples to remove the stone. Doing this would seem to require some measure of faith on their part. Today, we must go through a very strict legal process to gain access to a body once it has been buried. In Judaism, contact with a dead body is defiling. Besides that, it is disgusting, especially after four days. I suspect those who removed the stone received a good whiff of the smell of decaying flesh. These witnesses will not easily be persuaded by a “swoon theory” or any attempt to explain away the literal death (and raising) of Lazarus. Such personal involvement in this process makes these participants even better witnesses to the miracle which is about to occur.

It is Martha, however, who objects to our Lord’s instruction to remove the stone. She protests that too much time has passed. The body will certainly smell very bad, she explains. But beyond this, it just seems to reopen a very painful wound.

It seems quite obvious that Martha is not expecting Jesus to perform any miracle here, and certainly not the raising of one who has been dead for several days. Earlier, Jesus assures her that if she believes, she will see the glory of God (verse 40). By calling this to her attention once again, Jesus is seeking to stretch her faith. Martha relents, and the stone is removed.

Our Lord then lifts His eyes to heaven and begins to pray to His heavenly Father. Having prayed in this manner, Jesus now cries out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (verse 43).

It has quite often been observed that if Jesus had not specified “Lazarus,” every dead body in the region would have arisen from the dead. In shouting with a loud voice, Jesus reveals His confidence that the Father will hear Him, and that Lazarus will rise from the dead.

The witnesses to this resurrection are very much involved in the outworking of the miracle. They see and hear Jesus calling Lazarus out of his tomb. They help roll the stone away from the tomb, and they remove the cloth that has been wrapped around the body of Lazarus.

Of all the “signs” recorded in the Gospel of John, none was greater than what happened at Lazarus’ tomb. Three times in chapter 11 Jesus claimed that these events took place so that people might see “the glory of God” (11:4, 15, 40). Each step of the way we have seen the glory of God in Jesus’ teachings and miracles; but up to this point in the Gospel of John, the raising of Lazarus is where the glory of God–the presence of God in Christ–shines most brilliantly.

* THE JEWS (11:41-57)

   The emphasis from this point on was on the faith of the spectators, the people who had come to comfort Mary and Martha. Jesus paused to pray: “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. {42} I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

He thanked the Father that the prayer had already been heard…but when had He prayed? It’s likely that it was when He was told that His friend was sick (11:4). The plan was likely revealed to Him, and He obeyed His Father’s will. His purpose now was clear: He wanted the unbelieving spectators to know that His Father had sent Him.

He called out His name and he came out: “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” {44} The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Everything Jesus did was due to the power of God and designed for the glory of God. 

If this Jesus can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing.

The same thought is Biblical in nature: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” 1 Cor. 15:19. Death is man’s last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), but Jesus has defeated this horrible enemy totally and permanently.

It  was an unquestioned miracle that even the most hostile spectator could not deny!  “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.”

As with previous miracles, the people were divided in their response. “But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. {47} Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. {48} If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

The Pharisees are informed about the miracle at Bethany and quickly call for a meeting of the Sanhedrin. Up to this point, they have not been able to come to a united stand (see 7:45-53), but all that ends here. Up till now, they have been eager to arrest and kill Jesus, but have been unable to do so (see 5:18; 7:11, 30; 8:40, 59; 10:31, 39). They now resolve to change that, and very soon.

John’s account allows the reader to be a “fly on the wall,” overhearing the private conversation that takes place in this emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin. The words that they speak are incredible, almost beyond belief. They express no doubt about the power of our Lord, or the legitimacy of the signs He has performed. They do not deny that the evidence in support of His claims is piling up. In fact, they virtually admit that it is all true.

But in spite of all this evidence, they refuse to bow the knee to Jesus as the Son of God. They refuse to repent of their sins and seek His forgiveness and salvation. They refuse to give up their positions and power.

They acknowledge that if Jesus is not put to death, the entire nation will believe in Him. This may be hyperbole, but they know they are rapidly losing ground. They must act decisively, and they must act soon. If not, they can kiss life as they have known it goodbye. They fear that if the entire nation acknowledges Jesus as the King of Israel, this will precipitate a strong reaction from Rome, which will end the “good times” for them. Ironically, it is not the nation’s acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah which brings about the downfall of the nation, but their rejection of Jesus as God’s Messiah. In but a few years, Rome will march on this nation, capture Jerusalem, destroy the temple, and kill countless Jews. And all this is because Israel rejects her Messiah.

Caiaphas is the High Priest this year, and as the High Priest, he now lays out the course of action which seems necessary: Jesus must die. Far better to sacrifice one person than the entire nation, he reasons. Our Lord’s death seems to spell life (as it is presently) for the rest. What Caiaphas doesn’t realize is that at the very moment he is proposing the death of our Lord, He is being used of God to utter (as the High Priest) a profound prophetic truth. It was God’s plan and purpose that one man—Jesus Christ—should die for the entire nation, and that out of His death many will find eternal life. Caiaphas is speaking for God in spite of his unbelief and rejection of Jesus. Note the arrogance of this man, even as he speaks prophetically. You don’t have to be a believer to be used as God’s mouthpiece. Ask Balaam (or his beast of burden—see Numbers 22–24). And so it is that from this day forward, this very diverse group of Jews is united in its one common purpose of killing Jesus.

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! {50} You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” {51} He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, {52} and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. {53} So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”

The official decision that day was that Jesus must die (see Matt.12:14; Luke 19:47; John 5:18; 7:1, 19-20, 25). The leaders thought that they were in control of the situation, but it was God who was working out His predetermined plan. Originally, they wanted to wait until after the Passover, but God had decreed otherwise.

Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. {55} When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover.” {56} They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” {57} But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.”

Now the Passover Feast of the Jews was near; and many from the country areas went up to Jerusalem before the Passover Feast to purify themselves.  So they were looking for Jesus; and, as they stood in the Temple precincts, they were talking with each other and saying:  “What do you think?  Surely it is impossible that he should come to the Feast?” Now the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, he should lodge information with them, that they might seize him.

Jesus did not unnecessarily court danger.  He was willing to lay down his life, but not so foolishly reckless as to throw it away before his work was done.  So he retired to a town called Ephraim, which was near Bethel in the mountainous country north of Jerusalem (cp. 2 Chronicles 13:19).

By this time Jerusalem was beginning to fill up with people.  Before the Jew could attend any feast he had to be ceremonially clean; and uncleanness could be contracted by touching a vast number of things and people.  Many of the Jews, therefore, came up to the city early to make the necessary offerings and go through the necessary washings in order to ensure ceremonial cleanness.  The law had it:  “Every man is bound to purify himself before the Feast.”

These purifications were carried out in the Temple.  They took time, and in the time of waiting the Jews gathered in excited little groups.  They knew what was going on.  They knew about this mortal contest of wills between Jesus and the authorities; and people are always interested in the man who gallantly faces fearful odds.  They wondered if he would appear at the feast; and concluded that he could not possible come.  This Galilean carpenter could not take on the whole might of Jewish ecclesiastical and political officialdom.

A point we need to make here: the rich man in hades had argued that “if one went to them  from the dead, they will repent.” (Luke 16:30). Lazarus came back from the dead, and the officials wanted  to kill Him!

   And what about today? Jesus, too, has come back from the dead! The stage has been set for the greatest drama in history, during which man would do his worst and God would give His best!


   While this passage contains some wonderfully good news, it requires that we first face something we may not want to face.

   The painful truth is that we will all die! Life is fatal. However young, strong, and healthy we may be at this moment, someday we will die! It may be today or tomorrow or eighty years from now, but we all will die.

   We try in many ways to avoid having to face this terrible truth. We try to convince ourselves that if we exercise enough, eat the right foods, wear our seat belts, drink purified water, and put on sunscreen when we go outside, then we will be protected from death. In the end, nothing can protect us from the fact that the death rate in this world is 100 percent!

   You are probably thinking, “I do not want to hear this today! I have had a hard week, and now I am being reminded that I will die!” I would not bring up such a painful, distressing subject if the gospel did not provide the answer to it. Jesus, in the marvelous story in John 11, proclaims to people of all time, “I am the resurrection and the life.” It is wonderful news, but we had to be reminded of the bad news first in order to appreciate it.

  The story of Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb helps us to confront our own fears of death. Because of what Jesus did then and still does today, we do not have to deny the reality of death in order to be happy in this life.

   As Christians, we do not run from death; we face it. We do not pretend that it will not happen to us; we proclaim to the world that we have an answer to it. This new attitude is seen in the following two examples from the writings of Paul:  (Rom. 8:38-39)  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, {39} neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(1 Cor. 15:54-55)  “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” {55} “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?””

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Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Gospel of John


‘Soar Like Eagles’ #13 The Teacher’s Tears – John 11:28-37

Several years ago a young couple wanted to talk with their minister after the morning service. They had moved  in from out of state because the wife had landed a good job. But after a short time on the job, she was terminated, from her perspective, without cause. She was angry and bitter towards God because they thought that they had followed Him in moving here. Now they were without work and without funds to move back home.

The minister shared with them that the Lord was in control of their difficult situation and that He had many lessons to teach them if they would trust Him. The husband had a good attitude and seemed teachable, but the wife wouldn’t listen. She kept insisting that God had let them down. Later the husband came for further counsel because she angrily left him to return to their former location.

That woman was a sad example of how we as Christians should not respond when sudden trials come into our lives. The Bible gives us another option: Rather than growing angry and withdrawing from the Lord, we can draw near to Him in submission to His sovereign hand, knowing that He cares for us.

It’s okay to draw near to Him with tears of grief and confusion. The main thing is to draw near with a sub-missive heart, trusting in His sovereign love and care for you.

Mary, the sister of Martha, did that when Jesus came to Bethany after the death of their brother, Lazarus. Martha first went to the Lord as He came into their village, but Mary stayed in the house. Then after her interview with Jesus, Martha came and whispered to Mary (11:28), “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

Mary did not say, “I’m too angry right now even to talk to Him!” Rather, she did what we should do in our times of trouble: She got up quickly and went to Jesus (11:29). She fell at His feet weeping and repeated what Martha had said (11:32), “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

The significant thing is that Jesus did not rebuke her for her tears or her lack of faith. Rather, we read in the shortest verse in the English Bible (11:35), “Jesus wept.”

While commentators differ in interpreting Jesus’ emotions here, as I’ll explain, I believe that John wants us to see Christ’s compassion for these sisters in their loss.

This story pictures what Hebrews 4:15-16 declares, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Our text teaches us that …

The call and compassion of the Teacher should cause us to draw near to Him in our trials.

In difficult times, John wants us personally to apply Martha’s words (11:28), “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

  1. Christ is the Teacher and He calls us to come to Him and learn from Him in our trials.
  2. We learn the most in the school of Christ when we draw near to Him in our trials.

Martha did not say, as she easily could have, “Jesus is here and is calling for you.” Rather, she calls Him, “The Teacher.” Jesus is the Teacher par excellence and His most effective lessons are often when we’re hurting the most.

We all tend to be rather self-sufficient. Many years ago there was a TV commercial (I can’t remember what it was advertising) where mother was trying to give advice to her young adult daughter and the daughter would reply in frustration, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!”

We’re often like that with the Lord—we think that we can do it by ourselves, without His help.

But then trials hit and we realize the truth of Jesus’ words (John 15:5), “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

It’s at these overwhelming times that we can learn the most about Christ’s all-sufficiency, if we draw near to Him.

Anonymous poem speaks here: Until I learned to trust, I never learned to pray; And I did not learn to fully trust ’til sorrows came my way. Until I felt my weakness, His strength I never knew; Nor dreamed ’til I was stricken that He could see me through. Who deepest drinks of sorrow, drinks deepest, too, of grace; He sends the storm so He Himself can be our hiding place. His heart that seeks our highest good, knows well when things annoy; We would not long for heaven if earth held only joy.

And so, in a time of trials or grief, realize that you’re enrolled in the school of Christ and He has just given you a great opportunity to learn more about His all-sufficiency.

