Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

The Comparison Game, John 21:15-25, 1 December 2013

Big Idea: There is no reason to compare yourself to others—only Jesus, the One who loves and accepts you.

God wants you. Jesus said to Peter, “I still want you.” He still wants you, regardless of your past.

Introduction

The comparison game.
We’ve all played it. We look at someone and judge ourselves better or worse, richer or poorer, more physically attractive or not as good looking, more or less mature, talented, smart, …the list is endless.

Am I the only one that does this?!

It used to be the first question asked at a pastor’s conference after, “What is your name?” was “How big is your church?” In other words, are you more or less successful than me based upon Sunday’s attendance. Can you see anything wrong?

I recently heard someone say every
reality TV show is designed to make us feel really good about ourselves or really bad. If you’ve ever watched an early season episode of American Idol you know what I mean. They tend to highlight the best and worst singers, placing viewers in the middle.

This happens among Christians, too. There’s a never-ending temptation to gauge the spirituality of others, either feeling smug and arrogant toward “sinners” or we screw up and feel inferior to others who have their act together—or so it appears. We either commend or condemn ourselves.

Let me remind you once again…

Nothing you can do can make God love you more.
Nothing you can do can make God love you less.

This is how I feel about my kids. They are mine. They will always be mine. I love them. I will always love them. Sure, they will disappoint me, but my love is unconditional. I always want what’s best for them.

When they screw up, there’s no shame. There’s not guilt. There’s forgiveness and grace. At least on my better days!

We are all messed up…but loved. If you don’t believe me, imagine denying Jesus…three times?

Back in John 18, Peter tastes his foot. Three times does exactly what Jesus said he would do—deny Him (John 13:38). These denials are so significant they are recorded in all four Gospels.

Have you ever hurt someone? How did you feel the next time you saw them? Guilt? Shame? Avoidance? Even if the interaction included an apology, it’s often uncomfortable for a while, right?

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (15a)

Jesus had given Simon the name Peter (Matt. 16:18) which means “rock.” If you recall, last week Jesus had cooked breakfast for him and six other disciples. Now the conversation Peter knew was inevitable was occurring. He had denied Jesus three times and it’s time for reconciliation. The aroma of charcoal is still in the air, reminding Peter of that dreadful night.

What is “these?” The other disciples? Fish? The other disciples’ love for Jesus? We don’t really know, but clearly Jesus is engaging the one who denied Him three times. He asks Peter, “Do you love me?” The Greek word for love here is “agape,” the highest expression of love in the New Testament.

Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Peter actually uses a different Greek word for love, “phileo” or brotherly love. This is why Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love. These words were likely used interchangeably.

Jesus said,
“Feed my lambs.” (15b)

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a workshop led by Dr. Gary Chapman. Some of you may be familiar with his classic book
The Five Love Languages. It is essential reading for everyone. He talks about how each of us speaks one of five primary love languages, though our spouse or others may not and, therefore, we need to discover their love language in order to effectively communicate with them.

Chapman has discovered there are five languages of apology:

a. Expressing regret with "I'm sorry that I..." but explain what and why you are sorry without "but" in the apology; erase the but! Luke 15:21; Psalms 51
b. Accepting responsibility. "I was wrong..." 1 John 1:9. This is the first step in teaching children to apologize
c. Making restitution. "How can I make this right?" Luke 19:8
d. Genuinely repenting. "I don't want this to keep happening." Acts 2:38
e. Requesting forgiveness. "Will you please forgive me?" Psalms 51:2

Not long ago my wife and I read about the importance of restitution. Often just saying “sorry” is insufficient; further action is required. This is clearly the case with Peter. Jesus could have simply said, “Peter, are you sorry for denying me?” and Peter could’ve said, “Yes” and the story would have ended, but Jesus wants more than an apology; He wants Peter to take action and feed His lambs.

Last week was about fish. This week Jesus talks about lambs. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23) and He wants Peter to be a good shepherd, too. He wants Peter to take care of
His lambs. Jesus Himself is the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, including ours and Peter’s.

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said,
“Take care of my sheep.” (16)

It’s amazing that after such a dramatic failure, Jesus would entrust His sheep to Peter. He would entrust the responsibility of His mission to this knuckle headed disciple and his ten ragamuffin colleagues.


The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,
“Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said,
“Feed my sheep. (17)

Three denials, three questions, three response, three commands.

Notice the heart of the question is love for Jesus. If you are going to do anything for Jesus, you must love Him first. It’s so tempting to “do great things for God” and lose your first Love in the process. It’s easy to play religious games and fail to know and love Jesus. Sadly, I say this from experience. Each day I need to examine my own heart and my love for Jesus and let my “ministry” and life flow out of it.

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (18-19)

Jesus may be referring to crucifixion. It is believed that Peter was sentenced to crucifixion for his faith in Jesus, yet refused to die a similar death and asked to be crucified upside down.

Jesus’ invitation to His disciples back in John chapter 1 was simple: “follow me.” In chapter ten He said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

This is what it means to be a Christian. It is not about how often you attend church or how much of the Bible you have memorized. The true measure of your faith is how you follow Jesus. It might lead to martyrdom and death as it did for Peter.

The problem is we are easily distracted. We start comparing ourselves to others that are less mature and we commend ourselves. We get prideful when we should be looking to our perfect Example, Jesus.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others that are less mature—or more mature, in which case we condemn ourselves. One of the great hindrances of coming to God with child-like faith is shame. We know how we’ve screwed up and we wonder if God still loves us. The story of Peter is a great reminder that we’re sons and daughters by birth, not worth. Jesus says, “You’re mine. you’re forgiven. I love you I’m with you.”

If you get nothing out of this message, get this: ignore the temptation to play the comparison game. You will always lose. Revel in the fact that Your Daddy loves you. Period. Don’t commend yourself. Don’t condemn yourself. Just keep your eyes on Jesus. Listen to His voice and obey.
Follow Jesus.

John concludes with three final things.


Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” (20-21)

Here we see Peter is still competing with John.

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (22-23)

Like the rest of the chapter, this is an interesting thing to include. Again, we’re quite sure the disciple Jesus loved was…John, the author of this Gospel. Of course, Peter and John both died.

Notice how Peter plays the comparison game and Jesus’ responds twice with the same question: “What is that to you?”

Have you ever envied someone else’s life? Have you ever wished you could be in their shoes?

Jesus has one invitation for you. He says,
“Follow Me.” He doesn’t say be religious, join a church, or be a professional Christian. He doesn’t say to follow Billy Graham. He doesn’t necessarily say sell everything you have and move to Africa. He says to follow.

What is He calling you to do today? It may look different than what He is calling me to do. It may look different than what He called you to do in the past.
When we compare ourselves to others, we take our attention off Jesus.

Next, John says,

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
(24)

John states again the truth of his experience and testimony. This is not a novel. It is an historical record of real events and a real Person. He takes a solemn oath of truth. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus never wrote a book? In fact, we only know for sure of one thing He wrote and that was in the dirt in the midst of religious people accusing a woman of sin (John 8).

Finally, he recognizes the impossibility of recording everything Jesus did.

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (25)

Jesus was and is larger than life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

And with that, we conclude the Gospel of John, the good news biography of Jesus Christ!!! He experienced Jesus like no other. He suffered as a result, but appears to have no regrets. He wants everyone to know—even us 2000 years later—that Jesus is good. Jesus is God.

Unlike other biographies, we don’t have to rely exclusively on second-hand information. Jesus is alive and He wants your life to become a book in which His love is written on your heart. He doesn’t want you to compare yourself to others, but rather follow Him.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Miracles at Breakfast, John 21:1-14, 24 November 2013

Big Idea: God will surprise and delight us if we look to Him and follow.

Introduction

Have you ever experienced a miracle? Perhaps we should begin with defining a miracle.

- an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God
- a very amazing or unusual event, thing or achievement

The Bible is full of them. Well, our Bible is full of them. Thomas Jefferson literally cut all miracles out of his Bible, unable to acknowledge the presence of our Creator in our world, despite the gift of Emmanuel, God with us, and later the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer.

Do you believe in miracles?

As we approach the conclusion of our series on the gospel or good news of John, we have read this compelling biography of Jesus, from His arrival on our planet to His death, resurrection, and two surprising appearances to His disciples in locked rooms. In John chapter 21, He makes a third appearance.

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (1-3)

Why did Peter go fishing? Wasn’t he supposed to be fishing for men? Perhaps he thinks his ministry future is over since he denied Christ, returning to his former occupation.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (4)

John may be reminding us of another recent even involving Jesus early in the morning, a time when Mary did not recognize Him in the garden. He’s about 100 yards—or a football field—away. They could not see Him from that distance.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.
(5)

These were experienced fishermen. They knew the sea. They spent all night fishing with no success. They’re even less likely to catch fish in the daytime.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (6)

They could’ve said, “Jesus, you’re crazy. We are professionals. The fish aren’t biting. What difference does one side of the boat make versus the other? Clearly this is a miracle.

Have you been frustrated, unable to make progress in an arena of life? Maybe you just can’t land a job, fix a broken relationship, or break an addiction.

I often find myself stressed about things—money, parenting, preparing a good sermon, a tough decision—only to discover Jesus waiting for me to notice Him, listen and obey. Pride tells me to do it my way, but His ways are far better than mine.

Much earlier in an account recorded by Luke Jesus gave fishing lessons to His followers and they had an unbelievable catch of fish. Then, Peter begged Jesus to get away from him because he realized he was a sinner unworthy of Christ (Luke 5:1-10). This time he races toward Jesus.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (7)

Peter had some unfinished business with Jesus which we’ll examine next Sunday. Days earlier he had denied Christ three times and was undoubtedly filled with shame and guilt. Here he impulsively jumps in the water, leaving the others in the boat to work with the fish.

Note, too, that rather than taking off clothes to swim, he puts them on. Perhaps he was hiding his shame like Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden.

The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. (8-9)

Why did John mention the charcoal? Smell is the most sensitive of the senses. Visual recall is about 50% after three months. We can remember smells with 65% accuracy…after a year! Furthermore, 75% of emotions are triggered by smell which is linked to pleasure, emotion and memory. One survey found 85% of participants remembering their childhood when they smelled Crayola crayons.

Do you think this charcoal fire triggered a memory for Peter? It was around a similar fire that he denied Jesus three times (John 18:18). Again, we’ll address that next Sunday.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. (10-11)

That’s a lot of fish! Miracles abound, not only in the size of the catch but the strength of the net.

A first-century fishing boat was recently found by members of Kibbutz Ginosar in Galilee. I saw the boat, 26.5 feet long and 7.5 wide. If it was similar to Peter’s boat, it would be too small for seven men, so it is believed two boats may have been used.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (12)

This is an odd verse. They knew it was him but they didn’t ask? N.T. Wright says this only makes sense if Jesus is recognizable yet somehow different. His body was obviously different, no longer subject to death or decay.

Wright compares it to someone in the sixteenth century seeing someone surf the Internet. They didn’t have electricity, much less computers! Jesus’ risen body is something from the future—our future. It isn’t magic. It’s real, but different.

God has blessed them with a huge catch of fish.
He has blessed them with breakfast.
He has blessed them with His presence.

Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (13-14)

God’s cooking breakfast! He didn’t need their fish. He had His own—and bread, too. Loaves and fish. That reminds me of another story!

Jesus already had fish on the fire because He doesn’t need what we bring, but He wants it!

While they ate, He was sending a message: I love you.

So What?

This story has some unusual moments. The fact that it appears after the previous chapter which seemed to wrap up the entire book is unique. Jesus cooking fish while the disciples fail to catch any and then become inundated with them is interesting, to say the least. What are we to make of it all?

I think it’s a great reminder that God is alive, He is accomplishing His purposes, and we must always be ready to be surprised by God. At any moment He may ask us to do something crazy, like give away more money than is in our budget, engage in a conversation with someone that makes us uncomfortable, or sacrifice comfort and convenience for making space to serve strangers. We don’t always see God, we don’t always hear His voice, but He is here. He is with us. He lives inside us. How would our lives look differently if we truly pursued God and followed Him. Jesus provided daily bread—and fish—for His friends, and He still provides for us, today. So…

What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Belief & Doubt, John 20:24-31, 17 November 2013

Big Idea: Belief and doubt are not opposites, but rather related components of faith.

Introduction

Jesus asks one thing of us…believe. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy. Just ask Thomas.

And what does it mean to believe? It’s one thing to intellectually agree with propositional statements, but it’s another to take actions that prove belief.

It reminds of the old story of ham and eggs. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed!

Thomas heard his friends talk about a risen Christ, but he needed to see for himself. He even stated that unless he saw, he would not believe.

Does that sound familiar? “Prove it,” shouts the skeptic. “If I could see Jesus, I would believe,” says the agnostic.

Yet here we are, two thousand years later with at least an element of belief in someone we have never seen. Yet questions remain. Doubts appear. What does that say about our faith?

As we continue to celebrate Easter in November, we’re going to look at this tension between
doubt and belief.

John 20:24ff

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. (John 20:24)

Didymus means “the Twin.”

Where was he? We don’t know, but he missed the miraculous appearance of Jesus in a locked room, a passage (John 20:19-23) we examined last week.

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
(20:25)

One writer said, “Hardheaded skepticism can scarcely go further than this.”

Have you ever been skeptical or even obstinate about a situation?

Why did Thomas doubt? Sure, he spent time with Jesus, but He also watched Him slaughtered. Imagine someone tells you they saw your friend that was buried days earlier. You’d think they were crazy! They saw a ghost or a vision, but dead people don’t walk—except in zombie movies, right?

Thomas gets a bad rap for his skepticism, but don’t be fooled. The other ten disciples were just as surprised a week earlier. Remember it was John himself who wrote at the empty tomb, “He saw and believed.” (20:8b)

Jesus knows the human heart like no other. He said to the Capernaum official back in 4:48

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” (John 4:48)

Why did Thomas doubt? Why do we doubt?

Faith contains an element of mystery because, by definition, you
can’t prove it. Sure, Thomas was able to see Jesus, but what faith is required of something that you can prove? As Paul said, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (26)

Does this sound familiar? Last week we looked at the same people in the same house with the same doors locked with the same Jesus suddenly appearing among them saying, “Peace be with you!”


Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (27)

Stop doubting and believe. Jesus says, “Bring it on!” If you need proof, I’ll give you proof. We don’t know if Thomas moved his finger and hand, but his response is legendary.

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (28)

It has been said that “the most outrageous doubter of the resurrection of Jesus utters the greatest confession of the Lord who rose from the dead.” (Beasley-Murray)

Notice how Thomas’ response is not merely, “My Savior” but “My Lord and my God.” He is the first person in John to call Jesus “God.” Many want Jesus as good teacher or even Savior, but Lord and God is something entirely different.

John began his Gospel by announcing that

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Now as John approaches the finish line of his biography, the deity of Christ as God is crystal clear.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (29)

This is the climax of the passage. It is Thomas’ seeing that is credited with his faith. He sees and believes.

Not everyone that saw Jesus believed. Many saw Jesus perform miracles and refused to believe. Nevertheless, Thomas’ faith is connected to his sight.

I love that Jesus speaks here about us! We have not seen Jesus or His wounds, but we’ve heard the story. We have been reading the eyewitness account from John.

Doubt

Do you doubt? Do you believe? Perhaps your answer to both is “yes.” You’re in good company, not only with Thomas, but countless men, women and children through the centuries that struggle with faith. Many agnostics
want to believe but have lingering questions that hold them back. I read this week about a man who believed, then renounced his faith, then returned to it.

Faith is a gift. I can’t force it upon you. I can’t make you believe. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal the truth of Jesus to you. But even Jesus-followers have doubts.

When do people seem to doubt their faith? During trials and tragedies.

Matthew 28:16 is in intriguing passage as Jesus prepares to ascend:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)

So much could be said about the doubts of believers, but perhaps the best thing I can share with you is a short interview between John Ortberg and Dallas Willard, two of my favorite authors. Ortberg asks Willard, who died earlier this year after decades of teaching at USC, about doubt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiOIyP4VHOk

Doubt is okay. Questions are okay. If we’re honest, we all have them, which is why we need one another. We need to be able to ask, discuss, probe, and be challenged. Personally, I welcome your questions. I don’t promise answers since God is both knowable and mysterious. I’d love to serve you in any way possible, however, and guide you to people and resources that can help you on your journey.

This is especially true if you are listening via podcast or blog. I’d love to hear from you at
kirk@sciocommunity.org.

Again, I don’t promise to have all of the answers, but I’d love to encourage you on your faith adventure.

Conclusion

Finally, John concludes this chapter with the following:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (30-31)

Jesus did many other signs or miracles.

Jesus is the Christ (Greek:
Christos, Hebrew Mashiach, the “anointed one”)

Do you believe in Jesus? Faith is more about relationship than creed. Perhaps the question should be asked, “Do you know Jesus?” He wants you to know Him, and we have the Bible and prayer as tools to develop that relationship.

Scholars have debated whether John intended to write to bring people to faith or to deepen the faith of Christians, one leading to evangelism and the other encouragement. In either case, he wrote that we may know Christ, the Good Shepherd who not only takes care of His sheep but lays down His life for them.

John tells us throughout His biography that Jesus is under trial. The religious leaders, high priest and Pilate made judgments about Jesus, but ultimately you and I must decide—who is Jesus? As C.S. Lewis stated, Jesus is a lunatic, a liar, or LORD? He is “Mad, Bad, or God.” John’s answer is crystal clear, and he should know. Jesus was his best friend. He was discipled for three years under the rabbi. As we saw a few weeks ago,

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside.
He saw and believed. (John 20:8)

His faith was tested. He ultimately suffered for his faith in Christ, thrown in a vat of boiling oil.

The twentieth chapter of John provides us with four examples of faith:

Peter and John who race to the empty tomb
Mary Magdalene who is the first to encounter the risen Christ
The ten disciples who huddle in a locked room only to find Jesus in their midst
Thomas, a man like most of us who demands evidence

You either believe Jesus is God or you don’t. Even if you do believe, faith can be fragile. One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is in Mark 9. A man’s son is possessed by an evil spirit.

“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:22-24)

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief. That is one of my most common prayers.

I believe there are two types of faith—theoretical and tested. I can believe a chair will hold me, but until I sit in it, I’m not certain that the object of my faith is true.

I can believe someone will catch me when I fall, but the real test of my faith is my leaning back.

It’s possible to intellectual believe in an historical Jesus that lived, died, and rose but if I live my life as a practical atheist—filled with worry, selfishness, idolatry, and pride—is my faith actualized?

Jesus is not an idea or a religion, but an historical Person who walked the earth and will return soon.

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. (John 11:25-26a)

Do you believe this? John wrote so that we may believe.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)

N.T. Wright says, “The resurrection is not an alien power breaking into God’s world; it is what happens when the creator himself comes to heal and restore his world, and bring it to its appointed goal. The resurrection is not only
new creation; it is new creation.”

John never uses the noun “faith,” but rather the verb “believe” almost a hundred times. Faith is more about relationship than creed. Jesus wants to know you. He wants to be not only Savior but Lord and King and God.

And He can be trusted.

Do you believe?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Commissioning, John 20:19-23, 10 November 2013

Big Idea: We have been given authority. We have the Holy Spirit. We have been commissioned to make disciples.

Jesus has risen and appeared first to Mary Magdalene. Now He appears to ten disciples.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (19)

This is Sunday night. The disciples are behind locked doors, bolted to keep out the Jewish leaders. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is still underway so they are still in Jerusalem, unable to leave for home in Galilee.

Suddenly Jesus appears! What do we know about our future, glorified bodies? They are not subject to the laws of the material universe.

His greeting is the standard Jewish greeting, meant to communicate peace, similar to “God bless you” today. Even today it is common for a Jew to say to his friend, "Shalom aleichem," or "Peace be upon you," and the other will respond, `Aleichem shalom," or "Upon you be peace.” This is the peace of deity touching humanity. As we will see, He offers more than a greeting, but He fulfills the promises in John 14:27 and 16:33 to deliver peace.

After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (20)

They knew Jesus. They saw His hands—including his wrists where the spikes were driven—and side.

His scars were for us.

The disciples are thrilled. They are rejoicing. Wouldn’t you?

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (21)

Jesus repeats His greeting of peace. This may be a different peace than in verse nineteen. This is the peace of those in the will of God and are doing His will.

In Jewish tradition prophets often appointed their successors. Jesus is passing the baton.

One of the exciting things about being a part of the Christian & Missionary Alliance is the connection to previous generations leading back to the apostles. I’m not suggesting that John or James were Alliance members, of course, but our church is not an upstart organization someone created independently. To some extent, our history goes back to John 20:21. The Father sent Jesus. Jesus sent the eleven (actually ten here). They made disciples who made disciples who made disciples who…eventually disciples A.B. Simpson in New York City who eventually developed a global movement we now know as the Christian & Missionary Alliance.

What about you? What will do? Are you making disciples? The next generation is desperately in need of hope, joy, love, and life. It might begin with a simple conversation.

Jesus has sent us to make disciples…our our children, friends, neighbors, co-workers…

You may be thinking, “How do I begin?” First, realize
you can’t. You can’t save anyone. You can’t even save yourself, but you can serve others and you can share your story. You can also pray…that the Holy Spirit would show you opportunities, provide you with words, and prepare others to surrender to Jesus. It’s a God thing!

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (22)

This is the climax of the entire Gospel of John. The promised Spirit is given to the disciples.

This is between the resurrection and Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is unleashed on believers worldwide.

This simple sentence is one of the most controversial in the Gospel. Here are three views, according to Dr. Gary Burge:

- a symbol: the disciples did not receive the Holy Spirit here, but rather a symbol of what it would be like in Acts 2

- a partial anointing: this view is that a partial gift of the Holy Spirit occurred here, but it will be completed at Pentecost as if this is an embryonic Paraclete or Holy Spirit

- a genuine anointing: John makes no mention of something to come and Easter Sunday; “that they would be empowered again, in a different way, on Pentecost does not eliminate the possibility that they were filled earlier.”

The disciples never asked for the Holy Spirit, but in Acts 2 the Comforter arrives.

The Church came into existence on Acts 2.

Jesus breathed on them. This expression appears nowhere else in the New Testament. Only when God breathed into Adam in Genesis 2:7 of the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, do we see this phrase.

(Gen. 2:7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. )

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for “spirit,” ruach, is also “breath” or “wind.”

If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (23)

Wow! Does this mean the disciples forgive sins? No. They proclaim the forgiveness of sins. God is going to forgive sins
through them. Remember, they were just given the Holy Spirit.

What forgives sins? The blood of Jesus. Until Jesus died, God couldn’t arbitrarily forgive. J. Vernon McGee says in the Old Testament God saved on credit, looking forward to the Messiah. Now we live with both the crucifixion and resurrection in the rear view mirror. Notice that Jesus states this in both positive and negative light. The disciples are given the other to forgive and also to not forgive. The death of Jesus provides both salvation and judgment to the world.

Salvation has come from the Jews and will extend to the Gentiles, including us! Jesus passes the baton to His disciples. They will do in and for the whole world what Jesus did in Israel. They will do what Jesus did…and so are we.

Just as Jesus followed the Father, so we are to follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

When we proclaim the Gospel, we act as God’s agents. We have been given authority. In fact, Jesus said to His disciples,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We cannot change the world, but we have been sent to make disciples of all nations in the power of the Spirt. We have been given authority. We have been commissioned.

Let’s go!!!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Mary Magdalene and the Risen Jesus, John 20:11-18, 3 November 2013

Big Idea: Jesus is alive! Let’s tell the world!

We often approach communion with great reflection, and well we should. However, the story does not end on the cross. Last week we saw Mary Magdalene and others shocked to find the tomb of Jesus empty.

Jewish people spent seven days mourning the loss of a loved one. This meant they could not wash, work, study the law, or even have intercourse for a week. They knew how to express grief! An empty tomb prevented final acts of love to be done to Jesus. Even tomb raiders would usually leave behind the body.

We know “the rest of the story,” but those at the empty tomb

still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. (20:9)

What does this mean? It means they did not understand! Have you ever read the Bible and seen something you never saw previously? Some Scriptures require experience to fully understand.

Jesus had said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? (John 16:19b)

Jesus had said, “You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20b)

Jesus had said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)

Sometimes we are just filled with disbelief.

When we ended last Sunday, we read that

Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. (10)

Jesus died. The tomb is empty.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. (20:11-12)

Imagine the week Mary has had. This is a woman that deeply loved Jesus. He had expelled numerous demons from her. He showed her great compassion. She cried at the foot of the cross as her hope literally died.

His body was buried quickly and two days later she comes with friends to bring spices for the body. The tomb is empty. Peter and John leave. Now she is crying outside the tomb…and she encounters two angels, two angels dressed in white, hardly appropriate during a time of mourning!

Where were the angels when the boys were around?

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (13a)

Why do they ask? They’re angels! They know. Jesus is alive, but Mary remains clueless.

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
(13b)

She thinks someone moved the body.

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
(14)

Mary didn’t recognize Jesus. Unbelief is blind. He was the last Person Mary expected to see. Did her tears mask His face?

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (15a)

Jesus echoes the angels, asking the reason for her tears. She hears His voice now and still has no idea who is before her.

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (15b)

Was it common for gardeners to open tombs and hide bodies? Hardly! They were at the bottom of the social ladder and tended to gardening.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (16a)

The most important word in the world is your name. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. One word changed everything for her.

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (16b)

This means “my teacher” or “master.”

It’s easy for us to miss images and symbols John’s initial readers would recognize.

John is the only Gospel writer that tells us these events take place in a garden, a garden filled with spices, suggesting the imagery of the Song of Songs. Mary is a woman who finds the one she loves in a spice-filled garden and wants to be with Him.

Dr. Gary Burge notes,

“Miriam was the most famous sister of Moses, who oversaw her little brother’s journey down the Nile. In an ancient Jewish synagogue at Dura Europos on the Euphrates a fresco depicts this scene carefully. The floating bed of Moses becomes a coffin and tomb from which the baby Moses is raised to life (thus avoiding death).42 Old Testament Miriam even becomes a prophet (Ex. 15:20–21; Num. 12:1–2) who bears a message to Israel. While John refers to Mary in the narrative with the Greek word Maria, when Jesus (the new Moses) meets her in 20:16, oddly, he employs the Hebrew form of the name: Miriam (Gk. Mariam, Heb. Miryam). He names her “Miriam Magdalene”— where Magdalene connotes the Hebrew noun migdal, “tower.” This caretaker of the new Moses, this intimate helper, is now transformed from a mere “Mary” into a Miriam, into a migdal that now bears a prophetic message to the apostles.” (The NIV Application Commentary, John)

A woman in “paradise” encounters the Creator and Ruler of the Garden, Jesus.

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (17)

Why did He say not to touch Him? Scholars have wondered for two thousand years. Some believe Jesus literally meant don’t touch His body, but Thomas would soon. Some have translated it “do not fear,” but that seems unlikely. Others suggest it is preparation for His ascension, His return to the Father. In other words, He may be saying, “Do not cling to Me. Go tell the disciples I will soon return to the Father.” He will leave our planet, but also leave the Holy Spirit, an even more intimate expression of God who will live inside every believer.

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (18)

John records her as the first one to see the resurrected Messiah.

She has seen the empty tomb.
She has seen the LORD.

So What?

Mary Magdalene told the disciples the good news: Jesus is alive.

It is our privilege to tell our friends, neighbors and co-workers the good news: Jesus is alive!!!

Last week it struck me how the Gospel is good news. Who doesn’t want to share good news? It’s hard to deliver bad news, but it should be a joy to announce good news.

This text perhaps raises more questions than it answers, but one thing is clear…Jesus is alive! The One who died for us, who redeems us from sin and death, lives.

We don’t worship an idea, a concept, or a book. We worship a Person who entered human history and transformed it.

