April 24, 2016
Judg. 17, Jn. 7:1-31
Judg. 18, 2 Pet. 3
The people asking Christ if He will go to the feast are taunting Him. They know the “Jews” plan to kill Jesus, and they are daring Him to go, the way children dare each other to do something they are afraid to do themselves, and which they know will harm or cause trouble for the one they are daring. The taunters present the victim with the choice of taking the dare, or being called a coward. They find the victim’s’s dilemma amusing. Words like, “coward” fall derisively from their lips, though their cruelty is true cowardice.
The fact that the taunters are Galileans makes their crime all the worse. They have seen the miracles and heard the sermons of Christ. They behold the glory of the Word who was made flesh, but their spiritual blindness prevents them from seeing the Light. The “brethren” of verse 3 probably refers to the Galileans in general, and to the immediate and extended family of Joseph and Mary specifically. Their guilt and corruption are self evident. But our own guilt is no less than theirs. Living, as we do, with two thousand years of Christian influence in our culture, and with two thousand years of Christian teaching, and with two thousand years of having the full revelation of God in the Bible, we should be the most enlightened and Godly generation the earth has ever seen. We should have ended war generations ago. Our cities should be shining beacons of learning and Godliness. Oppression, divorce, abuse, crime, injustice, cruelty, and unbelief should be almost completely unknown among us. Yet, our culture is no better than Rome in its declining years, and the Church, rather than rising above heresy and sin, is worse than the Corinthian Church of Paul’s time.
Our Lord does go to Jerusalem (10). Though verse 10 says He goes “in secret,” He is soon found openly teaching in the Temple and confronting those who want to kill Him. His knowledge astounds them (15). They are the professional theologians, the Doctors, the Priests and Pharisees. He is a carpenter, uneducated, a hick from the backwoods. The “Jews” are amazed at the depth of His knowledge and wisdom, and angry because of His ability to expose their lack of it. Most of all, they are surprised at the way Jesus really believes the Scriptures. The Bible is not a mere historical document to Him. Nor is it simply a book of “sayings” to be taken out of context and “claimed” as ways to make God do our bidding. To Christ, it is the revelation of God. He understands and believes its message. And He lives it. It shapes and expresses His every thought and action. His doctrine is from the Father through the Scriptures, not from the Pharisees.
Thus, He shows the religious leaders to be hypocrites. “None of you keepeth the law,” He says to them in verse 19. He shows the foolishness of their accusation that His healing and doing good profane the Sabbath by pointing out that they circumcise children on the Sabbath. If they can do that, why can’t He do something far better?
This completely refutes their charges. But, rather than repent of their sin and turn to Him in faith, they say He has a devil. We would think they might at least attempt to refute His doctrine and show the truth of their own views. But they know they cannot do that, so they attempt to discredit Him, and prevent Him from speaking.
Note that, even though it is common knowledge that the Pharisees want to kill Jesus (25), they deny it. This is a typical tactic of those who want to accomplish their goals by deception and force. Attempting to discredit the opposition, rather than engaging in open debate (which will expose their true agenda, and the weakness of their ideas and plans), they hurl false accusations at the “enemy;” “devil,” “hater,” “misogynist.” They deny their real agenda by saying they are promoting that which they really want to destroy. Few politicians read or understand the Bible in our day, but many have mastered the tactics of the Pharisees.
The people are undecided about Him (12, 25, 26, 31). Is He the Christ, or is He a deceiver? Though the leadership attempts to take Him by force, the debate continues, and some believe on Him (31).
April 25, Saint Mark the Evangelist
1 John 1
Collect for Day
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark; Give us grace that. being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We note in the heading for today that we are remembering Marks the evangelist. Much has been written about Mark in other places, but the most notable thing about him is that he is one of two authors of Gospels who were not Apostles. Why was Mark’s Gospel accepted by the early Church, and included in the Bible as an inspired work of God? After his shaky start with Paul, Mark ended up in Rome, when Peter was exercising Apostolic oversight of the churches in and around the city. Mark and Peter became so close, Peter actually calls Mark his son in 1 Peter 5:13. It was from Peter that Mark learned the meaning of the words and works of Christ, and it was under Peter’s direction that he recorded them in a book for the Roman people. Thus, the Gospel According to Mark is really the Gospel according to Peter. It must have taken much time and effort for the two men to gather and edit Peter’s sermons and memories into the book we now have, and Mark’s work has been a great benefit to the world.
We will never write a Gospel to go along side the others in Scripture. There are no more testaments of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as there are no more Apostles or prophets. The Bible and the means of grace are the medium through which God’s Holy Spirit guides His Church today, under the direction of duly called and ordained ministers. Yet, there is much in Mark that we can take as examples of faithful Christian living. For example, he grew in the faith. Yes he turned back from accompanying Paul, but he also went on other, equally dangerous missions with Barnabas. He became a friend and helper to Peter, who was well acquainted with danger and suffering in the service of Christ. Historians differ about other details of Mark’s life. Some believe he went to Africa and founded several thriving churches there. Whether that is so or not, his friendship and service to Peter, and his willingness to face danger and hardship in the service of Christ, make him a worthy example to all Christians in all ages.
