John 8:12 The Light Of The World

John 8:12
The Light Of The World
The Light Of The World

John 8:12 MKJV   Then Jesus spoke again to them, saying, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Jesus has truly been the “light of the world” and everyone from Ghandi to Lincoln to Mother Teresa has walked by His light. No teacher other than Jesus is so highly regarded as worthy, and even Mohammed said that Jesus was the only perfect person who ever lived.

The teachings of Jesus are often lauded as a “high moral ethic” however they also constitute the pathway to eternal life! The words of Jesus are ‘spirit and are life”: John 6:63 MKJV   It is the Spirit that makes alive, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and are life.

Those that follow Jesus are not morally and spiritually ignorant, they do not walk “in darkness” and confusion about life, and they do not stumble in their walk with God but abide in a teaching that is certain and is true.

The teachings of Jesus purge us inwardly of hatred, unforgiveness, hypocrisy, worldliness and carnality. His teachings uproot sin from within us and thus we are made into a people of a pure heart and a loving disposition – by the Holy Spirit.

Obedience is the key to knowing the Light for it is “He who follows Me” that attains the light – not just those who “have opinions about Me”. John 7:17 MKJV   If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself.

The reverse is also true, not only does obedience lead to truth - but sin leads to error. Heresy often begins as an attempt to justify a most-cherished sin – such as greed or homosexuality or fornication. Thus certain verses have to be “re-interpreted” and the light is lost as Jesus is disobeyed.

But what is the practical use of being enlightened? Surely money and sex are far more useful and enjoyable than mere enlightenment? What use is knowing the Truth and living in the light if it is a poor and joyless existence? These are the sort of questions people ask when they look at the sacrificial lives of certain Christians. People associate enlightenment with Yoda in Star Wars and Ghandi and Buddha and rightly conclude it is weird and ascetic and “not for them”.

However Christian enlightenment is not about astral travel or states of being. It is the simple certainty that God loves you. This holy certainty irradiates all of life, removes all confusion and anxiety and makes sense of both world history and everyday life – including our own identity. God’s love directs our actions and ensures their rightness and appropriateness and gives us a solid grounded-ness as an individual human being.

The enlightenment Jesus brings enables you to truly know who you are, and that who you are is already accepted in God, without any need for striving or change (though, paradoxically change will come as we realize that we do not have to change in order to be loved.)

The acceptance by God is prior to the changes God makes. This is much like marriage, where the love in the relationship enables us to go about the necessary changes. We marry first, and change later. We are loved by God first and get sanctified later on.

Without the light that Jesus brings our lives will slowly but surely become discordant and maladaptive, we will not understand our actions or ourselves and we will search for love and acceptance in ways that are ultimately self-destructive. Without God’s enlightenment we can end up like the Hollywood actors, or Princess Diana, outwardly blessed but inwardly a complete mess. Money, sex and power cannot bring about inner congruence or self-understanding.  Only the love of God, found in the face of Jesus Christ, can do that.

Psychoanalysis can bring flashes and insights but it cannot bring salvation, analysis is like the light of a firefly – compared to the light of the Sun. For salvation is in realizing you are in a safe Universe, were you are loved by the Creator Himself and that you are an eternal being who will never cease to exist or stop enjoying His life and His love.

Jesus is the true light of life and no other source of “light” can do – not Einstein nor Buddha nor Oprah Winfrey nor Dr. Phil. This is not to say that what these people say is not useful or good, it is simply not adequate when faced with the twin problems of sin and death. We need the cross to put our mess to death, and to completely forgive it and forget it - not just to rearrange it or understand its childhood origins. As Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 MKJV  (18) For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those being lost, but to us being saved, it is the power of God.  (19) For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the perceiving ones."  (20) Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  (21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom did not know God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.  (22) For the Jews ask for a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom;  (23) but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness.  (24) But to them, the called-out ones, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.  (25) Because the foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and the weak thing of God is stronger than men.

All the equations in all the physics books in the world, and all the teachings of the great philosophers cannot make sense of your existence the way the love of God in Christ can.

John 8:1-11 The Woman Caught In Adultery

John 8:1-11
The Woman Caught In Adultery
The Woman Caught In Adultery

John 8:1-11 MKJV   But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  (2) And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him. And He sat down and taught them.  (3) And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery. And standing her in the midst,  (4) they said to Him, Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.  (5) Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned. You, then, what do you say?  (6) They said this, tempting Him so that they might have reason to accuse Him. But bending down, Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger, not appearing to hear.  (7) But as they continued to ask Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.  (8) And again bending down, He wrote on the ground.  (9) And hearing, and being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  (10) And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you?  (11) And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.

Today’s verses are absent from some major manuscripts but ancient authors attest to their truthfulness and say that they are to be included. These verses ring with the authenticity of Jesus’ actions and as such have always had a prominent place in Christian teaching.