  1. Christ tailors His lessons for each student according to the student’s needs.

Martha was the take-charge, get things done, sister. She was the one (Luke 10:38-42) who was busy getting the meal prepared when Jesus visited their home, while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. She scolded the Lord on that occasion because He didn’t tell Mary to get up and help her. But the Lord gently rebuked Martha for being worried and bothered about so many things, while Mary had chosen the better part.

In John 11, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she got up and went to Him. Jesus dealt with her on a doctrinal level, claiming to be the resurrection and the life, and then challenging her (11:26), “Do you believe this?” He knew that she needed this doctrinal foundation so that she would glorify Him in this trial.

But when Mary fell at Jesus’ feet in tears, He sympathized with her and wept, without any discussion of biblical truth. He knew that she needed to feel His compassion and that she later would glorify Him because He entered into her sorrow.

Two applications: First, recognize that the Lord always deals with you according to your personality to teach you what you need to grow in every trial. All parents who have more than one child know that each child is different. You can’t deal with them in exactly the same way because they are wired differently and they learn differently. The Teacher does that with His children. He tutors you individually, in a way that you can best learn the lessons. But you need to try to understand, through prayer and the Word, “What does the Teacher want me to learn through this trial?”

Second, we should be sensitive to the unique personalities of others when we try to comfort or help them in difficult situations. Some may need a word of encouragement, whereas others don’t need any words, but just for you to be with them and cry with them. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to helping others in their time of need. So pray for sensitivity and wisdom as you try to help.

But for us to trust Jesus as our Teacher in times of trial, we have to know Him. The more we know who He is, the easier it is to trust Him. Thus John shows us that…

  1. The Teacher who calls us to Himself is fully God and fully man; thus He can help us in our trials.

This chapter shows us both Jesus’ humanity and His deity. We see His humanity very plainly in 11:34-35, where Jesus asks the location of the tomb and then He weeps. But we see His deity earlier in the chapter, when He knows that Lazarus is dead and that He is going to raise him from the dead (11:11, 14); and when He tells Martha that He is the resurrection and the life and that whoever believes in Him will live even if he dies and will never die (11:25-26).

Many years ago, I read this paragraph by Alfred Edersheim, (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Eerdmans] 1:198), and I’ve always remembered it as I read the gospels: “It has been observed, that by the side of every humiliation connected with the Humanity of the Messiah, the glory of His Divinity was also made to shine forth. The coincidences are manifestly undesigned on the part of the Evangelic writers, and hence all the more striking. Thus, if he was born of the humble Maiden of Nazareth, an Angel announced His birth; if the Infant-Saviour was cradled in a manger, the shining host of heaven hymned His Advent. And so afterwards—if He hungered and was tempted in the wilderness, Angels ministered to Him, even as an Angel strengthened Him in the agony of the garden. If He submitted to baptism, the Voice and vision from heaven attested His Sonship; if enemies threatened, He could miraculously pass through them; if the Jews assailed, there was the Voice of God to glorify Him; if He was nailed to the cross, the sun craped his brightness, and earth quaked; if He was laid in the tomb, Angels kept its watches, and heralded His rising.”

The fact that Jesus is fully man means that He can identify and sympathize with our problems. The fact that He is fully God means that He is sovereign over and can help with them. (Of course, the God who made us completely understands us and is full of compassion towards us: Psalm 103:13-14 (ESV) As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14  For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

 But Jesus’ humanity especially qualifies Him to sympathize with us: 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.  

Three aspects of Jesus’ humanity shine from our text (I’m drawing these headings from James Boice, John [Zondervan], one-vol. ed., pp. 749-753, who seems to be following C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 35:338-346):

  1. Jesus experienced grief and deep feelings, just as we do.

Isaiah (53:3) prophesied that Jesus would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” The fact that Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus shows that whatever our grief may be, Jesus knows it and He enters into it with us.

But at this point, we encounter some difficult interpretive matters. The world translated “deeply moved” (11:33 & 38, NASB, ESV, NIV; “groaned, NJKV) is difficult to understand. It’s only used three other times in the New Testament and in those places it has a meaning that does not seem to fit here.

In Matthew 9:30 & Mark 1:43, it means, “strictly charged” or “sternly warned.” In Mark 14:5, it refers to the scolding of the woman (Mary) who anointed Christ with expensive ointment. The parallel (Matt. 26:8) uses a different word to say that they were indignant with her. In the LXX, the word refers to anger or being indignant (Dan. 11:30; noun in Lam. 2:6). Thus many commentators think that in John 11:33 & 38, Jesus was angry or indignant (The New Living Translation). Some think that He was indignant with the unbelief expressed by Mary and the others (11:32, 37); or He was angry with the death that God decreed because of man’s fall into sin.

But S. Lewis Johnson (sermon on this text, online at mentions a Professor Black from the University of St. Andrews who studied this word thoroughly and concluded that it does not have the nuance of anger. And since anger does not seem to fit the context here, some argue that the word can refer to being deeply moved (as the NASB, ESV, & NIV translate it). The word was used in extra-biblical Greek to refer to the snorting of a horse preparing for battle. Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 442) views it as Jesus gearing up for the conflict as our champion in the battle against sin and death.

One other suggestion is worth considering. F. Godet (Commentary on the Gospel of John [Zondervan], 2:184) questions why Jesus didn’t feel the same emotion towards death at the other two resurrections that He performed. He says that here Jesus realizes that raising Lazarus will precipitate the hostility of His enemies that will lead to His own death on the cross. The accompanying verb (11:33, “troubled Himself”) is also used as Jesus contemplates His impending death in John 12:27 & 13:21. Thus perhaps Jesus is deeply moved both by the sisters’ grief and by what He knows will happen after He raises Lazarus. R. H. Lightfoot (cited by Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 557, n. 69) commented, “The expression used here implies that He now voluntarily and deliberately accepts and makes His own the emotion and the experience from which it is His purpose to deliver men.”

So while we cannot be certain of the exact meaning of John’s word, we can know that our Savior was not a Stoic. Even though He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus, it didn’t prevent Him from entering into the sisters’ grief. He experienced deep feelings and grief, just as we do. And even though He knows that one day He will wipe away all of our tears (Rev. 21:4) He still sympathizes with us in all of our sorrows.

  1. Jesus was not ashamed to display human emotions.

Jesus could have restrained His tears. After all, He knew that He would soon raise Lazarus. Besides, His tears could be misinterpreted as weakness or frustration on His part, as some of the Jews surmised (11:37). But Jesus did not worry about that. He was completely human (without a sin nature) and His tears show that it’s not wrong to express our feelings as long as our hearts are submissive to God. The NT states three times that Jesus wept (here; Luke 19:41, over Jerusalem’s unbelief; and Heb. 5:7, in the Garden of Gethsemane), but never that He laughed (but, see Luke 10:21).

It’s worth noting that John uses a different word (11:33) for weeping to describe the loud wailing of Mary and the mourners than the word in 11:35, which could be translated, “Jesus burst into tears.” Jesus wept, but He was not wailing in despair. In the words of Paul (1 Thess. 4:13), believers are to grieve, but not as those who have no hope. It’s interesting, also, that while the shortest verse in the English Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Greek NT is 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always!” Those verses are not contradictory! As Paul put it (Rom. 12:15), “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Jesus entered into the sorrow of these sisters. As we become more like our Savior, we should not become more stoical, but rather people who express godly emotions.

  1. Jesus’ love underlies all His actions.

In 11:36 we read in response to Jesus’ weeping, “So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!” And they were right, because John has previously underscored Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (11:3, 5). In fact, Jesus’ love for these dear friends was the reason He stayed two days longer where He was, allowing Lazarus to die (11:6). Love always seeks the highest good for the one loved, and the highest good for anyone is that he or she gets a greater vision of God’s glory and thus grows in faith. Both of these aims were behind Jesus’ delay in going to Bethany (11:4, 15, 40).

But some of the Jews questioned both Jesus’ love and His power when they said (11:37), “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?” They couldn’t reconcile Jesus’ love and power with Lazarus’ death. And in a time of severe trials, the enemy may whisper to you, “God must not love you or He isn’t able to prevent trials like you’re going through. You shouldn’t trust Him!”

But at such times, never interpret God’s love by your difficult circumstances, but rather interpret your circumstances by His love (modified from, C. H. Mackintosh, Miscellaneous Writings [Loizeaux Brothers], vol. 6, “Bethany,” pp. 17-18). He could have prevented your trial. But as H. E. Hayhoe wrote (“Sentence Sermons,” exact source unknown), “He will never allow a trial in your life without a needs be on your part and a purpose of love on His part.”

Thus, Christ is the Teacher and He calls you to come to Him and learn from Him in your trials. And, the Teacher who calls us to Himself is fully God and fully man; thus He can help us in our trials. Finally,

  1. In your trials, come to the Teacher just as you are, quickly and submissively.

Martha’s words to Mary (11:28) are the Lord’s words for us when we’re hurting: “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

  1. Jesus is always present and is waiting for you to come to Him in your trials.

Jesus was there, but Mary had to get up and go to Him. And even though you may not feel His presence, He is always present and available to give grace if you go to Him in your trials.

  1. Come to Jesus just as you are and share your feelings with Him.

Mary went immediately when she heard that the Teacher was there and calling for her. She didn’t say, “I’ve been crying for four days. My mascara is streaked, my eyes are red and swollen. I can’t go to Jesus like this! I need to go and make myself presentable!”

But we often do that with the Lord. We’re in the midst of a trial or problem and we think, “I can’t go to the Lord until I get myself more together. I’ll wait until I’m calmer and more in control of my emotions.” But grace is for the undeserving, not for the deserving. Go to Jesus with your tears and He will weep with you.

If you’ve never come to Christ for salvation, the only way that you can come is just as you are. If you try to clean up your life or make yourself more presentable to Him, you don’t understand His grace. As the old hymn (by Charlotte Elliott) goes,

Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come.!

  1. Come to Jesus quickly.

Mary “got up quickly and was coming to Him” (11:29). She had friends at her side who were consoling her. She could have thought, “What will they think if I leave them and go to Jesus?” Or, she could have thought that their consolations were enough. But as comforting as our friends may be, they are no substitute for the Teacher who calls us to Himself. Don’t delay: Go to Jesus quickly! The sooner you go, the sooner you’ll experience His comfort and compassion.

  1. Come to Jesus’ feet.

Mary went and fell at Jesus’ feet (11:32). Every time we encounter Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet. In Luke 10:39, she was “seated at The Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” In our text, she pours out her grief at Jesus’ feet. In John 12:3, she anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive ointment and dried them with her hair, as she prepared Him for His burial. In this, she is an example for us: First, learn God’s word about Jesus. Then you’ll know Him so that you can take your sorrows to Him in a time of grief. That will lead you to worship Him as the one who died for your sins.


A mission executive from the United States was visiting a school in Kenya where he was listening as teenage girls shared how they had been blessed by hearing the Bible in their own language. One girl testified that the verse that had the greatest impact on her was Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Another said that the verse that had the greatest impact on her was John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” She said that when she wept in the night, she knew that Jesus was weeping with her.

The mission executive wondered why these two girls were mourning and weeping. He thought that maybe they had chosen these verses to share because they were short and easy to remember. But the school’s teacher leaned over and whispered to him that both of these girls had lost their parents to AIDS.

Jesus’ compassion comforted them in their losses. In the same way, the Teacher calls us to come to Him with our tears. He cares for us and He will cry with us. Come to Him!




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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Gospel of John


‘Soar Like Eagles’ #12 The Last Miracle and Last Enemy (part 1) – John 11:1-45

lazarus-raisedThe 1993 movie “Shadowlands” tells the bittersweet love story involving the writer C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. At the beginning of the film, Lewis was lecturing on the subject of pain in a hall full of people. He told them, Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. … We are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel which hurt us so much are what make us perfect.