Listen to the words of John Updike in his poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter.”

Make no mistake: if He rose at all it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse,
the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the church will fall. . . .

Let us not mock God with metaphor, Analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché, Not a stone in a story,

But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us,
The wide light of day.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The Empty Tomb, John 20:1-10, 27 October 2013

Big Idea: Sometimes tragedies are blessings in disguise.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (1-2)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. (3-5)

Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. (6-7)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. (8-10)

Introduction

Do you like surprises? Why or why not?

Life is full of surprises. Some are good and some…!!!

We’ve spent the last several weeks meditating on Jesus’ death and burial. So now it’s time to celebrate Easter, right? Not yet!

Typical Easter celebrations are just that…celebrations. We sing happy songs, make colorful eggs, and eat chocolate bunnies. Who doesn’t love Easter?

Although the resurrection is one of the most miraculous and important events in human history, it wasn’t initially perceived as good news. At first, it was nothing short of shocking.

We know “the rest of the story,” but consider what it would have been like to be a character.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. (1)

It’s Sunday, the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, though she was not alone. No woman would dare venture out alone in the dark, and the other Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (the synoptic Gospels) make it clear that Mary Magdalene had company.

Jewish and pagan mourners were often known to visit tombs within the three days after the burial to bring more spices, to weep, or perhaps just to be there.

The first surprise was clearly the stone. The stone had been removed, something that may not have been immediately clear in the dark. Some tombs were blocked by disk-shaped stones that were rolled in a track.

What we now understand as wonderful was shocking and alarming. Who moved the stone? Why was the tomb empty?
Who took the body away?

So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (2)

Mary Magdalene is the first apostle, the apostle to the apostles, the first to deliver news of the empty tomb and later to encounter the risen Jesus…but that’s for next week!

Grave robbers were not uncommon, though there were severe punishments for such a crime.

Mary announces the empty tomb to Simon Peter and…the other disciple, the one Jesus loved…John? We’re not certain, but let’s assume it was John. Ancient Jewish men did not accept women as reliable witnesses for most legal purposes. Peter and John had to find out for themselves.

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. (3-5)

Peter and John have a race, and who wins?! John lets us know! John was younger, and presumably faster.

Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. (6-7)

John arrives first, but Peter enters first and gazes at the strips of linen. All of the linens remain. When Lazarus was resurrected, he remained wrapped. Once the linens were seen, it became obvious something was highly unusual. If the body was stolen, it would make no sense to unwrap it. Notice the cloth, commonly used to keep the mouth shut, was separate from the linen. It’s as if the body disappeared, leaving the linens behind. Jesus will appear to His disciples in a locked room (20:19, 26) and His resurrected body apparently passes through the linen wrappings similarly.

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. (8-10)

John sees and believes. The eyewitness of two men renders the evidence admissible under the Jewish legal system according to Deuteronomy (17:6; 19:15).

So Peter and John leave the tomb.

What were they thinking? What were they feeling?

This was some surprise!

Conclusion

Life is filled with surprises. Some surprises we consider good and others bad, but we can be at peace knowing that God loves us and is in control, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

We celebrate the empty tomb because we know the rest of the story, but for Mary Magdalene and others it was an unexpected, startling scene. Their initial reaction was hardly one of joy. There’s more to come, though.

Are you facing an unpleasant surprise? Hold fast to Jesus. He promises to be with you. Your story is not over. There is more to come, and He has a remarkable habit of turning mourning into dancing, trials into triumphs, and tragedies into testimonies.

I certainly don’t want to minimize any pain you may feel at this moment, but I do want to encourage you and remind you that tomorrow is a new day. As Annie said, the sun will come out tomorrow. A God who loves you more than you can imagine is on the throne and is with you. Draw near to Him and He promises to draw near to you. It may feel like Good Friday, but Sunday’s coming…and next Sunday we’ll look at the exciting events that follow this scene at the empty tomb.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Blood & Water, John 19:31-37, 13 October 2013

Big Idea: Jesus died, predicted centuries prior in amazing detail lending credibility to the Bible and its message.

If you could know the future, would you want to?

Heather and I decided we did not want to know the sex of our children until they were born. Well, we almost decided! Actually, when our girls were born, it was a surprise. In fact, my mother-in-law was so convinced that our second child was a boy that she made blue outfits for him—uh, her. When I said, “It’s a girl!” she was in denial!

With our third, we wanted to keep it a surprise…until the doctor asked us if we wanted to know since she was 100% sure from the ultrasound. I said, “That must mean it’s a boy” and she said, “Not necessarily. The baby is just perfectly positioned.” The doctor left the room, Heather asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to know?” and in a moment of weakness when the doctor returned, I said, “OK, tell us!” much to the surprise of my wife. I cried tears of joy when I learned a baby boy was joining our family.

In that moment, I was able to know the future. We told one couple our news, but it was a complete surprise to the rest of the world when Trevor entered the visible world seventeen years ago.

If you could know the future, would you want to?

What about your death? If I could tell you when and how you would die, would you want to know?

Jesus knew. “Sure,” you say, “He’s God,” but any Jew familiar with the Old Testament had clear descriptions of the Messiah, how He would be conceived, where He would be born, and how He would die. Just to give you an idea, here is one list of Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus:

http://www.bibleprobe.com/365messianicprophecies.htm

Simply put, Jesus uniquely fulfilled hundreds of prophecies that were written hundreds and even thousands of years before His birth.

John 19:31-37

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. (31)

The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. (32-33)

Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (34-35)

These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” (36)

he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:20)

and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (37)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zechariah 12:10)

Jesus probably did not die of a broken heart but with a broken heart. I declare Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, and even in His death many came to pass. Oh, and one more thing…
Jesus died. This may not sound radical, but to many, it is unimaginable. The Muslim Quaran, for example, states…

And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. (Surat An-Nisa 4:157)

They believe someone that looked like Jesus died that resembled Him, but if Jesus did not die, we have no hope. If Jesus did not die, the ten martyred disciples wasted their lives, and the countless since. If Jesus did not die, we cannot know God, experience forgiveness, or have eternal life.

But John, an eyewitness, was there and saw what happened. He said plainly that Jesus died.

Believe it or not, some believe Jesus survived the crucifixion, which is utterly ludicrous. It is true that crucified people often remained alive, or half alive, for days, but Jesus was so badly beaten prior that it is little wonder He hung for three hours before declaring, “It is finished.”

No Roman soldier would let a condemned criminal escape death. It would cost them their life.

Jesus really died—so that we could live—and today we remember His death as He told his original twelve to do. We take the bread and remember His body that was broken and pierced for us. We drink the cup and remember His blood that was poured out for us. Jesus really died, and John was an eyewitness of the tragic yet wonderful event. Jesus died to show His love for us, to reconcile us to a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, to provide forgiveness of our messed up lives, to offer mercy and amazing grace.

Water and blood are so symbolic, not only in the Jesus story but the entire Bible, pointing to life, cleansing, purification, and forgiveness. Moses inaugurated the first covenant with blood and water. Jesus inaugurates another covenant through His death.

Jesus is the true Passover lamb who takes away the sin of the world, a lamb that, according to Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12, could not have any broken bones.

It has been said that we don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. Actually, the holy Scriptures tell us much about the future, and among its revelations is that we will one day stand before a holy God and have to give an account for our lives. How did we live them? Who did we serve? How did we use our time, talents and treasures?

Jesus came and died…but that’s not the end of the story. Hallelujah! Because He lives, we can face tomorrow…and today…and prepare for His return.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Hurt: The Death of Jesus, John 19:25-30, 29 September 2013

Big Idea: We are hurt, we hurt one another, and we hurt Jesus with our sin.

Introduction

Have you ever been hurt? Of course! What hurt first came to mind? Physical? Emotional?

We all hurt others. They say that hurt people hurt people. Sometimes we intentionally hurt others, sometimes it is accidental, and sometimes we don’t even know we hurt someone. Have you ever learned after the fact that you hurt someone unknowingly?

There is a difference between hurt and harm. A vaccination shot at the doctor’s office hurts, but it is not meant to harm.

Last week we looked at the crucifixion of Jesus. The physical pain and agony He suffered is hard to imagine, yet the harm done to Him was more than physical.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)

It is believed by most that John is the disciple mentioned. What is noteworthy is the likelihood that John was the only one of the eleven disciples that watched Jesus die.

In many wars and conflicts, while women are free to come and go since they are not viewed as a threat and they need to maintain the household including shopping. Men, however, are vulnerable to attack, kidnapping, or even murder.

In this scene, we see women at the foot of the cross, but John, too. He was probably very young and not viewed as a serious revolutionary. He may not have even had a beard, a common feature of grown men.

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. (John 19:28-29)

Here we see another Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in the Messiah. In Psalm 69:21 it says

They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
(Psalm 69:21)

The symbolism in these two verses is vast.

Jesus often spoke of water. Sign one was Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into premium wine, providing for the thirst of others (John 2). Now he receives low-grade sour wine. He offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). In John 7 He invites the thirsty to come to HIm and drink (7:37).

N.T. Wright sees a series of signs in Jesus’ ministry, beginning with the first miracle during which He made wine at a wedding, revealing His glory. The second sign is the healing of the nobleman’s son at Capernaum (4:46-54). The third is the healing of the paralyzed man at the pool (5:1-9). Then He multiplied the loaves and fishes (6:1-14), healed the man born blind (9:1-12) and raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44).

Seven is a biblical number and Wright believes the seventh sign to reveal God’s glory is Jesus being lifted up. It is fitting then that…

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (19:30)

In the original language, this phrase means, “It’s all done!” It’s a single word that is written on a bill after it has been paid. The price has been paid. Jesus’ work is complete. It’s finished. It’s done. Jesus has accomplished His mission.

So much happened in that moment. Although I’ve focused this series on John’s Gospel, Matthew records fascinating details.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. (Matthew 27:50-52)

Let’s go back to Jesus’ mission that He accomplished. The hurt Jesus experienced was not only physical, but profoundly spiritual. The writer of Romans tells us

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

Paul is explicit in his letter to the people in the city of Corinth.

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

I killed Jesus.
I nailed Jesus to the cross.
It was my sin that prompted His agonizing mission.

Hurt by Johnny Cash (originally by Nine Inch Nails)

The sins of others hurts me.
My sin causes others to hurt.
Our sins caused Jesus to hurt.

I killed Jesus.
I nailed Jesus to the cross.
It was my sin that prompted His agonizing mission.

Reflection and Confession

It’s easy to reflect on the cross and appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus for us without acknowledging our sins that necessitated it.

Each of us has a long history of sin. Big sins, small sins, public sins, hidden sins. Sins of things we did. Sins of things we failed to do.

Sin separates us from God. Sin is deadly to relationships and sometimes even human life.

That guilt you feel…it’s probably the result of sin. The number one reason people feel guilty is because they are guilty! There is false guilt, but Romans 3:23 tells us that all of us sin and fall short of God’s glory. All of us. You. Me. Billy Graham. All of us.

This isn’t about shame, but it is about honestly assessing our lives. How have we loved or hated God? How have we loved or hated our neighbor? How have we loved or hated ourselves?

Kyrie eleison (Greek: Κύριε, ἐλέησον "Lord, have mercy"). The phrase predates Christian usage.

There’s an old prayer of the Church that says, “LORD, have mercy”

I urge you to reflect upon your sin. Confess it to God. Repent and turn away from it. Experience His love and forgiveness. That’s why He died. That’s why we call it Good Friday.

LORD, Have Mercy

John later wrote

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

That is truly Good News! Hallelujah!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

King of Love, John 19:16b-24, 22 September 2013

Big Idea: Jesus held out His arms and said, “I love you THIS much!” Does everyone know?

What is love?

This week I was talking with a friend who told me about a family that has no faith in God because they only believe in science, that which can be proven. I asked about love. Can you prove that love exists? What is it?

This is a question I return to again and again because it is used so often in our culture to describe so many different things. Frequently it is just a word used to manipulate someone into doing something, but love itself requires doing and action. Love is a verb.

Our text for today could actually be a short passage referenced months ago in the third chapter of John. It says

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

We continue our series on the Gospel or “good news” of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends. The next several weeks will address the final hours of Jesus before His burial. I must warn you that some of the content will be graphic and disturbing. Parents, be advised we have some short videos that involve the crucifixion. The suffering we have examined in the past few weeks was excruciating, but Jesus willingly experienced crucifixion, the ultimate Roman torture.

Before we look at
what Jesus did, I want to be crystal clear about why He suffered and died. He did it for you and for me.

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

For God so loved you and me that He sent Jesus to die for us.

Centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah wrote

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5)

So begins Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ, the most successful rated R movie in history, grossing over $370 million.

He was pierced, crushed, punished, and wounded…because He loves us.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.
(19:16)

If you recall, Pilate desperately wanted to release Jesus as He found no reason for Him to be arrested, much less executed. Bowing to the pressure of the Jewish leaders and their threats of involving Caesar, Jesus was handed over to be crucified by the soldiers.

Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). (19:17)

They took Jesus outside the city to crucify Him. This is a fascinating detail because the traditional place of Jesus’ death is now a church, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, but it is inside the city. Personally, I found it to be something of a religious freak show, a series of buildings that actually house multiple churches, religious artifacts, and a large box built in 1810, the edicule of the Holy Sepulchre that is supposed to commemorate the tomb where Jesus was buried! I found the whole thing to be very strange, dark, extremely religious (and not in a good way) and depressing. I found it a very odd way to celebrate a living Christ!

There is another site outside the city that is believe to have possibly been the location because of its name, the place of the Skull.

John tell us…

There they crucified him, and with him two others —one on each side and Jesus in the middle. (19:18)

John does not give us details of the crucifixion.

One detail found in the other Gospels (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34) is Jesus quoting Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalm 22:1)

When you understand a bit about crucifixion, you quickly understand why Jesus felt forsaken. In order to understand the agony from a medical perspective, I found this video.

https://vimeo.com/20304062

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” (19-21)

It was fairly common for condemned criminals to wear signs around their necks while on their way to execution to serve warning to others.

Jesus died for all and the sign was in multiple languages, the three most understood at the time. For God so loved the world. Even the declaration of Jesus’ Kingship was announced to all.

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
(22)

Pilate infuriated the chief priests. He probably doesn’t believe Jesus is a king any more than they do, but he makes fun of them, a “calculated snub,” in the words of scholar N.T. Wright. Regardless, the words were true. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah and He died for every man, woman and child from every nation, tribe and tongue.

May he rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
(Psalm 72:8)

May all kings bow down to him
and all nations serve him.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
(Psalm 72:11-14)

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures had to see the promised Messiah, yet it was the most religious that had Jesus arrested and crucified.

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. (23)

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
(24)

Indeed Psalm 22, which we mentioned earlier, continues

Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
(Psalm 22:16-18)

So this is what the soldiers did. (24b)

So What?

I struggled to prepare this message because it involved many disturbing images and accounts. At times, I found myself getting sick when I thought about the agony involved in crucifixion…but it was all part of Jesus’ ambition and plan to seek and save the lost, to offer hope to the hopeless, to offer forgiveness to us sinners, to offer reconciliation between us and our heaven Father we have rejected.

This is a love story. This is passion.

Have your received His love?
Have you shared His love?

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

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

No King But Caesar, John 19:8-16a, 15 September 2013

Big Idea: Who is your king?

Introduction

Why are you? I didn’t ask who you are, but why are you who you are. Why did you become the person you are today, or put another way, how are you? I don’t mean how are you doing, but how did you become the person you are today.

Why are you?
How are you?

A more conventional question might be who and what has made the greatest impact on your life? We are the product of people and experiences that have shaped us. Perhaps you love sports because your dad loves sports. Maybe you joined the military after being moved by a movie or a book. Some of you have devoted great resources to care for those in need because of the example of a mentor or friend. When you think of who you are, why and how are you you?

These questions are almost irrelevant in many parts of the world. Freedoms are scarce. Occupations are given rather than chosen.

In our culture, however, we make hundreds or even thousands of choices each day about what to wear, how to spend our time, what kind of toothpaste to buy, what music to listen to, and what sources of information we will consume.

Some choices are easy.

Pizza or tacos?
iPhone or Android?
Coke or Pepsi?
Michigan or Ohio State?

What is the most difficult choice you have ever made? Why? How do you decide?

Last week we looked at Pontius Pilate and his inability to find guilt in Jesus despite the cries of the Jewish leaders who shouted for His crucifixion.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” (19:4-5)

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
(19:6)

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” (19:7)

This brings us to today’s text.

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (19:8-10)

Notice Pilate’s fear. It has grown. He is beginning to panic. He is looking for any possible to way to decree a “not guilty” verdict and asks Jesus for help. He knows an innocent man stands before him, and a special man at that.

Jesus answered,
“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (19:11)

Jesus uses this opportunity to teach about God’s providence! He doesn’t even discount Pilate’s authority, but refers to its source.

There are different types and severity of sin.

Pilate is again trying to release Jesus.

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” (19:12)

The Jewish leaders were going to report Pilate to Rome. Pilate is a politician, through and through. Power is dangerous.

The Jewish leaders used threats to Caesar as their last resort, their secret weapon.

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
(19:13-14)

Jesus is being delivered into the hands of religious and political sinners.

The cross was a mercy seat where God could reach down and save sinners.

The cross was a sacrifice for Jesus, an offering for sin, an act of obedience.

The cross was a substitution for us as Jesus took our place.

The cross was a triumph for satan (Genesis 3:15) and ultimately a defeat.

The cross was a brutal murder to the world.

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

He continues to question their judgment.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
(19:15)

Notice these are the religious leaders declaring their devotion to a human leader. They fail to recognize God in their midst, the Messiah they had been anticipating for generations.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. (19:16)

The oldest creed of the Church says that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He chose Caesar. The people chose Caesar.

Who do you choose?

Who is your king?

It may seem like a silly question since we have no king in our nation, no Caesar, no Pilate. Not even the most ardent supporter of a president or governor would call them king or lord or offer the allegiance afforded a king. We know the right answer on Sunday morning is “Jesus.”

But who do you really serve? Who is your God, your king? Who influences you? Whose voice do you hear? The world is loud. It screams that it’s all about you, your pleasure, your power, and your stuff. Phone companies have realized two years is too long to wait for a new cell phone. Your house is too small. You need more Facebook friends and Twitter followers. If it feels good, do it. He who dies with the most toys wins. Everything is relative. Don’t judge. We’re all supposed to be happy. As long as it doesn’t hurt someone, do whatever you want.

Despite our culture’s journey away from the Bible, many know the Ten Commandments, or at least some of them. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. Don’t lie.

What is the first and greatest commandment?

You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

No other kings. No greater influences. No higher allegiances.

Who is your king? Prove it with your life.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Here's The Man! John 19:1-7, 8 September 2013

Big Idea: Jesus is the ultimate man, the ideal human.

Introduction

We have been looking at the life of Jesus through the lens of John, one of His best friends. We are in the nineteenth chapter of his Gospel or “good news.” We will spend five weeks in this chapter exploring the final hours of His pre-resurrected life.

Last week Jonathan Hurshman taught on Jesus’ first encounter with Pilate in chapter eighteen. The Jewish leaders bring Jesus to the Roman governor’s palace and…

Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” (18:31)

Later, Pilate asks

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” (18:38-39)

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising. (18:40)

Pilate wants to punt. Clearly Jesus is no threat to his authority and wants the Jewish leaders to go away and leave him alone. Hoping to satisfy them

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. (19:1)

There were three types of flogging done by the Romans.

  • the fustigatio, a beating that served as a warning for smaller offenses
  • the flagellatio, a more brutal punishment for more serious crimes
  • the verberatio, the most heinous punishment

This flogging is believed to be the first and least severe punishment. Pilate sees nothing wrong with Jesus and wants to pacify the Jewish leaders.

Flogging was typically done with a whip of several strips of leather with bone and lead imbedded. The Jews had a limit of forty lashes, though they usually did thirty-nine in case of a miscount. The Romans, however, had no limit and their flogging often resulted in death.

The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. (19:2a)

The crown of thorns was possibly taken from a Sayla Tree with long, thick spikes, not small thorns from a rose stem. The thorns would not only cause bleeding, they would distort a person’s face as they sunk into the victim’s skull.

In Genesis 22, a ram’s head was caught in a thornbush and was offered up instead of Isaac as a sacrifice, a moving parallel to Jesus’ crown of thorns as He becomes our sacrifice.

They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. (19:3)

Purple dye was rare and expensive, usually drawn from shellfish. It signified royalty. Note they repeatedly mocked Him, again and again.

If His body was not in enough agony, the emotional abuse He took was unimaginable. They say that sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you. What a lie! Words are sometimes more powerful and painful than sticks and stones. Jesus is experiencing it all, and He’s totally innocent…and He
is the King of the Jews. He is being mocked with the truth.

He did it all for you and for me.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” (19:4)

Again, Pilate says, “Not guilty.”

Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” (19:5)

His intent was likely, “Look at the poor man? How can he be a threat to the government or anyone, for that matter?”

John repeatedly shows the humanity of Jesus and this is another example. Here is the man. Jesus is the man. He is the Son of man. He is the ideal man. He is the ultimate example of what it means to be human.

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”


But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” (19:6)
Pilate offers a third “not guilty” verdict (see also Luke 24:4, 14,22). He is sarcastic in his response for he knew the Jews lacked the authority to crucify but he was desperate to get them out of his sight. He just wants the whole situation to go away.

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” (19:7)

Leviticus 24:15-16 states blasphemy as a capital offense.

Who is the real man in this account? Is it Pilate with power and authority or the humble Jesus who actually possessed all authority? Is it the politically correct, people-pleasing Pilate or the Biblically correct, God-pleasing Jesus? Which best describes your life?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Denials, John 18:15-27, 25 August 2013

Big Idea: We are all capable of heinous acts, but by the grace of God.

The biography of Jesus by His close friend, John, brings us to the final hours of the life of Christ before the crucifixion. Last week we studied the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now the focus will include Peter.

Peter

Peter is one of the dominant figures in the Gospels, the good news accounts of Jesus. Jesus’ inner circle consisted of John, James, and Peter. Simon Peter was a fisherman who walked with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. He was never shy about speaking his mind or expressing his emotions as he did in last week’s text by cutting the ear off a slave in the midst of Jesus’ arrest. We are about to see another famous—or infamous— episode featuring Peter.

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
(15-16)

Who is “the other disciple?” John. He got Peter a backstage pass!

It was early in the morning. There was a fire. It is dark (remember, this is before electricity!). The servant girl recognized Peter as being from Galilee.

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”
(17)

It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself. (18)

Now the scene shifts from Peter to Jesus.

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. (19)

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” (20-21)

Jesus was asking why they questioned His public ministry.

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

The violence has begun. Actually, it began in the garden with Peter cutting off the ear of Malchus.

What would you do if someone slapped you in the face? Notice what Jesus does. He is under complete control. In the midst of injustice, He is calm and non-violent. What a powerful example for us when we were mistreated or persecuted.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (23-24)

No trial is to begin or end at night. They are breaking their own law. Since Caiaphas is not presiding here, this is more like a police interrogation than an actual trial. Annas is here as a witness in case Jesus does say something incriminating.

The probing of Jesus by Annas is obviously unsuccessful which is why He is sent to Caiaphas.

Now we go back to Peter.


Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” (25)

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (26-27)

I doubt Peter ever heard a sound as horrifying as that rooster, between 3 and 5 in the morning. If you recall, several chapters ago Jesus predicted this very event.

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:38)

Jesus stands up to those that question Him and denies nothing.

Peter cowers in the face of those that question him and denies everything.

Jesus tells the truth. Peter tells lies.

So What?

Can you imagine denying Jesus? Can you imagine denying Him three times?

It’s easy to criticize Peter for abandoning his best friend during His hour of greatest need. What was he thinking?

I’ve had similar thoughts about Adam and Eve. One rule! One, simple rule! Avoid one tree’s fruit! When I was a child, my least-favorite chore was pulling weeds. On hot, summer days while my friends were playing or swimming I would silently curse Adam and Eve for their sin that resulted in weeds I had to pull!

But I would do the same thing.

Sin is common to all of us. We are born with it. Contrary to some naive authors, children are not born good. That’s why their first word is usually, “No!”

We all sin. Listen to what the writer of the Gospel of John said later…

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

This is why we need grace. This is why Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested and killed…in order to offer us forgiveness and grace, unmerited favor.

Maybe you think you’ve screwed up, big time. You’re in good company! Peter denied Jesus three times…and became the first Pope and one of the greatest Christians in history. Another guy, Saul, was in charge of murdering some of the first Christians…and wrote much of the New Testament after He encountered Jesus and became Paul.

Nothing you can do can make God love you more.
Nothing you can do can make God love you less.

Every day we make choices. Every day we choose to follow God or the world. Every day we face temptations that lead us to God or away from Him. What will you choose?

Prayer

Reflection Time

What is God saying to you?
What are you going to do about it?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Arrested Development, John 18:1-14, 18 August 2013

Big Idea: Jesus willingly surrendered Himself for us.

Introduction

After months of studying the life of Jesus, we turn a sharp, dark corner. For the next few weeks, we will be examining those final, bloody hours before His death. As one of Jesus’ best friends, John gives a unique account of this scandalous expression of God’s love for us.

In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the humanity of Jesus is emphasized, His sufferings. John emphasizes the deity of Jesus, the God man. The emphasis is on His glory and His return to the Father.

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. (1)

The 17th chapter of John records Jesus’ prayer for Himself, His disciples, and us. If you missed them, I urge you to listen to the podcast or read the message notes at PastorKirk.com.

John does not record the agony of Jesus sweating drops of blood, instead focusing on His glory, His ability to be in complete control.

David fled his son, Absalom, in 2 Samuel 15 after crossing this same Kidron Valley. Another interesting parallel is David’s counselor, Ahithophel, betrayed him and later hung himself, the person in the Bible besides Judas to hang himself. The agony of David and Jesus are oddly similar. Coincidence?

The scene is dark, both literally and figuratively.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. (2-3)

Earlier, Jesus eluded his enemies because it was not yet time. Now is the time for His arrest. A detachment is a tenth of a legion or as many as 1000 soldiers! It is unlikely that they all came, but imagine dozens or even hundreds of armed soldiers going after one man…one unarmed man!

One writer noted how they bring torches and lanterns to search for the Light of the World; they bring weapons against the Prince of Peace.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” (4)

Jesus approaches them! What kind of person goes out to their enemies?! I love that He knew all that was going to happen, yet He asks who they want.

Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of John were “What are you seeking?” (1:38). These people are seeking Jesus, not to know Him but to kill Him.

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. (5a)

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (5b-6)

Twice Jesus calls Himself “I Am.” John has given us many “I Am” statements already such as, “I am the bread of life” and “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Jesus is divine, yet notice they didn’t fall forward to worship Jesus but backward in fear and confusion in the presence of the LORD they do not know or recognize.

Psalm 27 says

The LORD is my light and my salvation —whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. (Psalm 27:1-2)

Again he asked them,
“Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.
(7)

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (8-9)

Jesus remains in complete control. He tells the crowd to let the disciples go and they obey Him. He issues orders to those arresting him! He is the Good Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep.

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) (10)

Peter was a fisherman, not a soldier. He probably went after the neck and only got the ear! Why didn’t they go after Peter? Luke tells us Jesus healed the ear of Malchus (22:51). As is so often the case, Peter is clueless. He is out of control. He takes matters into his own hands. Then he is scolded by Jesus!

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (11)

There is the cup of salvation (Psalm 116:13), consolation (Jeremiah 16:7), but this is the cup of judgment that Jesus will bore for us on the cross. He is willing to drink the cup given to Him by the Father.

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. (12-14)

They didn’t need to bind Him. He willingly went with them. He went alone. His friends have all fled the scene.