Jesus does not criticize the Law, which is holy and just and good (Romans 7:12) nor does He justify the woman, in fact Jesus tells her plainly to stop sinning. So these verses do not countenance “antinomianism” – which is the utter disregard and disrespect of law. Rather Jesus reinforces the idea that there are absolute standards and that God’s commandments should always be obeyed.

Christian faith and God’s grace are not licenses to sin. Instead grace is given to help us become holy. Jesus did not approve of her sin but rather gave this woman a chance to get her life together at last.

Chapter seven of John was about the Feast of Tabernacles which was a very festive time, when everyone lived in ‘booths” and in this easy-going holiday atmosphere casual sexual relationships were not unknown. This woman was simply unfortunate enough to be caught in the act.

“Early in the morning” (v. 2) – Jesus was a diligent teacher and was at His post from first light, ready to teach all who might enquire.

“And He sat down and taught them” – Jesus seems always to teach from a seated position, not from a high pulpit. Gill’s commentary on Matthew 5:1 where Jesus sits to deliver the Sermon On The Mount is interesting:

and when he was set: not for rest, but in order to teach; for sitting was the posture of masters, or teachers, see Matthew 13:2 Luke 4:20. The form in which the master and his disciples sat is thus described by Maimonides (z).

"The master sits at the head, or in the chief place, and the disciples before him in a circuit, like a crown; so that they all see the master, and hear his words; and the master may not sit upon a seat, and the scholars upon the ground; but either all upon the earth, or upon seats: indeed from the beginning, or formerly, "the master used to sit", and the disciples stand; but before the destruction of the second temple, all used to teach their disciples as they were sitting.''

With respect to this latter custom, the Talmudists say (a), that: "from the days of Moses, to Rabban Gamaliel (the master of the Apostle Paul), they did not learn the law, unless standing; after Rabban Gamaliel died, sickness came into the world, and they learnt the law sitting: hence it is a tradition, that after Rabban Gamaliel died, the glory of the law ceased.'' 

Teaching from a sitting position may just be Jewish culture but it has many advantages - not least of which is that it minimizes “stage theatre”. The emphasis falls on the Word and not on the “actor”.

The accusers swirl around the seated Rabbi (Jesus) and He just ignores them, writing on the ground. (v.6) Jesus knew they were trying to test Him and His legendary compassion. How could Jesus both have compassion and keep the Law? His clever answer “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” stopped them in their tracks and “being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last” - the older Jews being surer of their sinfulness.

The balance between compassion and justice is always being played out in the courts and in hiring and firing decisions. Are we “too soft’ or are we “draconian”? Where should the “line be”? There are innumerable good arguments on both sides. Jesus seems to see great value in giving the woman a chance for repentance. Jesus thinks “long-term” about the great value of a truly penitent soul. Sometimes we can get bogged down in the immediate circumstances and not think of what God can do in and through the person who has sinned.

Jesus never seems to be interested in accusing and condemning people, for He knows that the Devil and all his demons love to do that - along with many people. There is more than enough condemnation in the world, what Jesus wanted to do was bring salvation, to bring sinners to repentance and to seek and to save the lost.

The essence of Christianity is grace not law, and being constructive rather than being destructive. We should be eager to see sinners repent and far less eager to see them executed. A couple of verses from Ezekiel make God’s attitude clear on such things:

Ezekiel 18:23 MKJV   Do I actually delight in the death of the wicked? says the Lord Jehovah. Is it not that he should turn from his ways and live?

Ezekiel 33:11 MKJV   Say to them: As I live, says the Lord Jehovah, I have no delight in the death of the wicked, except in the turning of the wicked from his way, and so to live. Turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Vengeful, legalistic religion that is quick to judge and slow to forgive is the precise OPPOSITE of the attitude of God and of Jesus!

Matthew 5:7 MKJV   Blessed are the merciful! For they shall obtain mercy.

“And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you?  And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.”

It took two or three witnesses to give judgment in a death penalty case (Deuteronomy 17:6) and so Jesus was legally correct in letting the adulterous woman go, as all the other witnesses had fled in shame.

On Judgment Day all the accusations that we have flung against others will seem trivial in comparison with our own sin. No one who truly comes face to face with his or her own conscience can accuse anyone else of anything!

Does this mean that sin is not sin? Certainly not! While Jesus does not condemn her sin (Neither do I give judgment), neither does permit it. His last words to the woman were “go and sin no more”. Mercy simply gives us a renewed opportunity to become holy – which we should take very seriously indeed!