The pinnacle of the Feast of Tabernacles (2) happens when the priest pours water from the Pool of Siloam on the Altar in the Temple. The water represents God’s Spirit being poured out on His people. It is a very solemn moment, preceded and followed by much prayer and singing of the Psalms. There is a time of silence while the water is poured on the Altar, a silence that lasts for some time. It is during this time of silence that a voice is heard, “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (38).
The speaker is our Lord Jesus. His point is that the Feast’s symbolism of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled and accomplished by Christ, the Word of God, who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Jn. 1:33). Movies about the life and ministry of Christ sometimes portray Him as shouting angrily when He teaches in the Temple. But, though our Lord speaks loudly enough to be heard, He is not shouting, nor is His voice expressing anger or contempt. It is compassion that fills His voice as He gives the announcement that He is the One who sends the Holy Spirit, and lovingly invites anyone who thirsts to come to Him for the living water of the Holy Spirit.
“Thirst,” refers to a spiritual need. The people in the Temple are praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They are asking God to fulfill His promises and send the Spirit to them. They have expressed their spiritual thirst for the Living Water. Now they hear a solemn and compassionate voice announcing that their prayers are being answered. Jesus is the answer to their prayers. If you truly do thirst for the Holy Spirit, and true union with God, come to Him, believe in Him, and your thirst will be quenched.
Naturally, some believe Him, some reject Him, and some are undecided (40-43). But the rulers and Pharisees are almost unanimous in their rejection (48). They are among those who would have taken Him (44), and sent armed men to capture Him (45). If they had known He was in Jerusalem, they would have tried to capture Him before He got to the Temple. But it was not yet time for Him to be delivered to them, so no one was able to capture, or, lay hands on Him (44).
Nicodemus stands alone in requiring that the intent and letter of the law be followed in dealing with Christ. The others are willing to break the law in order to crush this One they consider a trouble maker and a threat to their power and security in Israel. Thus, they answer not with evidence, but with personal attacks on Nicodemus, “Art thou also of Galilee?” This question means something like, are you, also one of the ignorant hicks from the backwoods of Galilee? Are you one of the illiterate fools who do not know the law? Their question shows their own deep misunderstanding of the Scriptures, but they do not care about that, for their concern is not really about truth or about God. They are concerned about their own social and economic power. To keep that power secure, they will suppress opposition by all means at their disposal.
Judg. 19:1-21, Jn. 8:1-20
Judg. 19:22-, 1 Jn. 2
The Feast of Tabernacles has ended, and the people have gone home (8:53). Jesus and His disciples leave Jerusalem to spend the night on the Mount of Olives, a short distance outside the city. But the next day, “early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him: and He sat down and taught them” (2). The outer court of the Temple is a place where people gather to hear teachers discuss the Scriptures and their application. Usually, the teachers are Priests and Pharisees, but the people naturally gather around Jesus this morning. They want to learn more about this Man who claims to be the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, and to be able to fill them with the Living Water of the Holy Spirit.
The scribes and Pharisees are prepared for His appearance. They have lured a woman into the sin of adultery, just so they can take her to Jesus and force Him to call for her execution. Verse 6 specifically states they are “tempting Him, that they might have something to accuse Him.”
They have craftily placed Christ in what they believe is a no win situation. If He does not call for the woman’s execution, He breaks the law of God. If He demands her death, He loses the confidence of the people by appearing to side with the Pharisees.
But, our Lord is far too wise to fall into their trap. He turns it into a trap for them, and they fall into it quickly and completely. He does this with the simple words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (7).
Now the jaws of the trap are turned toward the scribes and Pharisees. If they stone the woman to death, they are claiming to be without sin. But they know they are not sinless, and so do the people gathered around them. So stoning the woman would reveal their hypocrisy and evil motives. But, if they release the woman, they are breaking the law and showing themselves to be liars and heretics, which is what they are trying to accuse Jesus of. Thus, they are caught in their own trap. Realising this, they slink out of the Temple, becoming lawbreakers as they leave.
Christ’s words in verse 11 do not condone adultery, which is a serious crime against God and other people. It hurts spouses, parents, children, and many others, and God takes it very seriously. He also has mercy on this woman. His words are a pardon from God. They are grace and mercy which heal a terrible wound in her soul. They express the eternal grace of God in Christ. At the Feast He said, “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (7:38). His words mean something like, if you thirst for God, for grace and forgiveness, come to Christ and He will give it. This day, in the very Temple where He claimed to be the fulfillment of the feast, He freely gives that grace and forgiveness to a very thirsty sinner.
Our Lord now turns to the people and begins to teach them again (12-20). Some commentators have raised the question of whether this happens on the same day as the events in 1-11, or on a different day. It appears that it is the same day, and that our Lord is using the event to teach more fully about Himself as the personification of the grace of God. But that is a small detail that should not detract us from the message, which is quietly stated in verse 12: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Notice how closely these words resemble the words of John 1:4 and 1:9. It is as though Jesus is re-stating the point of these verses as He teaches in the Temple. He is giving emphasis to the words because the eternal destiny of every person depends on the truth or falsehood of them. The Apostle John has intentionally included these words of Christ here. It is as though he is asking the readers a question: do Christ’s actions and words support John 1:4 and John 1:9? If so, come to Him in Biblical faith and receive the rivers of Living water, receive the grace and light and truth He gives. If not, reject Him as a liar and a devil.