In the course of the movie, Lewis met Joy Gresham, and she began to fall in love with him. Lewis, a confirmed bachelor, was at first interested only in a friendship with Joy. One day, as the two were sitting down for afternoon tea in his apartment, Joy exploded in frustration at Lewis. She shouted, I have only now just seen it–how you have arranged a life for yourself where no one  can touch you. Everyone that’s close to you is either younger than you or weaker than you or under your control.

Slowly, Lewis came to realize that Joy was right about the way he had insulated his life from feelings and pain. Later, when Joy was in the hospital with cancer, Lewis proposed marriage to her; and in 1956 they became husband and wife. The next four years were wonderful years for them, in spite of the ever-present cloud of cancer that hung over their bliss.

During this time they took a late honeymoon trip to see a beautiful valley which was depicted in a painting on their wall. Rain began to fall as they were walking in the field, so they sought shelter in a shed where hay was stored. While they sat there, Joy insisted on discussing her coming death. In a steady voice, she said, Let me just say it before this rain stops and we go back…. That I am going to die and I want to be with you then too. The only way I can do that is if I’m able to talk to you now…. I think it can be better than just managing. What I’m trying to say is the pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.


“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha

No man can have a greater gift to offer his fellowmen than rest for weary feet; and that is the gift which Jesus found in the house in Bethany, where Martha and Mary and Lazarus. Frank Viola has written a book that calls Bethany our Lord’s favorite city. Lazarus fell ill, and the sisters sent to Jesus a message that it was so. 

Mary and Martha and Lazarus appear here for the first time in John’s Gospel.[1] They will appear once again in chapter 12, a fact to which John calls our attention in verse 2 of our text. It seems that Jesus has come to know Lazarus and his two sisters quite well, and that they have been privileged to enjoy the company of Jesus whenever He traveled to Jerusalem. Their home in Bethany, a couple of miles from Jerusalem, may have been just far enough from Jerusalem for Him to safely spend the night, out of the grasp of those who wanted to kill Him.

{2} This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. {3} So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

It is lovely to note that the sisters’ message included no request to Jesus to come to Bethany.  They knew that was unnecessary; they knew that the simple statement that they were in need would bring him to them.  Augustine said it was sufficient that Jesus should know… for it is not possible that any man should at one and the same time love a friend and desert him. 

  1. F. Andrews tells of two friends who served together in the First World War. One of them was wounded and left lying helpless and in pain in no-man’s-land. The other, at peril of his life, crawled out to help his friend; and, when he reached him, the wounded man looked up and said simply:  “I knew you would come.” 

{4} When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

When Jesus came to Bethany he knew that whatever was wrong with Lazarus he had power to deal with it.  But he went on to say that his sickness had happened for God’s glory and for his. 

If this Jesus can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing.

The same thought is Biblical in nature: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” 1 Cor. 15:19. Death is man’s last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), but Jesus has defeated this horrible enemy totally and permanently.

In what Jesus said and did, He sought to strengthen the faith of three groups of people:

  1. THE DISCIPLES (11:1-12).

{5} Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. {6} Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. {7} Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” {8} “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” {9} Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. {10} It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” {11} After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” {12} His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.””

Just recently Jesus has been in Jerusalem, but He left when the Jews sought to kill Him (10:31, 39-42). It is hard to believe they would not know that returning to Bethany would put Jesus in grave danger. Nevertheless, they inform Jesus in a way that lets Him know they expect Him to return to them immediately: “Take note, Lord! The one You love is sick.”

I am convinced in my own mind that they assume Jesus will immediately respond, so as to save the life of Lazarus. After all, as they remind Him, Lazarus is a man whom He loves[2] (verse 3). The sisters of Lazarus must expect one of two things. Either they expect to see Jesus coming as quickly as He can get there, or they expect Him to send word by the messenger that He is coming shortly. Notice our Lord’s words to Martha later in this same account:

39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” 40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?” (11:39-40, emphasis mine)

Our Lord’s words are very carefully chosen. Jesus is not assuring these women that Lazarus won’t die. He is assuring them that even though Lazarus will die, this will not be the end of the matter. He is also informing them that this crisis has a divinely-intended purpose—to bring glory to God the Father through the glorification of the Son of God.

As we come to verse 6, we have a real tension with which we must grapple.[3] John makes a point of telling us that Jesus deeply loves Lazarus and his sisters. His love for Lazarus is mentioned by Martha and Mary in verse 3, and John then repeats it even more emphatically in verse 5.

In spite of this, and the urgency of the situation, Jesus deliberately delays His return to Bethany. He waits two full days, so that when He does arrive in Bethany, Lazarus is “good and dead.” How can Jesus love these people so much and yet speak and act in a way that causes them such pain? That is the tension with which John leaves us for a while, as he moves on to the discussion between Jesus and His disciples in verses 7-16.

We may find it strange that John shows us Jesus staying two whole days where he was when he received the news about Lazarus.  Reasons to explain this delay. 

  • It has been suggested that Jesus waited so that when he arrived Lazarus would be indisputably dead.
  • It has therefore been suggested that Jesus waited because the delay would make the miracle he proposed to perform all the more impressive. The wonder of raising to life a man who had been dead for four days would be all the greater.
  • The real reason why John tells the story in this way is that he always shows us Jesus taking action entirely on his own initiative and not on the persuasion of anyone else.

When Jesus finally announced that he was going to Judaea, his disciples were shocked and staggered.  They remembered that the last time he was there the Jews had tried to find a way to kill him.  To go to Judaea at that time seemed to them-as indeed humanly speaking it was-the surest way to commit suicide.

Then Jesus said something which contains a great and permanent truth.  “Are there not,” he asked, “twelve hours in the day?” There are three great truths implied in that question.

(i)  A day cannot finish before it ends.  There are twelve hours in the day, and they will be played out no matter what happens.  The day’s period is fixed, and nothing will shorten or lengthen it.  In God’s economy of time a man has his day, whether it be short or long.

(ii)  If there are twelve hours in the day there is time enough for everything a man should do.  There is no need for a rushed haste.

(iii)  But, even if there are twelve hours in the day, there are only twelve hours.  They cannot be extended; and therefore, time cannot be wasted.  There is time enough, but not too much; the time we have must be used to the utmost.

Jesus goes on to develop what he has just said about time.  He says that if a man walks in the light, he will not stumble; but if he tries to walk in the night, he will stumble.

Jesus is saying that a man must finish the day’s work within the day, for the night comes when work is ended.  If a man had one wish it might well be that he might come to the end of each day with its work completed.  The unrest and the hurry of life are so often simply due to the fact that we are trying to catch up on work which should have been done before. 

No doubt the disciples were perplexed about several matters:

– If Jesus loved Lazarus, why did He permit him to get sick?

– Why did Jesus delay to go to the sisters?

– For that matter, why didn’t He heal Lazarus at a distance, as He did the nobleman’s son (4:43-54)

– The record makes it clear that there was a strong love relationship between Jesus and this family (11:3, 5, 36)

– Yet our Lord’s behavior seems to contradict this love?!

To appreciate what these three meant to Jesus, ask yourself a simple question: if you had an emergency at 2:00 a.m., whom would you call? Jesus would have called these three close friends.

{13}“Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. {14} So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, {15} and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” {16} Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.””

Jesus then tells His disciples that Lazarus has “fallen asleep,” and that He is going up to Bethany to “awaken” him. They eagerly take Jesus literally. They jump on this statement: “Well, if he’s asleep, then he’ll be okay, so we don’t have to go up to Bethany after all.”

For these men, who have no desire to risk their lives by going back to Judea, our Lord’s words are indeed welcome. John parenthetically informs us that this is not at all what Jesus means; it is just what they hear.

I should probably pause here momentarily to point out that the raising of Lazarus is not a “first” in the Gospels. Jesus had already raised the dead son of the “widow of Nain,” as recorded in Luke 7:11-16. This was followed by the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43).

Jesus finds it necessary to speak plainly to His disciples, so He tells them that Lazarus is dead (verse 14). He adds that He rejoices in the fact that He is not at Bethany. His absence, He tells them, is for their benefit. His delay has been by divine design, so that they might believe. It is apparent that the faith of the disciples continues to grow, the more the person and work of our Lord becomes evident to them.

At that moment the disciples might well have refused to follow Jesus; then one lonely voice spoke up.  They were all feeling that to go to Jerusalem was to go to their deaths, and they were hanging back.  Then came the voice of Thomas:  “Let us, too, go that we may die with him.”

At this moment Thomas displayed the highest kind of courage.  In his heart, as R. H. Strachan said, “There was not expectant faith, but loyal despair.”  But upon one thing Thomas was determined-come what may, he would not quit.

   He calmed their fears by reminding them that He was on the Father’s schedule, and that nothing could harm them. They felt Lazarus was still alive, so Jesus makes it very plain! “He is dead.”


   “On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. {18} Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, {19} and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. {20} When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

   In order to visualize this scene we must first see what a Jewish house of mourning was like.  Normally in Palestine, because of the climate, burial followed death as quickly as possible.  There was a time when a funeral was an exceedingly costly thing.  The finest spices and ointments were used to anoint the body; the body itself was clothed in the most magnificent robes; all kinds of valuables were buried in the tomb along with the body. 

By midway through the first century all this had become a ruinous expenditure.  Naturally no one wished on such an occasion to be outdone by his neighbor, and the wrappings and robes with which the body was covered, and the treasures left in the tomb, became ever more expensive. 

The matter had become almost an intolerable burden which no one liked to alter-until the advent of a famous Rabbi called Gamaliel the Second.  He gave orders that he was to be buried in the simplest possible linen robe, and so broke the extravagance of funeral customs. 

To this day at Jewish funerals a cup is drunk to Rabbi Gamaliel who rescued the Jews from their own extravagance.  From his time on the body was wrapped in a simple linen dress which was sometimes called by the very beautiful name of the travelling-dress.

In the house of mourning there were set customs.  So long as the body was in the house they were forbidden to eat meat or to drink wine, to wear phylacteries or to engage in any kind of study.  No food was to be prepared in the house, and such food as was eaten must not be eaten in the presence of the dead.  As soon as the body was carried out all furniture was reversed, and the mourners sat on the ground or on low stools.

On the return from the tomb a meal was served, which had been prepared by the friends of the family.  It consisted of bread, hard-boiled eggs and lentils; the round eggs and lentils symbolized life which was always rolling to death.

Deep mourning lasted for seven days, of which the first three were days of weeping.  During these seven days it was forbidden to anoint oneself, to put on shoes, to engage in any kind of study or business, and even to wash.  The week of deep mourning was followed by thirty days of lighter mourning.

So when Jesus found a crowd in the house at Bethany, he found what anyone would expect to find in a Jewish house of mourning.  It was a sacred duty to come to express loving sympathy with the sorrowing friends and relations of one who had died. 

The Talmud says that whoever visits the sick shall deliver his soul from Gehenna; and Maimonides, the medieval Jewish scholar, declared that to visit the sick takes precedence of all other good works.  Visits of sympathy to the sick, and to the sorrowing, were an essential part of Jewish religion. 

As the mourners left the tomb, they turned and said:  “Depart in peace,” and they never mentioned the name of the one who had died without invoking a blessing on it. 

It would be to a household crowded with sympathizers that Jesus came that day.

Without question, these two friends had said one thing over and over: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. {22} But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” here was likely a tinge of disappointment but also some evidence of faith.

When Martha met Jesus her heart spoke through her lips. This is likely something she had thought and now says out loud! We can almost hear the sting of disappointment in her words. “If only” may be the saddest sentiment in any language. Martha must have been hurt by Jesus’ delay in coming to them…Jesus stood there ‘and took it’ as she expressed her pain, her confusion, and her disappointment.

Martha possibly would have liked to say:  “When you got our message, why didn’t you come at once?  And now you have left it too late.”  No sooner are the words out than there follow the words of faith, faith which defied the facts and defied experience:  “Even yet,” she said with a kind of desperate hope, “even yet, I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

When Jesus gave them a response, Martha was quick to think of a solution in the future, in the last days:   Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” {24} Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.””

The response by Jesus is the fifth of the “I Am” statements. It is important to note that Jesus did not deny what Martha said about the future resurrection.