John 7:45-53 The Contention About Christ

John 7:45-53
The Contention About Christ

The Contention About Christ

John 7:45-53 MKJV   Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees. And they said to them, why have you not brought him?  (46) The officers answered, never did any man speak, as does this Man.  (47) Then the Pharisees answered them, Also, have you not been deceived?  (48) Is it not true that not any of the rulers or of the Pharisees have believed into him?  (49) But this crowd, not knowing the Law, is cursed.  (50) Nicodemus said to them, (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them),  (51) Does our law judge the Man before it hears Him and knows what He does?  (52) They answered and said to him, are you also from Galilee? Search the scriptures and see that a prophet has not been raised out of Galilee.  (53) And they each went to their own house.

The envious Pharisees have found their “theological point”: “He is from Galilee, the Christ is from Bethlehem, that settles it, for no prophet comes from Galilee”. They did not BOTHER to check out their statement! It suited them, and they stuck to it!

This reminds me of other such erroneous “devastating proofs” e.g. that being slain in the Spirit is demonic because all those who fell under the Spirit in Scripture fell forwards not backwards! Or that tongues is demonic because some Hindu group also speaks in tongues. By such logic prayer would be demonic because Hindus say prayers. Such “reasons” are pretexts, not proofs! In reality they are desperate defensive strategies called upon by those who feel threatened by the new move of God.

Denominations demonize each other by using these pretexts. Rarely will a Calvinist sympathetically check out Arminianism, or a Pentecostal genuinely try to understand a Southern Baptist or vice-versa. The perpetuation of foolish differences and spiritual ignorance comes about because of these “false proofs”. I once taught simultaneously at a Baptist seminary and a Assemblies of God seminary and said the same things in both places. I used the same textbooks (NIV Study Bible, Lion Handbook of Church History, Grudem’s Systematic Theology, etc.) in both places. The Baptists thought I was a good Baptist and the Pentecostals thought I was a good Pentecostal! The areas of agreement were in fact far greater than the areas of difference!

Nicodemus tries to get them to see reason and act justly according to the evidence but he is rudely rebuffed. People who feel threatened by change value their defense mechanisms and will not listen to pointed and obvious questions that challenge their unreasonable positions.

The temple guards come back empty-handed from trying to arrest Jesus and when asked why they had failed they answer: “Never did any man speak as does this Man” Jesus spoke with such grace and truth that they knew He was a good man, and not just a good man, but a Man beyond all others!

The Pharisees, if they had been reasonable God-fearing people, should have asked “What did Jesus say that was so good?’

Instead they said: “Also, have you not been deceived?  Is it not true that not any of the rulers or of the Pharisees have believed into him?”  In other words: “We are the elite, we are the people to be believed, you are too dumb to make up your own mind, and you certainly should not be believing that Galilean carpenter, you are deluded, none of “those that matter and are wise” believe such things!

This provoked Nicodemus to declare his colors as one being sympathetic to Jesus. It is impossible to be a secret believer for long because one day we will have to speak our mind on some issue and show that Christ is our all in all!

Ecclesiastical hierarchies are often under the delusion that they are the theological elite who determines what “the unwashed and ignorant masses” (“But this crowd, not knowing the Law, is cursed.”) should or should not believe about God. This position of commanding authority with regard to belief has been greatly undermined by the: 
a) printing press making the Bible widely available
b) universal literacy and widespread tertiary education

c) Translations of the Bible into the vernacular
d) excellent commentaries that are readily accessible to the layperson

e) Recent wealth of theological material and discussion on the Internet
f) Most seriously, the blatant differences and contradictions among the “experts”.
Now the ordinary person has all the tools they require to do their own searching and to arrive at their own conclusions about God independent of the ecclesiastical authorities.

The best that bible teachers can do now is to invite people to the Scriptures and point people to God, and let them arrive at their own conclusions. We are no longer the “gurus” at the top of the pyramid of theological belief – and that is a good thing. 

Saying that ecclesiastical hierarchies no longer control what people should and should not believe about God, is NOT the same as saying anyone can believe anything they like. Beliefs about God need to be accurate and to be based on the facts, which include Scripture ably, interpreted with the aid of language aids and archaeology and other such helps. There is not much “wiggle room”, we cannot play fast and loose with the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection or the Trinity for example.

The Reformers spoke of the perspicacity of scripture, which meant that any ordinary Spirit-filled and guided Christian believer would find the main doctrines of Scripture to be perfectly clear with diligent effort. This was meant to combat clericalism, the restriction of Scriptural interpretation to Roman Catholic clergy. We have to walk a fine line between abdication and anarchy. When we abdicate we hand over bible interpretation to so-called “experts”, when we choose anarchy we hand it over to speculative nonsense. BTW I thoroughly recommend Douglas and Fee’s excellent book “How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth” which is available at most good Christian bookstores.