Caiaphas was the one the Roman government accepted. Annas was the head of the religious leaders, their high priest.

Notice the final sentence. John shows us that it was predetermined that Jesus would die (see John 11:43-53). Jesus knew the plan and was in complete control of every moment. The true high priest will be put to death by the religious high priest.

So What?

In the beginning, there was a beautiful, perfect garden. Generations later, sinful men arrested the only perfect Man in a garden in order to restore humanity, in order to bring healing and reconciliation rather than violence and bloodshed.

Despite the nightmare He was about to face, He chose to follow the Father’s plan of seeking and saving us—broken, messed up sinners. Jesus willingly surrendered Himself for us. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Jesus Prays For Us: Unity, John 17:13-26, 1 August 2013

Big Idea: Jesus wants us to be joyful, missional, unified, and loved.

Introduction

Two weeks ago we began John 17, the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in which He prayed for Himself and His disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion. Essentially John allows us to eavesdrop on Jesus praying. We’re going to review some of our previous text beginning with verse 13 because much of what He prays for His disciples is relevant to us.

Jesus Prays For His Followers

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
(13-19)

  1. 1. Jesus wants us to experience joy

Sin always leads to death (chocolate poop!). Joy only comes from the LORD. Jesus said in chapter sixteen that He would send the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The world is not where we find joy, but where we love and serve others. This world is not our home.

The mark of the Christian is joy, not the pursuit of happiness. Joy comes from the Holy Spirit. It is not dependent upon our circumstances. When—not if—we suffer and die, it can glorify God and be used to grow us and others.

Jesus prays that He would suffer well and that His disciples would suffer well.

We can’t do everything. We need wisdom to know how to live within our many limits.

Again He prays that the Father would protect them.

Sanctify them.

  1. 2. Jesus wants us to be missional.

He wants us to be joyful missionaries. Missionaries used to be people that were sent to strange people that don’t know God and live alternative lifestyles…overseas. Those people live in Ann Arbor…and Ypsilanti, and Dexter, and all around us! The world is here and we can reach the world without a passport. We can reach other peoples with a passport, too, but Scio Community Church is a church on mission, God’s mission. I’ve said this many times but it’s worth repeating, Jesus did not come to earth to start another religion. His vision of the Church, His Body and Bride, is not to be a country club dispensing religious goods and services for its members. It is to be a mission outpost seeking and serving the lost in order that they might encounter Jesus and be saved.

We are Christ’s ambassadors, here to re-present Jesus to the world…at Meijer, on Facebook, at Ford and GM, at school, in the subdivision,…and Macedonia, too! It is not a duty but an honor.

Every two years billions of people around the world watch the Olympic games. I’ve often thought of the thrill of participating in the games, but athletes do more than represent themselves. They represent their nation. They stand with pride when medals are presented and the respective national anthem is played. A win for them is a win for their country.

In the same way, we are privileged to re-present the King of kings to the peoples of this world. We are not home nor are we here to make a name for ourselves. We are not here for ourselves, our comfort, or convenience. We are here for Jesus!

If you were a missionary overseas, you’d study the culture, learn the language, understand the traditions, and build bridges. We do the same here today.

Jesus is God sent into human history as a missionary, living and serving and loving in the culture. John tells us more than forty times that Jesus was “sent.”

God determines where and when we live (Acts 17). We are here now. God’s plan is for us to be missionaries here today. There are two aspects of being a missionary:

  • - sanctified: holy, set apart (like special China and silverware used for special occasions); every Christian is sanctified and set apart for their mission; we are to live lives that are different from the world; money, sex, and power are different for Christians; we are to be distinct because we belong to God

  • - sent: we spend time with non-Christians; we get to know our neighbors; we b.l.e.s.s. others and our communities; we get to know what is happening around us

As we have said in previous weeks, there are two extremes that are dangerous. The first is syncretism. This is when we look and act just like everyone else. If we do not reflect the light of Christ in the darkness, we are just as dark as our surroundings. We are not sanctified, holy or distinct.

The other extreme is separatism. This is when we avoid the world, separating ourselves, ignoring the darkness and keeping the light to ourselves. We are not sent as missionaries, but rather huddle as members seeking shelter from “those people out there.” They know nothing about the world because they’re stuck in Christian subculture watching Christian TV, listening to Christian radio, reading Christian books, and drinking milk from a Christian cow! The question in this camp is, “When do we get to leave?” rather than “How can we live out God’s mission, the
missio Dei?”

Jesus prayed against conservatives (separatists) and liberals (syncretists).

We are to be in the world but not of the world. This is a delicate balance, but this is what Jesus did and what He prays for us. The answers can be found in the Bible and by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus wants us to be in Christ and in the culture, in the Word and the world.

Jesus Prays For Us

Have you ever wished you could be an eyewitness to biblical events? How cool would it be to walk with Jesus and have Him pray for you, not people thousands of years ago, but you!

The final seven verses are Jesus’ specific prayers for you and me…in 2013!

”My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one —I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (20-23)

  1. 3. Jesus wants us unified

Jesus sent His followers our two-by-two. We must work together. This point continues in verse 20.

Jesus does not pray for uniformity but unity.

This past week was the beginning of the NFL preseason. Teams of players are assembling. Players are not asked to all do the same thing, but to play a particular position on one, unified team with one unified mission. When they work together, great things can be accomplished. As the old acronym states, Together Everyone Achieves More, TEAM.

History is filled with examples of great groups of players that were unable to win together. They all tried to play the same role or had different missions. A team of good players working together will defeat a team of great individuals most every time.

What does a “win” look like for Scio Community Church? It is found in our mission statement:


We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 
  • - serving our communities
  • - sharing our story
  • - sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.

There is one God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We show God’s character to the world when we are unified. Unity comes from Jesus. We need to focus on Jesus. We need Jesus-centered homes and churches.

Like an isosceles triangle with Jesus at the top and us at the bottom, he closer we get to Jesus, the closer we get to one another. We can’t make unity the focus, but if Jesus is at the center, it will occur naturally.

Unity comes through mission, through working together. It also comes when we follow the Bible. Psalm 133 is all about unity. It begins

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Unity is not uniformity. One of my favorite quotes is from Rick Warren: “We need different types of churches for different types of people,” so long as they partner together follow Jesus.

Unfortunately we are hardly known for our unity and partnerships. The single movement Jesus began has splintered…from one church to the great Catholic/Orthodox schism to Protestantism to more than 41,000 denominations!

There are open-handed and close-handed issues. Of course, there are disagreements on which is which, but open-handed issues like whether or not women can be pastors or what translation of the Bible to use or mode of baptism are different from close-handed issues like is Jesus God and is the Bible reliable.

One helpful metaphor is states and nations. We are one unified nation, the USA, even though there are differences between Michigan, Minnesota, and Montana. Buddhists and Muslims are different countries. We love them, but we are not on the same team.

I have been privileged to be one of the founding pastors of PACT, the Pastors Alliance for County Transformation. For more than a decade, about one hundred churches in Washtenaw County have worshipped together on Palm Sunday at Hosanna, served together at Operation Jumpstart, and prayed together through 40 Days of Prayer and Pastors Prayer Summits.

Is Jesus the center? Are people serving Jesus and His mission? Is the Bible the common language and authority? We can have disagreements without division.

Our tribe, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, wasn’t even a denomination a generation ago. It was and is a missional movement that partners with other groups.

Jesus prays for our unity.

  • theological
  • relational
  • philosophical/styles
  • missiological (what are we doing?)
  • organizational (systems)

I have four prayers prayers for Scio Community Church—
direction, protection, passion, and unity.

Unity Is fragile.

We have a real enemy that wants to steal, kill and destroy. He knows that a house divided cannot stand. If you’ve ever been on a family vacation you know preferences and personalities can create conflict. In many ways, it would be easier if we all WERE similar with identical gifts and passions, but how boring would that be? God created us to be interdependent—dependent upon Him and each other.

I want to serve notice that Scio Community Church is in the midst of…changes. As our world changes, there are increasing needs to change our methods—never our message—to accomplish our mission.

As our one of the Alliance’s values states

Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. Hebrews 1

Every change, big and small, has the potential to be polarizing. If we paint the bathroom, you might like or dislike the color. The thing to remember is we are on a mission to make disciples. That is why we exist, and everything we do must be evaluated on that basis. Our mission must drive our focus and unity, not tradition or even popular vote.

I trust our senior Pastor, Jesus Christ, to guide us forward in making disciples in Scio Township and beyond. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Our
Jerusalem is Scio Township and the Ann Arbor area. This is where God has called us to gather and serve.

Judea is the Great Lakes District of Michigan and northwest Ohio. We have sister churches in the region with whom we partner.

Samaria is the area beyond our area—the United States. The Christian & Missionary Alliance provides us with countless connections to make disciples from sea to shining sea, serving in disaster zones like hurricanes.

Finally,
the ends of the earth are…the ends of the earth. We have built-in networks with brothers and sisters from Vietnam to Brazil, Macedonia to Mongolia.

Needless to say, there is great diversity in the ways we worship and serve, but throughout we have unity in one LORD, one faith, and one baptism.

Next year we will celebrate our church’s 80th anniversary. God has guided us since the founding of the Ypsilanti Gospel Tabernacle in 1934 to today.

LORD, make us one! LORD, keep us one!

Finally, Jesus prays

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (24)

God is a perfect Dad. Prayer gets easier when we remember God is Dad.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (25-26)

  1. 4. Jesus prays that we would know that He loves us. He gives us Himself.

This world is not our home. We will be hated. We will be together with Jesus forever, home someday. We will have joy, unity, and a completed mission in a world free of sin and death.

Conclusion

Jesus is praying for us now…daily. Hallelujah!

Credits

Some ideas from The High Priestly Prayer sermon by Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church and The NIV Application Commentary, John by Gary Burge.

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Jesus Prays For Himself & His Disciples, John 17:1-19, 28 July 2013

Big Idea: We can learn much from listening to someone’s prayers.

Introduction

Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation? Why? Perhaps you wanted to obtain some secret information or learn what is being said behind your back.

I believe you can learn much about a person by eavesdropping…on their prayers! I love listening to people pray because it often expresses their deepest thoughts and feelings, especially when those prayers are unedited.

Children are, of course, the greatest example of this. Their prayers are brutally honest. Imagine overhearing some of these actual prayers from kids:

"Dear God, I went to this wedding and they were kissing right there in church. Is that OK?"

"Dear God, thank You for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy."

"Dear God, it must be super hard to love all the people in the world, especially my brother. I don't know how You do it."

"Dear God, I love Christmas and Easter. Could you please put another Holiday in the middle, there's nothing good in there now."

"Dear God, are you actually invisible or is that just a trick?"

"Dear God, I want to be just like my daddy when I grow up but without so much hair all over."

"Dear God, I wish you would not make it so easy for people to come apart I had to have 3 stitches and a shot."

"Dear God, did you mean for giraffes to look like that or was it an accident?"

"Dear God,maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they each had their own rooms. It works out OK with me and my brother."

"Dear God, I heard the moon was made of cheese. Tonight half of it is missing. Did you get hungry?"

"Dear God, if You can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am!"

"Dear God, I say your prayer every night, 'lead us not into temptation and deliver us some e-mail' but I never get an e-mail from you. Do you have my right address?"

John 17

Today we turn to the seventeenth chapter of John, one of four biographies of Jesus. If you have a red-letter Bible with Jesus’ words in red, you’ll notice this entire chapter is a quote, but unlike His teachings, this is a record of His prayer to the Father before His arrest and crucifixion, the longest prayer in the Bible.

In Deuteronomy 32-33 we read Moses’ farewell prayer and Jesus’ here is similar.

The prayer has three sections that have parallel themes. We will look at the first two parts of the prayer today—Jesus’ prayer for Himself and His disciples—and examine His prayer for us in two weeks.

What is the LORD’s Prayer? It’s not “Our Father.” That is what He taught His followers to pray, but it was not His prayer. He had no sins to to be forgiven.

This is the prayer of our LORD Jesus Christ, a prayer that will summarize Jesus’ heart and ministry.

Jesus Prays For Himself

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

Before we look at His words, notice His posture. For some reason, evangelical Christians tend to ignore our bodies when we pray, yet people from other traditions and even religions are conscious of the physical when they engage the spiritual. It says that Jesus looked toward heaven, a common Jewish prayer posture. Although it is not explicit in the text, He likely raised His hands as well (Ex. 9:33; 17:11; Ps 28:2).

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (1-5)

Prayer is not about you. It’s about the Father, our loving Father. Jesus’ Aramaic title for God was
Abba. He’s Daddy. Even the adult children of my friend, Clark, call him Papa. I love that! It’s not a distant, formal “Father” but Daddy. He’s the focus. Jesus prays first for Himself. We can pray for ourselves, too.

What do you need? What do you want? Tell Daddy!

My kids have developed the ability to communicate what they want/need!

Jesus prays to the Father and knows it is time for Him to die.

The hour comes for all of us, our hour of suffering and/or death. We usually pray that suffering doesn’t come. Where do you go when you face trials? Alcohol, food, sex, gossip,…the best place to go is to your Daddy.

Jesus didn’t pray, “Get me out of this” but rather “get me through this.”

If you’re going to suffer, don’t waste it! Use it to honor and glorify God. To glorify means to praise or bring homage. Jesus was preparing for the cross, the most shameful place imaginable, yet for Jesus a place of honor as He is obedient to the Father’s mission.

Jesus has been given all authority…all authority! He even has the authority to forgive sins and reconcile sinners with their heavenly Father.

An integral part of our mission is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. The key to the commission is to make disciples, but we are only able to make disciples because Jesus has all authority.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Notice that “eternal life” comes from knowing God—not possessing knowledge about God as the religious leaders did, but rather the Hebrew knowing which includes experience and intimacy, obedience and love for God.

In verse five, Jesus clearly states He was with the Father in the beginning, Genesis 1:1, before the world began. Only God has glory (Isaiah 42:8).

Jesus prays for Himself, that He would suffer so sinners would know and follow Him.

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. (6-8)

Here again we see this intimate relationship between Jesus and Daddy.

Verse 9 shifts to His followers. We see Him speaking like a shepherd about to lay down His life for His sheep.


Jesus Prays For His Disciples

I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.
All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. (9-12)

The word “world” in the Greek has several different meaning. Here it’s not that Jesus doesn’t love everyone—He will die for everyone—but that He doesn’t love the world’s system that hates Him.

Here again we see the intimate, shared relationship between the Father and Son.

Protect them. Jesus knows that there is a very real enemy that wants to steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10:10). Sheep without a shepherd are especially vulnerable. Daddies know their kids and keep an eye on them. God’s a good Daddy.

Make them one. There is one God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This prayer for unity will be echoed later. A house divided cannot stand. The goal is not unity for unity’s sake, though, but rather a common focus, mission, and relationship with the Father. We are to reconciled to God and to one another as Christians. Sometimes we fight and sin against one another but unity is God’s desire for us.

Many people in our culture see everything through the lens of “me.” What’s in it for me?

Jesus wants us to glorify Him first and think “we” next. Families have to love and submit to one another. Jesus prays that we are one.

What about Judas? He betrayed Jesus and hung himself. Judas never loved Jesus. He stole money from Jesus and sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver (see Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27).


“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (13-19)

The mark of the Christian is joy, not the pursuit of happiness. As we said last week, joy comes from the Holy Spirit. It is not dependent upon our circumstances. When, not if, we suffer and die, it can glorify God and be used to grow us and others. Joy only comes from the LORD. Jesus said in chapter sixteen that He would send the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The world is not where we find joy, but where we love and serve others. This world is not our home.

Jesus prays that He would suffer well and that His disciples would suffer well.

We can’t do everything. We need wisdom to know how to live within our many limits.

Again He prays that the Father would protect them.

His final prayer is that they be sanctified, separated, made holy for a divine mission.

“For them” Jesus was sanctified and set apart. He was about to give His life for His followers…and us.

Conclusion

Jesus’ prayers reveal His true heart and mission. He wants to glorify the Father, Daddy. He affirms His deity and intimacy with the Father as one-third of the Trinity, one God in three Persons. He underscores what it means to know God and have eternal life. Joy, mission and unity are strong themes, and finally sanctification, being set apart.

We live in the now and the not yet, citizens of heaven yet residents of earth, called on mission to be in the world and love the people of the world but not become of the world and its systems and values that refuse to glorify God.

We are in the midst of a very real tension between heaven and earth, good and evil. In this life we will have trouble, Jesus said in the previous chapter, yet when we fix our eyes and hope on Jesus, we can pursue His mission for His glory.

Credits

Some ideas from The High Priestly Prayer sermon by Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church and The NIV Application Commentary, John by Gary Burge.

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Presence & Peace, John 16:16-33, 21 July 2013

Big Idea: No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.

Introduction

We conclude the sixteenth chapter of John. We read Jesus’ final words to His followers as His arrest and crucifixion approaches.

Before we begin I want to remind you of three things:

  1. Your Daddy loves you if you trust in Jesus
  2. The presence of God is here, not in Jesus’ flesh and bones, but the Holy Spirit
  3. Peace is available to those who follow Jesus, regardless of the circumstances

Pray

Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
(16-18)

He would be arrested, crucified, then resurrected.

Jesus knew they wanted to know what He meant.

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (19-20)

“Little while” may refer to Him leaving to die and then appear.
“Little while” may refer to Him leaving earth and then, someday soon, appear.

Joy is coming. Our sorrow will be turned into joy.

He cares about the broken hearted. He is close to them.

He gives this example:

A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (21)

He continues

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (22-24)

This is the third time Jesus says to pray in His Name, to abide in Him, to obey Him.

Pray to the Father in Jesus’ Name. You can pray to Jesus, but He’s with the Father praying for us.

God wants to hear and answer prayer from those who follow and obey Jesus.

Followers of Jesus have instant, direct access into the presence of God Almighty.

Those that belong to Jesus—the branches connected to the Vine—have the same access to the Father that Jesus enjoys. When we pray in Jesus’ Name and for His glory, the Father gives whatever is asked. Why? As we will see in this next passage,
the Father loves you!

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (25-27)

Jesus often spoke in parables. Many of them are obvious to us because the Bible records His explanation, but so much of what He said was cryptic and mysterious. In fact, He frequently responded to questions with more questions rather than a simple answer.

In verse 25, He acknowledges how He has been speaking figuratively.

Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

The Holy Spirit will later guide them and remind them of Jesus’ words, both those things they understood and those that were unclear.

Some believe John 20:30-31 is the key to the book of John

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

Verse 28 is also vital.

I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (28)

Only Jesus could make this declaration.

Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” (29-30)

Jesus is God in the flesh. They finally get it!

“You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
(31-32)

These men will desert Jesus.

Later in the week there will be a moment when the Father is not with Jesus, on the cross forsaking Him as He bore our sins (Ps 22).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (33)

This is the last thing He says to them. He wants these words to ring in the minds as they watch Him suffer and die. He wants them to remember His presence, power and peace when He ascends into heaven. When they suffer persecution and ten of them martyrdom, He wants to be certain that they have a peace that endures.

We can have peace in this life, only through Jesus.

No Jesus. No peace.
Know Jesus. Know Peace.

The only thing you can find in this world is trouble. Trouble and peace do not negate one another. As Don Miller notes, “We are not saved
from trouble, but rather saved in trouble.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “Have courage and overcome the world.” Rather, the Greek emphasis is, “Have courage—
I have overcome the world.”

Jesus’ victory is our victory. Only in dying to ourselves and receiving new life in Christ can we have peace and joy.

As Gary Burge concludes

“Christianity is the offer of God to live in His followers and achieve in them the victory demonstrated in His Son Jesus Christ. And in that indwelling, an indescribable peace will be ours despite the fury and foment of the world around us.”

- The NIV Application Commentary, John

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The Holy Spirit, John 16:1-15, 14 July 2013

Big Idea: When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we experience the fruit, gifts, and fullness of God in our lives to glorify Jesus.

Introduction

It could be said that one challenge people have with Jesus is that they can’t see Him. He’s not here. Jesus has left the building…and the planet. We worship a God who visited us for 33 years and then ascended into heaven more than 2000 years ago. But God is here; God the Holy Spirit.

Throughout the book of John, Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit. He predicts the events of the second chapter of Acts (one of the most exciting chapters in the entire Bible). We actually looked at the first verses of John 16 three weeks ago, but we’ll review them here. The context is Jesus predicting His death.

“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. (1-3)

Paul, the writer of much of the New Testament of the Bible, was once one of these people. Before his conversion to Christianity, he was a brilliant religious scholar, a Pharisee, named Saul who encouraged the stoning of Stephen and other early followers of Jesus (Acts 8:1). The irony is striking, yet even today there are people around the world that think they are offering a service to God by killing Christians.

I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. (4a)

A few weeks ago we talked about expectations. Jesus prepared His followers for the temporary suffering they would face in order to reap eternal rewards. Virtually every religion tries to sell the benefits of their faith, yet Jesus repeatedly goes out of His way to let people know they must count the cost before flippantly following Him.

I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. (4b-6)

Can you blame them for being filled with grief?

Imagine you devote your entire life to another person. All married couples should at least be able to imagine this! Now imagine they said they were going to leave. Now imagine they warned you about being ostracized from your community or even killed for your relationship with them. I would have grief! Jesus continues…


But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (7)

Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit. Why is the Holy Spirit coming rather than Jesus staying?

  1. Jesus was restricted by His human body, able to only be in one place at a time.
  2. Jesus came for one purpose—to die! He is about to do that as He says these words.
  3. The Holy Spirit is able to dwell inside believers. God will live inside people!
  4. The Holy Spirit will provide various gifts to believers.
  5. The fruit of the Holy Spirit will be produced in the lives of believers.

Furthermore,…


When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:8-11)

Jesus has talked about how the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, will defend believers and strengthen their witness. Now the defender becomes the prosecutor and judge.

First, the world refuses to believe Jesus as God. This is true today, too. It wants its own way, not God’s.

Second, they don’t understand the cross will proclaim His innocence and righteousness.

Finally, it is the world and satan that will be judged, not Jesus and His followers.


The Holy Spirit will do these things and more.

Jesus then says

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15)

Dr. Gary Burge wrote,

“The Spirit's sole ambition is to draw attention to Jesus and to reveal to us that Jesus has been raised from the dead and has ascended to his heavenly Father, of whom he is the one and only Son.”

-
The NIV Application Commentary, John

The Spirit does not take us deeper into ourselves but further out of ourselves where we find Jesus. The Spirit stirs us to long for Jesus.


So What?

The Holy Spirit may be the most underrated resource in the life of a follower of Jesus.

http://muddyrivermedia.org/media/propane

The Spirit is one of three Persons that make up the Trinity, our three-in-one God. The Trinity is a mystery, yet the Bible is clear that each is distinct yet fully God. When we receive Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit, too. The question is, are you filled with the Holy Spirit?

How do you know? In the previous chapter of John, Jesus said if we abide or connect with Him, we will bear fruit. Galatians 5 is explicit about what this fruit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

Are you a more loving person than you were on New Year’s Day?
Would friends say you are more joyful than a year ago?
Do you feel peace despite your circumstances?
Are you becoming more patient?
Is kindness a clear and obvious trait to co-workers or fellow students?
When is the last time someone commented on your goodness?
Could faithfulness describe your character?
Do you have a reputation for being gentle?
When is the last time you were out of control?

I have a fear. My fear is that as individuals, many of us know the Bible but not Jesus. We are religious, but not filled with the Holy Spirit.

We need the Holy Spirit. We all need more of the Holy Spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit by confessing our sins and then inviting the Spirit to come and fill us. This is not a one-time event or even an annual process, but an ongoing lifestyle of passionately pursuing God.

This (Galatians 5:22-23a) is what we are to look like. This is the fruit we are to bear. I pray that the power of the Holy Spirit would ignite our hearts. I pray that He would break our hearts with the things that break His heart, the lost and hurting. I pray that He would do a new thing in our church, replacing fatigue with fire, apathy with zeal, and complacency with compassion.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:18)

Every day we must pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit, sensitive to sin, and sensitive to the promptings of God.

In our text for today, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. We are on the other side of that promise. We have 24/7 access to the Holy Spirit, but it is not automatic. Like oxygen in our lungs, we must breathe in the Spirit daily, hourly.

Are you filled with the Holy Spirit or are you trying to live life from the heat of the pilot light (see video above)?

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Hated, John 15:18-16:4, 23 June 2013

Big Idea: The world will hate true followers of Jesus, but He is with us.

Introduction

As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus continues His farewell address to His eleven disciples prior to the crucifixion. Today’s text is especially sobering, especially in our USAmerican culture that values safety, comfort, pleasure, and popularity. I honestly wish passages such as this were not included, yet they are God’s Word and a vital reminder to us about the realities of following Jesus.

Jesus said

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (18-19)

Do you like to be liked? We all love to be surrounded by friends, family and fans that love us.

Do you like to be criticized or even hated? It’s a silly question.

A child of God cannot be popular with the world.

I’ve heard of some Christians that act like jerks to people and blame Jesus, saying that they are martyrs for their faith. Jesus is not saying we’ll be hated because
we offend people. He said we are not of this world and, therefore, as children of God, we serve Him and not the world.

There are two extremes that are dangerous. The first is syncretism. This is when we look and act just like everyone else. If we do not reflect the light of Christ in the darkness, we are just as dark as our surroundings.

The other extreme is separatism. This is when we avoid the world, separating ourselves, ignoring the darkness and keeping the light to ourselves.

We are called to participate in the
missio dei, the mission of God. We are called to be light in the darkness. The darkness hates light, but some will be drawn to it.

Virtually everything Jesus said and did was revolutionary and radical. He said the first will be last. He said to save your life you must lose it. He said to serve rather than be served.

Expect to be hated in the process.

Expectations

I believe one of the most important things in life is expectations. It is one of the secrets to peace and contentment. Let me explain.

When I do pre-marital counseling with couples, I confront two very different, broken human beings, each with a lifetime of experiences and baggage. That may not sound pleasant, but that’s reality. Often, people enter a marriage expecting the other to meet their needs and, as one actress famously said, “complete.” Needless to say, the expectations are frequently unrealistic.

On the other hand, I remember one couple that asked me to marry them. I knew them both and the extensive challenges each had, yet when we discussed their expectations, I was overjoyed to learn they were modest and honest. Because they entered marriage knowing they would face many difficulties, it’s not surprise to me that many years later they are among the most happily married couples I know.

Jesus did not want to paint a fantasy picture for His followers, past and present. Throughout His ministry, He “raised the bar,” challenged people, told them to count the cost, and even watched many turn away, unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to be His disciple.

When Jesus said Christians would be hated, He meant it. He didn’t say following Him would make us happy. He didn’t promise “best life now.” He never promised us a rose garden, a castle, or a Mercedes. Contrary to the message of a whole movement of so-called Christianity, it’s not about us. Jesus said it’s about His glory. He would die, and we would, too.

In this passage, Jesus contrasts following the world versus following Him. Like a man with one foot on a pier and the other on a boat about to drift away, we must make a choice. We can’t have it both ways.

Are you a follower of the world or a follower of Jesus?

We all know the right answer on Sunday morning, but tomorrow is the test. Will you go into debt like everyone else or save and give generously? Will you join the water cooler gossip or be a champion for the underdog and outcast? Will you tell that so-called “little white lie” or tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Will you fill your mind with the Word of God and devote yourselves to prayer or allow yourself to be entertained by the TV and Facebook?

Are you a follower of the world or a follower of Jesus?

Every day we answer this question with our checkbook and calendar.

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. (20-22)

He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (23-25)

Jesus is the light. The darkness hates the light.

At this moment, 50,000-70,000 of our brothers and sisters are facing hard labor and tortured in North Korea…for their faith. (
http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/politics/christians-imprisoned-and-tortured-in-north-korea.cfm)

That is just one of more than 50 nations where Christians are actively persecuted for their faith.