He has declared once for all that death is real, that there is life after death, and that the body will one day be raised by the power of God. But He went one step further: He transformed this doctrine, taking it out of a book and putting it into a person: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; {26} and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha’s next words reflect a tremendous faith and a deep understanding of spiritual matters. When Jesus asked her if she believed Him, she replied, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (11:27). Even before witnessing the marvelous miracle that was about to take place, Martha demonstrated the kind of faith the Gospel of John was written to create!’

The events of Luke 10:38-42 makes it clear that these two sisters were quite different in their personalities. Martha was the worker, the active one, while Mary was the contemplative one who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His word.

Note the contrasts between the two sisters:

– Martha was active. She met Jesus at the outskirts of town…Mary remained in the house, lost in mournful contemplation.   

Because of this, we would expect Martha to rush out to meet Jesus while Mary sat in the house, weeping with her friends.

– Martha’s greeting laid emphasis on my brother, a hint of her agressive and possessive personality. Mary’s statement emphasized her brother. This emphasized her tender nature. (Note to teachers: the difference aappears in the word order of the Greek text, in which the last word is the most emphatic. Martha’s words end with the possessive pronoun “my” (vs. 21) while Mary’s words with the noun “brother” (vs. 32).

– Martha expressed a general assent to the hope of the resurrection; Mary prostrated herself before Jesus in adoration and said nothing concerning her expectations.

– Martha was vocal; Mary was tearful.

Both had personal faith in Jesus as a man and a friend, though it is obvious from Martha’s response to Jesus’ command to remove the stone showed that she did not anticipate any immediate restortion of her brother.

When Jesus responded to Martha, saying, “Your brother shall rise again” (11:23), we have no way of knowing how that statement sounded to her. Was it painful? Did it sound like so many of the empty, hollow words one sometimes hears at a funeral home? Could it have sounded like a rebuke for her lack of faith? Whatever her first reaction to Jesus’ words might have been, Martha spiritualized them and replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (11:24).

By proclaiming Himself as the resurrection, Jesus was not promising that His followers would never face physical death, nor was He promising that He would never face death Himself.

Instead, He was claiming that because He would die and rise again, breaking the power of death, His followers would never again have the same relationship to death. Resurrection for them would be much more than a miraculous, one-time event; it would be a new reality about life!

   Martha did not hesitate to affirm her faith:  {27} “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” The words “I believe” are in the perfect tense, indicating a fixed and settled faith. And she immediately went and found her sister: {28} “And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” {29} When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.”

{30}”Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. {31} When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.”

When she met Jesus, she fell at His feet and repeated her sister’s painful words: {32}“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died”.

Mary and Martha were weeping, and her friends joined in the weeping, as Jewish people are accustomed to do. The response of Jesus is quite graphic in the original language: {33} “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

The word used was to groan within and “be moved with indignation.” Jesus became angry! Why? Because of what sin and death was doing to the people. Death is an enemy, and Satan uses the fear of death as a terrible weapon.

One writer put it this way: “The words denote indignation rather than sorrow. As He looked upon the cemetery at Bethany, a silent memorial to the devastation that death had wrought on the human race, He was angered against man’s great enemy. Death to Him was not an impassable enemy, but a call to battle.”

The identical Greek root word is used in the following ways: Matthew 9:30: “..and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.”

Mark 1:43: “…Jesus sent him away at once with a strong  warning…”

This concept also gives us an image of the extend of His care for us: Hebrews 2:14-18: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– {15} and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. {16} For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. {17} For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. {18} Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

The next two responses by Jesus are interesting: one is surprising and the other expected:  {34} “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. {35} Jesus wept.”

“Jesus wept” is a short statement but very deep in nature. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners.

But why did He weep at all? He had known for some time that Lazarus was dead…and He knew He was about to raise him up!

It reveals to us the humanity of Jesus; He was entering into all of our experiences and knows how we feel. We see in His tears the tragedy of sin but also the glory of heaven.

Some have suggested that perhaps He was weeping because He was about to call Lazarus back into a wicked world.

The friends saw His tears as an evidence of His love: “Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”“But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

[1] Their only other appearance is the well-known account of Luke 10:38-42, where Martha was distressed because Mary was not helping her prepare the meal.

[2] The New English Bible calls Lazarus “your friend,” which is not a bad way of rendering the term filew, one of the biblical terms employed for love. This distinguishes between this term for “love” and agapaw, which occurs in verse 5.

[3] This same tension is repeated in verses 36 and 37.

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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Gospel of John


Soar Like Eagles #11 “I Am the Son of God!” John 10:22-42

“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter (23) and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade ‘The Jews gathered around him, saying “How long will vou keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

The origin of the Festival of Dedication lies in one of the greatest times of ordeal and heroism in Jewish history.  There was a king of Syria called Antiochus Epiphanes who reigned from 175 to 164 B.C.  He was a lover of all things Greek.  He decided that he would eliminate the Jewish religion once and for all, and introduce Greek ways and thoughts, Greek religion and gods into Palestine.  At first he tried to do so by peaceful penetration of ideas.  Some of the Jews welcomed the new ways, but most were stubbornly loyal to their ancestral faith.

It was in 170 B.C. that the deluge really came.  In that year Antiochus attacked Jerusalem.  It was said that 80,000 Jews perished, and as many were sold into slavery.  It became a capital offence to possess a copy of the law, or to circumcise a child; and mothers who did circumcise their children were crucified with their children hanging round their necks.

The Temple courts were profaned; the Temple chambers were turned into brothels; and finally Antiochus took the dreadful step of turning the great altar of the burnt-offering into an altar to Olympian Zeus, and on it proceeded to offer swine’s flesh to the pagan gods.

It was then that Judas Maccabaeus and his brother arose to fight their epic fight for freedom.  In 164 B.C. the struggle was finally won; and in that year the Temple was cleansed and purified.  The altar was rebuilt and the robes and the utensils were replaced, after three years of pollution.

It was to commemorate that purification of the Temple that the Feast of the Dedication was instituted.  Judas Maccabaeus enacted that “the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year, by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Chislew, with gladness and joy” (1 Maccabees 4:59).

For that reason the festival was sometimes called the Festival of the Dedication of the Altar, and sometimes the Memorial of the Purification of the Temple.

But as we have already seen, it had still another name.  It was often called the Festival of Lights.  There were great illuminations in the Temple; and there were also illuminations in every Jewish home.  In the window of every Jewish house there were set lights.

According to Rabbi Shammai, eight lights were set in the window, and they were reduced each day by one until on the last day only one was left burning.  According to Rabbi Hillel, one light was kindled on the first day, and one was added each day until on the last day eight were burning.  We can see these lights in the windows of every devout Jewish home to this day.

These lights had two significances.  First, they were a reminder that at the first celebrating of the festival the light of freedom had come back to Israel.  Second, they were traced back to a very old legend.  It was told that when the Temple had been purified and the great seven branched candlestick relit, only one little cruse of unpolluted oil could be found.  This cruse was still intact, and still sealed with the impress of the ring of the High Priest.

By all normal measures, there was only oil enough in that cruse to light the lamps for one single day.  But by a miracle it lasted for eight days, until new oil had been prepared according to the correct formula and had been consecrated for its sacred use.  So for eight days the lights burned in the Temple and in the homes of the people in memory of the cruse which God had made to last for eight days instead of one.

It is not without significance that it must have been very close to this time of illumination that Jesus said:  “I am the Light of the world.”  When all the lights were being kindled in memory of the freedom won to worship God in the true way, Jesus said:  “I am the Light of the world; I alone can light men into the knowledge and the presence of God.”

“Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, {26} but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. {27} My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. {28} I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. {29} My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. {30} I and the Father are one.””

Jesus’s answer was that he had already told them who he was.  Jesus’s two great claims had been made in private.  To the Samaritan woman he had revealed himself as the Messiah (John 4:26) and to the man born blind he had claimed to be the Son of God (John 9:37).  But there are some claims which do not need to be made in words, especially to an audience well-qualified to perceive them.

This passage shows at one and the same time the tremendous trust and the tremendous claim of Jesus.

In Jesus’ day, people had different understandings of what “the Christ” would be. If Jesus said, “Yes, I am the Christ,” He would be terribly misunderstood by the people who expected “the Christ” to be a powerful, earthly king like David or Solomon.

If He said, “No,” then He would be denying the truth about Himself.

Jesus promised three things.

(i)  He promised eternal life.  He promised that if they accepted him as Master and Lord, if they became members of his flock, all the littleness of earthly life would be gone and they would know the splendor and the magnificence of the life of God.

(ii)  He promised a life that would know no end.  Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of indestructible life.

(iii)  He promised a life that was secure.  Nothing could snatch them from his hand.  This would not mean that they would be saved from sorrow, from suffering and from death; but that in the sorest moment and the darkest hour they would still be conscious of the everlasting arms underneath and about them.  Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.

He also described the nature of the true believers:

Sensitivity. They hear my voice (vs. 27)

Fellowship. I know them (vs. 27)

Obedience. They follow me (vs. 27)

Life. I gave them eternal life (vs. 28)

Assurance. They shall never perish (vs. 28)

Security. No one shall snatch them out of my hand (vs. 28)

Do these verses teach eternal security, with no possibility of “falling from grace?” The verses clearly indicate that this promise is to those who hear the voice and follow the voice.  Those who fall do so on their own volition; it is not because of any failure of the Lord nor because temptation is irresistible. Before all men is the choice of good and evil; some choose good and some choose evil.

The Jewish leaders understood clearly what He was saying: “Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, {32} but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” {33} “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.””

To the Jews Jesus’s statement that he and the Father were one was blasphemy.  It was the invasion by a man of the place which belonged to God alone.  The Jewish law laid down the penalty of stoning for blasphemy.  “He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him” (Leviticus 24:16).

He told them that he had spent all his days doing lovely things, healing the sick feeding the hungry, and comforting the sorrowing, deeds so full of help and power and beauty that they obviously came from God.  For which of these deeds did they wish to stone him?  Their answer was that it was not for anything he had done that they wished to stone him, but for the claim he was making.

Our Lord used Psalm 82:6 to refute their accusation and halt their actions: “Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? {35} If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and the Scripture cannot be broken– {36} what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? {37} Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. {38} But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.””

The picture in Psalm 82 is that of a court, where God has assembled the judges of the earth, to warn them that they too will one day be judged. These Jewish leaders certainly knew their own language and they knew that Jesus was speaking the truth. If God called human judges ‘gods,’ then why should they stone Him for applying the same title to Himself?

Verse 36 is critical because it gives a double affirmation of the deity of Christ:

– the Father sanctified (set apart) the Son and sent Him into the world

– Jesus states boldly that He was the Son of God (5:25)

What was their response? “Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. {40} Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed {41} and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” {42} And in that place many believed in Jesus.”

This was apparently a place which would provide a safe retreat; the Jewish leaders were not likely to follow Him there. Also it was a good place to prepare for His final week of public ministry when He would lay down His life for the sheep.

The place to which Jesus went is most significant.  He went to the place where John had been accustomed to baptize, the place where he himself had been baptized.  It was there that the voice of God had come to him and assured him that he had taken the right decision and was on the right way.  There is everything to be said for a man returning every now and then to the place where he had the supreme experience of his life.

Even on the far side of Jordan the Jews came to Jesus, and they too thought of John.  They remembered that he had spoken with the words of a prophet; but had done no mighty deeds.  They saw that there was a difference between Jesus and John.  To John’s proclamation Jesus added God’s power.  John could diagnose the situation; Jesus brought the power to deal with the situation.  These Jews had looked on John as a prophet; now they saw that what John had foretold of Jesus was true, and many of them believed.

At the Jordan many people came to Him. This was an act of faith on their part. They said, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true” (10:41).

Their words implied that John had not performed any signs, in contrast to Jesus, who had performed many signs. Significantly, the special word John used for “sign” appears in verse 41 for the first time in chapter 10.

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus’ miracles were called only “works,” because they had not produced faith in the hearts of those who had seen them. However, where faith in Jesus is described in verse 41, the word “sign” reappears.