We cannot let elitist clerics arrogantly dictate our beliefs, neither can we let whimsy and fashion and the mood of the moment dictate them. They must be carefully based on evidence (does our law judge the Man before it hears Him and knows what He does?) and also, weighed up under God by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

John 7:40-44 The Identity of Jesus

John 7:40-44
The Identity of Jesus

The Identity of Jesus

John 7:40-44 MKJV   Then when they heard the Word, many of the people said, Truly this is the Prophet.  (41) Others said, “this is the Chris but others said, Does the Christ come out of Galilee?  (42) Has the Scripture not said that Christ comes from the seed of David and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?  (43) So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him.  (44) And some of them desired to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

Two groups are found in the crowd – those that “heard the Word” (v 40) and cried out that He was the Prophet or the Christ (v. 40-41); and those who “judged the Word” by coming up with theological, quibbles about Jesus’ birthplace and dividing the crowd (v. 41-44).

The Jews knew that Jesus was someone of spiritual authority so they tried to find the appropriate spiritual category to place Him in – Elijah (the prophet), the Christ/Messiah, a madman with a demon (John 7:20), a presumptuous untaught Teacher (John 7:15) or just an ambitious “somebody” (John 7:1-5).

They used their theology to try and work out who Jesus was – and thinking He was from Nazareth, and that the Christ would be from Bethlehem, they got it wrong! And yet a simple question would have solved the conundrum. Their failure to ask the obvious question “Sir, where were you born?” shows they were not seekers but in fact were “judges”.

Often a move of God is “judged” for how it fits in to preconceived notions, rather than “sought out” and properly evaluated for what God is (or is not) doing through it.

Back to our two groups:  those who “heard the Word” and those who “judged the Word”. We can take two stances in the spiritual life:
a) that of listening and watching for every move of God through the Spirit. This group humbly learns and grows and hears God; and, 
b) that of listening and watching for every mistake of man and for every supposed theological error. This group simply confirms their own prior beliefs and superiority.

While spiritual discernment is necessary it is not primary. Seeking God is primary and then as we find things we can test them (which makes discernment secondary), but we test them looking for what God may be saying in them and eager to learn. Seek and ye shall find, yet when we find we can “test the spirits” to see whether they are of God (1 John 4:1-3)

But the Jewish critics put their own system and ideas and notions in primary position and evaluated Jesus’ ministry expecting Him to conform. There was a great lack of true seeking and genuine openness to the Truth, especially Truth that brought change.

However those who “heard the Word” got it but did not know quite what to make of it. Was Jesus the Christ or the Prophet? They believed but were not sure just what it was they believed, or rather had personally encountered in Jesus Christ.

Jesus had just taught them about Living Water and this resonated as deeply then as it does today – perhaps more so in such a dry and thirsty land. It seems that the crowd split into “Yes, its available” and “No, I don’t think so” groups. Between those who discerned God’s voice in Jesus’ proclamation on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and those who only heard the voice of their own skepticism, opinions and doubts.

The good news about the availability of the Holy Spirit tends to split people into two groups, between those who “get” the Promise of joy and life and abundant living – and those who sit back with low expectations and think the whole thing is a religious fraud (or even of the Devil).

John spends so much time recording the crowd’s reactions – because they are our reactions, and the reactions of common humanity down the ages. We do not just believe automatically, we question and doubt and raise objections, and sometimes that can be good, but mostly it just gets in the way. It seems that God wants us to err on the side of faith; indeed history tells us that trust is the path to growth. Few great saints have become spiritually great by being highly analytical or distrustful! Indeed most great saints have been accused of almost childish gullibility.

The Kingdom of God does not belong to the paranoid – but it does belong to the child-like, the meek, the trusting and the receptive. Wisdom is child-like, but not immature or childish. In fact God has been described as the Eternal Child – which is shocking at first but which bears some thought.

Jesus did not justify His provocative comments, or explain all the nuances behind them, He simply let them fall and let them be interpreted however they may. Jesus knew that the bulk of people would misinterpret Him, but that those who were seeking would find and those who were just sitting back and judging would be offended and would stumble.

That is why the apostle Peter wrote: 1 Peter 2:7-8 MKJV   Therefore to you who believe is the honor. But to those who are disobedient, He is the Stone which the builders rejected; this One came to be the Head of the corner,  (8) and a Stone-of-stumbling and a Rock-of-offense to those disobeying, who stumble at the Word, to which they also were appointed.

So Jesus is both the Giver of Living Water – and the Rock of Offense!

John 7:37-39 Rivers Of Living Water

John 7:37-39
Rivers Of Living Water
Rivers Of Living Water

John 7:37-39 MKJV   And in the last day of the great feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  (38) He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."  (39) But He spoke this about the Spirit, which they who believed on Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

What is the relationship between our innermost beings and God?