Some of the Pharisees have not left the Temple. Perhaps they were not part of the plot of verses 1-11. Perhaps this conversation does happen on another day. We do not know. We do know they continue to challenge Christ, saying His words about Himself cannot be believed because He speaks them. They are saying Christ is like an author proclaiming his own book to be the greatest novel of His time. The statement has little meaning, since it comes from the author. If the people and other writers praise it, their words have more value.
Christ says His words are true, even when He speaks of Himself (14). But there is another, who is The Authority in such matters, who says the same things Christ says of Himself. That Authority is the Father (18). The Father made the statements through John the Baptist, and by sending the Holy Spirit to Christ (Jn. 1:28-34). He also affirms the truth of Christ’s words through the miracles and signs performed by Christ. They are His affirmation and testimony of the truth of Christ’s words about Himself.
The Pharisees refuse to believe the Father’s testimony for a very important reason, they do not know the Father (19). These learned Doctors, whose lives are supposedly dedicated to studying and keeping God’s law, do not know God. It is important to know that, while it is not possible to know God without also living a Godly and holy life that centres around the Bible, the Church, and the Commandments, it is possible to be deeply involved in such things, yet still be a stranger to God. These Pharisees are very religious and spiritual, down to the smallest detail, yet they do not know God. Read and tremble at our Lord’s words.
How do the Pharisees respond? Do they fall to their knees in repentance and faith? No, they attempt to take Christ by force and complete their plans to kill Him. But He is easily able to elude them, for it is not yet time for the Good Shepherd to lay down His life for the sheep (20).
Judg. 20:1-25, Jn. 8:21-59
Judg. 20:26-, 1 Jn. 3
Having captured the Pharisees in their own trap (vss. 1-20), our Lord continues to teach in the Temple. He has a dual theme in this discourse. First is His nature and being, which is stated well in verse 23, “I am from above.” He is saying He is God, from God. He is “Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning” (25). He refers here to His words in the Temple regarding Himself as the fulfillment of the meaning and promises of the Feast of Tabernacles. He also refers to other statements about Himself as being one with the Father. He continues, boldly and calmly saying He speaks only what the Father teaches Him (28), that the Father is with Him (29), and, “I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but He sent me” (42). Perhaps His most telling statement is found in verse 58. The “Jews” (priests, scribes, Pharisees) have asked Him if He is greater than Abraham and the prophets (53). The way the question is formed in the Greek text assumes a negative answer. Thus, the “Jews” believe they have won the debate and showed Jesus to be a false teacher. They have asked the ultimate question, to which He must answer, “no.” “You don’t think you are greater than Abraham and the prophets, do you?” That is the sense of their question, which is asked in a sarcastic and arrogant tone. They expect Jesus to say, “no,” and slink away in defeat. But Jesus’ answer shows that He is not only greater than Abraham and the prophets, He is the destiny toward which Abraham and the prophets moved and directed all of Israel. He is the summation of everything they sought, and prayed for, and looked for, and were promised and foretold in the prophets and in the law and in the entire body of holy Scripture. He is, in fact, God. He is the Word become flesh. He is the great “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. “Before Abraham was, I AM.”
Our Lord’s second point is that the religious and political leaders, those men John usually refers to as the “Jews,” have missed the entire meaning and message of the Bible. He is from above, they are from beneath. He is not of this world, they are of this world, meaning, their ideas and values, and religion are formed by the fallen ideas of sinful humanity, not by the pure revelation of God (23). They will die in their sins (24) means they are so far removed from God they are not even going to Heaven. They are in sin now. They will die in their sin. They will remain in and suffer for their sin, forever. They don’t understand Christ’s message (27), and they don’t believe it (24).
Jesus makes the point that they are prisoner-slaves of sin. In contrast to their own idea that they are holy and Godly and highly favoured of God, and are His chosen vessels by whom God blesses and leads His people; they are actually bound in chains of slavery to sin. They live in the deepest, darkest, and most hopeless bondage. They are totally and completely owned by sin, and they serve sin every moment of every day. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (34). They are so completely controlled by sin that they have no ability to understand the words of Christ (43). They are of their father, the devil (44).
It is important that we understand that the “Jews” are as lost and without God as the Gentiles who have never heard of God. It is also important to understand that the condition of the “Jews” is exactly the same as all who do not know and believe Christ. All who sin are slaves of sin, and unable to free themselves from their eternal bondage. That is why they cannot understand or believe the Gospel. They belong to Satan and they believe the lies of Satan, the father of lies. But there is hope. No mere human is able to free himself from Satan’s service, but God can. Jesus is saying that He came from Heaven to free people. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (36).
It is equally important that we understand that those who are free are those who continue in His word (31, 32). Those freed from the bondage of sin become disciples (learners and followers) of Christ. They do not continue to serve Satan and sin. They are freed from that service. They are expected to come out of their dungeons and chains into freedom in Christ; and in Christ they are to learn how to live as free people, how to be “free indeed” (36).
One final point needs to be understood before we leave this chapter. It is stated in verse 47, “He that is of God heareth God’s words.” This is almost a repeat of verses 31 and 32, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It’s emphasis is only slightly different. It is that those who are really of God hear God’s words. They hear with understanding and with intention of being doers of the word ( James 1:22). The person who claims to be a Christian, yet has no time for Christ’s Church, no time for prayer, no time to read the Bible and allow it to shape his ideas and actions and values, is fooling himself. He is as far from God as the Pharisees confronting and plotting against Christ in this passage. Therefore, we must honestly confront ourselves with the question, do we truly hear God’s word, Bible? If we cannot confidently say we listen, try to understand, and try to do what the Bible teaches, we must conclude that we are not of God.