The conclusion of all the events in chapter 10 is that “many believed in Him there” (10:42).  

By this point in the Gospel of John, those who believed in Jesus had come to understand that the content of true belief is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

They had also come to understand that the cost of this belief could be conflict, division, and even the threat of death. After all, we see them at the end of the chapter with a band of outcasts in the wilderness, following the One in whom they had come to believe.

Even though John presented a tough message about how costly faith can be, his message is, at the same time, one of encouragement. He wanted us to understand that we will be opposed as believers in Christ.

However, it should not surprise us or crush our spirits. Furthermore, the example of Jesus is to stand firm on the truth we believe—even when we are persecuted. His consistent response to violent opposition was to speak truth, and we should do the same.

Jesus is the Door: Have I ‘entered’ in by faith so I can be saved?

Jesus is the Good Shepherd: Have I heard His voice and trusted Him?

Jesus is the Son of God: Do I believe this and is He first in my life?

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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Gospel of John


“Soar on Wings” The gospel of John #11 – I  Am The Light of the World John 8:12-30

It’s been several years since I first began to notice a word that keeps popping up these days. This word can have several meanings, I guess, but it seems to be used primarily to end discussions.

At first, I thought it was used only by teen-agers, but I have since heard it on the lips of people of all generations. Increasingly, it is used to say, “It doesn’t matter enough to talk about any further.” The word is “whatever.”

A parent says to a child, “You should do this!” and the child replies, “Whatever.”

A teenage girl encourages her friend to “do the right thing” in a situation, and the answer is “Whatever.”

Two adults argue over politics until one of them has had enough, so he shrugs his shoulders and says, “Whatever.”

On a more significant level, “whatever” can mean that truth does not matter to people It can communicate that you are entitled to your view of truth, I am entitled to my view of truth, and we can assume that we are both equally right.

In the United States, “whatever” is more than a cultural fad; it is a one word indicator of the way a nation is thinking.

What do you think about my evaluation of this interesting word? Did I hear you say, “Whatever?”

      John 8:12f (NIV) When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

18  I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19  Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

23  But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.”

28  So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29  The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30  Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

In our text, Jesus challenged the spirit of “whatever.” His message is bold, and His claims cannot be ignored. In the end, you may respond to Him with a joyous “Yes!” or a defiant “No!”–but He will not allow you to answer, “Whatever.”

Light has to bear witness to itself! The only people who cannot see the light are blind people.

Light bears witness to itself; it tells you it is here. 

Can you imagine this? The Jews think they are the authorities, the ones in charge. Yet here stands Jesus, the One they are determined to silence by killing Him. He is there in the temple, teaching the people. And He is doing so literally outside the door of the room where the Sanhedrin meets.

This is indeed ironic, especially in the light of the story of the woman caught in adultery at the beginning of this chapter. The scribes and Pharisees insisted that this woman be stoned, in order to fulfill the Law of Moses. Jesus did not disagree about her guilt or even her punishment under the law. What He did (which caught His adversaries completely off guard) was to appeal to the Law of Moses as to how they should proceed with the stoning. Under the law, there must be two eye witnesses. When Jesus required that the two witnesses be innocent and that they “cast the first stone,” no one was willing to do so, and the case was dropped for lack of any witnesses who would testify against this woman.

The most important thing about any witness is that he or she is, in fact, a witness.


In this passage Jesus talks of “following” himself. We often speak of following Jesus; we often urge men to do so. What do we mean? It has at least five different but closely meanings:

– It is often used of a soldier following his captain.   

On the long route marches, into battle, in campaigns in strange lands, the soldier follows wherever the captain may lead. The Christian is the soldier whose commander is Christ.

– It is often used of a slave accompanying his master.

Wherever the master goes the slave is in attendance upon him, always ready to spring to his service and to carry out the tasks he gives him to do. He is literally at his master’s beck and call. The Christian is the slave whose joy it is always to serve Christ.

– It is often used of accepting a wise counselor’s opinion.

When a man is in doubt he goes to the expert, and if he is wise he accepts the judgment he receives. The Christian is the man who guides his life and conduct by the counsel of Christ.

– It is often used of giving obedience to the laws of a city or a state.

If a man is to be a useful member of any society or citizen of any community, he must agree to abide by its laws. The Christian, being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, accepts the law of the kingdom and of Christ as the law which governs his life.

– It is often used of following a teacher’s line of argument, or of following the gist of someone’s speech.

The Christian is the man who has understood the meaning of the teaching of Christ. He has not listened in dull incomprehension or with slack inattention. He takes the message into his mind and understands, receives the words into his memory and remembers, and hides them in his heart and obeys.

How does God hear witness to the supreme authority of Jesus?

– The witness of God is in Jesus’ words.

No man could speak with such wisdom unless God had given him knowledge.

– The witness of God in Jesus’ deeds.

No man could do such things unless God was acting through him.

– The witness of God in the effect God had upon men.

He works changes in men which are obviously beyond human power to work. The very fact that Jesus can make bad men good is proof that his power is not simply a man’s power, but God’s.

Jesus never really answered their question, “Where is your Father?” The word father is used 21 times in this chapter, so Jesus did not avoid the issue but faced it honestly. He knew that “their father” was not God–but the devil!

Why would John mention the fact that Jesus was near the Treasury when He said these words? Because the temple treasury was very near the council chambers of the Sanhedrin. (8:22)  “This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?””

This verse implies several things:

– There are certain opportunities which come and do not return. To every man is given the opportunity  to accept Christ; but that opportunity can be refused and lost.

– Truth and life are limited. The time to make a decision is limited–and none of us knows what his limit is. There is every reason for making that time now.

– There is judgment. The greater the opportunity, the more clearly it beckons, the oftener it comes, the greater the judgment if it is refused or missed.

Luke 12:47-48:  “”That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. {48} But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Jesus claimed to possess all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18)  “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Jesus asserted authority for Himself above the authority of the Scriptures  (Matt. 5:27-28)  “”You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ {28} But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

– Jesus claimed identity with God (John 10:30) and to be a manifestation of God (John 14:9)      

(John 10:30)  “I and the Father are one.””

(John 14:9)  “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

– Jesus professed that no one has access to God except through Him (John 14:6) “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

– Jesus claimed to have been existent with the Father from all eternity (John 17:5)  “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

– Jesus claimed that His words were the means of obtainaing everlasting life (John 5:24)  “”I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

– Jesus contended that His word would be the basis of judgment of the world (John 12:48)  “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.”


What are we to think about Jesus today? Most people are willing to accept that Jesus lived and that He was a good man, but many are not willing to accept that He is, indeed, the Son of God.

Jesus made such a view absurd. He did not claim to be just a good man; He claimed to be “I am.” He did not present Himself as a great philosopher; He presented Himself as the only way to the Father. He did not teach that He had special insight into God; He claimed that He was one with the Father.

His bold claims force us to make a choice to believe or reject His true identity. When it comes to Jesus, “whatever” is not an option. In this matter, the furious Jewish leaders with stones in their hands understood what Jesus was saying better than do unbelievers today who talk about how Jesus was “a good man.”

Concerning this, Josh McDowell wrote: “To Jesus, who men and women believed him to be was of fundamental importance. To say what Jesus said and to claim what he claimed about himself, one couldn’t conclude he was just a good moral man or prophet. That alternative isn’t open to an individual, and Jesus never intended it to be.’

Years earlier, C. S. Lewis came to a similar conclusion: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a manand said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic  on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”


What does all of this mean for us today? First, for those who have grown up in the Christian faith, it forces us to move beyond the “Jesus was a nice man” phase of our own spiritual development. As our children grow up, I want them to be impressed at an early age by Jesus’ kindness and gentleness toward children and people who are hurting. Having such a picture of Jesus is good.

However, if my children never grow beyond that picture of Jesus, if they never realize that Jesus was not only gentle but also bold and demanding, then their faith will fail to mature. Jesus claimed to be “I am.” The old saying is true: “Either Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all!”

The encounter with Jesus in John 8 hits sleepy, apathetic Christians like a cold slap in the face. Is He who He says He is? If He is not, then why are we still “playing church”? If He is, then why are we not living and working as if nothing else in life matters as much as the Lord Jesus?

To the man or woman who still attends worship services but is not living as a Christian Monday through Saturday, this meeting with Jesus is a call to make a decision. Each of us must stand on the side of faith or on the side of disbelief.

What do you think about Jesus? Was He a blasphemer? Was He a liar? Was He a lunatic? Is He Lord? You must decide!

“Whatever” is not an option!

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Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Gospel of John


“Soar Like Eagles” The gospel of John #10 Not Guilty – Overcoming Shame John 8:1-11  

In a scene from East Auburn Baptist Church production of "The Event," Jesus, portrayed by Shawn DeGraff, writes in the dirt and asks the accusers, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone," when a woman caught in the act of adultery is brought before him, portrayed by Lisa Roy.

In a scene from East Auburn Baptist Church production of “The Event,” Jesus, portrayed by Shawn DeGraff, writes in the dirt and asks the accusers, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone,” when a woman caught in the act of adultery is brought before him, portrayed by Lisa Roy.

This chapter may contain many people’s favorite story in the entire Gospel of John. This text gathers into eleven short verses the heart and soul of Jesus’ ministry. Although it probably was not originally part of the Gospel of John, it is a powerful passage which leaves us with an unforgettable picture of Jesus.

Like most modern translations, the NASB, ESV, NIV and ASV places 7:53-8:11 in brackets, with the notation that it is not found in most of the ancient manuscripts. This passage appears only in some of the later Greek manuscripts, and, even then, it appears in different places: following John 7:36; 7:44; 7:52; 21:25; and Luke 21:38. In fact, only one Greek manuscript prior to the ninth century has the story.

None of the church fathers who wrote in Greek commented on this passage until the 12th century, although many of them made reference to the passages which immediately precede and follow it. While it is likely that the story actually did occur, it’s also certain that it was not part of John’s original gospel.

Because these verses are known by most Christians, and have often been mistaught and misapplied, we want to take the time in this study to discuss the meaning.


“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. {2} At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. {3} The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group {4} and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. {5} In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” {6} They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. {7} When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” {8} Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. {9} At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”

The story begins with Jesus’ going to the Mount of Olives, something that became His routine during the final week before the Crucifixion. Luke 21:37 indicates that Jesus would teach in Jerusalem during the day and retire to the Mount of Olives at night. This was probably at the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany, which was on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives.

Early the next morning He returned to Jerusalem and entered the temple. As people gathered around Him, He sat down and began to teach. At some point while this was happening, the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.

The educated religious Pharisees and scribes present Jesus with a dilemma. Here is a woman caught in the act. She stands in the midst of a murderous mob. She wonders if she will survive the incident. This all happened so suddenly.

She is publicly disgraced and standing alone without so much as the support of her lover. By the way, where is he? If they were caught in the act, why is he not here to receive his just punishment of stoning. Leviticus 20:10 (NIV) “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

Jesus knew that their motives were wicked (8:6). After all, where was the man? Adultery is not a sin which a person can commit alone, and yet only a woman was brought to Jesus.

They care neither for the sin nor the woman. She is merely a tool to get at Jesus.

In the eyes of the Jewish law adultery was a serious crime. The Rabbis said: “Every Jew must die before he will commit idolatry, murder or adultery.” 

Adultery was one of the three gravest sins and it was punishable by death, although there were certain differences in respect of the way in which the death penalty was to be carried out. 

The dilemma into which they sought to put Jesus was this.  If he said that the woman ought to be stoned to death, two things followed. First, he would lose the name he had gained for love and for mercy and never again would be called the friend of sinners. Second, he would come into collision with the Roman law, for the Jews had no power to pass or carry out the death sentence on anyone. If he said that the woman should be pardoned, it could immediately be said that he was teaching men to break the law of Moses, and that he was condoning and even encouraging people to commit adultery.

At first Jesus stooped down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 

What did He write on the ground? Could He have been reminding them of a passage of warning found in Jeremiah 17:13: “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.”