We must not be surprised when Jesus warned us more than 2000 years ago that this was inevitable, yet there are ways we can help, too. Visit persecution.com for details.

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
(26-27)

The Holy Spirit is predicted yet again.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit by confessing our sins and inviting Him into our lives, the presence of God Almighty lives in us. We are never alone. He is with us.

“All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.
(16:1-14)

Conclusion

This text seems distant to us, yet at this moment many of our spiritual siblings are reading this very text from prison, perhaps from a smuggled Bible. There are a few things we can do in response:

  1. Thank God for the freedoms we enjoy. They can be removed.
  2. Pray for the persecuted. Persecuted.com is a great place for resources. See below for other ways to get involved.
  3. Reflect upon your own life. If it became illegal to follow Jesus in this country, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Are you a follower of the world or a follower of Jesus?

Next Steps

http://www.prisoneralert.com/  This website is where people can choose a country/person, etc. of their choice and the website will populate a letter with up to 12 pre-selected phrases and translate them into the prisoner’s native tongue. Once complete, you print the letters and addresses. Some cases it is sent direct to the prisoner, and in others it is sent to the embassy or elected officials. . . you can track the number of letters receive updates on who has been released.
 
http://www.biblesunbound.com This website allows you to select a country or region of the world and send Bibles to those who have requested them. If it’s an open country, you will be sent a list of people who will receive your Bibles, so that you can pray for them as they receive and read them. And, near and dear to my heart, are the covert operations. You don’t get a list of names, but you assist in getting New Testaments into the hands of those behind closed or hostile areas (like Burma). These Bibles are delivered by courageous people who take these Bibles in at great risk. There is a map with little crosses to show you where your Bibles have been sent.
 
At 
http://www.persecution.com, under Give, is the opportunity to send funds specifically to the families of those who have been imprisoned for their faith and are no longer able to support their families. They also have a PSP program – which is similar to Compassion in sponsorship. In this instance, it’s a Christian worker in a persecuted country, that receives support to fund outreach and service to fellow Christians and non-believers.  http://www.persecution.com/psp this page has detailed information on what criteria is used to determine eligibility to receive support through this program.

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The Vine & The Branches, John 15:1-17, 2 June 2013

Big Idea: We must remain in Christ, even when we are being pruned.

Introduction

As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus continues His farewell address to His eleven disciples. They were in the Upper Room together before Jesus said, “Come now, let us leave” (14:31).

Now they are probably between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane. John 15 and 16 are likely describing their conversation during their walk.

Vines

Jesus may have walked by the gates of the temple. The gates were gold and woven with vines that stood for the nation of Israel.

There are several instances when vines are mentioned in the Old Testament as a symbol of Israel. In each, however, Israel was lacking somehow.

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. (Psalm 80:8-9)

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. (Isaiah 5:1-7)

I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? (Jeremiah 2:21)

Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones. (Hosea 10:1)

Jesus is going to talk about the vine, an image of the nation of Israel. Notice what He says.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. (15:1)

Jesus is not just any vine but the true vine. It’s easy for us to see this as merely a gardening metaphor but its symbolism is even more rich. If the vine is Israel and He is the true vine, He’s making a very bold statement.

True can be the opposite of false or the opposite of a counterfeit. Jesus is saying, “I’m the genuine vine.” Religion is not enough. Ceremonies and church attendance and giving to the poor is not enough. We need to identify with Jesus.

We must be joined to Jesus, the vine, in order to bear fruit.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (2-4)

“In” when it precedes Jesus refers to being in Christ, trust Him as both Savior and LORD. This passage is about believers.

Every unfruitful branch is cut off. Ouch!

He prunes/purges/cuts or washes it. The Word of God is a cleansing power.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (5-8)

The Parable of the Sower describes planting and harvesting.

What is fruit? The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

J. Vernon McGee said the fruit is

Prayer effectual (8)
Fruit perpetual (8)
Joy celestial (11)

How does God remove the branch? He takes them from the place of bearing fruit. They’re no longer effective in their ministry or they die (Ananias and Sapphira are an example).

Purge or pruning actually means “to cleanse” in the Greek. They used water to wash the vine from bugs and debris.

Pruning can be painful but it’s done to promote growth. We rarely grow through success, health, and happiness. Our greatest growth comes in the midst of defeat, loss, and suffering. A popular TV show years ago was called “Growing Pains.” No pain, no gain.

Pruning is not a sign that God is against us but that He loves us, He wants the best for us. As difficult as it is, we need to embrace pain.

The closer we get to the LORD, we less pain we feel. If you are ever in a fight, step toward the person.

Several years ago around New Year’s Day I was driving I-75 from Florida to Michigan. It’s a long drive, nearly 24 hours, and with everyone else in the vehicle sleeping I took some time to prayer, seeking God, His voice, and direction. I still remember five distinct words, not audible but clear: the tree will be pruned. I immediately knew He was speaking of the church where I was a pastor. It was a powerful, prophetic word that guided me throughout that year. We saw people leave our church, the numbers decreased, but the church became more healthy and strong.

Sometimes less is more. Sometimes God wants to clear out the baggage in our lives in order for us to produce more fruit—love, obedience and faithfulness in our lives.

Speaking of love, now we come to some love verses. Don’t mistaken these for greeting card sentiment. Jesus is going to tell us what love really is.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (9-11)

He again connects love and obedience.

He also mentions joy, part of the fruit of the Spirit.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. (12-17)

We can’t…unless we are connected to the Vine.

Conclusion

I have one simple question: are you connected to the true Vine?

The metaphor is clear: if we’re disconnected, we die.

There are many good things in our world that will give you inspiration and energy, but connecting a branch to a can of Coke or an electric socket or an iPhone or even the Bible won’t allow it to grow. The only way a branch can grow is if it is connected to a living, breathing vine, in this case Jesus Christ.

I want to conclude with some thoughts from A.W. Tozer’s class book
The Pursuit of God. Notice what he says about knowing Jesus Christ.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives…Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold "right opinions," probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the "program." This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.…The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can.
-
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, quoted in Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel (p. 125)
How is your relationship with Jesus? Living things grow. Remain in Him!

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The Holy Spirit, John 14:15-31, 26 MAy 2013

Big Idea: Jesus loved us enough to leave…in order to usher in the Holy Spirit

Introduction

What is the greatest thing you’ve ever waited for?

- spouse
  • job

Chicago Cubs fans have been waiting for them to win the World Series since 1908!

Was it worth it?

Last week in Jesus’ farewell to His disciples, He said it’s good that He leaves because He’s going to prepare a place for them. He’s getting the house ready but He’ll return.

In today’s passage as we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus continues His farewell address to His eleven disciples in the Upper Room.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to a loved one, but it’s easier if we know they are returning for a purpose...and that they will return.

Jesus is telling His friends that He is leaving, He is leaving for a noble purpose, He will die, AND He will return.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. (14:15)

We don’t usually command people to obey, except, perhaps, a parent to a child. This word “command” could be translated, “to watch carefully or attend to; training the eyes.” We will be attentive to Jesus’ commands if we love Him.

If you love Me, you’ll care about what I have to say and you’ll listen to my instructions. If you love Me, attend to my teachings.

Actions speak louder than words.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (16-17)

The Greek word translated “Counselor” in the NIV,
parakleton, might best be conveyed as “advocate,” someone like a defense attorney. “Para” means alongside and “kletos” is to call. The paraclete will come alongside and help in your defense.

Notice the Father will give “another” Counselor or advocate. The Father sent Jesus, and He will send the Holy Spirit.

Because of the Holy Spirit, we are better off today than the disciples. We have 24/7 access to God through the Holy Spirit. Last week we noted we will do greater things.

The Greeks used the same word for truth and reality. Usually it conveyed reality. Jesus is offering us a Spirit of reality, access to things that are most real. We live in a world of illusions and delusions.

For example, we believe we are entitled to at least seventy or eighty years of healthy living on this planet. Anything less and we are robbed. This is an illusion because every day is a gift we receive. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Jesus says, “I will introduce you to reality.”

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (18-21)

I cannot imagine being an orphan. The pain of being alone in the world must be excruciating. Jesus says He will return.

What does Jesus mean when He says, “I will come to you? It could refer to one of three things.

- second coming
- the Holy Spirit
- most likely the resurrection on Easter

We are containing the divine. This is a radical reality.

Paul will write that we are “in Christ.”

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (22)

J. Vernon McGee notes Judas is the first missionary. His concern is for the world. Is yours?

Back in John 1:10, we saw Jesus in the that He made, yet the world didn’t know Him.

John 3:16 says God so loved the world.

Much of the world does not love God today.

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (23-24)

This is pretty straightforward.

Now Jesus gives a sneak preview of Pentecost Sunday, which was actually last Sunday on the Christian calendar. The second chapter of the book of Acts will record the moment in which the Holy Spirit is activated on earth. Jesus says,

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (25-27)

Verse 25 was long a source of Church history, some believing the Father sent the Spirit and others saying the Father and the Son sent the Spirit (Nicene Creed).

Notice the Spirit will help John and the others remember what Jesus said and they will write it down!

Jesus’ legacy to His followers was Peace; Shalom. This is not a temporary, earthly peace but a divine peace with God (Romans 5:1) that cannot be disrupted.

The passage concludes with Jesus saying…

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

Jesus knows satan is coming.

Finally...

“Come now; let us leave.
(28-31)

Go...with the Word of the Father, the truth of the Holy Spirit, and the peace of God.

It’s almost time for us to leave, too!

As we await Your return, LORD Jesus, may the power of the Holy Spirit be alive in our lives. Fill us, Holy Spirit. In Jesus Name, amen.

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The Way, John 14:1-14, 19 May 2013

Big Idea: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

Introduction

Who are you? How do you introduce yourself?

We commonly ask people, “What do you…do?” Our occupation is very important, be it an engineer, a student, a barista, or a teacher. Much of life involves work, but it does not define who we are—or it shouldn’t.

Who are you?

We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John.

Last Sunday in John 13 we saw Jesus begin His farewell address to His eleven disciples following Judas Iscariot’s departure. This extensive scene continues in chapter fourteen.

Here we will continue to see who Jesus is as described by John.

Who is Jesus?

Earlier this year, Pastor Judah Smith wrote a book called
Jesus is ______. The companion website, www.Jesus-Is.org has some interesting submissions taken from visitors to the site.

John has used several words to describe Jesus thus far. Jesus is…

- the bread of life (6:35-51)
  • the light of the world (8:12)
  • the I am (8:58)
  • the gate (10:7, 9)
  • the good shepherd (10:11,14)
  • the resurrection and the life (11:25)

In today’s passage we will see at least three more words that Jesus uses to describe Himself.

I must warn you, though. We will examine what is probably the most offensive and controversial verse in the entire Bible.

The Scene: This is a continuation of last week’s passage, dubbed a farewell.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (14:1-4)

Why were their hearts troubled? He was leaving! This is a continuation of last week’s passage dubbed a farewell. Their reaction is understandable! Like many farewells discourses, there is encouragement to not be afraid.

Jesus is preparing them for His departure while assuring them of His return. There’s a tremendous difference between “goodbye” and “see you later.” A departure is even easier to accept when there is a purpose behind it, a purpose which will benefit those left behind.

What is His Father’s house? How do we get to the Father’s house? Thomas doesn’t know, either!

Jesus used the expression of “his father’s house” once before in Luke 2:49 in reference to the Temple. The Temple was the place where earth and heaven met. Here we see Him talking about a new city, a new house. When God renews the whole world, heaven and earth will meet again.

The King James translation says “mansions.” Some have described “rooms” as “suites,” places where Jesus lives which are the places He desires for us to enter. “Dwelling places” is a good translation. Heaven is awaiting our arrival.

It was common in the day for a groom to build an addition onto his father’s house and use it for the home of him and his bride. Jesus says He is doing the same, preparing a place in His Father’s house for His Bride, the Church, the fellowship of believers.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (5)

Get ready. Jesus is about to deliver what I believe is the most offensive, politically-incorrect message that has ever been made.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
(6-7)

You don’t have to like it or believe it, but this is what Jesus said. This is His answer to the question, “Who are you?” If you deny it, you deny Him.

Jesus makes three statements in one sentence:

He is the way.
He is the truth.
He is the life.

Actually, the grammar suggests He is saying, “I am the way because I am the truth and because I am the life.”

Ancient Jewish literature refers to the “way(s) of truth” as a life lived according to God’s law (e.g. Ps. 119:30). Early Christ-followers were said to be followers of “The Way.”

In the Old Testament, what was the way? The law.

He leaves little doubt about His exclusive claims in the next verse by saying He is the only way to the Father. Furthermore, if we know Jesus, we know the Father (see Acts 4:12).

These claims are staggering, and ultimately get Him crucified. Once again Jesus says, “I am God. I am not merely a good teacher or prophet or miracle worker. I am God.”

In our spiritual culture today, conventional wisdom says that all roads lead to God. This really makes no logical sense, but it makes people feel good and avoids making anyone uncomfortable. If I disagree with you about something—even respectfully and with love—I’m quickly labeled intolerant and hateful. But think about this for a moment: what if I said that I believed my pathway to God was going in the back yard and digging a hole because I believed God was in the middle of the earth. Would you encourage me? What if I said I was waiting for Winnie the Pooh to come to my house and drive me to heaven in his Pooh-mobile? What if I said God told me the way to eternal life could only come by chopping down every tree in Ann Arbor and offering it as a burnt offering?

You would probably say I’m delusional. I’m not saying that followers of other religions are delusional, but I am saying that this notion that all roads lead to God is illogical. Most people of faith believe their way is
the way, despite the messages of the media that you only need to be sincere. But what if you are sincerely wrong?

Jesus makes some radical claims in these three statements. He doesn’t say He’s a way to get to God like we would say I-94 is one way to get to Lansing (you could take I-96 or Grand River Avenue or others). He doesn’t say He’s a way to get to God like we would say you could take a car to Lansing…or a truck or train or helicopter or bicycle. He says He is
the way like there is one way to enter a bird house or one way to buy gas at Sam’s Club (plastic; they don’t take cash or checks!) or one way to eat Oreos—dipping them first in milk (ha!). Like a computer password, there is only one correct response.

With all due respect to people of other faiths, only Jesus claimed to be God. Only Jesus died for you. Only Jesus offers grace. Only Jesus lived a perfect life. Only Jesus…

He is unique. He is greater. He is God. If there is any doubt, look at the following verses.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (8)

Thomas and Peter aren’t the only ones who are clueless. Philip doesn’t understand, either.

Moses asked to see the Father’s glory (Ex. 33:18). Isaiah was given a vision of “the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted” (Isaiah 6:1) before announcing that the glory of the Lord would be revealed through the Messiah (40:5).

Here Jesus is exasperated. How clueless can he be?!

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’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (9-11)

Again Jesus says that He is God, one-third of the Trinity, one God in three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit.

Jesus never makes a decision based upon His preferences or conventional wisdom, but rather the will of the Father.

Now we come to one of the most fascinating and misunderstood passages in the Bible.


I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (12)

What has Jesus been doing?

Raising the dead, healing the sick, forgiving sins.

What does this say? If we have faith in Jesus, we will do what He has been doing…and even greater things. Wow! These are still works of Jesus, though. Following Jesus’ death on the cross, the power of death is defeated and new possibilities exist. The eleven disciples and others will succeed Jesus on earth, doing the work of the Father. Jesus’ works were evidence that the Father was at work in Him, and the disciples are about to receive the baton.

For example, after Jesus ascended to the Father, Peter preached to 3000 converts in one day. Jesus never did that! As we will see in future weeks, Jesus left the Holy Spirit whose presence is global rather than local.

The greatest miracle is not the blind seeing or water turned into wine, but dead people—spiritually dead people—coming to life. Jesus tells His friends that they will be empowered for ministry and missionary work around the globe.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
(13-14)

Jesus says He will do whatever is asked in His name. Does that mean we can ask to win the lottery and then add “in Jesus’ Name” and wait for the checks to arrive in the mail? Hardly, though many that follow “name it and claim theology” wrongfully teach God wants us to be rich and in perfect health, a complete insult to the life of Christ Himself who was the suffering servant.

Imagine that I worked for the IRS, I sent you a bill, and you wrote a check to the IRS and sent it to me. Is it my check? Can I cash it? Of course not. It’s not about me but about the IRS.

In the same way we are to pray in Jesus’ Name. We are to seek His will. We are to ask for things that honor and glorify God, and when we do, it will surely be. Anything we ask for in His Name and according to His will Jesus will do. It’s a promise!

Conclusion

In the words of NT Wright,

“Don’t come with a set, fixed idea of who God is, and try to fit Jesus into that. Look at Jesus, the Jesus who wept at the tomb of his friend, the Jesus who washed his followers’ feet, and you’ll see who is the true God. That was Jesus’ answer to Philip. It is His answer to the natural questions that arise i people’s minds today. Only when his followers are themselves continuing to do what Jesus did may they be believed when they speak the earth-shattering truth that he spoke.”

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Love One Another, John 13:18-38, 12 May 2013

Big Idea: Love one another!

Introduction

We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John.

After twelve chapters chronicling the public ministry of Jesus, we began chapter thirteen last Sunday, the events leading up to the cross.

We saw Jesus in the Upper Room washing the feet of His disciples, demonstrating what it means to truly serve. In addition to audacious Peter, Judas Iscariot was both present and a recipient of Jesus’ love and service.

Jesus is in the midst of a tradition known as a farewell. It became a literary genre. We have the farewells of Moses, Solomon, and many others, either actual or possible.

All Jewish farewells had four parts:

  1. A plea to obedience (Deut. 32:46)
  2. A plea to study the Word of God
  3. A promise that God’s Spirit will remain (Deut. 34)
  4. A promise/blessing of comfort (Deut. 33)

Our culture does not usually contain farewells. I have experienced two, both from Alzheimer’s victims (my dad and Darrell Prichard).

If you had a week to live, what would you tell your family and friends? Would you talk about the new Leonard DiCaprio movie or the next iPhone?

Jesus knows He’s about to die, and though He wants to avoid the agony of it, He faces death itself with confidence, knowing it is the Father’s will.

Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples, perhaps the most humbling act possible, and now they engage in the traditional Passover meal. Verse 18 begins by Jesus saying

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ (18)

He quotes Psalm 41:9, referring to Judas Iscariot. It’s incredible to imagine Jesus washing the feet of the one who will betray Him moments later.

“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (19-20)

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” (21)

His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” (22-24)

Nobody had a clue as to who it would be.

Who is the disciple that Jesus loved? John, almost certainly.

Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” (25)

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. (26-27a)

This is Judas’ last chance, though He knew what Judas would do.

J. Vernon McGee says that God ratifies human decisions. We choose and God seconds the motion.

“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (27b-30)

Do it quickly. The religious leaders didn’t want to crucify Jesus during the feast.

The disciples were clueless (again!). It was night, devil’s night. Judas leaves.

Night was both a description and a symbol that the end of Jesus’ life is coming. The grand farewell begins at verse 31.

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. (31-32)

Jesus is preparing to be glorified in His death…and resurrection.

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. (33)

Why does He call them children? This is the only time John uses this Greek word,
teknion, an endearing term used between parents and their children. It’s an intimate expression.

He’s about to leave them.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (34-35)

What’s new about it?

Leviticus 19 says to love your neighbor as yourself, something Jesus often quoted. This love is more descriptive—a dramatic, sacrificing love as He demonstrated. “As I have loved you.”

Jesus is concerned that His followers would love one another. This is His
command.

What is the hallmark of followers of Jesus? Our theology? Our church attendance? Bible-reading? Mission trips? Charitable donations? The world will know we follow Jesus if we love one another.

Tertullian, a Roman historian who lived in the late second to early third centuries (AD 155-220), wrote that even those who opposed Christianity knew that the mutual love of those who followed Christ was unique. “Our care for the derelict and our active love have become our distinctive sign before the enemy … See, they say, how they love one another and how ready they are to die for each other.” (Apology 39)

We have failed and the world has noticed.

This clearly impacted John, who later wrote

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19)

Dr. Gary Burge has observed three things about the love Jesus describes.

Love is connected to obedience. It’s not merely a feeling but an action. (14:31)
Love is about sacrifice. Feet washing and the crucifixion are two examples. (15:31)
We know John 3:16. but 1 John 3:16 is also notable.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 John 3:16-17)

Love is connected to witness. Our greatest testimony is not our words but our life together. (15:35)

You can’t force yourself to love someone. We can’t just try harder to love an lovable person. Instead we need divine intervention. We love because He first loved us. Only by knowing God and experiencing His love can we become like Jesus and love others.

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” (36a)

Children ask this frequently? Where are you going? Can I come with you?

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (36b)

Where is Jesus going? He is going to die.

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (37)

He doesn’t want to wait. He wants to be with Jesus.

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (38)

Conclusion

I pray that we would be known by our love for one another.

Credits

Some ideas taken from Dr. Gary Burge, Willow Creek Midweek podcast, 4/12/12

You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Serving, John 13:1-17, 5 May 2013

Big Idea: We are to serve others as Jesus has served us.

Introduction

We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John.

The first twelve chapters have presented Jesus’ public ministry and miracles, what some call the Book of Signs. Now everything shifts toward the cross and what follows.

The second half of the Gospel—or “good news”—is sometimes referred to as the Book of Glory.

Jesus gave four major discourses

Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 13, the Mystery Parable discourse
Matthew 24-25, the Olivet discourse

Now we come to the Upper Room discourse that covers John 13-17. It is the longest of the four.

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (13:1)

He knows He’s about to die. He prepares His final words to His followers.

If you knew one of your best friends was going to betray you, leading to the electric chair, what would you say or do?

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (13:2-5)

Jesus’ decision to wash his disciples’ feet flows from His assurance of His relationship with God (13:3). He knows both his origins and his destiny and, therefore, the authority He was given.

These four verses are actually one long sentence. He knows Judas is going to betray Him and He responds by washing the feet of His disciples. This is what He does on the cross—He washes and cleanses His enemies.

Some believe Jesus is washing feet today.

He set aside His robe and took a linen cloth. He takes on the role of a servant.

Feet Washing

This was a common practice in the day. Upon entering a home, either the slaves would do it for the guests or the basin would be provided for guests to wash their own feet. Servants did not wash the feet of others, only slaves. It was the lowest task in the society. Many Jews required Gentile slaves to wash feet rather than a Jewish slave. Rarely did a non-slave wash feet, but then always a servant or disciple washing their master’s feet.

Jesus not only washed the feet of His disciples, He knowingly washed the feet of His enemy, Judas Iscariot.

Prior to this account, the disciples were fighting about who was the greatest among them, a scene described in the other “synoptic” Gospels.

When we encounter others, do we pursue status or service?

Peter

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (6)

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (7)

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
(8)

Jesus tells Peter He will have no fellowship with him. One of the primary gifts of the covenant dating back to Abraham is life with Jesus, life with God. Feet washing is not merely a gesture of fellowship. It is only the death of Jesus (and its acceptance by the believer) that brings eternal life.

Today we are cleansed by the Word of God.

If we are to have fellowship with Jesus, He must cleanse us.

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (9)

Only Peter would have the audacity to say this!

Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. (10-11)

Jesus’ cleansing work—feet twashing, symbolizing spiritual cleansing on the cross—is complete in itself. Peter does not need more.

“A person who has a bath needs only to wash feet; his whole body is clean” may be a secondary exhortation underscoring the importance of a believer’s baptism. We are washed completely at baptism but as our feet gather dirt and sin we need to frequently wash them. We need to be purified along the pilgrim pathway. We get dirty on our life journey.

As John will later write,

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

The account continues…

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (12-17)

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Although it is not so in the tradition of our tribe, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, there are other denominations and prominent church leaders that have considered feet washing an ordinance alongside baptism and communion. My ordination is through such a group, the Churches of God, General Conference. When I first heard feet washing had such significance, I was skeptical. After all, Jesus didn’t really mean for us to actually wash feet, right?

But what did He say?

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Feet washing is obviously not a recognized cultural expression as it was when people walked everywhere—in sandals. Theological, Leonard Sweet, has said that a modern-day equivalent might be shoe shines!

Regardless of the manner in which one serves, the point is clear: serve! Jesus reversed the cultural norms, the King of kings stooping down to serve His sinful subjects.

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Are you a servant?

Husbands, how do you serve your wife?
Wives, how do you serve your husband?
Students, how do you serve your parents?
Singles, how do you serve your friends and co-workers? Your boss?

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

It’s not about whether or not someone deserves it or not. Love your enemies. Serve your enemies. Pray prayers of blessing on them.

No love is deserved. Eventually everyone will wrong you...and you will wrong them, too.

What if you made it a private game to out-serve those around you?

What if we did as a Scio family? How can we reach out to the poor, the widow, the orphan? Maybe it means becoming a foster parent. Perhaps it means volunteering at Hope Clinic. It might involve devoting more of your finances to those less fortunate.

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

It will involve sacrifice.

If you are at all like me, you think, “I’ll serve when it’s convenient, when I have extra time or energy. I’ll serve when I feel like it, when I feel good about it, when I get appreciated, and when it’s convenient to do so.”

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Conclusion

Jesus’ love and service for us transform and empower us. Without His love, we cannot love others. Without His example of servanthood, we cannot serve others. We love because He first loved us.

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Praise (God!) John 12:37-50, 28 April 2013

Big Idea: Do you seek the praise of God or the praise of people?

Introduction

We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John.

Before we begin, I want to remind you of the context. We are going back to before the crucifixion where Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead.

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (37-38)

Centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah said the Messiah’s signs would not lead everyone to faith. Contrary to what some people say, experiencing a miracle or even Jesus in the flesh does not guarantee faith.

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn — and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. (39-40)

It’s possible for a man to wake up and say he won’t see by keeping their eyes closed.

Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:10)

Faith is a gift from God, yet not all believe. Moses did multiple miracles in front of Pharaoh, a man who refused to believe. John told us in his first chapter (1:11) that Jesus’ own people would not receive Him. How is this possible? God’s sovereignty (in control) and human responsibility are held together consistently throughout John’s Gospel.

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. (42-43)

This is one of the most sobering passages in the Bible. People believed in Jesus. In fact, there were leaders that believed in Jesus. They knew He was the real deal. Whether it was His teaching or miracles or lifestyle, they believed in Him.

But!

“But” must be one of the most tragic words in the English language.

“I like you and all but…”
“They were going to, but…”
“I’d love to come…but…”
“They were winning the game, but…”

What kept these leaders from following Jesus?
Fear!

They were afraid of the Pharisees. They feared expulsion from the Synagogue (see 9:22). They were afraid of offending others, though they didn’t fear offending Jesus.

How do we offend Jesus? It all goes back to the first two commandments, you know, God’s top ten list.

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)

What is your god? For these leaders, it was the praise of men rather than the praise of God. Your god is what you seek.

I doubt you worship a statue. You probably don’t say prayers to the stars. It’s very tempting to please men—or even please yourself.

In David Platt’s book
Radical, he notes

I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.

Whether it is approval addiction or self-absorption, the essence of faith is total surrender. As we said last week, we need to empty ourselves before the Holy Spirit can fill us. We need to die to ourselves in order for Christ to live in us.

“…they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” The Greek word here for “praise” could also mean “glory” or “reputation” or honor.” Doesn’t that describe us? I know that describes me. I don’t want to look like a fool. I want to keep my reputation intact. I don’t want to offend anyone or be controversial so I blend in. I make those around me comfortable…in order for me to be comfortable.

Jesus does not want secret followers. In fact, secret follower is likely an oxymoron! Jesus says choose: light or darkness, Jesus or the world/yourself, open-handed surrender or control

Don’t forget this promise from last week:

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:26)

That’s how we get the praise of God…by serving and following Jesus.