Judg. 21:1-15, Jn. 9
Judg. 21:16-, 1 Jn. 4
The Life and Light of men has come into the world in human form. The Word who was and always is God, was made flesh and dwelt among us. He is the source of all life and all goodness. He is light shining in the darkness. He is life and healing in a world of death and disease. That is the point made in this passage, and in all the miracles Jesus did. They are signs that God is with us. In Him we can walk in the Light and leave the darkness behind.
Light is useless to those who cannot see. To them a sunny day and the darkest night are the same, for their ability to discern light from darkness does not exist. This is as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the physical one. As our Lord gives sight to the physically blind, He symbolically shows that He can also give sight to the spiritually blind.
The result of the healing is a confrontation between the blind man and the Pharisees. These learned Doctors of the Law are faced with a disturbing question. Jesus, obviously heals people. They have spoken to the blind man’s parents, hoping to disprove the miracle, but the parents confirm it, the man was born blind (19, 20). They question the man about Jesus (17). Is He of God, or is He a deceiver? The blind man’s logic crushes the unbelief of the Doctors. The miracle is real (25), and, if Jesus were not of God, He could not have healed him (33). Now the Pharisees face a difficult choice, they must believe in Jesus, or reject Him. They choose rejection. They excommunicate the blind man (34), and call their own spiritual blindness sight (40). They intentionally choose darkness (Jn. 1:5) because they love darkness rather than light (Jn. 3:19). Because they choose the darkness, and call their blindness sight (41), they remain in their guilt before God.
The love of darkness is the obvious problem of the world. We love sin. We know right from wrong, but we choose wrong because we love what doing wrong does for us. We choose not to see the eternal cost of our sin to us, or its immediate cost to others. We choose only to see its immediate and very temporary pleasure.
Ruth 1, Jn. 10:1-21
Ruth 2, 1 Jn. 5
Our Lord paints a vivid word picture in which He contrasts the Good Shepherd with the thieves and hirelings; and contrasts the Good Shepherd’s sheep with those who stray and refuse to hear His voice. The picture presupposes that the sheep live in a wilderness where thieves and wolves intend to kill and destroy them (10-12). He also speaks of hirelings, who appear to be shepherds, but are concerned about profiting from the sheep, rather than caring for about them.
The wilderness is the opposite of the sheepfold. It is a place of danger, temptation, and death. It represents the ideas and values of those who love darkness rather than light. In many places, the New Testament calls it the “world” (Rom.12:2). Wolves are people, and evil spirits, who prey upon the sheep (people), and intend to fleece them in this life, and burn them in the next.
Our Lord makes the point that He puts Himself between the wolves and the sheep. The hirelings flee from the wolves to save their own lives, but the Good Shepherd stands between the sheep and the wolves, and actually allows the wolves to kill Him in order to save the sheep. The wolves take Him to the cross and kill Him, but He allows this to save the sheep.
The sheepfold has a double meaning. It refers first to Christ, the wall that protects the sheep from the wolves. It is the place where sheep are protected and nourished, and live in peace and freedom. It refers, also, to Christ’s Church both as a spiritual fellowship of all believers, and as a visible, organised entity. True Christians belong to both.
Ruth 3, Jn. 10:22-42
Ruth 4, 2 and 3 John
Verses 26-28 conclude the contrast between the Good Shepherd’s sheep and the lost and stray sheep. The picture of the Good Shepherd’s sheep begins in verse 3. Our Lord says His sheep follow Him, know His voice, and will not follow a stranger.
In Victorian times, it was popular for tourists in Israel to attempt to lead a shepherd’s sheep astray. They would pay the shepherd to lend them his cloak, then, imitating the shepherd’s voice, they would call the sheep to follow them. They never succeeded. The sheep ran away from the imitation shepherds and ran to the real shepherd. They knew his voice and they followed him. Jesus is using this fact to illustrate the fact that real Christians know His voice and do not listen to others.
The Bible is the voice of the Good Shepherd. New revelations and prophecies have ceased. Those who claim to have them either misunderstand the way God speaks to His people, or, they are thieves and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Therefore, the Good Shepherd’s sheep know the Bible. Their understanding of life, reality, truth, man, self, and God, comes from the Bible. They refuse to listen to the thieves, wolves, and other denizens of the wilderness.
The Pharisees confronting Jesus (24) are not the Lord’s sheep (26). They prove this by not knowing His voice, and by not believing and following Him. Instead of following Him, they intend to kill Him, showing themselves wolves rather than sheep (31). Christ points them to His works, saying, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe Me not. But if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (37, 38).
The “works” are the miracles. Christ is saying they are the works of God, meaning, He does what God does and God does what He does because He and God are one. In Christ, God is with us; the Word has become flesh. In Christ, the power and grace of God has come into the world to give us things so wonderful they can be described as life that is lived in the realm of the Eternal. The miracles, especially the healings, are signs of this. The miracles are God calling us to believe and let Him take us into the Eternal realm. Sadly, the Pharisees do not hear the Good Shepherd’s voice in these works. They do not comprehend the Light. They love darkness rather than Light. They prefer to preserve their temporary social positions and the trinkets of earth, rather than become citizens of Heaven and gain the true treasure of eternal life there. They reject the Good Shepherd so completely they attempt to kill Him.