It was required by Jewish law that the accusers cast the first stones: Deut. 17:7:  “The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.”

One attractive suggestion is that he wrote accusations against the various Sanhedrin members. Another says he wrote a list of their names. Still another supposes that he just doodled to show his disinterest. We’re curious about what he wrote. But apparently it doesn’t matter. The emphasis is on the act of writing, not what was written. While Jesus scribbles in the sand they keep pressing him for an answer. They get more of an answer than they bargain for.

Jesus stands up, adding force to his response. Without disregarding either the law of Moses or this precious person, he simply says, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus is not saying that her accusers have to be sinless. That would spell the demise of all legal proceedings. He is merely suggesting that they be adequate witnesses.

Deuteronomy 19:16-19 (NIV) If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, 17  the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18  The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, 19  then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you.

Exodus 23:1-3 (NIV) “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness. 2  “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3  and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.

Exodus 23:6-8 (NIV) “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7  Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8  “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.

Jesus exposes their devious sting operation. They’re trying to nail Jesus, not this woman. Now they, along with this woman, have been caught in the act. Furthermore, those who would throw the first stone, according to Jewish jurisprudence, must be witnesses of the crime. These guys are at the center of this vicious trap. Bull’s-eye! Jesus, with one sentence identifies, criticizes, and dismantles this whole dirty business. He then stoops down and continues to doodle in the dust.

The older ones leave first, their wisdom and moderation having been forged by time. The others follow reluctantly. By and by this whole inner band of accusers disappears, leaving this woman alone with Jesus in the center

The first duty of authority is to try to understand the force of the temptations which drove the sinner to sin and the seductiveness of the circumstances in which sin became so attractive. No man can pass judgment on another unless he at least tries to understand what the other has come through. 

The second duty of authority is to seek to reclaim the wrongdoer. Any authority which is solely concerned with punishment is wrong; any authority, which, in its exercise, drives a wrongdoer either to despair or to resentment, is a failure. The function of authority is not be banish the sinner from all descent society, still less to wipe him out; it is to make him into a good man. The man set in authority must be like a wise physician; his one desire must be to heal.

This incident shows vividly and cruelly the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees to people.  They were not looking on this woman as a person at all; they were looking on her only as a thing, an instrument whereby they could formulate a charge against Jesus.  They were using her, as a man might use a tool, for their own purposes.  To them she had no name, no personality, no feelings; she was simply a pawn in the game whereby they sought to destroy Jesus.

It is extremely unlikely that the scribes and the Pharisees even knew this woman’s name.  To them she was nothing but a case of shameless adultery that could now be used as an instrument to suit their purposes.  The minute people become things the spirit of Christianity is dead.

God uses his authority to love men into goodness; to God no person ever becomes a thing.  We must use such authority as we have always to understand and always at least to try to mend the person who has made the mistake; and we will never even begin to do that unless we remember that every man and woman is a person, not a thing.

Further, this incident tells us a great deal about Jesus and his attitude to the sinner.

Someone has written the lines: “How I wish that there was some wonderful place Called the Land of Beginning Again, Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches And all our poor selfish grief Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, And never put on again.”

In Jesus there is the gospel of the second chance.  He was always intensely interested, not only in what a person had been, but also in what a person could be.  He did not say that what they had done did not matter; broken laws and broken hearts always matter; but he was sure that every man has a future as well as a past.

It involved pity.  The basic difference between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees was that they wished to condemn; he wished to forgive.  If we read between the lines of this story it is quite clear that they wished to stone this woman to death and were going to take pleasure in doing so.  They knew the thrill of exercising the power to condemn; Jesus knew the thrill of exercising the power to forgive.  Jesus regarded the sinner with pity born of love; the scribes and Pharisees regarded him with disgust born of self-righteousness.

It involved challenge.  Jesus confronted this woman with the challenge of the sinless life.  He did not say:  “It’s all right; don’t worry; just go on as you are doing.”  He said:  “It’s all wrong; go out and fight; change your life from top to bottom; go, and sin no more.”  Here was no easy forgiveness; here was a challenge which pointed a sinner to heights of goodness of which she had never dreamed.  Jesus confronts the bad life with the challenge of the good.

It involved belief in human nature.  When we come to think of it, it is a staggering thing that Jesus should say to a woman of loose morals:  “Go, and sin no more.”  The amazing, heart-uplifting thing about him was his belief in men and women.  When he was confronted with someone who had gone wrong, he did not say:  “You are a wretched and a hopeless creature.”  He said:  “Go, and sin no more.”  He believed that with his help the sinner has it in him to become the saint.  His method was not to blast men with the knowledge-which they already possessed-that they were miserable sinners, but to inspire them with the unglimpsed discovery that they were potential saints.

It involved warning, clearly unspoken but implied.  Here we are face to face with the eternal choice.  Jesus confronted the woman with a choice that day-either to go back to her old ways or to reach out to the new way with him.  This story is unfinished, for every life is unfinished until it stands before God.

He Treated Her With Dignity

Have you ever been present when people were talking about you? Perhaps as a child or as a patient in the hospital, you have had the terrible experience of hearing others talk about you as if you were not even there.

It is a dehumanizing experience. That is what the woman had been subjected to at the hands of the scribes and the Pharisees. She had been an object, a problem, nothing more. When Jesus had faced down her accusers, He turned and spoke to her. The fact that He spoke to her instead of about her was perhaps the most precious gift this woman had ever been given.

Jesus did not view her as an embarrassing failure or an irritating difficulty; He saw her as a person, a creation of God who possessed tremendous God-given worth.

He Treated Her With Compassion

Not only did Jesus treat the woman with dignity, but His behavior toward her also demonstrated amazing compassion. His first compassionate act was writing on the ground. Suddenly, no one was looking at the woman. Diverting the stares of the crowd from the woman to Himself was Jesus’ first precious gift of compassion to her.

He Treated Her With Frankness

He was kind but frank in addressing her sin. Her sin had to be confronted. Today we have many ways that we try to avoid confronting our sin. We try to ignore sin (“1 will not think about that”), deny sin (“I did not do anything wrong”), or even justify sin (” I did that because of my parents, my job, or my culture”).

Jesus, by contrast, insisted that the woman face her sin. He called sin “sin.” We are constantly in need of the same treatment today. Jesus does not respond to our sin by saying, “Don’t worry about it! It’s no big deal!” Instead, He says that sin is His greatest concern, a concern as big as the cross!  In order for redemption to take place, we must first face the reality and the guilt of our sins.

Forgiveness is free but it is not cheap! Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law so that no one could justly accuse Him of opposing its teachings or weakening its power. by applying the Law to the woman and not themselves, the Jewish leaders were violating both the letter and the spirit of the law. And they thought they were defending Moses!

He Treated Her With Grace and Hope

Nothing in this passage indicates that Jesus forgave the woman of her sin, but He refused to condemn her to death. In this story we are not told how the woman was influenced by what Jesus had done for her. Did she believe? Was she moved to repent of her sin? We cannot be sure of the answers to these questions.

We can be sure, however, that Jesus offered her hope for the future. The sin all too easily becomes his identity. Jesus’ words to the woman shout the message “There is more to your life than just your sin. You can turn from sin!”


Sometimes your shame is private. Pushed over the edge by an abusive spouse. Molested by a perverted parent. Seduced by a compromising superior. No one else knows. But you know. And that’s enough.

Sometimes it’s public. Branded by a divorce you didn’t want. Contaminated by a disease you never expected. Marked by a handicap you didn’t create. And whether it’s actually in their eyes or just in your imagination, you have to deal with it—you are marked: a divorcee, an invalid, an orphan, an AIDS patient.

Whether private or public, shame is always painful. And unless you deal with it, it is permanent. Unless you get help—the dawn will never come.

Jesus says, “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore” (vv. 10–11).

If you have ever wondered how God reacts when you fail, frame these words and hang them on the wall. Read them. Ponder them. Drink from them. Stand below them and let them wash over your soul.

Or better still, take him with you to your canyon of shame. Invite Christ to journey with you. Let him stand beside you as you retell the events of the darkest nights of your soul.

And then listen. Listen carefully. He’s speaking. “I don’t judge you guilty.”

And watch. Watch carefully. He’s writing. He’s leaving a message. Not in the sand, but on a cross. Not with his hand, but with his blood. His message has two words: Not guilty.

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Posted by on March 23, 2017 in Gospel of John


“Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #9 -Feast, Famine, and Living Water! John 7:1-52

In chapter 7, we come to a point in John’s Gospel when the opposition to our Lord becomes more intense and more broad-based. Up till now, John has not allowed the opponents of our Lord to “have the floor” to articulate their point of view and carry on a debate with Jesus. Previously, John focused on our Lord’s response to His opponents, without fully conveying their arguments.

Now, they have their chance, and so does our Lord, not only to refute the error of His opponents, but also to introduce some very important new subject matter:

Background:  The Feast of Tabernacles

The events of chapter 7 take place in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. If we measure the verses, this period of controversy represents the longest single section of this gospel account. It describes the parallel development of belief and unbelief among the hearers of Jesus and the resultant clash of these two opposing forces.

Chapter 7 opens with Jesus in Galilee as the time approaches for the Feast of Booths. Although this feast is not as familiar as the Passover, it had great importance to the Jews in Jesus’ day. Also called the Feast of “Ingatherings” or “Tabernacles,” the Feast of Booths was one of the three great annual Jewish feasts. It took place around mid-October, about six months after Passover.

Booths (i.e., tabernacles) were erected all over the city, where families would eat and sleep as a reminder of their wilderness dwellings. The candelabra and a parade of torches reminded them of the pillar of fire that led them by night. Each day the priests would carry water from Pool of Siloam and pour it out from a golden vessel. reminding the Jews of the miraculous provision of water from the rock.

It was to be observed by every grown Israelite male in Jerusalem on the 15th day of the 7th month (our October). The feast lasted eight days. Following the Feast of Trumpets and the solemn Day of Atonement, Tabernacles was a festive time for the people.

Booths sprung up everywhere…Just imagine the scene of a father and his sons: “Daddy, why are we moving out of the house for seven days? “Son, we’re going to live in a booth (tent). And 1 want to tell you a story that happened a long time ago…..”


John captures the last six months of Jesus’ itinerant ministry with a single verse (7:1), “After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.”

(2) “But  when the Jewish  Feast  of Tabernacles was near, (3) Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought  to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. (4) No one who wants to become a public figure acts  in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world. (5) For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

Mary bore other children, with Joseph as their father: Matthew 13::55-56: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? (56) Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

“Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. {7} The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. {8} You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come. {9} Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.” 10  However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.


The debate began before Jesus even arrived at the city, and it centered an His character:

“{11} Now at the Feat the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?” {12} Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” {13} But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews.”

The crowds are as eager as the Sanhedrin to see Jesus. Some were for him, others against. This they can agree on, however: Whenever Jesus turns up, it makes for an exciting show. The crowds debate in a whisper, fearing what the Sanhedrin might do to any of Jesus’ supporters. Their plot to kill Jesus is not yet public (Jn 7:20), but their desire is obvious to those who live in Jerusalem (Jn 7:25).

About the third or fourth day of the feast, Jesus finally arrives. The leaders are surely surprised that he has actually shown up. More surprising still is Jesus’ extraordinary teaching. All the more remarkable, since he has no degree. Their subtle suggestion is that you can’t really trust a self-taught man since he has no guides to insure his orthodoxy. Jesus counters by saying, “I’m not self-taught. God has been my guide!” There is no comparison between the teaching of God and the erudition of men.


  1. The Jewish leaders.

These were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the chief priests who lived in Jerusalem and were attached to the temple ministry. The Pharisees and Sadducees differed in theology, but were together in their opposition to Jesus. The exceptions would be Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (19:38-42).

They ultimately would unite in their goal to eliminate Jesus (vs. 30, 32). But this should not surprise us. When a man’s ideals clash with those of Christ, either he must submit or he must seek to destroy him.