  1. The innermost being is a place of wounds and alienation and neurosis and we are to struggle to fix up our innermost being so it can be made acceptable to God.
  2. The innermost being is a dream world where we receive messages from God, but God does not actually dwell there, He is “somewhere outside”.
  3. The innermost being is the mind and if we fill it with right knowledge we can know God.
  4. The innermost being is our emotions and our job is to have nice peaceful emotions and the goal is to end suffering in the innermost being. The less emotions we have the better, the goal is an empty self in a state of disconnected bliss.
  5. The innermost being is a volcano of wild urges that must be tamed by Reason in the service of Religion.
  6. Our innermost being contains the whole Universe including God, but we are not aware of this yet.
  7. There is no innermost being; we are just a physical body.
  8. Innermost beings are the chief concern of neurotic middle-aged women and sensible people do not worry about them but just get on with the practical details of life.
  9. Good Christians do not concern themselves with subjectivity and introspection and issues of innermost being but solely focus on obedience to the Bible.
  10. We can reconstruct our innermost beings and achieve enlightenment through a long and arduous series of disciplined spiritual exercises that only so-called Masters really succeed in.

I have heard people espouse all of the above answers but they are ALL PROFOUNDLY WRONG.

By contrast Jesus tells us that
a)     We have an innermost being (v. 38).
b)     This is something we should develop (v. 38) and be concerned about it. 
c)     The abundant inner life is composed of “spirit” - not primitive urges or the mind or the emotions. (v. 39)
d)     That this Spirit is a gift from God, as a result of historical process (Jesus being glorified) and originates in God and not in the individual. (v. 39)
e)     That arduous exercises and lengthy psychoanalysis are not required for an abundant inner life– just faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (v. 38)
f)       That it is not our own advanced human consciousness but is God’s consciousness within us. (v. 39)
g)     The innermost being can receive the Spirit that is from God (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).
h)     That Christ can dwell in the innermost being. (Ephesians 3:16,17)
i)       That while God may dwell in the innermost being, the innermost being is not the same as God or the Universe. God the Holy Spirit is an objective reality who existed before human consciousness was even created. (Genesis 1:3, Psalm 8))
j)       That the Spirit can flow out of us to others and is not isolated or self-contained but is connected, abundant and communicative. (v.38,39)
k)     The flow of Spirit is not a result of knowledge or of human effort or of psychic evolution by humanity - but is a promised and prophesied result of God’s grace through faith. (v. 38, see also Galatians 3:1-5)

[Homework: See how these Scriptural statements directly contradict the first ten false statements.]

A major leap forward in who we are – our innermost being, comes when we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – and we spend our whole Christian lives living out and understanding this change. Yet some Christians, though born-again do not experience the “rivers of living water” because of reasons such as:

a)     Legalistic striving (Galatians 5:1-11)
b)     Quenching the Spirit – by forbidding prophecy and other spiritual manifestations.
(1 Thessalonians 5:19,20)
c)     Grieving the Spirit through wrong and carnal attitudes such as bitterness (Ephesians 4:30-32).
d)     Ignorance concerning the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6)

Since the rivers of living water are promised by Jesus, as a result of faith, and are an important part of the Christian life we should seek to enter into this experience. We need to ask God to let the living waters flow – and to do our bit in removing major blockages such as hatred and unforgiveness.

May I add that the Spirit is given freely and is never earned or deserved. The Galatians tried to earn the Spirit through works of the law – and were rebuked harshly by Paul (Galatians 3:1-5, 5:1-11). The Spirit is given as a free gift Acts 2:38, 10:45 Hebrews 6:4) – and is given without measure.

John 3:34 MKJV   For He whom God has sent speaks the Words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

Thus it is not our performance that is the problem! We do not have to do more, say more or know more in order to know the living waters within us, and flowing from us. We just need to believe in Jesus and in the gift of the Spirit and deal promptly with the blockages to His operation.

John 7:31-36 Then I Go To Him Who Sent Me

John 7:31-36
Then I Go To Him Who Sent Me

Jesus goes back to the Father

John 7:31-36 MKJV   And many of the crowd believed on Him, and said, When the Christ comes, will He do more miracles than these which this One has done?  (32) The Pharisees heard that the crowd murmured such things concerning Him. And the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to seize Him.  (33) Then Jesus said to them, Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  (34) You shall seek Me and shall not find Me. And where I am, you cannot come.  (35) Then the Jews said among themselves, Where is he about to go that we shall not find him? Is he about to go to the Dispersion of the Greeks, and to teach the Greeks?  (36) What saying is this that He said, You shall seek Me and shall not find Me, and where I am, you cannot come?

It is interesting that the crowd saw Jesus mainly as a miracle-working spiritual teacher. Their two comments about Jesus are:

1)  ”When the Christ comes, will He do more miracles than these which this One has done?”  (v. 31)

2)     “Where is he about to go that we shall not find him? Is he about to go to the Dispersion of the Greeks, and to teach the Greeks?  What saying is this that He said, You shall seek Me and shall not find Me, and where I am, you cannot come?”  (v. 35,36)

Given the many characterizations of Jesus as: politician, revolutionary, mystic, entrepreneur, hippie, tragic example, and Ascended Master it is the simple title “Rabbi” or Teacher that is the most used and the most characteristic of Him. Jesus came to teach us, and to make disciples, who in turn would teach others and make disciples.