The chapter ends with our Lord crossing to the eastern side of the Jordan. He will remain there for most of the time left before His crucifixion.
April 16, 2016
Judg. 8:1-21 Jn. 2
Judg. 8:22-35 , 1 Peter 1
John 2 is beloved by readers and commentators because it can be divided into four recognizable sections, each telling its own story. Verses 1-11 are about the beginning of Christ’s miracles. 12-17 show Christ driving the merchants out of the Temple. 13-22 tell of the Temple leaders disputing with Christ, and predict His death and resurrection. 23-25 show the reaction of the Jewish people to His words and miracles, as well as His reticence about their enthusiasm.
The miracle at Cana (1-11) is noted as the beginning of Christ’s miracles in Cana and Galilee. (11) John passes over much, which has already been recorded in other Gospels, and moves straight from the public identification of the Messiah at His baptism, to His mighty works, and the peoples’ response. The purpose of the wine is not to enable the people to have a drunken feast. It is to enable the disciples to behold the glory of the Word who was made flesh, and to begin to believe in Him (11). At the time, only the disciples, and the servants know about the miracle, though word of it surely spread rapidly. There is no show about it, and no attempt by Christ to call attention to Himself. His intention is obviously to encourage the disciples to be strengthened in their faith in Him by seeing His power in action.
The Word was not made flesh merely to perform tricks for people’s amusement, or even for their physical health and prosperity. He is come to do spiritual work, and He goes into the Temple to restore some semblance of its purpose to it. In so doing, He is claiming to have authority over the Temple, and even over the priests and high priest, who are the human custodians of the buildings and the liturgies. The “Jews,” meaning the priests, recognise this claim, but do not accept it. In verse 18, they demand a miraculous sign from Him, which He refuses to perform . Instead He points to His resurrection as the sign for them and all humanity. He speaks of the Temple of His body, which is much more truly the Temple of God than any structure built by men (Heb 9:11). He says when they destroy it, referring to His crucifixion, He will raise it up in three days. No one there understands His words at the time. But, after His resurrection, the disciples remember and understand them, just as you and I understand them today (22).
Our Lord did other miracles in Jerusalem, which John does not list. He moves from the miracles to the result that many believe in Him (23). They believe He is the Messiah. They believe He is come from God to bring in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and promises. But they do not understand those promises, therefore, they do not understand Christ. They follow Him to receive the miracles, and because they hope He will free them from Roman oppression, according to the popular messianic views of the time. But Christ knows they do not believe in Him as the real Messiah. He knows they will leave Him when He tells them the truth about Himself, and about themselves. He knows they will join the call to crucify Him when He stands before them at His “trial.” Therefore, He does not “commit Himself unto them” (24). He does not allow their adulation of Him to deter Him from His mission, nor does He put any faith in them to be true followers.
It is no secret that many today try to make Jesus a mere healer or entertainer. Many preach that about Him, and many follow Him to receive their miracles. Be assured, Christ does not commit Himself to them. He came to heal the soul, and only those who come to recognise Him as Lord and God of their lives and souls truly belong to Him.
Judg. 9:1-21, Jn. 3:1-21
Judg. 9:22-45, 1 Pet. 2
From the false belief of the general populace, and the open rejection by the priests and religious leaders, John moves to define true belief. He does this by relating the encounter of Nicodemus with Christ. After a few flattering remarks about Jesus, Nicodemus is confronted with the words, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This must come as a shock to Nicodemus, who is one of the religious leaders of Israel, and he does not understand it. But Christ is saying real faith is not merely recognising Him as a great teacher or prophet. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, which enables a person to repent of sin, believe the Gospel, and devote himself to Christ as his Saviour and Lord and God. When a person is thus enabled to believe in Christ, he is born into the Kingdom of the Messiah.
Verses 9-21 continue to contrast the false beliefs of the Pharisees with the true faith engendered in those who are born again. False believers think they are accepted by God because of their good works. They believe they are good people because they offer the appropriate sacrifices and keep the minute details of the Pharisaic code. But, in reality, they are far from God. Their faith is based on external acts, rather than an internal condition. They fail to see the sinfulness in their hearts, which can gladly send an innocent Man to the cross. They fail to see that their sacrifices cannot remove that sinfulness, or even that they need to have it removed. It their own minds, they consider themselves good, and holy, and fully deserving of all the best God can give to them. The result of such faith is seen in verse 15. They will perish, spiritually, as those who died in the wilderness because of the serpent bites, perished physically (Num.21:6). But those who repent and believe the Gospel are like those who looked in faith to the serpent Moses raised up in the wilderness. That serpent is a symbol of Christ, and means those who look upon Christ in true faith will not perish spiritually, but have everlasting life with Christ in Heaven (16).
Judg. 9: 46-57, Jn. 3:22-36
Judg. 10, 1 Pet. 3
Leaving Jerusalem after the conversation with Nicodemus, our Lord ministers in the Judean countryside (22). The baptist is working in the area, and word comes to him that Christ and His disciples are also preaching and baptizing (26).