  1. The ‘People’ (John 7:12 (NIV) 12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.”

John 7:20 (NIV) 20  “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”

John 7:31-32 (NIV) 31  Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?” 32  The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

  1. The Jews who lived in Jerusalem (vs. 25).

“Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. {15} The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” {16} Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. {17} If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. {18} He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. {19} Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?””

Jesus could very well have walked straight into a trap here.  He might have said:  “I need no teacher; I am self-taught; I got my teaching and my wisdom from no one but myself.”  But, instead, he said in effect:  “You ask who was my teacher?  You ask what authority I produce for my exposition of scripture?  My authority is God.”  Jesus claimed to be God-taught.  It is in fact a claim he makes again and again.  “I have not spoken on my own authority.  The Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak”  (John 12:49).  “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority” (John 14:10).

Jesus goes on to lay down a truth.  Only the man who does God’s will can truly understand His teaching.  That is not a theological but a universal truth.  We learn by doing.  A doctor might learn the technique of surgery from textbooks.  He might know the theory of every possible operation.  But that would not make him a surgeon; he has to learn by doing.  A man might learn the way in which an automobile engine works; in theory he might be able to carry out every possible repair and adjustment; but that would not make him an engineer; he has to learn by doing.

Character and doctrine go together, of course. It would be foolish to trust the teachings of a liar. The Jews were amazed at what He taught because He did not have the credentials from their approved rabbinical schools. And since He lacked these credentials, His enemies said that His teachings were nothing but private opinions and not worth much.

Jesus assured His listeners that anyone who wanted to do the Father’s will would be able to determine whether or not Jesus’ teachings were true (7:16-19): “Jesus therefore answered them, and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself….”‘

On this public appearance, His teaching took the form of a paradox, asserting both authority (14) and subordination (16), offering a pragmatic test (1719), and issuing in an argument (21-24).

Jesus clearly stated that His doctrine came from the Father. He had already made it clear that He and the Father were one in the works He performed (5:17) and in the judgment that He executed (5:30). Jesus was always conscious that He had come on divine mission to bring a divine message.

Verse 17 is one of the many plain, yet profound, utterances of the Savior. Being a follower of God is more than mere knowledge of what the scriptures say. There must be that surrender of one’s stubborn will to the point where we desire to do God’s will. It is a disposition to do God’s will.

The visitors to the city entered the discussion beginning in verse 20. Jesus had boldly announced that the leaders wanted to kill Him because He had violated the Sabbath and claimed to be God (5:10-18). And, realize, that this occurred a year ago!

“”You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?” {21} Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. {22} Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. {23} Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? {24} Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.””

Jesus finishes by telling them to try to see below the surface of things and to judge fairly.  If they do, they will not be able any longer to accuse him of breaking the law.

Nevertheless, Jesus persisted in His charge against them and went on to mention His healing of the lame man, the event which had first made the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem want to kill Him (7:21-24).

The residents of Jerusalem entered the conversation: “At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? {26} Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ ? {27} But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.””

“Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, {29} but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” {30} At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.”

“Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?” {32} The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. {33} Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. {34} You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” {35} The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? {36} What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and’ Where I am, you cannot come’?””

The Pharisees and Sadducees don’t usually team up (cf. Acts 23:6-8). But here they have a common enemy. They send their guards to arrest Jesus. But they couldn’t get past the force of his teaching.

They are struck with his talk about the ascension (vv. 33-34). Unlike Christians, they have no reference point to understand this. All they can think of is that Jesus will slip away into the diaspora of the Hellenistic world. If Jesus runs away into the far reaches of Gentile territory, he will be safe from the attacks of the Sanhedrin. But as far as the diaspora is from Jerusalem, so far are they from understanding what Jesus means. Yet even this derision of Jesus is prophetic of the victorious spread of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus returns their mockery tit for tat. There will come a time when they will turn to look for Jesus only to find that he is gone (v. 34).

The leaders’ worst fears were being realized as more and more people began to believe in Jesus (7:31).

When the Pharisees heard people muttering about their growing faith, they had the temple guards sent to apprehend Jesus (7:32). Again, they were unable to arrest Jesus until the time came when He was ready–and that was still some time away (7:33-36).


On the last day of the feast, Jesus stood up again and publicly made His claims to be the Messiah. On this occasion He spoke of Himself as the source of living water. This would have been on the eighth day, a very special day on which the priests would take the spotlight and proclaim the chant of Psalm 118:25: “O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success.”

For the past seven days a priest has gone to the pool of Siloam and filled up a golden pitcher with water. The crowds have followed as he carried it to the temple. They have watched as he poured this libation offering into a bowl which drains into the base of the altar. This was done while reciting Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

The ceremony remembers God’s divine provision of water from a rock in the wilderness. Playing off this public celebration, Jesus stands and shouts about living water.

With this joyous celebration: in progress, Jesus said, “If any man is. thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water'” (7:37, 38).

It has been pointed out that this “great day,” the 21st of the seventh month, is the same date on which the prophet Haggai made a special prediction about the temple (Haggai 2: 1-9).

While the ultimate fulfillment must await the return of Christ to this earth, certainly there was a partial fulfillment when Jesus came to the temple. (Haggai 2:6-7 is quoted in Hebrews 12:26-29 as applying to the return of the Lord).

Equally important is what John wrote about Jesus at this point: “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (7:39).

John offers this explanation in the text, lest we be confused. Jesus was referring to the experience of Israel recorded in Exodus 17:1-7. That water was but a picture of the Spirit of God.

“On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” {41} Others said, “He is the Christ.” Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? {42} Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” {43} Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. {44} Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. {45} Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” {46} “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. {47} “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. {48} “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? {49} No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law–there is a curse on them.””


In American history, the Battle of the Alamo stands as a prime example of bold decisiveness. In 1836 a band of fewer than two hundred men defended a little mission in San Antonio, Texas, against six thousand Mexican troops led by General Santa Anna.

For two weeks they held the Alamo against impossible odds. Then, on March 5, the night before what would surely be the final assault, William Barrett Travis, the commander of the Texans, called a meeting of his men.

Telling them that he knew the invaders would break through the walls the next day, he took his sword and drew a line in the dirt. He invited everyone who wanted to stay and defend the Alamo to step across the line.

One by one they did. Jim Bowie, who was sick on a pallet, asked to be carried across the line. Of 184 men, only one refused to step across the line. The next day all the defenders of the Alamo died in battle. That day there was no standing on the line! A decision had to be made.


Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Gospel of John


“Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #8 “Bread Delivered From Heaven” John 6:22-71

It is told that Napoleon and a friend were talking of life as they walked along. It was dark; they walked to a window after they’d entered a room and looked out. There in the sky were distant stars, little more than pin-points of light.

Napoleon, who had sharp eyes while his friend was dim-sighted, pointed to the sky: “Do you see these stars?” he asked. “No,” his friend answered. “I can’t see them.” “That,” said Napoleon, “is the difference between you and me.

The man who is earthbound is living half a life. It is the man with vision, who looks at the horizon and sees the stars, who is truly alive.

As we continue our study of this marvelous sixth chapter of John, we see a group of people earthbound…with no vision of what lay before them.

The purpose of the sign was that Jesus might preach the sermon.  In grace, our Lord fed the hungry people; but in truth, He gave them the Word of God.

This is truly a unique sermon. The crowd asked several questions, some of which Jesus never answers directly. They moved from pseudo-sincerity to open hostility.

By the end of this sermon, Jesus accomplished a couple of things that most preachers try desperately to avoid. He confused his unbelieving audience and alienated all but his closest comrades. On a more positive note, he (a) moved from earth to heaven, (b) made a clarion call for commitment, and (c) came closer to a clear declaration of his identity than he did in his previous two years of ministry.

This section is a powerful teaching of Jesus. The first section deals with the multitudes (vs. 22-40) while the second deals with the Jews (vs. 41-59). The third section (vs. 60-71) contains an interview with the disciples and shows the effect of Jesus’ swords on the inner circle of His own followers.

Jesus tells us to work not “for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…”(6:27a).


  1. SEEKING (vs. 22-40).

“The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. {23} Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. {24} Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. {25} When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

This multitude was determined to find Him and carry out their original plan to make Him king. Further, they did not wish to lose a “meal ticket.” The Jews, except for the rich, spent every waking moment toiling for the barest necessities–many were starving.

   “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. {27} Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

  Jesus pointed out that there are two kinds of food: food for the body, which is necessary but not the most important; and food for the inner man, the spirit, which is essential! Food only gives sustains life, but Jesus gives eternal life.

  “Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” {29} Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

When Jesus spoke about the works of God, the Jews immediately thought in terms of “good” works.  It was their conviction that a man by living a good life could earn the favour of God.  They held that men could be divided into three classes-those who were good, those who were bad and those who were in between, who, by doing one more good work, could be transferred to the category of the good.  So when the Jews asked Jesus about the work of God they expected him to lay down lists of things to do.  But that is not what Jesus says at all.

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? {31} Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” {32} Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. {33} For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” {35} Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. {36} But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. {37} All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. {38} For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. {39} And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. {40} For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

  1. MURMURING (vs. 41-51).

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” {42} They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” {43} “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. {44} “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. {45} It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. {46} No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. {47} I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. {48} I am the bread of life. {49} Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. {50} But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. {51} I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

This passage shows the reasons why the Jews rejected Jesus, and in rejecting him, rejected eternal life.

(i)  They judged things by human values and by external standards.  Their reaction in face of the claim of Jesus was to produce the fact that he was a carpenter’s son and that they had seen him grow up in Nazareth.  They were unable to understand how one who was a tradesman and who came from a poor home could possibly be a special messenger from God.

We must have a care that we never neglect a message from God because we despise or do not care for the messenger. 

(ii)  The Jews argued with each other.  They were so taken up with their private arguments that it never struck them to refer the decision to God.  They were exceedingly eager to let everyone know what they thought about the matter; but not in the least anxious to know what God thought. 

(iii)  The Jews listened, but they did not learn.  There are different kinds of listening.  There is the listening of criticism; there is the listening of resentment; there is the listening of superiority; there is the listening of indifference; there is the listening of the man who listens only because for the moment he cannot get the chance to speak.  The only listening that is worth while is that which hears and learns; and that is the only way to listen to God.

(iv)  The Jews resisted the drawing of God.  Only those accept Jesus whom God draws to him.  The word which John uses for to draw is helkuein.  The word used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew when Jeremiah hears God say as the Authorized Version has it:  “With loving-kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).  The interesting thing about the word is that it almost always implies some kind of resistance.  It is the word for drawing a heavily laden net to the shore (John 21:6, 11).  It is used of Paul and Silas being dragged before the magistrates in Philippi (Acts 16:19).  It is the word for drawing a sword from the belt or from its scabbard (John 18:10).  Always there is this idea of resistance.  God can draw men, but man’s resistance can defeat God’s pull.

Grumbling is offensive to God because it demonstrates a lack of trust. We justify it by saying, “I’m not grumbling against God but against the preacher/teacher/elder.” But as these passages show, God’s people have never grumbled against God per se, but against God’s spokesman. Nevertheless, God took it personally. If we reject God’s established authority in our lives we have rejected God, himself.

  1. STRIVING (vs. 52-59).

“Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” {53} Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. {54} Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. {55} For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. {56} Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. {57} Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. {58} This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” {59} He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.”

During the early years of the Christian faith, the charge of cannibalism was often brought against Christians. Outsiders were often shocked by the language of Christians, particularly when they heard them repeating Jesus’ words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood! What had He meant by such an extreme statement?

Obviously, this is a figure of speech. He is talking about accepting him at the deepest levels. He is speaking of participation and incorporation of his character, purposes, and nature.

The Trans-substantiationists use these verses to support their doctrine of the actual presence of the flesh and the blood of Christ in the Loaf and in the cup. They contend that one must literally partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus, and they, therefore, sacrifice the body of Jesus anew each week at the Mass. 

The Sacramentalists teach that the Christian, by absenting himself from the Lord’s Supper, cuts himself off from any contact with the saving blood of Jesus Christ.