Matthew 28:19-20   Therefore go and teach (disciple) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  (20) teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen.

Discipling, teaching and baptizing – that is what Jesus did and what we also are to do.

Jesus was God’s Messenger to humanity teaching us the way of grace and truth by word and by deed and incarnating that Message in His own self as a perfect example of the fullness of deity in human form. (Colossians 2:9, Philippians 2:5-11, John 1:1-18)

Jesus was God’s Messenger on God’s journey and one day He would return back to God and the chance to hear the Message would be lost. “You shall seek Me and shall not find Me.” 

There is a time when the door to grace is firmly shut:

Amos 8:11-12 MKJV   Behold, the days come, says the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land; not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the Words of Jehovah.  (12) And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the Word of Jehovah, and shall not find it.

Luke 13:23-25 MKJV   And one said to Him, Lord, are the ones being saved few? And He said to them,  (24) strive to enter in at the narrow gate. For I say to you, many will seek to enter in and shall not be able.  (25) And once the Master of the house has risen up and has shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us, and He shall answer and say to you, I do not know you; from where are you?

Because of this it is exceedingly dangerous to carp and quibble in the presence of manifest signs of grace. Indeed many Jews squabbled away their chance at salvation with silly technical questions.

When grace appears in our midst the right thing to do is to grab it with both hands, to enter in and to go through the narrow door - leaving intellectual doubts and minor questions of interpretation outside.

Grace is never around long enough to satisfy every question of every person. For instance - by the time you check out every theological detail of a given revival it is over and you have missed the blessing!

“Yet a little while I am with you” – it is never a long while. It is always imperative to hear God, you drift and dream and the Sunday sermon is over and you have not heard it. Let the years roll by and you never get to Bible College or to the mission field. Grace in relationships demands alertness as well, friends move, and even our parents pass away and leave us with words unsaid. Many are the opportunities, but how few are ever taken!

“Is he about to go to the Dispersion of the Greeks, and to teach the Greeks?” – this cynical comment was eventually fulfilled as grace passed from the Jews, who did not listen, to the Gentiles, who did! John wrote this in 90 AD, twenty years after the destruction of the Temple. The day of the Jews and their nation was over and the gospel was going to the Greeks and John himself dwelt among them in Ephesus.

“You shall seek Me and shall not find Me. And where I am, you cannot come”. Unbelievers cannot enter Heaven, it is not for all, there is no universal salvation. For those who refuse the grace and truth that are in Christ, the door will be shut against then and it will be said: “you cannot come”.

“and then I go to Him who sent Me.” Jesus came forth from God and returned to God. We were just a stop on His journey. Yes, He came for us, yes He died for us, but we are not the center of Jesus’ journey – rather God was always the center of all that Jesus did. The gospel is not about us, and our needs, it is about God and His offer of salvation.

John 7:25-30 I Am From Him

John 7:25-30
I Am From Him
Jesus was from the Father

John 7:25-30 MKJV   Then some of those from Jerusalem said, Is this not the one they seek to kill?  (26) But lo, he speaks publicly, and they say nothing to him. Perhaps the rulers truly know that this is the Christ indeed?  (27) However, we know this one, from where he is; but when Christ comes, no one knows from where He is.  (28) Then Jesus cried in the temple as He taught, saying, You both know Me, and you know from where I come. And I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  (29) But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He has sent Me.  (30) Then they sought to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.

Jesus plainly says that He is from God, was sent by God and personally knows God. Jesus also points out that they did not have anything like the knowledge of God that He did with the referential phrase: “but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.” And on top of this Jesus says these things in a loud voice, in public, in the Temple, in front of the entire religious hierarchy and God-experts. (v.28)

This is a clear attack on the efficacy of the Jewish religion as it was practiced in Jesus day. Jesus is saying that the religious establishment did not really know the truth about God – but that He did!

This builds on what we saw yesterday that is that Jesus consistently interpreted the Sabbath as being “for man”, and for our wholeness and blessing in particular. In other words religious institution is there to serve the saint, not the saint to serve as mere labor for the religious institution.

For the Jews things were like so: 
The Saint serves à the Religious Institution, which serves à God.

But in Jesus’ view things were like so: 
Religious Institution serves à The Saint who serves à God.

In fact Jesus Himself came to seek and serve the lost, so that they might become saints and serve God. So ministers and churches exist to perfect the saints and fit them for Heaven and for the service of the Lord.

[Now this does not excuse the selfish Christians who think everything revolves around them at church! Selfishness is clearly not part of the gospel.]

So the Jewish religious authorities were failing to serve the people in their quest for God – because these same authorities did in fact not know God (v.28). As we saw earlier, they were so bound up by their traditions that they did not judge with “righteous judgment” (v.19-24) and ended up distorting the Law.