The question about purifying (25) probably centres on baptism. Is John’s baptism just as true and effectual as Christ’s, or is there an essential difference between them? If there is a difference, which is better? We remember that John himself said Christ’s ministry was better than his, and that Christ will baptize with the Holy Ghost, while John merely baptizes with water (Jn. 1:15-18). Of course, we understand that water baptism, including John’s, is symbolic of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which happens to the believer at conversion. But the disciples of John do not understand this yet. To them, the real issue is not which baptism is better, but that people are going to Jesus instead of John (26).
John ignores the question about purification, and turns to the real difference between himself and the Messiah. His words reveal a deep understanding of the meaning and ministry of Christ, which goes far beyond the popular views of the people, and the scholarly studies of the priests and scribes. John says people should go to Jesus instead of him. He is glad people are going to Jesus (29, 30). John has only come to prepare the way for the Messiah. John is the one “sent before Him” (28). He is not the Messiah. Therefore, he must decrease in influence and popularity, while Christ must increase (30). This is the heart desire of every true Gospel minister.
Verses 31-36 give some of the clearest teaching about the nature and purpose of the Messiah found in Scripture. John must be a man of much prayer, as well as a true scholar of the Bible to understand it so well. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, John understands that the Bible teaches that the Messiah is the Son of God, that all things are given unto the Son, and that the eternal destinies of all people rest upon their true belief and acceptance, or their rejection of the Son as Saviour, Lord, and God.
“Son of God,” as used in verse 35, refers to a spiritual, rather than physical relationship. It does not mean there was a time when the Son did not exist, or that the Son was somehow conceived into being by an act of God the Father. It means what we mean when we say, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is a statement of the full deity of Christ, and serves to further identify the Word, which was made flesh and dwelt among us (see comments on John 1:1-14).
John understands that the Messiah is not here to fulfill Israel’s fantasy of world dominion and wealth. He is here to bring people back to God in the fullest sense. He is come to give eternal life with God in Heaven, not worldly peace and prosperity. Those who understand and believe this, receive that everlasting life. Those who reject it, “shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (36).
Judg. 11:1-28, Jn. 4
Judg. 11:29-40, 1 Pet.4
Verses 1-42 tell the beloved story of “The Woman at the Well.” The Pharisees have already begun to oppose Jesus. They were offended when He cleansed the Temple (Jn. 2:13-22), and they demanded a sign to show His authority to do it. Before that, they were offended by John the Baptist (Mt. 3:7). Therefore, they naturally oppose anyone John identifies as the Messiah. So, when they hear Jesus is teaching and baptizing in the country around Jerusalem (1, 2), their opposition becomes more intense.
In due time, Jesus will confront them publicly. At that time He will expose their hypocrisy and false understanding of Scripture. For now, He has more important things to do, so He returns to Galilee (3), where He will conduct most of His ministry. Samaria lies between Judea and Galilee. Because the Samaritans are noted for their corrupt faith, and the moral/cultural corruption, which is the natural result of a corrupt faith, most Jews will not travel through Samaria. But Jesus, “must needs go through Samaria” (4). He has an appointment, made before the world was created, to bring the Gospel to a woman who is lost and dead in sin.
He meets the woman at the well of Jacob near the town of Sychar (5), and begins the conversation by asking the woman to give Him water to drink. From there, He swiftly moves to offering Living Water to her. The Living Water springs up inside a person. It is water that nourishes and heals the soul, and those who drink it receive everlasting life from it (14).
The Living Water is Christ, and all the ways and means He gives to reveal himself to us and draw us to Himself. The Bible, the Church, the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism are part of that river of Living Water.
The woman argues, and Christ reveals that He knows all about her sin (16-18). Her sin does not consist merely of adultery, though that is bad enough. Her sin is a life-style of neglecting the things of God, and indulging her own ideas and desires. Adultery is only part of that life-style. Yet, like the tree of Eden, her sin has not given the joy and freedom she expected. Instead she has reaped sorrow and disillusionment. We can only imagine the hurt, anger, and brokenness this woman feels due to the break up of so many relationships.
Her life-style of sin is evident, in spite of her religiousness, which is shown by her sketchy knowledge of the Bible, and her hope in the Messiah (19, 25). It is very important to see that it is possible to be a religious person, to go to Church, and to have some knowledge of the Bible, yet still have an attitude and life-style which does not accept and live close to God and according to His will. It is possible to be religious, but only accept God on your terms, instead of His. Such people demand that God change His commandments and nature to accommodate their desires and ideas of what He ought to be like. But God demands that we change our desires and ideas to accommodate ourselves to Him. Refusal to do so is sin, no matter how many nice, religious things we may also be doing. Whatever else the words, “in spirit and in truth” (23) mean, surely they convey the stark reality that the true worship of God consist of a humble and contrite spirit that willingly seeks and does His will, and honestly accepts and devotes ourselves to Him according to His truth revealed in the Bible, not according to our own ideas of what we want Him to be like.
The result of this meeting is the conversion of the woman, along with many others in the town of Sychar (31-42). It is interesting that the Samaritans believe in Christ as the Saviour of the world (42). They realise He has come to save souls. Very few Jews understand this during the Saviour’s time on earth. At this time, even the disciples don’t understand it, but the Samaritans do.