Personal faith does not mean it is to remain private. We must go public and let our words and actions show others Jesus…and the Father.

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (44-46)

Jesus cried out. There’s great emotion there. He is passionate about His relationship to the Father. He is the light.

“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 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. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (47-50)

It’s not enough to hear the Word. We must do what it says (Matthew 7:24-27; James 2:14-26)

The passage ends with a note about Jesus’ teaching, something we’ll pick up on next week in chapter thirteen.

Conclusion

My prayer for Scio is that we would be radical. We would glorify God on Sunday…and the rest of the week. We would b.l.e.s.s. those around us, getting beyond the safe, comfortable and convenient to really caring about the lost, the broken, the abandoned, the bullied, the outcast. We would not consider our time together as the end of our spiritual formation but rather the beginning of a week pursuing Jesus in order to become His beautiful Bride.

It begins with me. It begins with you.

We are blessed to know the Truth and be able to share it with others. Some will accept while others will reject it. It was true 2000 years ago and it’s true today. If we refuse to believe, the light disappears, and our nation seems to get darker as an increasing number of people reject faith in Christ.

Those who refuse to believe will experience judgment. Faith has eternal consequences.

Fear…or faith? The praise of people…or the praise of people?

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

It's Time! John 12:20-36, 21 April 2013

Big Idea: Do people see Jesus in you?

Introduction

We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John.

Before we begin, I want to remind you of the context. We are going back to before the crucifixion where Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead.

Like a movie that has flashbacks, the next few weeks will seem like a step back in time, but keep in mind these events occur prior to Good Friday.

Palm Sunday has passed, the crowds have welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, and now we begin at John 12:17...

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (12:17-19)

John 12:20-36

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. (12:20-22)

Why would Greeks worship at the Passover feast? They may have been what we would call attendees rather than members. Most likely they were God-fearers repelled by the nationalism and requirements of Judaism, such as circumcision (can you blame them?!). They were Gentiles that had obviously heard about Jesus. Everyone in the region had heard about Jesus!

Notice their request:
we would like to see Jesus.

I believe this is the cry of the human heart today. People struggle with identity. They struggle with anthropology—what it means to be human. Jesus is the ultimate example for us. He is the perfect human. He is the wisest man to ever walk the planet, the smartest man in human history, and the fullest expression of what we were created to become.

Jesus’ mission was not only to die and resurrect; it also included a demonstration of abundant life lived out for thirty three years.

It’s easy to call Jesus our
Savior. Anyone faintly aware of their sin is quick to receive grace and salvation, salvation only He offers (Acts 4:12). But Jesus is more than our Savior.

He is also our
Healer. We all like that, too. Who doesn’t like free health care?

Jesus is our
coming King. That means He is LORD. When you serve a lord, you give up all of your rights and freedoms to become essentially a slave to your master. This quickly gets uncomfortable, doesn’t it? The good news is that He is a benevolent King, a LORD who loves us and wants our very best. He’s not out to get us and use and abuse us, but He is still King and bids us to come and die…but we’ll get there in a moment.

Jesus is also our
sanctifier, meaning He wants us to be transformed and become more human—more like the ultimate Human, Jesus Himself. He wants us to be free from sin and be set apart for His purposes.

Most USAmerican Christians show little evidence in their lives that they have been separated from sin.
Most USAmerican Christians behave in ways that make it difficult to believe that they have been “set apart” for the service of God.

The people want to see Jesus. Today, people want to see Jesus. They may not say it that way. They may say they want to experience meaning and purpose, they long for a better world, they know this world is broken, and they wonder whether anyone really cares.

This past week in Boston we were reminded just how broken our world really is, and each day there are countless people searching ever more fervently for the Truth.

They struggle with issues of value, identity, and worth. They need to see a life well-lived, and no one has lived a better life than Jesus.

How can people see Jesus today? It has been said that you are the only Bible many will ever read. Jesus entrusted the Kingdom of God to us. We’re it!
When people get connected to you, do they see Jesus?

If people were looking for you, what would you say? Here I am?!

Notice Jesus’ response...

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (12:23-26)

These people are looking for Jesus and He talks about seeds, plants, life, death, servants, and masters. Huh? Verse 32 will help us understand, but notice these stories.

These four verses are so powerful. Jesus says die…so you can live. What a paradox!

Remember, we know what follows, but His disciples are largely clueless about His talk of death.

The people are looking for Jesus, and He says if they want to see Him, they must know Him, and they know Him by dying, being planted, risking everything. In Romans 6, this picture of being planted is presented as dying with Christ in baptism and faith. Baptism is such a great image—we enter the water to die in a water grave and then we are resurrected to new life in Christ. Jesus wants everything. He wants you to die—not to harm you, but so that you may truly live.

Many times previously Jesus has said that it was not yet time.
Now is the time. These are the final days before His death. It’s no wonder He continues...

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (12:27-28a)

Jesus’ time has finally arrived and He is…troubled! The Word that became flesh is troubled. Does that surprise you? His soul is horrified by what He is about to face.

Notice it’s not about Him, though. It’s about glorifying the Father. Jesus sets the example for us yet again, seeking to glorify God the Father. He was willing to do whatever necessary to ensure God was glorified.

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. (12:28b-29)

Can you imagine hearing an audible voice from heaven? This wasn’t the first time (e.g. Luke 3:22; 9:35).

It’s fascinating how some thought it was thunder or an angel. What does the Word of God sound like to you?

Jesus said, “Father, glorify Your Name” and the Father said He would be glorified by the Son.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (12:30-33)

The prince of this world, satan, looked like the victor on Good Friday, but it was actually his greatest defeat. Over the next few weeks as we look at the days before the cross, we’ll see satan repeatedly. If you’ve seen the film
The Passion of the Christ, you surely remember the multiple times satan appears.

Jesus was lifted up on the cross and also later during His ascension into heaven.

Jesus will draw all men, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, young and old. For God so loved the whole world that He gave His Son, Jesus.

The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” (12:34)

They were expecting Messiah to overthrow the government. They never imagined the government would overthrow and crucify Him.

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (12:35-36)

Throughout His ministry, Jesus was in complete control, not because He was belligerent, but rather because He was following the Father’s will and timing.

His message to the twelve is the same message to us: follow Me. Trust Me. Surrender to Me. Die so you may live.
It’s time!

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Awake My Soul, John 12:1-18, 31 March 2013

Big Idea: God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

Happy Resurrection Sunday! Many refer to it, appropriately, as Easter, though others find the pagan roots of the name disturbing. Whatever you call it, it’s a great day…and a great time of year. For many of you, today signifies the end of lent and you can go back to eating meat or watching TV or whatever you gave up for the season. Today signals that it’s time to be spring, whether it feels like it or not!

“Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.” - Martin Luther

You may not know it, but today is actually the unofficial first day of spring, also known as baseball’s Opening Day (though the Tigers don’t start until tomorrow). Of course, the real celebration is that of the resurrection of Jesus. This is the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, 4th of July and New Year’s Day all wrapped up in one celebration, a celebration that comes once a year but is actually celebrated every day for followers of Christ.

We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John. Last week we were in chapter 12. Today we are skipping ahead to chapter 20. The seven chapters in between tell the account of the week beginning with Palm Sunday that included the Last Supper, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. In future weeks we’ll go back to them, but following our remembrance of Christ’s death on Good Friday, we jump to the resurrection account.

Let me state up front that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we are wasting our time—not only now but every time we gather, every moment we pray, and every minute we spend reading the Bible. The resurrection is the pivotal moment in human history, the day in which everything changed, literally.

Paul, once one of the greatest enemies of the movement of Jesus Christ, became one of His most ardent followers and said

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

Put another way, if Jesus is dead, our faith is dead. Our hope is dead. Our life is dead.

But for more than 2000 years people have been searching for the dead body of Jesus and what have they discovered?

Nothing! Nada! Zip!

What a difference nothing makes!

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (1-2)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (20:3-9)

Peter and John raced. John says he won!

No thief would’ve taken the time to fold the grave cloths!

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. (10-12)

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
(13-14)

“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
(15)

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (16)

He knows your name, too!

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (17-18)

I think it’s great that women are the first people that see the resurrected Jesus. He did so much to liberate women and this is no exception. They are the ones who get to tell the eleven disciples that Jesus is alive!

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

Jesus is not the only example.

Last week in John 12 we looked at the story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus was not the first—nor the last—person to come back from the dead. There are elements of The Walking Dead that are real!

Matthew’s biography of Jesus includes one of my favorite images in the entire Bible.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)

Matthew’s Jewish readers would recognize this bizarre episode of the Walking Dead as similar to yet another example of God resurrecting the dead. The account is found in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. The context is the people of Israel, an exiled nation longing to return to their homeland.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
(37:1-3)

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” (4-6)

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. (7-8)

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army. (9-10)

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”
(11-14)

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. (Isaiah 26:19)

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people — everyone whose name is found written in the book — will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:1-3)

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.


Jesus’ death and resurrection have a strong theological meaning for Matthew...and for us. God is restoring Israel, and on the back of Israel, He is restoring the nations, the Gentiles...us! Jesus’ death and resurrection were not isolated events in ancient history, but the most powerful and vivid reminder that our God is the God of salvation and restoration.

It’s easy to dismiss the resurrection of Jesus as merely an historical event. He came back from the dead, but He’s God, right?

Yes, but God has a habit of resurrecting the dead—not only Lazarus and Jesus and these dry bones, but also us today. As a pastor, I’ve had a front row seat watching God at work, resurrecting the dead. Here are a few examples:

  1. My friend who was on the verge of hopelessness and despair, lonely and broken. Since she surrendered her life to the risen Christ, she has come alive. Her soul has been awakened and she’s a new creation.

  1. Several years ago some dear friends approached my wife and I and said their marriage was a wreck. Lies and infidelity had invaded their relationship. After years of hard work and the risen Christ, their marriage has come alive. Their relationship has been awakened and they are not only together but now helping other seemingly hopeless marriages.

  1. In 2009 a family I know had more than $300,000 in medical bills that were not covered by insurance. Aside from their mortgage, they ended the year debt-free as God awakened their finances.

What about you?
What is dead that only God can resurrect? A relationship? Your career? Your broken body?

Don’t misunderstand me. God is not a cosmic genie waiting to obey our every command. He is, however, the author of life (Acts 3:15). He is life. As we saw a few weeks ago, Jesus said

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Did you catch that? Jesus
is life—the way, the truth, the life. He is the only way to the Father. He is the only way to life.

Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility and our ultimate destiny. - Rick Warren

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

He wants to offer you life—eternal life…and rich, wild, and abundant life now (John 10:10). He wants to awaken your soul. He wants you to live a life of freedom, faith, hope and love. Jesus died so that you might have life!

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The Walking Dead, John 11:38-57, 17 March 2013

Big Idea: Jesus specializes in raising the dead. He is life!

Zombies!

For reasons unknown to me, zombies are all the rage in our culture today. There are books, films, walks, and even festivals! Have you noticed? There are various definitions of zombies, but for our purposes let’s define them as dead people that come to life. It sounds crazy doesn’t it? It’s clearly the stuff of movies and TV shows like The Night of the Living Dead and The Walking Dead. Some are even preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse! Are you a fan of zombies?

Perhaps one of the attractions of zombies is that we are afraid of death, but zombies is such a ridiculous notion that we can get creeped out but not truly afraid since we all know zombies are fiction and dead people don’t come back to life…right?

If you’re easily offended, don’t read the Bible! There are some very disturbing images in the pages of Scripture, including today’s text. The Bible is not Rated G!

We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

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

The first ten chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

It’s easy to skim through familiar stories, but as we read the narrative, imagine you had never heard it previously. Imagine that you have no idea what follows and each word is a choice mortal in your ears.

Last Week

The first part of John 11 describes Jesus being told that His friend, Lazarus, is sick. Instead of healing Him, Jesus hangs out for two days only to learn that He has died. Mary and Martha understandably question Jesus, saying that if only He had gone to their brother, He could’ve been healed and they would’ve been spared the tremendous grief and loss of this deeply-loved man. They said, “If only…” and the challenge last week was whether we love and trust God because of what He does for us or simply for who He is. Is your faith dependent upon answered prayer?

Jesus’ friend Lazarus is dead. His sisters can’t understand why Jesus didn’t heal him. But the story’s not over!

Scene Four

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “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.” (38-39)

Jesus is “once more deeply moved,” though the Greek verb mentioned last week is used again here, meaning outraged. Jesus is life, and here He is facing His opponent, death.

This was a “rolling stone” tomb that could be rolled, like a giant stone wheel.

We said last week that four days in the tomb was significant because the rabbinic teachings believed that when a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for three days so if the body was resuscitated, the spirit would return to it. After three days, the spirit was gone and there was no hope for the body.

In an early medieval Jewish tradition, Jews would actually go to the cemetery three days after burial to see if the person was living (I wonder how often they were surprised!).

Martha rightly cautions Jesus about the smell. Dead things stink, especially after four days! John wants us to know that Lazarus was clearly dead.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (40)

As we have noted so many times previously, God’s timing is never late but rarely early. His glory is far more important than our temporary happiness.

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 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.” (41-42)

It is obvious that Jesus has already been praying for Lazarus. It’s not an impulsive request.

He looked up. This was common posture for Jewish prayer, looking up and likely with hands raised. He prays aloud not to impress, but to allow those around to hear His conversation with the Father. He says, “Father” rather than “our father” to show the intimacy in their relationship. Jesus was constantly following the mission and will of the Father.

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.”
(43-44)

Jesus uses an authoritative shout to call Lazarus.

Dead Man Walking! Here is one of the first zombies in the Bible! I love the phrase, “The dead man came out.” Wow!

Can you imagine being a character in this story? An eyewitness?

Dead bodies were considered unclean and untouchable in Jewish law, but Jesus had a reputation for touching the untouchable and most likely gave Lazarus an embrace that some would’ve found offensive.

Lazarus

There are many biblical stories that I wish were captured on video! This is certainly one of them. What was the reaction of Martha? Mary?

What was Lazarus’ reaction! What did he think about all of this? Would you want to return to this planet after four days of “sleeping?” I’m sure his sisters were delighted, but I wonder if Lazarus wanted to return! Of course, he did eventually. They say that death and taxes are the only certainties in life. Lazarus was given a second life—bonus time—but he eventually died. As we noted last week, death is merely sleeping for the believer. Jesus offers real, eternal life to those who respond to His invitation. He created us and is able to recreate us, providing freedom from both sin and death.

I often wonder how anyone can live without Jesus. Death surrounds us. You are one day closer to the grave than you were yesterday! You can be one day closer to eternal life with Jesus, though, which is far greater than anything this life can offer.

“Death is but a gateway to further life and fellowship with God.” - L. Morris

One More Thing…

You might think that anyone who witnessed this scene followed Jesus, but tragically that was not the case.

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
(45-46)

This is Jesus’ last public appearance before His death. His public ministry ends here. Some saw the dead raised but they still didn’t believe. Instead, they tattled on Jesus to the religious leaders who would have Him crucified.

The problem is not with the evidence but the unbelief of man. Many say they will belief if they see Jesus or a miracle, but many saw dead Lazarus raised from the dead and still refused to believe. Signs alone cannot prompt faith. Experience alone is not enough to persuade the human heart. This is why we need words to accompany our deeds.

Not only did eyewitnesses not believe in Jesus, this beautiful miracle or resurrection actually led to Jesus’ death!

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. 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.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

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.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 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?” 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.
(John 11:47-57)

So what?

There are many people today that are zombies. They are the walking dead. They were at one point dead in their sin, yet they have come alive in Jesus Christ. Jesus is life! He is The way, The truth, and The life (John 14:6).

Sometimes God answers our prayers instantly. Sometimes He takes His time! Hebrews 11 tells us that many of us will live our entire lives seeking to understand God’s responses to our prayers, but Daddy knows best. His timing is perfect. His will and plans never fail. He can be trusted.

No matter where you find yourself today, no matter what is dead in your life, Jesus is life. He conquered sin and death. He caused the dead to rise. He did so Himself, in case you haven’t heard! We’ll talk about that in two weeks! We worship the God of miracles. He is alive today and wants you to experience life—abundant life (John 10:10), eternal life, supernatural life.

What is dead in your life that Jesus can resurrect?

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Enough, John 11:1-37, 10 March 2013

Big Idea: Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is Jesus enough…or is your love for Him conditional?

Song: I Give You My Heart by Rueben Morgan

Do you trust God? Completely?

LORD, I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
With every breath that I take
Every moment I’m awake
LORD have Your way in me

What would lead You to so fully surrender your life?

Is it because Jesus died for you?
Is it because God created you?
Is it because you have experienced His presence and power?
Is it because you have witnessed answered prayer?
Is it because someone told you it’s the proper thing to do?

Or is it simply because you love and want Jesus for who He is?

Introduction

We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

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

The first ten chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

It’s easy to skim through familiar stories, but as we read the narrative, imagine you had never heard it previously. Imagine that you have no idea what follows and each word is a choice morsel in your ears. I’ll warn you: we are not going to finish the story today. You may know the ending, but suspend that information and absorb just today’s Scripture with me.

Much like a stage play, this story has several scenes.

Scene One: The Death of Lazarus (1-16)

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 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. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (1-3)

There are three siblings. They are not especially wealthy as Beth-any means “house of the poor.” Martha was a busybody who we’re told in Luke 10 worked around the house while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Jesus loved Lazarus their brother and he was sick.

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.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (4-6)

The Father is glorified through the glory of the Son.

I’m sure they were relieved to know that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death. Still, if Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, why did He linger for two days? Most likely He was praying, praying for Lazarus and wisdom. Remember, everything Jesus said and did had tremendous consequences from both the crowds and critics. He was a wanted man, in two different ways.

Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (7)

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (8)

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. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (9-10)

Jesus is the light of the world.

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.” (11)

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. (12-13)

Death has a new name for the believer: sleep. Only the body dies. The soul does not. Resurrection always refers to the body. Our bodies do not have souls. Rather, our souls have bodies.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (14-15)

Jesus was glad? Jesus had spent time with the Father and obeyed His plan. God would redeem this tragic death and use it for His glory.

Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (16)

Thomas was hardly an optimist but at least he was willing to die. If you recall, Jesus is a wanted man and His followers would also be a threat to the religious authorities.

Jesus rarely follows conventional wisdom. When Lazarus was sick, He stayed away. When He said sleep, He meant dead. He said to go in the daytime to avoid tripping in the dark. N.T. Wright notes,

“If you try to steer your course by your own understanding, you’ll trip up, because you’ll be in the dark. But if you stick close to him, and see the situation from his point of view, then, even if it means days and perhaps years of puzzlement, wondering why nothing seems to be happening, you will come out at the right place in the end.”

Scene Two: The Resurrection and the Life (17-27)

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. (17-20)

There is a small crowd here. Many Jews were there to comfort the sisters.

Four days in the tomb was significant because the rabbinic teachings believed that when a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for three days so if the body was resuscitated, the spirit would return to it. After three days, the spirit was gone and there was no hope for the body.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (21-22)

Martha says,
“If only…”

Perhaps the tone (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

Have you ever felt like that? God, if only…then…

Why didn’t you intervene? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did I have to experience…? Why didn’t you do a miracle for me? Why didn’t I get chosen to win the lottery?

Notice her faith, though. She knew the Father would do whatever Jesus asked. She held out hope for a miracle. Jesus tells her to look forward to the future rather than remaining stuck in the present moment.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (23)

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (24)

There were two popular religious tribe, the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who did not.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (25-26)

This is a great declaration! It is the fifth of seven “I am” statements Jesus will make in John. When He says He is the resurrection and the life, He is saying that He is the very power of God unto life. He is life for all of His people. If you believe in Him, you will never die. He doesn’t say He can perform resurrections, He says that He
is the resurrection…and the life. Jesus is life (John 10:10)!

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
(27)

This was the testimony of Simon Peter, too.

Scene Three: Jesus Goes To The Tomb (28-37)

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.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 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.
(28-31)

There is something powerful about the presence of friends in the midst of grief. It can be frustrating when we comfort others. What do we say? What do we do? I have learned that often words are unnecessary. “I’m sorry for your loss” and possibly a hug are enough.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (32)

Mary says,
“If only…”

Perhaps the tone again (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

It’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit than to have Jesus in the flesh.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
(33-34)

There are two words here that need to be clarified. In the Greek, the word translated “weeping” is better stated as “loud wailing and crying.” The word “troubled” in the original Greek was more accurately translated “irate.”

When Jesus saw her wailing, and the Jews who had come along with her also wailing, he was outraged and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
(33-34; edited)

Jesus saw everyone around Him weeping and He groaned in anger. Why? The sisters’ lack of faith? I believe it was the reality of death. He created our beautiful universe and sin has been slowly destroying it. This world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Sometimes I get angry at death, at cancer, at disease, at injustice. In Jesus’ case, He knew that in a few days
He would encounter death.

Jesus wept. (35)

There it is—the shortest verse in the Bible!

Jesus, the Son of God, the eternal Word of God, cried. Why? He lost a dear friend, but knew that loss would be reversed. Was it because of their unbelief? Most likely He cried as He grieved with Mary and Martha and their great loss. He could’ve said, “Hey! Stop crying! Watch this!” Instead, He has empathy and shares their heartache and pain.

Death is a horrible reality in our broken world and we need to grieve. Jesus grieved. Perhaps you’ve been told to ignore grief and sadness since “all things work together for the good” but that is to deny the emotions given to us by God and experienced by God. Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

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?” (36-37)

It was obvious that Jesus loved Lazarus. The Jews asked a fair question, and of course Jesus could’ve kept Lazarus from dying, but God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plans and purposes and timing far exceed our imagination. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask, “Why, LORD?” The Scriptures are filled with God-fearing men and women that asked questions of God.

Ultimately the question is
do you trust God?

It’s rather audacious for us to think that we know better than God. Last Sunday night we watched the first episode of The Bible on The History Channel. It was a violent, bloody show depicting many Old Testament scenes that caused many to question how God could endorse the slaughter of first-born Egyptians, the destruction of Sodom, and let’s not forget the complete annihilation of every living creature that failed to get on Noah’s ark.

Doubt and questions expressed with humility and respect are one thing. Shaking your fist at God, judging
Him, is quite another. After Job’s life was all but destroyed, God provided some perspective beginning with the 38th chapter.

Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job 38:3-5)

“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? (Job 38:12-13)

“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? (Job 39:19-20)

The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:1-5)

If you judge God, remember that God himself got out of His judgment seat to become the chief of sinners and be judged with you and by you. God feels our pain more than we can imagine because He suffered and died…for us and for our sin. Nobody knows and understands pain like Jesus.

God is sovereign and in control.
God is omnipotent and all-powerful.
God is omniscient and knows all.
God is omnipresent and everywhere.

Again, I think it’s appropriate to ask questions of God, but making demands of Him is ludicrous. He’s God and we’re not. We can rejoice that He is not only all of those “omnis” but also that He is slow to anger and abounding in love, gracious, merciful and compassionate. We can celebrate that we
don’t get what we deserve, for we have all offended the Holy God and fall short of His standards of righteousness.

This does not mean that we should turn funerals into parties and dance for joy in the midst of tragedy. It does mean, however, that God has a plan. He always has a plan. His timing can be trusted. His ways can be trusted. Yet knowing He is sovereign and in control and watching Him ignore or delay our cries for help necessitates and even increases our grief, but it is a hopeful grief—a very, very bitter but hopeful grief. The bottom line is not happiness, but His glory. LORD, be glorified!

I’m in the midst of one of the most urgent seasons of prayer in my life, begging God to heal my girl. The medical experts thought she should improve after three weeks of intense treatments, yet more than six months later she remains unable to walk.

What is your plan, LORD? What are You waiting for? I know You can heal her. Show Your power. The doctors gave up so now You can get all of the glory. We’ll even post her healing on Facebook for all of the world to see!

I believe with all of my heart that she will walk again. For months I have been wrestling with God about the timing! This week I cried, “Uncle!” and surrendered it to Him. Until I start to worry and get impatient again!

The story is not over. Your story is not over. There is more to come. An exciting future awaits us. In the meantime, we must trust God and wait patiently (Psalm 40).

One of my favorite musical artists, Kirk Franklin, posted this on Tuesday:

So if God has my problem already worked out, why do I still go through it? Because what He DOESN'T have worked out yet is your attitude...That's what the problem is for. Go.

Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is your love for Him conditional...or is Jesus enough?

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Son of God, John 10:19-24

Big Idea: We are sheep in desperate need of the Good Shepherd, the Son of God.

Introduction

We are continuing our series, The Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His closest friends, John. Two week ago the scene had Jesus offending the religious leaders by healing a blind man on the Sabbath, something that was considered work by the scholars who knew the letter of the law but had no clue about the spirit of the law. They were envious of Jesus, His miracles, His teachings, and most of all the crowds He was attracting. Their insecurity continually rises from jealousy to rage as we will see yet again in a moment.

Last week we began John 10 where Jesus uses the common metaphor of a shepherd and sheep to illustrate Himself and His followers. The sheep of the Good Shepherd—mentioned in Psalm 23—know, listen and obey to the voice of their Shepherd.

It’s critical to understand a sheep before we move into today’s Scripture. Sheep are not the sharpest tool in the shed. They’re not the most brilliant animal on the farm. They aren’t the wisest beast in the field. They aren’t the smartest creature at the zoo. You get the idea!

Beyond their lack of intelligence, a sheep is weak and vulnerable. They cannot run fast. They don’t have poisonous venom, sharp teeth, or even dangerous claws. In other words, without the shepherd, they are one thing…dinner for a hungry animal!

In the first half of John 10, Jesus speaks of His Father—God the Father—and the authority given to Jesus by the Father. This infuriates the religious Jews all the more. It is here that we begin.


At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (19-21)

Jesus is the most divisive Person that has ever walked the face of the earth. He is the most controversial Figure in history. Some thought He was a demon and others divine.

When Paul went to Athens, some believe and some do not believe.

Jesus explained why a few verses earlier from last week’s text.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (4-5)

These religious leaders do not hear the voice of the Good Shepherd even though He’s right in front of them!

Blue Like Jazz Author Donald Miller notes several things about these people.

1. “They have a strong pre-conceived notion as to what the Christ will look and like like, and Jesus isn’t fitting that notion at all.” Jesus isn’t a member of their club. He dresses differently, talks differently. He’s doesn’t interpret the Scriptures the way they do, likely with a self-serving agenda.

  1. 2. “He threatens their power.” This is obvious. It’s also relevant to us. It was Jesus that said the first shall be last, to save your life you must lose it, and a host of other radical, uncomfortable things.

  1. 3. “These are zealous men.” All law, no grace…to the death…literally!

  1. 4. “…they would likely be threatened with physical retribution from their own community if they followed Christ.” How often do people succumb to peer pressure?!

  1. 5. “They are people who want clarity.” As Miller says, “They don’t like all this vague hippie talk coming from Jesus.” Everything is black and white to them.

6. “Jesus likes their enemies.” He loves sinners. They love Him! There are two common ways groups can form and unite—the first is to demonize a common enemy and the second is to take on a victim mentality, causing everyone to feel like the world is against them. If Jesus is a friend of sinners, He certainly cannot join their tribe.

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (22-24)

Winter in Jerusalem is cold! It is 3000 feet above sea level.

This feast is also called the Festival of Lights. It is not found in the Old Testament because it celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucids in the second century BC. It is known today as Hanukkah! Jesus celebrated Hanukkah.

They ask, “Jesus, who are you?”

Who do you say that I am?

For hundreds of years the people were awaiting a liberating king. They were expecting God’s Anointed to free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire. The people were awaiting a Messiah.

Jesus often revealed Himself to others in private settings but He resisted publicly proclaiming Himself the Messiah because the people were expecting the Messiah to come as a warrior and overthrow the government. They couldn’t imagine Him coming to suffer and die. The Messiah will, actually, come and rule as the King of kings, but that remains in the future!