So great was their delusion that they wanted to seize and kill Jesus – who was indeed Immanuel, God with us! Their allegiance to their religious system was far greater than their desire for the truth.
“Then Jesus cried in the temple as He taught, saying, You both know Me, and you know from where I come. And I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  (29) But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He has sent Me.”

Jesus is saying that He is a messenger sent by God, to the Jews, to tell them the truth about God, which they do not know. As a messenger He is not going on His own initiative, but  on the initiative of the One who sent Him. Jesus did not just decide one day to leave Heaven and tell the world some of His ideas about God. Instead Jesus was sent by the Father to say and do certain clearly specified things that would communicate the nature of God most clearly to those who believe.

In various passages in the gospel of John Jesus explains His role as God’s Messenger to humanity:

John 5:30…  I can do nothing of My own self. …I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who has sent Me.

John 7:16…  My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

John 7:28 … And I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true…

John 8:28 ... I do nothing of Myself, but as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things.

John 8:42 …  for I went forth and came from God; for I did not come of Myself, but He sent Me.

John 12:49 … For I have not spoken of Myself, but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say, and what I should speak.

John 14:10 …  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The Words that I speak to you I do not speak of Myself, but the Father who dwells in Me, He does the works.

Thus Jesus does nothing on His own initiative, but only does the Father’s will, and His doctrine, His mission, His words, His speech and His works were not done by Jesus as a result of His own ideas but instead were done by “the Father who dwells in Me”. (John 14:10).

This obviously applies also to us – as Paul says: 
Galatians 2:20 MKJV   I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And that life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself on my behalf.

Christian ministry does not originate in man’s notions or emotions, but rather ministry flows from God’s motions within us! This requires the ability to pay attention to our interior life - our being, and our conscience, and to the presence of the indwelling Christ.

John 7:19-24 Righteous Judgment

John 7:19-24
Righteous Judgment
John 7:19-24 Righteous Judgment

John 7:19-24 MKJV   Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet not one of you keeps the Law! Why do you seek to kill Me?  (20) The crowd answered and said, You have a demon! Who seeks to kill you?  (21) Jesus answered and said to them, I have done one work, and you all marvel.  (22) Because of this Moses gave you circumcision (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers,) and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath day.  (23) If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath day so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry at Me because I have made a man entirely sound on the Sabbath day?  (24) Do not judge according to sight, but judge righteous judgment.

The Jews were proud of receiving the Law, and doubly proud of their mark of circumcision on the eighth day. In these verses Jesus plays one off the other to help deepen the Jews understanding of their faith.

Circumcision came from the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and was incorporated into the Law of Moses as a sign of the covenant. It was supposed to be performed on the eighth day – and the Jews observed this strictly – even if the eighth day fell on a Sabbath. So the Sabbath prohibition against work did not apply in the case of circumcision. Jesus makes the point that if a ceremonial requirement such as circumcision over-rode the Sabbath, then surely making someone “entirely sound” (KJV: “every whit whole”) did also.

In Mark Jesus makes clear that God is not demanding as much as He is blessing, God is more interested in making us whole - than in having us fulfill a set of formal legalisms.

Mark 2:27-28 And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath:  (28) so that the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

And in Matthew there is a wonderful section on the true meaning of the Sabbath:

Matthew 12:1-14 MKJV   At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath day. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat.  (2) But when the Pharisees saw, they said to Him, Behold, your disciples do that which it is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day.  (3) But He said to them, Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him,  (4) how he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?  (5) Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless?  (6)  But I say to you that One greater than the temple is in this place.  (7) But if you had known what this is, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," you would not have condemned those who are not guilty.  (8)  For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.  (9) And when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.  (10) And behold, a man having a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbaths? This so that they might accuse Him.  (11) And He said to them, What man among you will be, who will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbaths, will he not lay hold on it and lift it out?  (12) How much better is a man then than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days.  (13) Then He said to the man, Stretch out your hand. And he stretched it out, and it was restored whole like the other.  (14) Then the Pharisees went out and held council against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

This attitude to the Sabbath debunks the whole religious establishment by making it the servant and not the master. Instead of controlling people and condemning minor infractions of Sabbath observance the Pharisees were to be healing them and having mercy on them. If the Sabbath was made for man, then because it is the first of all “religious institutions” (being instituted at Creation), and has priority, then all subsequent religion must serve the needs of the wholeness and healing of humanity – and not humanity serve the needs of religion!

To put it another way: Church programs are first meant to help make Christians whole - and Christians are not there as mere labor for church programs! Church is for Christians, not Christians for church!

No wonder they wanted to kill Jesus! (In John 7:25 we find that His “paranoia” in v. 19,20 is justified!) He was turning religion upside down and ending its ability to hold people captive to rules and regulations. He was taking away the social power of the religious establishment by breaking their rules – but in a way that was obviously good and right. He was showing up their laws as the silly power plays they really were!