Back in Galilee (45), our Lord is welcomed by the people, who saw His miracles and heard His sermons at Passover in Jerusalem (45). The words to the nobleman, in verse 48 are an inditement of the majority of people, who want signs, in order to believe in Christ, or miracles to relieve their suffering. The nobleman already knows Christ can heal his son, but he probably has no real understanding of who Christ is, or what His mission is. It is only when he receives word from his servants that his son is well (51, 52), that he truly believes in Jesus (53).
Judg. 12, Jn. 5
Judg. 13, 1 Pet. 5
Our Lord travels again to Jerusalem for “a feast of the Jews.” Many believe the feast is Passover, but 6:17 seems to indicate it was something else. Certainly, our Lord could have gone for any of the annual feasts. While in the city, our Lord has mercy on a man who has been paralysed for thirty-eight years. No word is given about how he came to be paralysed, but the Lord warns him to sin no more “lest a worse thing come unto thee” (14). Thus we see that his own personal sin is at least partially responsible for his condition. This is an important point. There is a general malaise of the world, which is the result of our collective sin. Natural disasters, interpersonal and international strife, disease, and a general misery are all part of this malaise. But there are also individual and specific results of sin, which can only be understood as punishment for our personal sins. Often this comes to us in the form of the natural consequences of our actions. A person who jumps out of a second story window can expect to get hurt as a natural consequence of jumping. A person who lives in opposition to the way of peace and harmony, taught in the commandments of God, can expect to reap strife and discord as the natural consequences of his sin. But, sometimes, God actually causes something to happen, as a direct punishment for sin, and this appears to be the case in this man’s life. We do not know exactly how or why this man is paralysed, but we do know his sins have not brought him pleasure and joy. Like the woman at the well in John 4, his sins have brought him sorrow and brokenness.
The Jews, mentioned in verses 10, 15, and 18, are not the Jewish people. They are what we might call, the “elite.” They are the people in power in the Jewish culture. They are the people who have worked themselves into the leadership positions of Israel’s financial political, and religious institutions in order to use them to increase their own social and economic security. They have created an elaborate and burdensome code of rules, which they impose on the people, but do not keep themselves. The code originated as a way to help the people keep the commandments of God, but by the time of Christ, it is often used to control the “flock” so the “sheep” are easier to fleece.
Thus, seeing the palsied man, now well and carrying his blanket home, they accost him to demand why he is carrying a burden on the Sabbath. This causes real fear for the man, for these men have the power to have him beaten or stoned. They also have power to expel him from the synagogue and the Temple, which is the same as expelling him from Israel. Such a man is considered a Gentile, and outside of the promises of grace God has made to Israel. In New Testament language, we would call him, “lost.”
The context of the passage seems to indicate that the “Jews” are not as interested in the Sabbath as they are in their own position of authority. They appear to have no concern for him, nor do they rejoice that he is well. What they are doing would be called “bullying” if it were happening among children. The fact that it is being done by adults makes it a crime of oppression and abuse.
When they learn that Jesus healed the man, and told him to take his “bed” meaning, blanket, home, they do not rejoice that the Lord has had mercy on the man. They make plans to kill Jesus, who confronts them openly, and exposes their hypocrisy and lack of understanding of the ways and purpose of God (19-47).
Verse 18 gives a secondary reasons for opposing Jesus. The first is that He is a threat to their position and power. But they cannot openly oppose Him on those grounds without exposing their sin. He has, after all, been identified as the Messiah by John the Baptist, who was universally accepted as a true prophet of God. So they invent reasons to oppose Him. They accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath by healing the man on the Sabbath. In other places, the Lord will show that doing works of charity and necessity on the Sabbath are allowed and encouraged by the law, as these men already know. But, in this confrontation, Christ deals primarily with their accusation that calling God His Father makes Him equal with God.
The Lord responds to this charge by acknowledging its truth. In fact, He enlarges upon, and clarifies the fact that He and the Father are one. Verses 19 and 20, along with verse 30, show that Christ and the Father act as one. 21-29 also show that Christ shares the nature and abilities of God. He has life in Himself, not merely as a derivative from God, as mere creatures have (21, 27). He has authority to judge humanity as only God has (22-30).
Naturally, the Lord proves His case from Scripture. In 39 we find the strongest support for His claim that He is in fact God, the Word become flesh. He says the Scriptures, by which He means the Old Testament, especially the law, which these men know and distort for their own advantage, “testify” of Christ. Jesus is not blaspheming. He truly is God, as shown in the clear teaching of the Bible, which these men profess to believe.
Jesus is making an important point: though these men are devoted to the Bible, and though they profess to know and love it, they do not understand it. Jesus says they do not have His word abiding in them. They search the Scriptures, thinking they find in them eternal life, but, they miss the one essential point of Scripture, that they testify of Christ. (39).
Judg. 14, Jn. 6:1-21
Judg. 15, 2 Pet.1
“After these things,” (1) refers to the events in Jerusalem in chapter 5. How much time has elapsed between them and chapter 6 is unknown, but the miracle happens during “the great Galilean ministry,” when our Lord spent most of His time and energy ministering in and around Galilee. Debate about which Passover is meant in verse 4, has consumed many hours of scholarly research and discussion, but John does not take time to clarify it. He quickly moves to the main point of the passage; the miraculous feeding of the multitude. Verses 1-21 tell of the feeding, and Christ walking on the water, which are also told in other Gospels. Verse 25 is where the meaning, and it is very profound, begins to be explained to the people and to us.