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (25-27)

Jesus says His works prove His identity. Actions speak louder than words.

The brand on the sheep is obedience.

Sheep hear His voice.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (28-30)

Did you catch that promise? No one can snatch them out of God’s hand. That’s great news! Remember, though, who Jesus is talking about. It’s not just anyone but those who follow Him (verse 27).

Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
(31-32)

I love this question! Jesus is playing with them. He knows the source of their rage. It’s His claim to be God that made them hysterical, and even though He dances around the issue and doesn’t explicitly say, “I am God,” the message is clear and affirmed by His audience.

“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (33)

God became man, yet they accuse Jesus of being a man who made Himself God.

There are many liberal Bible scholars that deny that Jesus was God, or that He ever claimed to be God. They can accept that a man named Jesus was a good teacher and perhaps could even do a miracle every now and then, but they fail to see Jesus as God. It was, of course, this very claim that put Jesus on the cross. Jesus claimed to be God, and then proved that He is God by conquering sin and death, resurrecting from the dead.

Jesus responds…

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came — and the Scripture cannot be broken — 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’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 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.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. (34-39)

Verse 34 quotes Psalm 82:6, a reference to judges that act on behalf of God as His representatives.

Verse 35 notes that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” He is affirming the authority of the Bible.

Jesus is in full control. Repeatedly in his Gospel, John describes Jesus’ ability to escape from the raging Jews that want to kill Him. It was not yet hIs time.

God is sovereign. That means He is in control. Even at His trial He was in control. He created everything so it stands to reason that He is sovereign over creation, time, and space. He was on a mission to die for us, but it was not yet time.

Our passage ends rather simply.

Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus. (40-42)

Jesus just shows up and people believe. In many circles it was popular to believe, but that was always subject to change. We read that many followed, but many later deserted Jesus, too…especially as He died.

Yet many died for their belief. Throughout history millions of men, women and children have willingly surrendered their lives simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? Do you live it or just believe it in your head? Maybe you’re like the religious leaders, finding it easier to judge others rather than examining your own life. Perhaps you have mental belief about Jesus, but your mouth remains closed for fear of rocking the boat and losing friends.

I’m humbled by the thought that one of Jesus’ best friends betrayed Him, another denied Him three times, and others doubted He was raised from the dead.

Conclusion

Whether you know it or not, we are all stinky sheep. We are weak, vulnerable, and very limited in the wisdom department. Left to our own devices, we will die. That’s where Jesus come in. Where religious is spelled “D-O,” what you do, Christianity is all about “D-O-N-E” and what Jesus has done for you. He died on the cross in your place and my place. Like a good shepherd, He sacrificed everything for dumb sheep like us. Today we celebrate that sacrifice. We celebrate not only His words, but His actions. Unlike celebrities in our culture, He didn’t gain fame and notoriety for His own sake, but rather to willingly be butchered in one of history’s most horrifying forms of torture so that we could experience grace, forgiveness, hope, purpose, and joy.

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Voice, John 10:1-21, 24 February 2013

Big Idea: We can choose to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd or the voice of the their that wants to steal, kill and destroy.

Sound is an amazing thing. Whether you realize it or not, there are sounds around us constantly. True silence is rare. What do you hear right now?

There are a few sounds that stand out from the rest. An alarm usually gets our attention, unless you’re a tired teenager in bed! Living across the street from the Cleveland Clinic, the sound of an ambulance was a frequent interruption to the mundane traffic tones. The human ear is able to process a wide variety of frequencies and noises. Now think about human voices. We have the ability to recognize people that we cannot even see, just by their voice.

There’s something powerful about one’s connection to a familiar voice. Yesterday I was in Meijer and a friend was telling me about his grandson. They live several states away and video chat frequently, and when the little boy hears the voice of his grandpa, he gets so excited!

Perhaps nothing seizes our attention more, though, than the most captivating word to our ears—our name. What is your name?

As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus’ close friend and biographer tells us a lot about sound, voice, and your name.

Shepherds

Are you a shepherd? Have you ever met a shepherd? Sheep and shepherds are not common images in our culture today. They were very popular in the Middle East 2000 years ago, and remain so today. It’s not wonder that the Bible is filled with references to shepherds (e.g. Isaiah 40:10-11; Psalm 23). Moses and David were shepherds. There are several references in the scriptures to “false shepherds” (1 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 10:21; 23:1-2).

Context

Last week in chapter nine, Jesus healed a blind man and the religious leaders went crazy because it was on the Sabbath. Biblical writers did not include chapter and verse references. Those were added centuries later, so from what we can see, Jesus is continuing His interaction with these self-righteous critics of His. The tenth chapter of John begins with red-letter text, words spoken by Jesus.

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. (1-6)

Can you imagine the scene?

First, the setting is the
desert, a desperate place. Today Arab and Jewish children tell stories about the desert much like some cultures talk about deep, dark forests. In the desert food is rare, water is scarce, and deadly creatures roam. In addition, the terrain is often filed with steep cliffs, some with drops of over 1000 feet!

Sheep are prone to wander. The shepherd’s job is to keep the sheep together and safe. A sheep could be harmed by thieves, wild animals, and injury from wandering.

Just like my friend’s grandson recognizes my friend’s voice, and just like dogs typically know their owner’s voice, so sheep know the voice of their shepherd.

The Middle Eastern shepherd even today talks to and sings to his sheep. They often carry a short flute and the sheep learn both the voice of the shepherd and the sound of his flute.

“During the Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s the Israeli army decided to punish a village near Bethlehem for not paying its taxes (which, the village claimed, simply financed their occupation). The officer in command rounded up all of the village animals and placed them in a large barbed-wire pen. Later in the week he was approached by a woman who begged him to release her flock, arguing that since her husband was dead, the animals were her only source of livelihood. He pointed to the pen containing hundreds of animals and humorously quipped that it was impossible because he could not find her animals. She asked that if she could in fact separate them herself, would he be willing to let her take them? He agreed. A soldier opened the gate and the woman’s son produced a small reed flute. He played a simple tune again and again—and soon sheep heads began popping up across the pen. The young boy continued his music and walked home, followed by his flock of twenty-five sheep.”

  • NIV Application Commentary

In the desert, sheep need to follow the shepherd if they are to survive.

Jesus doesn’t lead any sheep, but “his own” (3b). Notice that
the shepherd knows His sheep...by name. He knows your name! How cool is that?! The Creator of the universe knows your name.

Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (7-10)

That last verse is one of my favorites. Do you see the contrast between Jesus and satan, the thief and the Shepherd?

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (11-13)

How far will the good shepherd go in caring for his sheep? All the way! To death!

Who influences you? So many respond to the teachings of people who are dead, celebrities with chaotic lives, or even friends that can be fickle. The Good Shepherd is willing to die for you...and He did!

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (14-18)

Throughout Jesus’ life, we see Him submitting to the Father and the Father’s timing.

As usual, Jesus upset the religious people.

At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
(19-21)

We’ll unpack the reaction of the Jews further next week.

So What?
Like sheep, we live in a dangerous world. It might not seem dangerous, but there is a real thief who wants to steal, kill and destroy. He will do anything and everything to speak lies, kill your passion for Jesus, and ultimately destroy you and everything good in your life.

The thing is, because he’s sneaky and because we often fail to spend time with the Good Shepherd, we mistaken the voice of the enemy for the voice of Jesus. We justify our behaviors because everyone else is doing it. We rationalize the importance of being politically correct and flee from controversy. We want to blend in, be liked, and do what’s popular.

We all need guidance to navigate through life, but we must make sure we are listening to the right voice. The only way to do that is to spend time with the Good Shepherd.

I can’t do that for you. Your parents or spouse cannot do that for you. Discerning the voice that brings abundant life requires time in prayer, solitude, silence, and study. Period. There are no shortcuts.

Whose voice matters to you? A recent study asked high school students where they would turn first in times of crisis or confusion. Mothers came in around number eleven and dads around 25. Friends and music were at the top!

Students, daddy often knows best. In the case of our heavenly Daddy, He always knows best.

Friends are influential, not only to students, but adults as well. When is the last time you experienced a tension between popular opinion and the teachings of Jesus? Do you even know the difference?

As we continue our annual theme of b.l.e.s.s. I want to encourage you to remain on your knees in prayer, listen to God, and study His Word. It’s not rocket science. The more time you spend with someone, the more you’ll know their voice.

C.S. Lewis said that there are two kinds of people, those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

Do you know the voice of the Good Shepherd? Do you follow it?

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Vision, John 9, 17 February 2013

Big Idea: God wants us to see.

Introduction

There are several themes in this lengthy account. Religious leaders show their lack of vision while a blind man is able to see. The Sabbath, suffering, religion, and the influence of Jesus are all presented.

Scripture

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (1-2)

Some Hindus believe disabilities are punishment for sins committed in a previous life.

The book of Job is clear about this. Though God does discipline those that He loves, often our pain and trials are not the result of sin.

When our child was first hospitalized six years ago, there were those that subtly and not-so-subtly implied that her pain was the result of our sin. We were being punished for secret sins. My wife and I searched our hearts and came to the conclusion that if there was secret sin in our lives, it was so secret that we were unaware of it. We acknowledged that we were far from perfect, but there was nothing unusual in our actions that caused our child to be in excruciating pain.

So why do bad things happen to good people? We don’t have time to fully unpack that question, but let me briefly suggest two things. First, none of us are truly good. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory. Second, sin is the reason. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, all of creation has been a mess.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (3-5)

Don’t misunderstand this text.

God is not cruel, inflicting pain on people to glorify Himself.

At the same time, God is not fair. Bad things do happen to good people. But God is good and He can be trusted.

Daddy knows best…really!

“So that the work of God” likely refers not to what precedes it but rather to what follows. See how different it looks...

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus. “But so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, as long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (3-5)

God did not make the man blind to show His glory.

Rather, God sent Jesus to do works of healing to show His glory.

I want to pause here for a moment because many of you are experiencing pain and suffering. You might not be blind, but you or a loved one are in the midst of a disability, a shattered dream, or an overwhelming trial.

I’m with you!

I’ve tried to take the letter “Y” out of the alphabet because I find myself asking it all the time. Why God? Sometimes we discover why, sometimes we don’t, but God can be trusted.

Today I prayed for vision to see what God is doing. I don’t understand, but I know He is at work in and through me, my family, and the storm we are experiencing. I want Him to just change the situation. Sometimes He does. Sometimes He doesn’t. Daddy knows best.

Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (6-7)

This would not be my preferred method of healing! Spit was thought to be a curse. Jesus was essentially cursing the blindness. The man is healed. This is great news, right? The man was blind, now he sees. Praise God! End of story.

Not so fast!

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

“How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded. (8-10)
The people are demanding to know what happened.

He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

“Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said.
(11-12)

The man didn’t know, but the entire Gospel of John is written so that we can find Jesus.

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” (13-15)

Whenever the Pharisees are involved, you know it’s going to get ugly!

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.

Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
(16-17)

This poor guy has been miraculously healed and all they can do is subject him to an interrogation.

The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” (18-19)

Talk about a lack of faith! They don’t believe that the man was ever blind.

“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” (20-24)

This is a huge deal! Getting kicked out of the synagogue was not like being asked to leave a local church. It was like getting kicked out of the city. Even today, the synagogue is not merely the place of worship, but the social center of the Jewish community.

The Pharisees hated Jesus—as we have seen in previous weeks. They are jealous of Him and the crowds He is attracting from His miracles and teaching. The healed man’s parents are afraid.

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (25-35)

We were all steeped in sin at birth, but the self-righteous Pharisees continued to believe that this man and his parents were responsible for his blindness.

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. (36-41)

The story ends the opposite of its beginning. The blind man can see and the accusers claim to see clearly when, in fact, they cannot.

The religious leaders that are supposedly righteous are filled with pride and envy while the supposed sinner is seen worshiping Jesus.

Which bring us to my favorite question about any text...so what?

Jesus healed a blind man and they both attracted self-righteous critics. So what?

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Suffering is part of our world. It is to be expected, yet it seems to surprise us.

It all goes back to the Garden. Sin entered the world—not just Adam and Eve—when they ate of the fruit.

2. We are addicted to comfort and safety.

2/3 of the world suffers daily...constantly.

This season of Lent and the very nature of fasting can help us empathize with others that have no food or those that are blind.


3. Following Jesus often makes life more difficult, not less. Jesus said clearly to His followers

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus never promised us safety and comfort, but He did promise His presence. He said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)

  1. We need one another.

It is a lie to think that it’s just about you and Jesus. We were created for community. I need you and you need me. That’s a message for another time, but suffice it to say that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those how mourn.

5. God may be seem distant or even absent in the midst of suffering, but He is always at work healing our inner lives (see Ephesians 3).

It is through suffering that I have felt the closest to God. Nobody knows pain like Jesus. Nobody. The apex of human history was Jesus hanging on the cross. He recognized how we had messed up this beautiful world and He came to reverse the curse. He conquered sin and death. It’s hard to experience peace when you are comfortable.

6. The more we can let go of the idols in our lives and cling to Jesus, the more joy we will experience.

Some of us look to our health, our bank account, our careers, or even our family members to bring us joy, but Jesus said to follow Him means we need to hate our family and even our own lives in comparison to our love for Him (Luke 14:26).

We need to live with our hands open—to give and receive.

Song: Blessed Be Your Name

7. The best is yet to come. Really.

We live in the space between the first and second comings of Jesus. We have been given the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is powerful and active. God still heals the blind. There are documented cases all over the world. God still causes the lame to walk. I’m praying that for a special girl right now. Sometimes God says yes to our prayer requests, sometimes no, and sometimes wait. Why? I don’t know. I don’t have easy answers. I can recommend a pile of books. I can tell you to study the book of Job. I can quote you verse after verse of Paul telling us to rejoice, endure, and embrace suffering. I have plenty of questions myself, but I know God is in control, God is good, and God is faithful. This world is not the end. The best is yet to come.

In the Lord of the Rings film
The Two Towers, there is a famous quote from Sam in which he says,

“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. What are you holding on to? Who are you holding on to?

Open our eyes, LORD, to see You at work in and through our lives...for Your glory.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Who's Your Daddy? John 8:31-59, 10 February 2013

Big Idea: We are all slaves to sin and need freedom through Jesus.

Intro

This passage is loaded with background that is essential in order to fully grasp and apply. The Jews were descendants of Abraham, the one with whom God made a covenant. If you’ve been around at all this year we’ve mentioned it every week—Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. The people of Israel had a relationship with God, a relationship that tragically turned into yet another religion filled with rules and regulations, stripped of intimacy, authenticity, and love.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (8:31-32)

Who is Jesus’ audience? Jews who believed Him. What did they believe? Keep in mind that throughout His life, Jesus had followers that deserted Him. Many walked away, His best friends fell asleep when He needed their support, His closest friend denied Him three times, one betrayed Him. Believing in Jesus is just the start.

There is a huge difference between professing faith and saving faith. Anyone can pray a prayer, but that doesn’t mean we are true believers and possess faith. R.C. Sproul says, “We must possess what we profess.” Notice what Jesus says about discipleship: it’s not about knowledge, but obedience. This is huge! Real disciples follow Jesus’ teaching and then they are set
free.

Freedom

We love freedom, don’t we? Our nation was largely founded upon the idea of freedom, though ironically and tragically slavery has been a prominent feature in our history. Many of our founding fathers who valued freedom owned slaves!

We take our freedoms for granted—until they are threatened or removed. There’s a lot of talk these days about the freedom to bear arms and other freedoms that may be in jeopardy, but that pales in comparison to what many face.

Tragically, slavery is alive and well in our nation. Watching the film Lincoln a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but appreciate the incredible courage and dedication of Abraham Lincoln and others who abolished slavery in the USA, but tragically it is very real today.

In fact, there are more slaves today in our world than at any time in human history, between 10 and 30 million people! I urge you to visit
www.EndItMovement.com. Sign the petition. Tell others about it. Most people are shocked to learn that slavery exists...right here in Washtenaw County!

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (8:33)

I’ve heard many say, “I’m a Christian. I went to church as a kid. I was born in the USA. Of course I’m a Christian.” Nobody enters the Kingdom of God because of their ancestors. We must all be born again (John 3:3).

The Jews understood slavery—in their history. Their ancestors were slaves, working in Egypt under Pharaoh until God called Moses to lead them to the Promised Land. Understandably, Jesus’ hearers couldn’t fathom being slaves.

Isn’t it interesting how many people are in bondage but don’t realize it? Millions are enslaved to alcohol, food, or work. Countless lives have been destroyed by debt, fear, or the approval of other people.

Next Jesus acknowledges the obvious—or not so obvious: we are all messed up!

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (8:34-38)

Sin sounds like such an old-fashioned word, doesn’t it? Sin destroys, yet it is an addiction for all of us.

Jesus makes it clear that being a child of Abraham is not the same as being a child of God. Tragically, the Jewish people that were to be a blessing and shine the light to the rest of the world were in the dark.

If the light is dark, we’ve got a problem!

Do you remember that song, “This Little Light of Mine”? What if we don’t shine?

“Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
(8:39-41)

Sonship is not about biology, but obedience. The conversation is getting a little heated now. Perhaps you’ve heard of father Abraham. He was the patriarch, you might say the original Jew. It was understood that tradition and heritage would bring freedom, but Jesus says it is truth that sets us free, but we can’t be freed from something until we are in bondage to something. You can’t set a bird that is in the wild free. It must first be taken captive.

Jesus is telling them that circumcision and diet and family heritage are not what brings freedom and a right relationship with God. True Jewishness is inward.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (8:42-47)

We are naturally born without a desire for God. Our human nature is sinful and wicked, which is why it’s such a miracle when the Holy Spirit brings conviction and repentance. The greatest miracle, in fact, is a transformed man, woman or child that follows Jesus rather than making an idol of themselves and their desires.

Jesus tells some important truths here about satan—he is a liar and the father of lies.

This is not an excerpt from Andrew Carnegie’s book
How To Win Friends and Influence People!

We need to back up for a moment and remember that Jesus is a wanted Man—wanted by His followers, yes, but also His enemies. His ultimate enemy, of course, is...satan.

Ironically, Paul said in his first book to the people of Corinth (11:14) that “satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” Do you remember a moment ago, “this little light of mine”? What if satan’s plan was to have the most pious, respected leaders in the community destroy Jesus? Who would ever suspect such a thing? Murderers committing murder is so passé, but the religious people? Who would ever see that coming?

Spiritual warfare is real. We have a real enemy. He wants to steal, kill and destroy. He not only acts like an angel of light, he is full of lies. He is sneaky. He knows the Scriptures better than anyone in this room (remember the temptation of Jesus?). He is real.

Satan is a murderer and the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus!

Notice, too, the politically incorrect teaching of Jesus. He doesn’t say all roads lead to God, but rather that we cannot have the Father and not have the Son, and we cannot have the Son and not the Father because the Father sent the Son. As we will see in a few weeks, Jesus said, “I am
the way, the truth, and the life.”

Do you hear what God says? Do you belong to God?

Jesus claims the devil as their father. They return the favor.

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (8:48-51)

You have to admit that’s a bold statement, especially on the surface. As usual, Jesus speaks the truth. He is the truth, but He is not always clearly understood.

He’s not so much talking about himself, but the ‘father who sent’ Him.

At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” (8:52-53)

Notice here they claim Abraham as their father, though Jesus is speaking of God the Father.

Who do you think you are?
This is one of the greatest questions in the entire Bible. Repeatedly I have said that the two most important questions in life are who are you and who is Jesus.

Jesus asked His follower, “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:13-15; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20)

You can understand the Jews getting riled up about this. Jesus is shattering their paradigm of what it means to be righteous.

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” (8:54-56)

These are audacious claims, right? He’s saying that Abraham—who was blessed to be a blessing—was looking ahead to Jesus Himself and the life and resurrection that He would offer us. Jesus Himself is embodying what Abraham’s God promised centuries earlier.

It gets better!

“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” (8:57)

Good point, right?

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (8:58)

That may seem like bad grammar, but here’s what Jesus was really saying—I am God. He speaks in the Name of the Father, the secret and holy Name of God, YHWH. He refers to Himself clearly as God. I created everything. John’s first words in this book say...

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (1:1-2)

John is reminding us again in chapter 8 that Jesus was in the beginning. Through Him all things were made (1:3).

Needless to say, claiming to be God made the religious leaders go crazy! This was blasphemy, a capital offense—as was breaking the Sabbath earlier.

Jesus was no weak, gentle guy prancing in the woods. He was a radical revolutionary, unafraid of conflict, confronting His enemies, and turning upside down not only tables in the temple (another story) but everything the Jews understood about God Himself and the Way to HIm.

Predictably...

At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (8:59)

Our story ends with an angry mob of Jews that believed in Jesus at the beginning of the narrative, but are now ready to kill HIm. Jesus, meanwhile, slips away because it wasn’t yet time for Him to die.

Our Story

Here’s my concern: I have a feeling if we were characters in this story, we’d be the Jews, grabbing stones at this controversial figure who is turning conventional wisdom upside down. He offends them. He literally introduces a completely different worldview to them, one that is not centered around being a privileged descendent, but rather one who radically obeys.

Does this sound familiar? It could be said that I’m a religious person devoted to Sunday worship gatherings, tithing 10% to the local church, driving the speed limit, and a daily Bible reader.

What would Jesus say to me? What we He say to you?

I think He would say, “Do you know me? Do you love me? Feed my sheep. Take care of the stranger, the widow and the orphan. Be a blessing to the nations. Listen to My voice like all good sheep listen to their Shepherd and know his voice. Practice hospitality and eat with those far from Me. Study Me. Share Me. Sound familiar?

I want to go back to where we began.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (8:31-32)

If you obey Jesus—and He said a lot of hard things—You are really His disciple. Then you will know the truth and it will set you free...from the bondage of sin and death.

Author Gary Burge said, “
The deepest paradox of John 8 is that Jesus suffers religious persecution.” He goes on to say, “The paradigm of the passage is then set: Jesus steps into a religiously devout environment and immediately splits his audience. Those who follow him become passionate believers. Those who stand opposed, who defend their traditions with zeal, suddenly become zealous opponents, enemies of God’s work in the world. This passage warns the custodians of tradition that their defense of these spiritual habits and rituals may well be their undoing.” Later he writes, “If Jesus stepped into our century, if he walked into our evangelical churches, if he picked up a religious symbol (as he did at the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles) and challenged the symbol’s original meaning, would we cheer or would we fight? Suddenly we might find ourselves defending Christendom instead of the Christian faith. We might explain that the old meaning, the old songs, the old forms had worked just fine for generations. We might challenge this newcomer and demand that he verify that he was indeed a messenger from God. And when he pressed his claims powerfully, suddenly we would be forced either to let go of our former position and become a believer or argue and rebel.”

Disciples of Jesus study Jesus, spend time in the Word, know the truth, and are set free. Tragically, the rest of the world is in slavery to sin, lies, and death that originate with satan.

What about you? Do you know Jesus? I didn’t ask if you were religious. I didn’t ask if you go to church and smile on Sundays. Do you know Jesus? If you do, there is freedom...from sin, death, and despair.

If you don’t know Jesus, I want to introduce you to Him. He’s Your Creator. He loves You so much that He gave His very life to give you life, freedom, purpose, joy, forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation to a God that finds sin completely unacceptable. Period. That’s why Jesus, His death, and resurrection are so important. Without Jesus, we’re hopeless. We’re slaves to sin. But because of Jesus, we can express life, joy, meaning, and freedom from sin...and religion.

You can listen to the podcast
here.

Identity, John 8:12-30, 11 November 2012

Big Idea: Jesus was clear about His origin and identity. Are you?

Last week a friend on Facebook posed this question: What is the most important question every person must address?

I believe there are two essential questions:

  1. Who is God?
  2. Who am I?

Many people stumble with both questions.

Who is God?
Who are you? Really.

Identity is a tremendous issue in our culture. Children are raised without knowing their dad...or mom. We tell kids how wonderful they are, yet they reach adulthood and realize not everyone gets a trophy in the real world. Many draw their identity from their sexual orientation, believing that it defines them. Others see themselves through the lens of their business card, what they do, their career.

Fill in the blank: I am _______________________.

Jesus was secure. He knew who He was. He was aware of His origins, His background. As J. Vernon McGee said, “Jesus came to not only redeem man but to reveal God to man.”

Several times in John’s biography of Jesus we see Him revealing His identity, beginning with “I am.”

He said previously “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 48, 51)

He will later say

I am the gate (Jn 10:7, 9)
I am the good Shepherd (Jn 1011, 14)
I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25)
I am the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6)
I am the genuine vine. (Jn 15:1, 5)

I am the beginning and the end.

Today’s passage beginning with John 8:12 uncovers another thing about Jesus. Let me set the scene beginning with verse one. Jesus is in the temple courts surrounded by people. A woman is brought in by the religious leaders who caught her in adultery. They try to trap Jesus and, instead, He traps them, declaring that the first stone to punish this woman should be thrown by the one without sin. Everyone walked away except the woman and Jesus who, ironically, was the only one qualified to stone her. Instead, He tells her to go and leave her life of sin.

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.” (John 8:12)

Genesis 1...let there be...light! God saw that the light was good...

God speaks light into existence.

Energy cannot be created and cannot be destroyed.

Everything comes out of Him.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

Jesus created light. He is the light. He will forever be the light.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:22-23)

Sometimes we don’t want the light in our eyes because it’s invasive. We want just enough light to see in the dark, but not so much that we can be clearly seen. We want God to be our night light. He exposes all of the sin, deceit, lies, and brokenness.

The light isn’t judgment but freedom and forgiveness. We saw in the verses prior that the light did not consume her, but it covered and forgave her.

He wants to be the light to expose our pride, arrogance, and sin in order to transform, love, and forgive us.

The more comfortable you are in the light, the closer you are to God.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)

This doesn’t mean we’re perfect, but that we stop hiding.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (1 John 2:9-11)

John heard Jesus say, “I am the light of the world.” In the light, there is love. In the light, there is forgiveness and compassion and life.

John Piper notes four things about light:

  1. the world has no other light than Him
  2. all the world needs Jesus as their light
  3. the world was made for this light; creation was made for this light to fill it; it exposes sin and enables us to see everything good in its true light; the light of Christ is native to the world, not foreign.
d. one day this world will be filled with the light of Jesus and nothing else

I can’t wait! Continuing onto verse 13, things take something of a detour.

The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” (John 8:13)

They are accusing Him of boasting.

This is from John 5:31-32 when Jesus said, “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.”

The next 17 verses follow their accusation.

Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. (John 8:14)

  1. He knows from where He came.

You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. (John 8:15)

2. He does not judge man according to the flesh.

But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” (John 8:16-18)

3. The Father testifies.

How would you respond to this line of reasoning? There was a voice from heaven that verified this (Mark 1:11).

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.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come. (John 8:19-20)

These are deeply offensive words Jesus uses. It should have incited a riot, but His time had not yet come.

God is sovereign and in control of all things, including time. It doesn’t always appear that God is in control, but that just speaks to our limited perspective.

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 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.” (John 8:21-24)

Here Jesus reveals more of His identity. He begins by predicting His crucifixion and then says He’s from heaven. He was sent by the Father.

He also speaks clearly about our two eternal options—sin which leads to death, and belief which leads to life.

We live in a dying world. Billions around us are literally dying in their sins. This is a tragic reality that provides incredible opportunities for us. The light shines brightest in the darkness.

“Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 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. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. (John 8:25-30)

They refuse to believe He is the Son of God. These are the type of statements that ultimately led to His crucifixion.

But look at the last sentence. Many put their faith in Him, not because of His miracles, not because of His personality, but because they heard and believed the Truth.