Righteous judgment is when we see things as God sees them – with mercy, compassion, and with a love that which is true and the good. Righteous judgment may contradict social norms and religious rules based in the power of vested interests. The keeping of slaves was one such issue.

The Good Samaritan showed righteous judgment by acting in compassion even though he risked defiling himself by touching a corpse (if the man left for dead had passed away). Righteous judgment breaks human conventions in order to do good to others. This is not the same as moral relativism (which breaks God’s laws in order to pander to liberal human conventions).

Righteous judgment humanizes the faith and makes it a meek and gentle servant of the saints. The overbearing requirements of legalistic religion are not what God made religion for at all. Religion is meant to harmonize with all Creation and bless it and to allow it to be fruitful and to multiply. Church is therefore there for healing, wholeness and the growth of the saints (see Ephesians 3& 4)

Our church is there to grow us - and we are not there merely to grow the church as a human institution.

John 6:64-71 The Things Behind

John 6:64-71
The Things Behind

John 6:64-71 The Things BehindThe Things Behind

John 6:64-71 MKJV   But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who is the one betraying Him.  (65) And He said, Because of this I said to you that no one can come to Me unless it was given to him from My Father.  (66) From this time many of His disciples went back into the things behind, and walked no more with Him.  (67) Then Jesus said to the Twelve, Do you also wish to go away?  (68) Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life.  (69) And we have believed and have known that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.  (70) Jesus answered them, Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? And one of you is a devil?  (71) But he spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon; for it was he who was about to betray Him, being one of the Twelve.

This is the point when many walk away from Jesus and go back to their former lives: “From this time many of His disciples went back into the things behind, and walked no more with Him.”  (Interestingly this is John 6:66!) 

There seem to be two kinds of unbelievers here a) the unbelievers b) the betrayer – Judas. The unbelievers were numerous. The betrayer was one evil man – Judas Iscariot (v.70).

Jesus explains the unbelievers thus: “Because of this I said to you that no one can come to Me unless it was given to him from My Father.”  Faith is a gift that God gives under many and varied circumstances.  Without this gift of faith no one can come to Christ. Why do some not receive it? That is a mystery but some do not even desire to receive it! If we go through the rest of John 6 we find that those that walked away seem to be those centered on this life - and wanted a political Messiah who they could make King and who would give them bread. Such folk want tangible and immediate solutions and have little place for faith.

But the Betrayer was not just ignorant, or faith-less – but rather was evil and Satanic so full of greed and treachery that Jesus could call Judas ‘a devil” (v.70).

Peter, by contrast, clung to Christ: Then Jesus said to the Twelve, Do you also wish to go away?  (68) Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life.  (69) And we have believed and have known that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter was not anchored in the miracles nor in free bread nor in political activism but in the truth of what Christ taught: “You have the Words of eternal life.” Truth is the safest place of all; because political programs may fail, miracles may cease and the bread may run out - but God is always the same.

Why didn’t Jesus explain Himself more carefully to the unbelievers? Surely they could have been persuaded to believe with a little more effort? Why did He seem to deliberately offend them and drive them away? Matthew Henry writing on this passage says: “The corrupt and wicked heart of man often makes that an occasion of offence which is indeed matter of the greatest comfort.”

People are continually offended at God and seem to believe that they can say to God: “You are fired.”

Certain doctrines and bible passages offend some, others are offended at the Trinity or at laws governing sexual immorality, or by the need to repent and believe. People even dismiss God over trifles such as a preacher using old-fashioned language and clothing. Such people are not seeking God in the first place. They are in fact seeking a world ordered to their own satisfaction and interests. When God fails to satisfy, they fail to follow.

Jesus did not change His doctrine or His message in order to get people to follow Him (or turn up in Church). Instead He stated hard puzzling truths that only persistent determined seekers of God would stick with.

God does not need us to follow Him. God is in fact without any needs (as we would understand them) being completely self-sufficient and needing nothing from His worshippers: Acts 17:24-25 MKJV  The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands,  (25)  nor is served with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives life and breath and all things to all.

The local church may feel it needs us, and the pastor may say he needs us, but God has absolutely no need of us. So if we want to go back to the former things, the inadequate things, the things that are behind, then it does no damage to God, only to ourselves. It is a clear case of “cutting off our nose to spite our face.” Apostasy is thus a completely self-centered and futile act of revenge against God.

If I quit my ministry today then God would raise up another missionary to take my place. God needs no followers and no servants. The service we give to God is our privilege and calling – not something God requires because He is incomplete or needy in some way. As John Milton wrote when he became blind:
“God doth not need either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best, His State is Kingly. Thousands at His bidding speed and post o’er land and ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and wait.”

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