The miracle is well known, even in this time of Biblical illiteracy. The people have followed Jesus to a place devoid of places where they might buy food, so Jesus takes the lunch of a small boy, consisting of a couple sardine sized fish and crackers, and makes it feed a multitude of more than 5,000 people.
Tomorrow’s reading will give Christ’s teaching on the meaning of this miracle. Therefore, let us spend a moment discussing what it does not mean. It does not mean God will always feed you, or perform a miracle to supply your desires or physical needs. It does not mean that, if you give a “seed” offering to Christ, He will multiply it back to you. It does not mean that if you have enough faith, or ask in the right way, or give enough money to a TV preacher, God is going to miraculously give you money, heal your illness, or fix your economic/family/marital problems. It is not Scriptural proof of any of the tenets of the health and prosperity or word of faith gospels currently taking over many churches, especially the mega-churches. It is a sign of the Bread of Life that comes down from Heaven. It is a sign of the Word who became flesh, and of the eternal reconciliation to God He came to give.
The people are already aware that Jesus can heal diseases, but when they find He can also feed them, they determine to take Him by force, and make Him their king (15). Bishop Ryle’s comments explain their intent and Christ’s response.
“The intention or wish was probably to place Him at their head, and proclaim Him their king, with or without His consent, and then to hurry Him away to Jerusalem, so as to arrive there at the Passover feast, and announce Him as a Deliverer to the crowd assembled at that time. - The idea evidently in their mind was, that one who could work such a mighty miracle must be a mighty temporal Redeemer, raised up like the Judges of old, to break the bonds of the Romish government, and restore the old independence and kingdom to Israel. There is no reason to suppose that there was any more spiritual feeling in the minds of the multitude. Of sense of spiritual need, and of faith in our Lord as a savior from sin, there is no trace. Popularity and the good opinion of excited crowds are both worthless and temporary things.”
Judg. 16:1-20, Jn. 6:22-71
Judg. 16:21-31, 2 Pet. 2
“The following day” (22), refers to the day after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus has returned to the Capernaum area, and the people He fed have also come there seeking Him (24). What is their motive for seeking Jesus? What do they want from Him? Are they repenting of sin and trusting Him as Lord and Saviour? No. They seek Him for two reasons. First, they want fed again. It is breakfast time, and they are hungry. Food is less common and more expensive in their time than in ours, and a free meal is a valuable thing. So they hope Jesus will feed them. Second, they still retain the hope of making Him their deliverer/king (15). A king who can heal the sick and feed the nation is a very desirable benefit to them. Thus, Jesus says, they seek Him not because they saw (and understand the meaning of the) miracles, but because they, “did eat of the loaves and were filled” (26). They want more food. Jesus only has value to them as a source of healing, food, and national security.
Nothing has really changed over the centuries. People still go to Church for entertainment or because they hope to receive a “miracle.” Some come to Christ to be “saved” from Hell, but they still intend to live in the same old patterns of sin and un-Godliness. They want to go to Heaven, but they don’t want God. Such people will aways abound. Please don’t be one of them.
The heart of Jesus’ message is found in verses 35-51. Our Lord is telling all humanity that He did not come to earth merely to work miracles and provide food. He came to be the Bread of life that gives food and life to the soul. He came to raise people up out of their sin and despair, out of the wrath of God, and out of the destiny of Hell. He came to raise people up into goodness and justice, the confidence of Heaven, and the love of God and Godliness. He does this by giving His life on the cross (51).
Some people truly come to Christ in Biblical faith. These people trust in Him as their Saviour, and commit themselves to Him as their Lord and God. They begin a new life of Godliness, of loving God with their whole being, which necessarily includes a genuine, life-long commitment to living and thinking as God wants them to. To these people, Christ says, “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (36). These, and only these people, are assured of a great welcome from God. They are the ones who eat the Bread of Life, and they are the ones Christ raises to new life now, and to eternal peace on the last day.
Just as in our own time, most of those who followed Christ in His own time were disgusted by His words, and turned away from Him (64-66). When following Jesus seems to promise worldly prosperity, when worshiping Him seems to be like a party, when our minds imagine Him as we want Him to be, rather than as He really is, people follow Him gladly and en mass. But, when they finally hear His real message, and realise what it means to them, and what it requires of them, the vast majority of them turn away from Him. The people in Galilee have begun to see that Jesus is not going to be the kind of Messiah they want. He is not going to give them breakfast, be reduced to a miracle worker, or free Israel from Rome. Instead, He is talking about giving His life so they can have eternal life. They don’t understand His words, and they don’t like them, so they just leave. It is not just the masses who leave. Verse 66 tells us many of His disciples “went back, and walked no more with Him.” These are people who have been close to Him, and seemed to understand His message and believe in Him accordingly. But they are false believers. In their hearts they are no different from the Pharisees, or even the Romans who will nail Jesus to the cross. They appear to be first in faith and loyalty to Christ. In reality, they are last.
It is no different today. Many who appear to follow Christ are really following their own ideas of what they want and imagine Christ to be. If they ever begin to understand His real message, they will turn away from Him. Thus, Christ’s words to the twelve are as relevant today as they were then: “Will ye also go away?” Will you follow Christ only as long as it is convenient? Will you follow Him only as long as He appears to conform to your ideas and hopes? “Will ye also go away?” Or will you turn from your sins, and your false hopes and ideas, and embrace Him as He really is?