Jesus is the light. Do you know Him? Are you reflecting His light to the world? If you are truly a Christian or “little Christ,” there must be light in your life, a light that reflects the Son, much like the moon at night.

For some of you, here’s the real challenge:

Are you willing to enter darkness in order to shine, or do you prefer to shine your light close to other lights?

Sundays are a time when we gather. The lights are joined in songs of worship, fellowship, and study of the Bible. This week we will scatter and take the light of the world to the world. Our world desperately needs it!

Credit: some ideas from “I Am the Light of the World” by John Piper

You can listen to the podcast here.

Saints & Sinners, John 8:1-11, 2 September 2012

Big Idea: Are you a saint or a sinner?

This text is one of the most famous stories of Jesus. It has been the subject of countless studies and sermons, both for its context and content. By context I mean it is not included in all of the early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. The Bible was not given to us by God leather-bound with gold page edges! The process is a fascinating one and the subject for another time. However, we have very reliable copies of the original documents, but virtually all of the originals are long gone.

You might wonder why these verses are included in our Bible. The overwhelming consensus among Bible scholars is that the account is authentic, though it may not have been written immediately after the seventh chapter of John.

While we’re on the subject of John’s writing, he wrote three letters in addition to this Gospel. The first of his letters offers a fascinating declaration that Pastor Judah Smith of The City Church in Seattle pointed out. John begins

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. (1 John 2:1a)

Here’s his purpose. We all sin (Romans 3:23). We all know sin is not good for us or our world. John is going to tell us how to avoid sin. Surprisingly, he doesn’t judge, condemn, yell, or shame. He doesn’t go postal on a megaphone. Instead, he takes a completely different approach. He points to Jesus...

But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1b-2)

John 8:1-11

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. (John 8:2)

Jesus is teaching early in the morning, seated as was the custom. We know He had become incredibly popular—and controversial.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:3-5)

The teachers and Pharisees were two different groups of people. The teachers or scribes were experts in interpreting the Old Testament. The Pharisees were a party, a movement of conservative religious practice. Pharisee actually means “separated one.”

These verses raise all sorts of questions that are never answered.

Who caught her? What were they doing? Where was the man? We can come up with a variety of theories, but they are actually incidental to the text because they really weren’t trying to stone her. They were trying to stone Jesus!

They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. (John 8:6a)

If Jesus said to stone her, He would be in trouble with the Romans who had the authority to execute, not the religious leaders (which is why Caiaphas the high priest sent Jesus to Pilate).

If Jesus said to let her go, He would be accused of denying the law of Moses.

As is typical for Jesus, His response is unconventional and surprising.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (John 8:6b)

This is the only biblical account of Jesus writing. He bends down and writes in the dirt.

What did He write? Nobody knows for sure, but many commentators relate this action to 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. (Jeremiah 17:13)

He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t look at them. He doesn’t look at the woman. He just writes in the dust.

It is thought by many that He started writing down their sins.

Rabbi Joe, greed.
Rabbi Sam, gossip.
Rabbi Frank, envy.

He knew their hearts and secret sins. He knew their stories.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. (John 8:7-8)

Jesus says very little in this story, but every word is choice!

Did this woman sin? Yes. Jesus makes it very clear in a moment.
Did these leaders sin? Yes. Jesus knew their wicked hearts.


The next verse fascinates me.

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. (John 8:9)

This is why many believe He was writing out their sins. The elders left first, either because they were wiser or Jesus began with their sins!

Now Jesus and this desperate housewife are the only ones left. He finally looks at her. How did she feel? Scared? Relieved? Grateful? Preparing for Him to personally read her the riot act? Was He going to grab a stone?

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10)

Sometimes we like it when others sin because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We like to accuse, to criticize, to condemn, whether it be toward a movie star or neighbor or another Christian. The problem is we have all sinned. We are all broken. We are all messed up and desperately in need of the grace of Jesus, the Cross.

Jesus has a sense of humor!

The accusers are gone. In Revelation 12:10 satan is called the accuser. He lays on the guilt and shame.

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

Honestly, I don’t think He needed to tell her to leave her life of sin. First, it probably made her miserable. We don’t know the circumstances, but it’s hard to sleep at night when you are living a life of sin.

Second, she didn’t need a lecture. She probably knew the law, or at least knew that what she was doing was unacceptable, both to God and society.

Third, condemnation is not a good motivator. How many of you like to be judged?

As we noted earlier, John himself said the way to avoid sin is to look to Jesus.

The more we recognize how much He loves us, the more we want to honor and bless and obey Him. This is one reason we gather—to be reminded of how high and deep and wide is the love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was not an accuser but an advocate, an intercessor, a consoler, a defender.

This woman did some terrible things. She was a sinner. So are we!

Jesus did not embrace her sin. He called a sin a sin! He embraced her, though.

I pray that we are an advocate for everyone in our communities.

We’re so blinded by our own sin. We accuse others but we condemn ourselves in the process with legalism. How did they find her?!

An advocate is slow to speak. Jesus is. God, make us slow to speak...and quick to pray.

Jesus is the great leveler. He sits, then He gets down in the dirt while the leaders stand with rocks. We need churches filled with people in the dirt with the broken, not standing in judgment. All of us have sin and fall short of God’s glory.

Is our Gospel big enough to welcome sinners?

I want to pastor the church in the dirt!

We need compassion and grace and love.

Grace sets people from sin, not traditions or laws or judgment.

Where are your accusers, Ann Arbor? Not in this church!

There’s a common expression I’ve heard many Christians say, love the sinner and hate the sin.

Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners. We are saints because of what Jesus has done for us, but we are sinners.

Love the sinner, hate your own sin!!!

You can listen to the podcast
here.

Identity Crisis, John 7:25-53, 26 August 2012

Big Idea: Perhaps the most important question in all of life is, “Who is Jesus?”

Have you ever been mistaken for someone else?
Have you ever mistaken another person?
Friend who thought a man with long hair was a woman from behind!

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

That’s not a very good question. Last week we heard about how Muslim people believe in Jesus. Mormons believe in Jesus. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in Jesus. Many atheists believe in Jesus. Satan and demons believe in Jesus.

What do you believe about Jesus? Put another way, “Who is Jesus?

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

They misunderstood what the prophets had said.

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 authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”

The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

Jesus said,
“I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

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? 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’?”

Here’s the climax of the passage:

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

They poured out water during the feast of tabernacles. He may have been standing ankle-deep in water when He said this. They were celebrating Moses getting water from the rock. We see free will here—anyone. Here’s election—the thirsty. If you are thirsty today and tired of drinking at the mud holes of this world, come to Jesus.

Jesus wasn’t talking about H2O, of course. He was talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit that occurred in Acts 2.

By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

The image of flowing water may have come from Isaiah 58:11

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

This may be related to the theme of the Feast of Tabernacles:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)

While this references personal salvation, Isaiah 58:11 speaks of believers being a blessing to others.

When we receive salvation through Jesus, we get the Holy Spirit, too. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is not merely for our own pleasure, but to fill the earth with fruit and gifts, to bless others.

Just as God provided for His people in the wilderness—the purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles—so Jesus fulfills this symbolism, eventually providing both salvation and the Holy Spirit, who could not come until Jesus was glorified.

Notice the response of the people:

On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Here again we see people confused about Jesus’ identity.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem but He didn’t stay there.

They couldn’t touch Him? Why? His hour had not yet come.


Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

Many have been impressed with His teaching, including many today, but that wasn’t the ultimate purpose of HIs visitation to our planet.

“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

Nick defends Jesus.

They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”
(52)

They were mocking Nick. Galilee was a hick town compared to the city.

Then each went to his own home. (53)

Today
Jesus is on trial, too. There are believers, skeptics, seekers, and enemies. Just as His followers risked identification with Jesus, so today those that bear His Name risk consequences.

While we share Jesus in word and deed, don't expect people to quickly follow Jesus. The world is in rebellion against God. They are skeptical. Even those in the Church are often skeptical…is grace real? Don't we have to earn God's love? Should we judge those for whom Jesus died?

Who is Jesus? How does your life reflect your belief? Would others agree with your personal assessment?

You can listen to the podcast here.

Misunderstood, John 7:1-24, 12 August 2012

Big Idea: Jesus was misunderstood. We will be, too.

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. (John 7:1-6)

“After this” refers to the previous chapter. This was actually about six months following chapter six which was during the Passover Feast. This is the final year of Jesus’ ministry which He focused on Judea.

Today Jesus is easily most controversial, misunderstood Person that ever walked the planet.

He has been avoiding Jerusalem, but now during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev) which celebrated dwelling in tents in the wilderness. They lived in booths. They camped out. It was a joyful feast with trumpets.

Jesus never took advise, especially from His unbelieving brothers.

“My time is not YET come.” He is following the Father’s schedule.

It is official: Jesus is a wanted man. The people in power were out to get Him, and get Him they did—eventually.

Of course, it’s generally difficult to build an audience while in hiding. Years ago after penning a book called
The Satanic Verses, author Salmon Rushdie went into hiding for fear of his life. To this day I cannot name another book he has written, but he gained notoriety for the price tag placed on his head. Literally.

Jesus, however, lived before texts and Tweets, CNN.com, CNN on TV, any TV, any radio, any newspapers, any periodicals, any telephones, Morse Code, the Pony Express...well, you get the idea.

This is one of many examples of people advising Jesus. Can you imagine telling Jesus what to do? Oddly enough, I do it all of the time. “Jesus, take away my headache, feed all of the starving children in the world, bring about world peace,...”

Notice the last sentence: even His own brothers did not believe in Him. Wow! Imagine that! Surely they must’ve thought something was up with Him.

(funny stories)

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil.
You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee. (John 7:7-9)

Jesus condemns sin by His very presence.

Whenever we come to a therefore, we must ask what it is there for.

YET. His timing is perfect.

However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?” (John 7:10-11)

Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”

Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders. (John 7:12-13)

There was division and discussion about Him. They were afraid of the Jewish leaders.

Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” (John 7:14-15)

He appears suddenly in the temple. They were surprised that He didn’t have His Master’s degree!

Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.
Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” (John 7:16-19)

To reject Jesus is to reject God. He made Himself equal with God.

Love for the Word of God.

Human knowledge must be known to be loved.
Divine knowledge must be loved in order to be understood.
We have knowledge and love and obedience.

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

They don’t get it! They are clueless! They think He is paranoid.

Jesus said to them,
“I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:21-24)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Conclusion

People will misunderstand you.

You will misunderstand me.

Please exercise grace.

“Help me understand.”

No gossip...go to the person.

Do you really believe in Jesus? LORD, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Help me to trust You completely. Help me to avoid judging others and externals and trust You completely with everything and everyone.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Deserting Disciples, John 6:60-71, 5 August 2012

Big Idea: Following Jesus is not easy, but it’s worth it.

Introduction:

Who do you follow, and why?

Who do you follow on Twitter?
Whose blog do you read?
Whose
radio or television show do you listen to or watch?
What authors do you read?

Why?

I would like to propose that most everything that we do is based upon what we hope to get in return. For example, we eat so we are not hungry. We buy cars that we expect will transport us safely and effectively. Even our generosity has some measure of personal pleasure to it, that good feeling that we are helping someone in need.

One writer put it this way: “We use relationships for what they can do for us and what they can get us, but not for what we give to others and receive from them. We keep our distance from intimacy and trust through our cynicism and calloused hearts.”

Last week we looked at Jesus’ claim to be the Bread of Life.

Jesus feeds thousands of people. They not only enjoy the free lunch, they assume He will overthrow Rome, set them free, and be the ultimate political leader creating a utopian society. Quite simply, they liked Jesus for what they could get from Jesus.

Jesus knows us all too well. Nobody knows the human heart like its Creator. As He is teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, He tells them

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 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.This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. (John 6:54-58)

Last week each person was offered a generous piece of bread. Would anyone like some of the leftovers? Of course not! Jesus says don’t pursue things that spoil. The bread you ate last week has gone bad. Jesus does not go bad. In fact, He is eternal.

While you may not be here today for physical bread, there are many that pursue fast-food spirituality. Give me a spiritual diet pill, minimize my inconvenience, serve me, feed me, tickle my ears, make me feel good, promise me that I will be blessed and rich and happy.

John 6:60-71

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then 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—they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:60-63)

Deep, authentic relationships are costly. They don’t always taste sweet. In fact, sometimes we have to swallow bitter pills. Sometimes, though, those difficult conversations help us grow. They help us become more like Christ. Sometimes, like a horse pill prescribed by the doctor, we need to take a big gulp and endure the momentary discomfort for long-term health.

The cup for us is sweet, but it was bitter for Jesus.

As we said last week, Jesus isn’t promoting cannibalism or Twilight vampires. He doesn’t mean to actually eat Him for lunch! The words are Spirit. Remember John 1:1, in the beginning was the Word, the logos, Jesus?

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. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:64-65)

Whosoever will may come.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:66)

Can you imagine deserting Jesus?

This doesn’t just say the crowds, but disciples. Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Why? Is it because of what Jesus can do for you?

This verse shows that it is not necessarily a permanent condition.

The Bible was not written with chapter and verse numbers. They were added much later to aid study. Nevertheless, notice the reference of this verse—666. This may be the only 6:66 in the Bible!

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

Why did Peter stay? He was chosen. John 6:37, 44, 57.

As a fisherman, Peter had to learn patience. He knows sometimes the net is empty and you endure hunger. He’s also seen Jesus perform miracles, feed crowds, and even instruct him on where and when to fish, to the point of his nets breaking from the weight of the fish!

One author wrote, “Whereas Judas steals form the money bag, Jesus has stolen Peter’s heart. Peter has both torn nets and a torn and broken spirit A broken and contrite heart before God is the most beautiful thing in the world. The true Christ-followers or disciples, like Peter, hold tightly to Jesus’ hard teaching, even if they don’t get what Jesus is saying. No doubt it’s because Jesus holds tightly to them. But it’s also because such followers have come to the end of themselves, the end of their resources, the end of self-sufficiency.”

People are searching today.

Do you want to leave Jesus? Check out the alternatives. We’re the only ones with grace! It’s the best deal in town! Only Jesus has the words of eternal life. Only Jesus died for you and proved His love.

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) (John 6:70-71)

John gives us a sneak preview of what is to come.

Jesus chose a devil to follow Him!

“I came from heaven. I came to give you life. I want you to surrender your life.”

Are you going to leave Jesus? When God doesn’t make sense, when our understanding of God goes south, are we going to desert Him?

Who are you going to live for? Who are you going to follow?

What areas of your life do you need to surrender to Jesus? He wants everything, not just your scraps and leftovers.

Conclusion
There’s an old expression that says, “You are what you eat.” I like to say that I love fruits and nuts!

We can feed on Jesus or on the things of this world. Think about this past week. How much time did you spend feeding your brain Jesus? How much time did you spend with Him, talking with HIm, reading His world, praising Him, talking about Him? How much time did you spend feeding your brain the things of this world? Music, movies, television, websites, advertising? Some of it is hard to avoid, but we are what we eat. We become what or Whom we follow.

You can listen to the podcast
here.

Bread of Life, John 6:22-59, 29 July 2012

Big Idea: Jesus wants to be everything to us, our all-consuming Bread of Life.

John 6:22-59

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

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
(John 6:26-28)

We are always seeking to work hard and impress God. It’s not what we do but what He has done.

We don’t have to spend our resources to buy the Bread of life. He comes to us! We just have to receive it...and receiving a gift will almost always prompt a natural response.

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

We don’t have to spend our resources to buy the Bread of life. He comes to us! We just have to receive it...and receiving a gift will almost always prompt a natural response.

So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, 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. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:30-33)

They were fed daily for forty years. They want to be fed. Manna gave physical life in the wilderness. God gives spiritual life.

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
(John 6:34-35)

The woman at the well wanted water. These people want bread. Jesus is the manna from heaven that gave His life for the world. He is the Bread that we feed on constantly.

But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
(John 6:36-37)

Election or free will? This is a common theological question—does God choose us or do we choose Him? Verse 37 says yes! You can argue election, but if you come, you will be welcome.

All those the Father gives me will come to me (election), and whoever comes to me I will never drive away (free will).

You can argue election, but if you come, you will be welcome.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
(John 6:38)

He mentions the Christmas story, coming down from heaven.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 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 them up at the last day.”
(John 6:39-40)

Do you want to know God’s will? The will of God is for you to come to Him. When a person accepts Christ, whom He justifies, He will glorify.

At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
(John 6:41)

He’s teaching His virgin birth.

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’?”

They don’t understand His true Father.

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
(John 6:42-44)

The word “draw” here means “drag.” Think about that for a moment.

It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
(John 6:45-51)

Jesus repeatedly declares Himself to be the bread of life.

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
(John 6:52)

He has a following and uses it as an opportunity to teach.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. (John 6:53-59)


Jesus is preparing His disciples for the Last Supper, the LORD’s Supper. This is not to be taken literally. He’s not saying they should become vampires and drink HIs blood and eat His flesh. The life of the flesh is in the blood. He will shed His blood and give His life for us.
This is not to sample or taste Jesus, but a full embrace of Him, a total surrender, to die completely and then become fully alive in Him.

Jesus declares Himself to be the Bread of Life. He didn’t mean He’s a bagel or a muffin. His audience understood bread not as a part of a meal but as THE meal. He didn’t say, “I’m the fish of life,” but bread.

The Romans only allowed the people to have 1600 calories/day. Bread was scarce. It was a means of control. The Roman soldiers only ate bread. The attitude of the people was if you can feed us, you can lead us.

What Jesus was really saying is that He wants to be not only the Bread of life, He wants to be our life! He wants to be our food. He will tell us in chapter ten that He gives live—abundant life.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware of the Olympics that started this weekend in London. How many of you like the Olympics?

To prepare for the Olympics, you must be consumed with your sport. It cannot be merely a hobby or even a 9-5 job. It must become your life! For many athletes, that means no TV, no McDonald’s, limited friends and free time.

For Olympic athletes, it’s all about the goal, the medals, the game. Training is everything.

Jesus is saying He wants to be everything. He wants us to be consumed by Him. He doesn’t want to be an afterthought in our lives. He doesn’t want to be a hobby or a last resort when we’re desperate.

He wants you. He wants you to want Him.

We often sample Jesus, but He wants us to experience Him completely.

Taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8).

You can listen to the podcast here.

Do You Want To Get Well? John 5:1-47, 8 July 2012

Big Idea: Do you want to get well?

John 5:1-47

What do you want? Really.

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast in which the hosts reflected upon what they’d do if they won the lottery.

If you found a lamp with a genie inside, what would be your three wishes?

 
 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
 
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
  Then Jesus said to him,
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:1-9a)

Do you find anything unusual about this passage?

Jesus’ asks this paralyzed man if he wants to get well. Why?

Sometimes we don’t know what we want.
Sometimes we don’t really want what we think we want.
Sometimes we don’t want what we really need.

Most of us have heard stories about people who refuse to leave an abusive relationship.

Maybe you know someone struggling with an addiction but they won’t seek help. They don’t really want to change.

Change. That’s a loaded word!

Why is change so hard?

We fear the unknown.
The status quo is often comfortable.

Carl Sandburg once said, “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”

Jesus asks the man, “Do you want to get well?”

Jesus asks the best questions. They not only lead to an answer, they usually change the entire story.

How many loaves do you have?
Who touched Me?
Whose face is on this coin?
Will you give Me something to drink?
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

Notice the man’s response. All he can see are the obstacles. He lacks vision.

These pools were believed to have had magical powers when they were stirred by an angel, but only the first person in the pool could be healed. This man could not walk, much less be the first one in the pool.

The man waited thirty-eight years to be healed in the pool. He never asked to be healed, but Jesus shows up, blows his mind, and heals his body...without the pool!

That sounds like Jesus...the friend of sinners, the compassionate One.

Look at the man’s response to Jesus’ question again. He does not say yes. He explains why he has not been healed.

Change is hard. If he is healed, he has to work rather than beg. He has to pay taxes. He has to buy a pair of shoes! Everything he has known for nearly 40 years is radically altered.

Jesus simply tells him to get up. That’s it! No prayer, no mud, no magic wand, no altar call, no plea for money. Get up!

There’s more to this story, though. One simple verse changes everything...

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, (John 5:9b)

Uh oh! The rest of the chapter shows how religion got in the way of the relationship God wants to establish with us.

The rulers completely missed the point.

We’ve talked about the importance of the Sabbath. It is in God’s top ten list...the Ten Commandments. It was created for us to rest and know God.

Jesus heals...on the Sabbath. Ooohhh!

Jesus tells him to carry his mat...and it is the Sabbath. Ooohhh!

Jesus runs into the man again, though.Jesus tells the man to stop sinning, but rather than following Jesus, he blows the whistle on Him.

Was his sickness the result of sin? We don’t know, but it is possible that there was a correlation.

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:16-18)

Here Jesus is on trial.

They are prosecuting Jesus.
They are persecuting Jesus.

Jesus was not merely unpopular. It says that they tried to kill Him! Why?

1. He was breaking the Sabbath
2. He was accused of blasphemy by calling Himself God (which is why He had the authority to break the Sabbath)

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, 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. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 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. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:19-23)

That cleared it up, right?

The rest of the chapter continues with red-letter words of Jesus to the religious leaders that ultimately call for Jesus’ execution.

These are very important statements in which Jesus declares that He is God. He is LORD of all, including the Sabbath. The seeds that lead to the crucifixion are clearly sown here in the fifth chapter of John.

But I want to go back to the beginning...I want to end where we began...

What do you want?

Do you want to be healed?
Do you want a spouse?
Do you want a job?
Do you want peace?
Do you want to impact the lives of others?
Do you want God to do great things through—and in—you?

Don’t let your dreams fade!

Perhaps a more important question before going there is...

Do you want to be well? Maybe you think you
are well. We’re all messed up. Each person in this room is sick. We are sick with sin. In fact, if you think you are well, you are more messed up than the rest of us because you are living in denial...and undoubtedly judging the rest of us...but we talked about that two weeks ago with the Samaritan woman.

It all begins with surrender. Perhaps you are thinking about what you have to do to be healed, but the Living Water has come to us.

There were various people at the pool:

Lame: in pain
Paralyzed: numb
Blind: no vision

This sounds like many in the Church. We lack vision, we are hurt and in bondage from our past, or feel detached.

Jesus doesn’t want us to merely survive like the sick man. He wants us to experience all of the life that He came to bring. That is not to say that there won’t be trials and persecution, but He has a vision for you...for me...for us...that He and only He can accomplish if we allow Him to do so.

Nothing is impossible with God...especially if you are pursuing His vision for your life.

It probably won’t happen as you expect it. The paralyzed man thought the pool was the only way to health, but Jesus surprised him.
It probably won’t happen when you expect it. He was paralyzed for thirty-eight years! Don’t give up. His timing is perfect, but usually slow in our estimation.

Can you let go of your own fear of change and allow God to make all things new? A new life, a new way of living, that is the Good News of God in Christ.

Get up and walk, in Jesus’ Name. Get your eyes up and look to Him. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and get them off of yourself!!!

You can listen to the podcast here.

Signs, John 4:43-54, 1 July 2012

Big Idea: Do you want Jesus or just miraculous signs?

John 4:43-54

  After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. (John 4:43-45)

If we think of Israel as Jesus’ country, the contrast is not between Judea and Galilee, but Samaria (where He was) and the Jewish regions of the country.

The people had seen what Jesus had done.


  Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
(John 4:46-47)

He’s back in Cana, but this time He’s not there to make wine.

This man was important. He likely worked for Herod Antipas in Galilee. He has a little boy who is likely his firstborn son who carried the heritage of the family.

Why didn’t he bring his son to Jesus? We don’t know!

Like the Samaritan woman at the well, he was desperate. He was broken. He had no where else to go. He is begging!

Desperation is what usually drives people to Jesus. I believe the primary reason why Christianity is dying in the western world is because we aren’t desperate for God. We have air-conditioned homes, cars with satellite radio, world-class hospitals, and iPhones. What else do we need?

Until that moment comes. The Visa bill. The report card! That word from the doctor. The late-night phone call.

There are people all around you and me that are in or about to experience a crisis. That’s the time they will be most receptive to the Gospel, the good news of Jesus.


 
“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
 
The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
 
“Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” (John 4:48-49)

The Galileans wanted Jesus to prove Himself with miracles but don’t care about what God is really doing among them.

“Come down” is an imperative. The official gives Jesus an order.

“Go” is also an imperative. Jesus follows suit and gives the man an order.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t go. He is actually absent in the miracle. He is not confined to one place. His power and influence is beyond human imagination and ability.

The world can see God’s power at face value, but there is a relationship between miracles and life-changing faith.

Some say that if they could see Jesus, they would believe in Him. This is simply not true. Thousands saw Jesus and saw Him perform miracles. They were impressed, but not impacted by God in their presence. The human heart is prone to selfish action rather than humble obedience.

Miracles were an important part of Jesus’ ministry and they led many to faith, but He wants more. Anyone can be grateful for a free lunch, but true belief takes things to another level. Jesus wants people to not only believe in His miracles, but in Him.


The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”
(John 4:50-52)

The man had to exercise his faith. He did so by leaving Jesus.

Jesus’ word is all that the man needed. After all, it was Jesus’ word that created the universe. Jesus’ word is power. It can be trusted.

God loves to bless us and intervene in our lives, but He doesn’t want that to be the focus.

Luke 16:19-31, the rich man and Lazarus; even if a person has every sign, they may not believe.

The people wanted signs. They wanted to see tricks.

They did not care about Jesus.
They did not care about being with Jesus
They just wanted what they could get from Him.

They wanted a genie that they could use and put back in the bottle when they were done.

  Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
  This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.
(John 4:53-54)

Just like last week’s story of the Samaritan woman at the well, the result was this character and others believed.

All this man had was Jesus’ word. He had to act on faith. He had to take a step of faith...not a leap of faith, but a step of obedience.

What about you? Are you waiting for Jesus to perform a miracle and prove Himself to you? Today as we celebrate communion together, we remember that He did prove Himself. He proved His love. He backed up HIs words with action.

He also proved Himself by conquering the grave. He performed the greatest miracle ever...the one that not even Harry Houdini has been able to do—resurrect.

You can listen to the podcast
here.

Unquenchable Thirst, John 4:4-41, 24 June 2012

Big Idea: God gave. Seekers can find.

Big Idea: We are all in need of God’s amazing grace, but we must be thirsty.

John provides us with several narratives...and conversations. We have looked at Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Now He encounters a sinful Samaritan woman.

  Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
(4:4-6)

The first sentence is significant. Jews hated the mixed race of the Samaritans. They would go around Samaria when they traveled.

This was an important place, Jacob’s well. The well has been active for almost 2000 years!

Jesus is tired, He’s in the middle of the desert at noon. He’s hot. He’s thirsty. He pulls off the road to go to a rest area.

Are you tired? Jesus knows what it’s like to be tired.
Are you thirsty? Jesus knows what it’s like to be thirsty.

Normally women came in the morning as a group to get their water for the day. She came at noon, alone, which tells us about her social status.

  When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her,
“Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) (4:7-8)

Jesus surprised her for several reasons:

1. She wasn’t expecting to see anyone at the well. Normally women came in the morning, as a group to get the family’s water for the day. She came at noon, alone, which tells us about her social status. It’s hot in the Middle East, especially at noon, and she was used to a solitary journey.

2. This was especially awkward because He was a man and she was not. Men and women rarely had any interaction unless they were married, and even then rarely in public. Single men never spoke to or touched a woman.

3. This man and woman were alone, which was even more unusual.

4. Jesus was a Jew and she was a Samaritan. Samaritans were second-class citizens. Jews were far superior.

When Jesus enters your life, expect the unexpected.

  The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
(4:9)

Actually, Jews did associate with Samaritans, but they were business dealings. They would never share water or vessels.