  1. DEPARTING (vs. 60-71)

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” {61} Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? {62} What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. {64} Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. {65} He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. {67} “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. {68} Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. {69} We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” {70} Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” {71} (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)”

The Greek of verse 66 is much more explicit than the English translation. First, “From this time”  suggests not merely this time but this event. As a result of this sermon many of his disciples abandon ship. They go back home, back to work, back to their old habits, old ways of thinking, etc. For many, this is an abdication of the movement. They not only give up following Jesus, they give up what he represents and teaches. They are not fit for the kingdom (Lk 9:62).

This is perhaps the most “unsuccessful” sermon ever preached. Jesus started with thousands and finishes with a handful. Yet it is a significant turning point in Jesus’ ministry. While he moves closer to a self-revelation, he also shifts from a public ministry to thousands to a more private training of the Twelve. Jesus frames his question in v. 67 so as to expect a negative answer. This is not an invitation for them to leave, but a helpful reminder of why they have chosen to stay.

Characteristically, Peter answers for the group. “The emphatic use of the first person plural pronoun implies a contrast between the Twelve and those who had deserted Jesus” (Tenney, p. 80). And what an answer! Peter probably doesn’t understand the full significance of this sermon, but he gets the main point: Life comes through incorporating Jesus’ words.

(i)  There was defection.  Some turned back and walked with him no more.  They drifted away for various reasons.

(ii)  There was deterioration.  It is in Judas above all that we see this.  Jesus must have seen in him a man whom he could use for his purposes.  But Judas, who might have become the hero, became the villain; he who might have become a saint became a name of shame.

There is a terrible story about an artist who was painting the Last Supper.  It was a great picture and it took him many years.  As model for the face of Christ he used a young man with a face of transcendent loveliness and purity.  Bit by bit the picture was filled in and one after another the disciples were painted.  The day came when he needed a model for Judas whose face he had left to the last.  He went out and searched in the lowest haunts of the city and in the dens of vice.  At last he found a man with a face so depraved and vicious as matched his requirement.  When the sittings were at an end the man said to the artist:  “You painted me before.”  “Surely not,” said the artist.  “O yes,” said the man, “I sat for your Christ.”  The years had brought terrible deterioration.

(iii)  There was determination.  This is John’s version of Peter’s great confession at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27; Matthew 16:13; Luke 9:18).  It was just such a situation as this that called out the loyalty of Peter’s heart.  To him the simple fact was that there was just no one else to go to.  Jesus alone had the words of life.

Peter’s loyalty was based on a personal relationship to Jesus Christ.  There were many things he did not understand; he was just as bewildered and puzzled as anyone else.  But there was something about Jesus for which he would willingly die.  In the last analysis Christianity is not a philosophy which we accept, nor a theory to which we give allegiance.  It is a personal response to Jesus Christ.  It is the allegiance and the love which a man gives because his heart will not allow him to do anything else.

Francis Schaeffer believed that what Peter said in this passage is the key to bringing people to faith in God. When Schaeffer would talk with nonbelievers about God, he would force them to look at the alternatives to faith. He would ask if they were ready to live in a world with no absolute right or wrong, no hope, and no basis for human dignity.

He was convinced that human beings cannot live with such meaninglessness. Schaeffer would lead people to the brink of despair in order to bring them back to Peter’s realization: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”

The preaching of the Word of God always leads to a sifting of the hearts of the listeners. God draws sinners to the Savior through the power of truth, His Word. Those who reject the Word reject the Savior and reject God.

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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Gospel of John


“Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #8 – Equality With God! John 5:19-47

Jesus was “crossing the Rubicon”!

As I approach our text, I am reminded of a story circulating among the outdoor types, which goes something like this. In the mountains of the Northwest, a man was sitting beside a campfire while he roasted some kind of bird over the fire with eager anticipation. About this time, a forest ranger came upon the camp and asked the camper what he was preparing for dinner. The camper replied that it was a seagull. A frown came over the ranger’s face as he informed this fellow that it was against the law to kill that particular bird, and that he would have to give him a citation.

The camper responded by telling the ranger how he had lost his way and had consumed all of his food. In desperation, he had managed to kill this seagull to maintain his strength. After listening sympathetically, the forest ranger told the fellow he would let him go this time with just a warning, and the camper thanked the ranger profusely. Just as the ranger was about to leave, he asked the camper, “Just out of curiosity, what does seagull taste like?” Thinking for a moment, the camper responded, “Well, I would place it somewhere between a spotted owl and a bald eagle.”

Needless to say, this camper’s words got him into even more trouble. He would have been better off not to say anything at all.

Some may think our Lord’s words in our text are something like this camper’s statement. At the outset, Jesus is deemed guilty of breaking the Sabbath, and of instructing the healed paralytic to do likewise. But after our Lord defends His actions to the Jewish authorities,[1] He is considered guilty of an even greater offense—claiming to be equal with God.

Our text is our Lord’s response to the accusations made against Him. Some may be tempted to think it is less than spectacular, for no debate is actually recorded, and there is no interchange between our Lord and the Jewish authorities. Only our Lord’s words are recorded.[2] Our text contains a three-fold use of the (King James) expression, “Verily, verily, I say unto you …” (verses 19, 24, 25).[3] Surely this tells us that the words spoken here are vitally important, both to be heard and to be heeded.

Listen to what others have said about our text:

“Nowhere else in the Gospels do we find our Lord making such a formal, systematic, orderly, regular statement of His own unity with the Father, His divine commission and authority, and the proofs of His Messiahship, as we find in this discourse” (Ryle).[4]

Ryle adds: ‘To me it seems one of the deepest things in the Bible.’ Similarly Phillips in his translation inserts a sub-heading ‘Jesus makes His tremendous claim.’[5]

It is, as Barclay says, ‘an act of the most extraordinary and unique courage … He must have known that to speak like this was to court death. It is His claim to be King; and He knew well that the man who listened to words like this had only two alternatives—the listener must either accept Jesus as the Son of God, or he must hate Him as a blasphemer and seek to destroy Him. There is hardly any passage where Jesus appeals for men’s love and defies men’s hatred as He does here.’[6]

Our Lord’s words are a bold stroke. If Jesus wishes to avoid trouble with the Jews, this is the time for Him to deny, to “clarify,” or to minimize, His previous claim to be equal with God. Instead, He makes His claim even more emphatically.

This is one of the great texts in the Gospel of John and in the entire New Testament. The truths set down here are the very foundation of the gospel and of our faith.

By 49 B.C., Julius Caesar had become the most powerful man in Rome. For two years he had been away from the city, fighting warring tribes and demonstrating his tremendous skills as a general and an administrator. Much to the dismay of his political opponents, his time in Gaul had only made Caesar more powerful back in Rome.

When Caesar was ordered home by the Roman Senate, he became aware that his enemies were trying to destroy him. To return home he would have to cross the Rubicon River and leave his loyal army behind. For years that river had served as an absolute boundary, beyond which a general could not bring his army.

Because his enemies would be allowed to keep their armies, Caesar knew that to enter Rome alone would be walking into a death sentence. Consequently, he made the bold decision to bring his army across the Rubicon and with him to Rome!

When word arrived in the city that Caesar had “crossed the Rubicon,” everyone knew that civil war had begun. He was acting in defiance of the Roman Senate, and his enemies quickly fled the city. Within two months, Julius Caesar had crushed all opposition and had all of Italy under his power.

Because of this story, “crossing the Rubicon” is an expression used even today to describe a decision that cannot be revoked or a decisive action that cannot be changed. We must not skip this section in our haste to find another narrative section, because something of critical importance was happening here: Jesus was “crossing the Rubicon”!

  Preceding Christ’s remarkable of verses 17-18 was the miraculous healing of a man who had been sick for 38 years! But the Jews’ reactions scandalized His merciful act because it took place on the Sabbath. In His response, Jesus claims equality with the Father and incurs a whirlwind of religious wrath!

This is the first of the long discourses of this gospel. When we read passages like this we must remember that John is not seeking so much to give us the words that Jesus spoke as the things which Jesus meant. He was writing around 100 A.D., so he had some 70 years to think about Jesus and the wonderful things which Jesus said.

  1. He claimed to be Equal with God. (5:19-21)

Throughout the passage, Jesus never refers to God generically as our Father. It is always MY Father or the Father. Instead of denying their accusation, He endorsed it!  If today a man made this kind of a claim, we would conclude that he was joking or mentally disturbed. Jesus was certainly not insane, and neither was He a liar!

* Jesus claimed to be one with His Father in His works— (“I’m the giver of life” vs. 19-20).

“Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. {20} For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.”

Here we come to the first of the long discourses of the Fourth Gospel.  When we read passages like this we must remember that John is not seeking so much to give us the words that Jesus spoke as the things which Jesus meant.  He was writing somewhere round about a.d. 100.  For seventy years he had thought about Jesus and the wonderful things which Jesus had said. 

* Jesus claimed to be equal with the Father in executing judgment—(“I am the final judge” vs. 21, 26).

“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.  {26} For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.”

To orthodox Jew, Jehovah God was “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25); and no one dared to apply that august title to himself. But Jesus did! By claiming to be the Judge, He claimed to be God.

Most people mistakenly believe that God the Father is the final judge of mankind. But this verse, along with several others, indicates that Jesus will be the judge:

Acts 10:42: “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.”

2 Corinthians 5:11: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

 * Jesus claimed to be equal to the Father in honor—(vs. 22-23).

 “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, {23} that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him…. {27} And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”

He claimed that there are valid witnesses who support His claim to Deity (5:30-47).

Jesus calls six witnesses to testify on His behalf.  We might seek to put these verses in a courtroom scene…Jesus, in essence, is on trial…but really it’s the hearers who are on trial!

The word “witness” is a key word in John’s gospel; it is used 47 times. Jesus did bear witness to Himself but He knew they would not accept it; so He called in other witnesses.


By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. {31} “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.”


“There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. {33} “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. {34} Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. {35} John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.


“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”

Remember Nicodemus in John 3:2? “He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Remember the brothers of our Lord in John 7:3? “Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.”

Remember the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:16 when describing the apostles? “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it.”

Jesus had used His works to convince the disciples of John the Baptist, who had been put in prison. Matthew 11:1-6: “After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. {2} When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples {3} to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” {4} Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: {5} The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. {6} Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”


“And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, {38} nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.”

Verse 37 is a connecting verse between Jesus’ miracles (vs. 36) and the scriptures (vs. 38-39). The direct testimony of the Father is referred to here, and it’s unsure if Jesus was talking about the three voices from heaven:

– at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22)

– at the transfiguration (Matt. 17:5-6; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35)

– after the triumphal entry (John 12:28)

The gospel of John does not even give two of them!…and verse 37 says that “you have never heard his voice nor seen his form.”


“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, {40} yet you refuse to come to me to have life. {41} “I do not accept praise from men, {42} but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. {43} I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. {44} How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God ?”

At least 18 unmistakable references to the Old Testament are found in John. There is little doubt that Christ was coming and that He had now come.

The practice of the Jews at that time was to study each word minutely, and to build absurd mystical and allegorical interpretations around those word studies. As a result, they rejected the Messiah, because their minds were made up as to what the Messiah must be before they read the Scriptures

   They were BIBLIOTRISTS (Bible worshippers)! They worshipped the words of the Bible, but not the Christ of the Bible.


“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. {46} If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. {47} But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?””

* There are two more witnesses which we have, which were not available for the Jews.

– the Holy Spirit (15:26) dwelling within each Christian

– the witness of individual apostles (15:27), who would be ready to speak on His behalf only after being empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8)

Certainly, today, we are without excuse!

[1] In the Greek text, John simply refers to these folks as “the Jews.” From the context, we would infer they are the “Jewish religious authorities.”

[2] This is not at all to suggest that the Jews said nothing. It is to say that John did not find their words profitable for us, and thus included only our Lord’s words.

[3] In the NET Bible this expression is rendered, “I tell you the solemn truth.”

[4] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 311.

[5] Morris, p. 311, fn. 52.

[6] Morris, p. 311, fn. 53.

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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in Gospel of John

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