A Rabbinic law from A.D. 66 said that Samaritan women were considered as continually menstruating and always unclean. A Jew drinking from a Samaritan woman’s vessel would become ceremonially unclean.


She knows this is not normal. Jesus goes there!

They did associate with Samaritans, but they were business dealings. They would never share water or vessels.


  Jesus answered her,
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (4:10)

How’s that for a response?! If you only knew. Most people don’t really know who He is because most people never ask. He created an interest, a thirst.

Living water did not come from a well. It refers to flowing, moving water from a spring or river. It was precious and the only water that could be used for ritual, cleansing washings. There were no rivers or streams in this area, though, which is why Jacob had to dig a well 2000 years earlier to water his flocks.

The prophet Jeremiah said

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
(Jeremiah 2:13)

Our story continues...

 
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” (4:11-12)

Now she addresses Him as “sir.” The animals drank from this well. Jesus knows all about this well! All she could think about was the physical.

Many of us are like that. Many scientists are like that, too.

Just like Nicodeus, earthly questioners cannot understand heavenly things.

He doesn’t have a bucket!

Are you greater than Jacob? In Greek, this question expects a negative answer, but He surprises yet again.


  Jesus answered,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (4:13-14)

He’s not talking about H2O, of course. He’s talking about something—Someone—who can satisfy like nothing else, the Holy Spirit.

 
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (4:15)

He was thirsty. Now she is thirsty.

How thirsty was she? How empty was her life? How empty was her soul?
She’s ready for it.

She has been desperately seeking something or someone to satisfy her thirst.

Her five husbands have not satisfied her...or vice versa.

She hates coming to the well, every day, alone, at the hottest time of day.


  He told her,
“Go, call your husband and come back.”

That’s an odd request? The water is available to all, but there must be a thirst. She had a quick response.

 
“I have no husband,” she replied.

She must have been thinking, “It’s hot, You’re weird, why do you care about my husband, and where’s this great water?”

Jesus said to her,
“You are right when you say you have no husband.
The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

OK, this is really getting creepy. She didn’t even post this information on her Facebook page! She knows He’s special.

 
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
 
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
 
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
  Then Jesus declared,
“I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

I love how she changes the subject and gets theological with Jesus!

Have you ever started talking with someone about something uncomfortable and they change the subject? Look, a squirrel!!!

Many people love to talk about religion but refuse to live it. They use it as a smokescreen.

Five husbands. This was not Elizabeth Taylor. In this culture, she did not divorce her husbands. They divorced her. Men could divorce women for any reason whatsoever and just kick them out of the home, leaving them destitute.

This woman was most certainly broken.
She was lonely. She was desperate.
She may have given up on marriage.
The man she was with may have been merely for survival.

She finally meets a man that respects her.

It’s a good thing it wasn’t a judgmental Christian but Jesus that she encountered.

We often say 3 strikes and you’re out. She had five husbands and was loved and accepted by Jesus. He did not give her a righteous lecture but an unfathomable offer.

Jesus reveals His true identity to this outcast woman.

She wanted to know where to worship. We are to worship everywhere, always! God is no longer limited to one place as He was in the Old Testament.

She is expecting the Messiah. Imagine what she thought when He identified HImself!

It’s a good thing it wasn’t a judgmental Christian but Jesus that she encountered.

We often say 3 strikes and you’re out. She had five husbands and was loved and accepted by Jesus. He did not give her a righteous lecture but an unfathomable offer.

Our worship must come from deep within our souls.

Are you just going through the motions? It’s not about our lips, but our hearts.

Are you worshipping 24/7 or just an hour?

  Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

No one asked!

  Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
  Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
  But he said to them,
“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

She left her water. Jesus is focused, so concerned about this woman. He is fully present.

She can’t wait to tell everyone.
This is probably what she was thinking.

Who did she tell? What kinds of people?

We are to be a hospital, not a country club.

Who do you think you are? I’m one beggar telling others where to find bread.

This sketchy woman tells her village, “I met a man!” What else is new?!

Men and women of passion are contagious following a defining moment.

Do people know you have met Christ?


 
Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

It doesn’t say all of them, but many. Jesus couldn’t get the whole town, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the entire office. Just tell them what Jesus is doing in your life.

He stayed two days. He wasn’t in a hurry.

She was a vibrant evangelist. New Christians are often the most excited and contagious. God uses cracked pots.


  They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

This is what we want people to say to us!

We get healed and He gets lifted in this worship.

The condition is thirst. We must be thirsty. Are you thirsty? Are you desperate for God? Do you need God?

You can listen to the podcast
here.

So Loved, John 3:1-21, 10 June 2012

Big Idea: God gave. Seekers can find.

John 3:1-21

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. (John 2:24-25)

Jesus knew what was in each person. He knows what is in you and me. He is God.

He also knew what was in the heart of a guy named Nicodemus.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. (John 3:1)

He was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, likely a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. He was an outstanding man. Today he would wear an Italian suit, drive a sports car, be a member at the country club, and command attention in every room he enters.

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

Nick at night! He could not “see” spiritually. He came with a mask. “We” know. They recognized the miracles.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (3:3)

Jesus interrupts him and starts talking about the kingdom of God. Born again or born from above.

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (3:4)

This is a great question! Jesus wasn’t talking about a physical birth, though.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.
(3:5)

Water could refer to baptism or the womb but likely the sanctifying, cleaning power of the Word of God (Ezek. 36:25-27) through the Holy Spirit taking the Scripture and using it. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God through the man of God.

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (3:6)

Our old, sinful nature does not change. It will die with our body.

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:7)

The spiritual birth is necessary. We are given a new nature because our old nature is put to death (baptism).

You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (3:7-8)

We still know little about the wind. We can’t stop tornados. We can barely predict them! We can recognize when it is blowing, though, despite the fact that we can’t see the wind. “You” must be born again is plural. The same Greek word for wind means Spirit. We can’t see or control the Holy Spirit, but we can experience His power and presence and observe His movement.

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. (3:9)

Nick is no longer a Pharisee or a ruler but a spiritual seeker. The masks are gone. He gets real with Jesus, and that’s what we must do, too. I believe the greatest reason that people in the west reject God is they refuse to humble themselves and admit that they need God. We can’t impress God. We can’t put on a show for Him. We can only come on our knees in respectful reverence, awe, wonder, and desperation.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? (3:10)

Don’t miss Jesus’ sarcasm here!

Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. (3:11-13)

See Daniel 7:13-14

I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:28)

Jesus is the only One who can speak of heaven because He’s the only One who has been there. Prior to Jesus, the righteous dead went to Abraham’s bosom.

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (3:14-15)

The serpent represented the sin of the people. Christ was made sin for us on the cross. See Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus repeats that message in the most famous verse in the Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (3:16)

The son of man must be lifted up. We must be born again. The love of God cannot save a sinner. It is by grace that we are saved. He loved so He gave. To believe in Christ means to trust Him for your sins. Believe is more than just mental agreement. Demons “believe” in Jesus, but they don’t trust Him for their sins and soul. They have not surrendered their lives to follow Him.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (3:17)

Jesus did not come to judge the first time. He came as the Savior. Next time He will come as the judge.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (3:18)

The name of Jesus, the Savior of the world. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah would come as a Savior and judge. They were correct, but those two roles would occur during two different occasions.

This week I heard a great quote from Billy Graham:

God judges. The Holy Spirit convicts. We are to love.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (3:19)

Nothing that grows in the dark would be welcome in your home!

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (3:20-21)

Credits: Some ideas taken from J. Vernon McGee.
You can listen to the podcast here.

Jesus the Winemaker, John 2:1-11, 27 May 2012

Big Idea: Jesus’ first miracle saves a wedding reception and offers are preview of another salvation

John 2:1-11

Introduction

If you were writing a fictional account of Jesus, you would never choose this to be His first miracle.

Why did Jesus do this miracle this way for His first one?

Who He came to be?

(8-9) The master of the banquet is like the toastmaster or master of ceremonies or the emcee, the hired life of the party. The party is about to crash and Jesus saves it, revealing that He is the real LORD of the feast, the real master.

He created about 150 gallons of amazing wine to keep the party alive. He comes to be the LORD of the feast. As

Isaiah 25: in that day..feast...wipe away tears...

Of all of the things Jesus could show and tell, He came to bring festival joy.

Why are most people not worshipping God this morning? Many would say they want to enjoy themselves and have fun and Christianity is anything but, right?!

Jesus is LORD of the feast to make the world run with wine. There are reasons to reject Jesus, but boredom is not one of them!

What He came to do?

(4) Woman is not “dear” or “mom” but He is upset. He is harsh and His troubled response shows us He is thinking about something else. He didn’t just change His mind and do the miracle.

  1. If you are single and go to a wedding, you tend to think about your own wedding. You are thinking about the future. If Jesus was thinking about His wedding, it would have stirred Him far deeper than it stirs us.

The God of the Bible does not want to merely relate to us as king/subjects, shepherd/sheep, or even father/children but husband/wife. He wants to know us, love us, and unite with us. The image is of the bridegroom.

Matthew: why don’t your disciples fast? bridegroom
John 3 at end: John the Baptist: the bride is for the bridegroom
John at end of revelation: then I saw the holy city...bride...husband...wedding feast of the Lamb

Jesus is thinking about His wedding day. The ultimate union/consummation/embrace will be at the wedding feast of the Lamb

  1. Many singles find wedding troubling because they don’t know if they will ever marry. Jesus knows, though. He’s not only thinking about His wedding but what it will take for Him to provide wine for His wedding feast.

Jesus literally says “my hour has not yet come.” “Hour” in (John 8:20; 12:23) John means the hour of His death.

Jesus says, “It’s not my time to die yet.” He is looking into the future at which the present is a parable/pattern. He’s not talking about this wine or this wedding feast (He doesn’t have to die for that) but He realizes the only way for Him to unite with His bride is to die.

  1. ceremonial washing; wash before entering the presence of God; sign of our sins that need to be cleansed

Moses once turned water into blood as a curse. Egypt died because water became blood.

Jesus sees wine and thinks of His blood as a blessing.

Jesus is sipping the coming sorrow because He can’t think about giving the cup of joy without thinking about what He will have to drink.

If He is going to feast with us, He has to go through the hour.

“Let this cup pass from me” He said.

If you don’t understand hell, you don’t understand God’s love.

Don’t fear the destruction of your body, but the destruction of your body in hell.

Physical torture is nothing compared to be rejected by God.

The only way Jesus can get to His wedding day is to go through the hour
He came to give His water/blood as our wine.

What does He offer?

Powerful sensation and complete reception.

Powerful sensation. Salvation is wine.

The Bible frequently uses sensory language to describe relationship with God

Ps 34:8, taste and see
Ps 119, open my eyes that I might...

Why does the Bible continually insist on using sensory language? You are not invited to anything less than this, to experience God, to receive a new sensory ability. The Bible pushes you beyond knowing to tasting.

“There is a difference between believing that God is holy and gracious, and having a new sense on the heart of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. The difference between believing that God is gracious and tasting that God is gracious is as different as having a rational belief that honey is sweet and having the actual sense of its sweetness” - Jonathan Edwards

You are not invited to sign a list of rules but to a feast.

The difference of knowing and tasting is like a blind man asking you the difference between red and blue. It is like the difference between a trumpet and an oboe? Not really.

The wine that Jesus offers creates a hunger for it.

The first step is a hunger and thirst for it.
Then you begin to delight. They ravish you. They become sweet.
They begin to satisfy.

Jesus offers you wine; a feast.

Complete reception. Feast in heaven.

When He says He’s the king/shepherd/father He tells us something about us.

If you’re the best man or groom, you see the bride coming at you. The only person that sees that repeatedly is us ministers. No matter what that woman looks like in reality, she is ravishing. Bridal style/ornaments/garments will make you ravishing no matter what you look like in reality. As she comes down, the groom is amazed. He’s never seen her look like this before.

When Jesus says He is the groom, He is saying we are ravishing and He can’t wait!

To become a Christian,
  1. Admit that you’re out. You are empty.
  2. Let Jesus fill you and get credit for what Jesus has done (the Master ran out of wine and got the credit for good wine)

a. You can go to Him with little things. Why would Jesus use His power on such a small thing. He used His power to wipe the egg off of the face of teenagers.
  1. b. Submit to His timing. He will tell you to do things that don’t make sense and seem counter-productive. Mary says, “Do whatever He says.” She remembers the angels who told her He was the Messiah.
  2. c. Some of you are disappointed about your marital status, married or single. There has never been a wedding like the marriage between us and Jesus. This relativizes the need for a perfect marriage because the ultimate marriage lies ahead.

You have power over your joy.

Jesus’ first miracle was not as a boy, but as a man.

Moses’ first miracle was turning water into blood.
Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine.

Credits: many ideas for this message taken from Dr. Tim Keller.

You can listen to the podcast here.

The First Recruits, John 1:35-51, 20 May 2012

Big Idea: Jesus recruits four disciples: Andy, Pete, Phil and Nate

John 1:35-51

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” (John 1:35-38)

We talked about this last week. Jesus is again called the Lamb of God.

Because of John’s witness, two of his own disciples leave him and start to follow Jesus. John realizes he is number two. What humility!

Bestselling author Jim Collins who wrote
Good To Great says that the highest form of leadership requires leadership. His formula is Humility + Will = Level 5 Leadership.

As we said previously, John prepared the way. He humbled himself for the sake of helping people encounter Jesus. That’s our role today.

This wasn’t a case of them getting a better offer, but John saying, “He’s the One I’ve been preparing you to meet.” They shift their allegiance from John the Baptist to Jesus...and it’s ok. It’s great. It’s supposed to happen.

Jesus asks why they are following Him! “What do you want?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
(John 1:39)

Jesus says, “Come and see.” John includes a detail about it being 4:00. He was likely an eyewitness, and maybe one of the unnamed disciples in the previous verses.

Jesus invites them to spend the day with Him.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).
42 And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
(John 1:40-42)

Was Andrew excited about finding the Messiah? Had he heard Jesus was in the neighborhood?

“The first thing” Andrew did...

Andrew is often seen bringing people to Jesus (6:8; 12:22). What about you?

Cephas is also known as Simon and is renamed Peter which means “rock.” The Greek is petros. This is a nickname more than a common name, like we would call someone “Rocky” today.

Jesus’ authority to change Simon’s name is significant. He is casting a vision for what Simon will become, a rock.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)

Galilee is about one hundred miles north.

Jesus “finds” Philip and invites him to follow.

Philip is a popular Greek name that means “horse lover.”

It’s a simple invitation. He doesn’t beg, coerce, force, or yell. He just invites.

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote —Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
(John 1:44-46)

Philip recruits Nathanael, who might also be called Bartholomew.

Andrew recruits his brother Peter.

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
(John 1:46a)

Nazareth obviously does not have a good reputation! Actually, it was probably not bad, just small. Nathanael was from Cana, a rival village. He had seen others claim to be the Messiah.

Don’t judge a book by its cover!

Philip replies...

“Come and see,” said Philip.
(John 1:46b)

Do you see how Philip is already following Jesus. He says what Jesus said earlier: “Come and see.”

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
(John 1:47-48)

How do you know me?

Jesus knew Nathanael before Nathanael knew Him.

Jesus knows you, too, whether you are aware of it or not.

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (John 1:49)

Nathanael gets it! He changes his tune about Jesus. He experiences a miracle and believes.

In one sentence we see three names for Jesus:

Rabbi, which we saw earlier literally means “teacher”
Son of God (deity)
King of Israel

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
(John 1:50-51)

The “you” is plural. He is no longer just speaking to Nathanael.

There is another instance of angels ascending and descending in Genesis 28.

Jesus is the stairway to heaven. He is greater than Jacob and greater than the ladder. He is the place where we meet God!

John is telling us in the first chapter of his Gospel that the entire Scriptures point to Jesus. He sees history through the story of Christ.

Conclusion

We have come to the conclusion of the first chapter of John. Only 20 more to go!

We have seen John the Baptist prepare the way for Jesus.

We have seen Jesus’ first recruits, though we know little about them. The focus is on Jesus.

We see that contact with Jesus leads to self-denial. This is true for John the Baptist and the first disciples of Christ.

Note that conversion is not about merely learning information; it is about personally taking action and following Jesus.

This passage shows us that loving God must be connected to knowing God. Christian faith is both commitment and content.

Who is Jesus? We have been introduced to Him in several ways...

  • Messiah (20, 41)
  • the Prophet (21)
  • Jesus (29)
  • Lamb of God (29, 36)
  • one who baptizes with the Spirit (33)
  • chosen [Son] of God (34)
  • rabbi/teacher (38, 49)
  • Christ/anointed one (41)
  • son of Joseph (45)
  • Nazarene (45)
  • Son of God (49)
  • King of Israel (49)
  • Son of Man (51)

In conclusion, we have been introduced throughout John’s first chapter to Jesus. He is God. He is human. He created everything. He came on mission. He invites others to follow Him, but doing so is not a casual thing. We must commit both our minds and our hearts.

The great news is that when we fully surrender to Jesus, He remains faithful to us...always. We don’t risk devoting ourselves to someone who will betray, abandon, or harm us. When we draw near to Him, He promises to draw near to us and be with us always, to the very end of the age.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Lamb of God, John 1:29-34, 13 May 2012

Big Idea: Jesus is identified as the Lamb of God who comes to take away our sin

John 1:29-34

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:29-31)

John is the only New Testament author that refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God. It is a significant title as it denotes the One who will be the sacrifice for others just as a slaughtered lamb was offered as a sin offering before God.

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (John 1:32-34)

The Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is present at Jesus’ baptism. All of John’s efforts to prepare the way for Jesus bore fruit as people began to encounter the Messiah.


You can listen to the podcast here.

Jesus' Opening Act, John 1:19-28, 6 May 2012

Big Idea: John the Baptist’s mission was to prepare the way for Jesus

John 1:19-28

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” (John 1:19-20)

Who are you? This is an important question for everyone to answer. John could have sought to build a following, but instead he is content to merely prepare the way for Jesus. He was not interested in making a name for himself. People were expecting the Messiah to arrive and these leaders traveled quite a distance when they heard John the Baptist was attracting attention.

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
(John 1:21-22)

John the Baptist continues to divert the attention from himself. We are often tempted to become famous. John was already becoming famous, but he didn’t embrace it.


John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”

Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
(John 1:23-25)

They want to know if he has a license to baptize! Where is his authority? What are his credentials? It was not uncommon for Gentiles to be baptized upon converting to Judaism, but John was baptizing Jews!

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
(John 1:26-27)

A servant would do everything for his master except untie their shoes. John humbles himself before the LORD and recognizes that it’s not about him, but about Jesus.

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
(John 1:28)

John the Baptist may have been an eyewitness to this and the other events in the first chapter of his gospel. There are many details presented that would likely not survive mere oral transmission of the story.


You can listen to the podcast here.

John's Overture, 1:1-18, 29 April 2012

Big Idea: the first verses of the Gospel tell us about the deity of Jesus, John the Baptist, the depravity of the world, and hope as they preview the rest of the book

John 1:1-18

Why Four Gospels?

Just as marketing professionals use different approaches to communicate with different audiences, so the four Gospel writers uniquely wrote to various groups of people.

Matthew wrote to the Jews. He depicts Jesus as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and emphasizes righteousness.

Mark was intended to be read by Romans. He focuses on Jesus as servant and workman and speaks of miracles, strength and action.

The Greeks were Luke’s target. He is the Great Physician and Friend of Sinners. Mercy, wisdom and humanity are emphasized.

John was written to people of the east. Wise men came from the east to worship baby Jesus. Egyptians, Persians, Indians, Chinese, Babylonians. The mystery touched the misery of the world. We see Jesus as the Word of God, the light, life, and Living Bread. His divinity is prominent. John has more about the resurrected Christ than the other three put together. John mentions seven post-resurrection appearances.

J. Vernon McGee says that John is written for the wretched man, believers who have met Christ but try to follow Him in their own strength. That’s you. That’s me. John wrote at the request of the church that already had three Gospels but wanted something more spiritual and deep that would enable them to grow (Augustine).

The Overture of the Gospel

A prologue is an introduction, but an overture has pieces of the songs that follow. We get a preview of what is to come.

In The Beginning

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1).

In the beginning. Where have we heard that before?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

John writes elsewhere

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)

Jesus is the Word (logos in Greek).

He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:2-5)

In the beginning was the Word. It’s past tense. The word “was” is in the durative imperfect. It’s continued action. It doesn’t say in the beginning IS the Word. It says the Word was there in the beginning, the Ancient of Days. Eternal. Timeless.

In the beginning was, not is. When was this? 6000 years ago? Millions of years ago? Who knows?!

The Word was with God. The Word is not God the Father.

The Word was God. God was the Word. The Greek could not be clearer.

What is the Word? Who is the Word?

The Word is Jesus. The Greek word is logos. It meant reckoning.

Let’s look at it this way...

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

He created all things. Jesus was the Creator. Jesus was not created!

The two most important questions you and I must answer are who am I and who is God. Many people believe in Jesus, but what do they believe? Who is Jesus? A good teacher? A prophet? An honorable man? He was an is God.

Arianism was an early heresy. The Arians did not believe Jesus was God and man.

He is life.

He is light.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (1:6-8)

This is John the Baptist. We’re going to talk more about him next week.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (1:9-13)

Here we see that Jesus is the light.

The Greek word for “world” is “kosmos.” It is not a place, but a reference to everything. If you recall, in the Garden at creation, God said that everything He created besides a lonely man was “good.” Years later, God nearly destroyed it all when He saw how wicked and wretched things had become. Only Noah and his family were spared when the Flood covered the earth and consuming all life that was not hidden in the ark.

We often think of the world as a good place. We are taught that people are good. The reality is that we are all wicked and in rebellion toward God. We carry the DNA of Adam and Eve’s sin. We are messed up. One author has said, “Sin is not a series of bad choices, but a state of being from which bad choices continually come.”

Even in Jesus, we rejected Him. We killed Him. People love the darkness rather than the light. Throughout John we will see how we have rejected God.

We do not live in a nice world that God wants to make nicer. Instead, we live in an evil world that replaces the Truth of God for whatever man-made spirituality is politically correct.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:14)

John doesn’t take us to Bethlehem. This is the Christmas story in one verse.

This week I’ve been meditating on this simple verse. It is simple but so profound. God came to earth. Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible,
The Message, says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

There are many ways in which God could’ve expressed His love for us, yet He chose to come and become one of us.

Jesus is fully God, yet He also became fully human. God understands. Really!

Are you tired this morning? God understands. He has been tired.
Are you struggling with temptation? God understands. He has been tempted in every way.
Are you discouraged? God understands. He was so discouraged that He sweat drops of blood!
Are you sick or in pain? God understands. He experienced the most agonizing pain, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually.

This is what Christmas is all about! God became human and moved into the neighborhood. He understands!!! Hebrews tells us that...


For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to
help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 4:15-16)

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father,
has made him known. (1:15-18)

The Word is personified in Jesus. Many Jews rejected Jesus, instead claiming to be followers of Moses. John notes here that Moses never saw God, but those that saw Jesus saw God. Jesus came to fulfill everything that Abraham and Moses and David and Isaiah and every other Old Testament character longed to see and experience.

There is hope for our broken world. There is only one hope, and His Name is Jesus. One writer said, “Transformation and hope cannot be the fruit of some human endeavor. Only God can take the initiative, and men and women must see, receive, and believe the work he desires to do. And when they do, they are reborn to become God’s children.”

We talk a lot about change and transformation, but it’s not a human work; it is a divine work.

This passage “is not about a message that offers hope, but about The Message that is the only hope.”

We see that Jesus is God, Creator, timeless, eternal.
We see that we rejected Him.
We see that Jesus came to bring light and life and hope. Transformation is possible, not through methods or principles, but through a Person.


You can listen to the podcast here.

John The Writer, 15 April 2012

Big Idea: this message will introduce the writer and background of the Gospel of John

Introduction

Do you like books? What kind of books do you like to read? Why?

What is your favorite non-biblical book? Why?

Do you read mostly fiction? Non-fiction? Both?

It is common to know something about a book before reading it, right? Were it not the case, we would never worry about “judging a book by its cover.” In reality, that cover may be attractive and encourage us to read what is inside. The title may be compelling, the subject matter interesting, or the buzz surrounding a volume may be too much for us to ignore.

Book reviews, the notes on the back cover, and the title all provide us with information about a particular work, but there is another way we can usually learn about a book—learn about the writer.

John

We are beginning a comprehensive series on the Gospel of John. When I say comprehensive, this will take us several months, if not years! We’ll take breaks along the way, but this book will be our main focus for a while. Why would we spend so much time on one book? Here are some reasons:

Quotes

John’s purpose is not academic. He writes in order that men and women may believe... That is still the purpose of this book today.
-- D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary

John, last of all, conscious that the outward facts had been set forth in the Gospels, was urged on by his disciples, and, divinely moved by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel.
-- Clement of Alexandria (2nd Century)

John says it plainly, he wrote his Gospel to lead to faith in Jesus, and therefore to life itself.
-- Dorothy Ann Lee,
NIB One Volume Commentary

Of all the books of the Bible, none presents Christ as supremely as the Gospel of John.
-- A.W. Tozer,
And He Dwelt Among Us

Christian readers through the centuries have fallen in love with the Jesus of the Gospel of John, and consequently with the Gospel itself.
-- J. Ramsey Michaels,
The New International Commentary on the New Testament

In the final years of his life – when the nearness of death gives memories an eternal glow – and after having witnessed the most significant period of history the world has ever known, John wrote of his Master.
-- Charles Swindoll,
Insights on John

John is an evangelist who wants others to know Jesus as he knows Him. Through Jesus, he has experienced the new life of God and wants other s to experience it as well.
-- Jonathan D. Huntzinger,
Spirit-Filled Life New Testament Commentary

There is no other book in the Bible that to the same degree serves as a simple primer for new believers while at the same time continues to challenge the most learned scholars with its theological depths.
-- Robert H. Mounce,
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

These things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name. -- The Apostle John

John The Writer

Before we look at the book itself, let’s spend some time examining the writer.

John was one of Jesus’ three best friends, His inner circle. Although He taught the crowds and led twelve disciples, Peter, James and John had a unique relationship with Christ, and John is the only one of the three to pen a Gospel, a word that means simply “good news.”

Consider the following examples of this special inner circle:

They are amazed at a miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:8-10

They are mentioned first in the list of apostles in Mark 3:16-17, Matthew 10:2, and Acts 1:13.

They witnessed Jairus’ daughter raised from the dead (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51).

They witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2; Matthew 17:1; Luke 9:28)

In fact, many believe that the repeated references in the Gospel of John to “the beloved disciple” refer to John himself.

The book of John, like all books of the Bible, was inspired by God, yet written with a human hand in a unique style that reflected the person writing. 1 Timothy 3:16-17 says

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (1 Timothy 3:16-17)

While the process remains something of a mystery, we believe that the Bible is unique collection of 66 books penned over thousands of years in multiple languages by a vast array of different writers, yet because it is all from God, it carries one unifying message from the beginning in Genesis to the “amen” that concludes Revelation.

So who wrote the book of John? The Gospel never explicitly tells us, but we have plenty of evidence to conclude that it was written by John, the son of Zebedee and one of Jesus’ inner circle that included his brother, James, and Peter. He obviously had a unique perspective on Jesus since he wrote from the perspective a close, personal friend rather than a journalist or biographer. He literally lived with Jesus for three years. According to Papias, who was a New Testament historian, John was the Bishop of Hierapolis near the city of Ephesus from about 70 to 145 A.D.

Purpose

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

I encourage you to continue to read through the Bible according to our church-wide reading plan, but you may also want to take a peek at the Gospel of John. It will be a very exciting study of our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ, from possibly His closest friend.

You can listen to the podcast here.

E13U796O04I5BEO0