Month: February 2021

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

How is Jesus to be understood?  Did he stride out of the wilderness 2000 years ago to preach a gentle message of peace and brotherhood? Or did he perhaps advocate some form of revolution?  When did he realize his mission would end with death upon a cross?  Did he view himself to be the promised Messiah?  Did he understand himself to be both God and man?

Ostling, Time Magazine

For those who say that Jesus did not see Himself as God, the opening verses of John 1 correct their view.  “Confusion about the deity of Christ is inexcusable because the biblical teaching regarding it is clear and unmistakable.  Jesus Christ is the pre-existent Word, Who enjoys full face-to-face communion and divine life with the Father, and is Himself God.” (MacArthur)

Clearly the Biblical affirmation that “Jesus Christ is Lord” was a belief that He was God.  His resurrection from the dead proved it without a doubt.

Who do you say Jesus is?

“He is Lord

He is Lord

He is risen from the dead

And He is Lord.”

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Jesus’ Initial Ministry in the World (Part 1)

Book of Signs 

Chapter 1:19-12 (Raising of Lazarus)

“The Early Ministry of Jesus”       (John 1:19-4:54)

One of the really obvious things we encounter when we talk about John’s Gospel and compare it to Matthew, Mark and Luke is that there are some seeming contradictions or conflicts that occur in timeline, and location, or even in repetition of events the other Gospels may have reported occurring only once.

Part of the question involves how we see the issue of the inspiration of Scripture.  Could John have had access to the other Gospels in some written form?  Obviously by the late 90’s the Gospels would have been in circulation for almost forty or fifty years by the time John wrote.

How did inspiration happen?  Did the Holy Spirit just land on them like on Jesus during His baptism and just pour out all the words?  Or was there a sense in which God worked through the Gospel writer’s life experiences and the historic setting of the day?  Did John know he was writing “the Gospel of John” or was he writing for his own reasons?

I think the latter is true.  God worked IN the inspired writer but also THROUGH them to bring the Biblical books into focus.  It was a very Divine process…(“ all Scripture is God-breathed…”) but it was wed with a very human process.  Both were in play.  God’s fingerprints are all over the Gospels, and yet the Holy Spirit limited Himself to the writer’s ability to write, and to the writer’s life experience and the writer’s experience with Jesus and memory of it.

So why would John NOT just repeat all the things MML wrote?  Well two reasons:

  1. They already wrote it and it’s already been said and commonly circulated
  2. John had a totally different purpose and new audience he was targeting

For instance, there’s a lot more material about John the Baptist in John’s Gospel.  That’s because the disciples of John the Baptist were still influencing people in John’s day.  He had to confront that and deal with it as an issue.

So the circumstances drive which content made it into the telling of the story of the Gospel.

i. The Testimony of the First Disciples (John 1:19-51)

The first eighteen verses of John 1 introduce Jesus to us from a Divine perspective.  We learn from the descriptive terms where Jesus came from, why He came, and what would happen when He appeared.

The rest of the Chapter is also an introduction, but this time from a human perspective.  I mentioned there are 22 or 23 titles for Jesus found in John 1.  But the only one Jesus ever chose to use for Himself is the term “Son of Man.”

The human introduction in John 1 covers a period of seven days.  From the ministry of John the Baptist to the wedding of Cana in the beginning of Chapter 2, one week elapses.

A:  The Controversial Ministry of John Baptist

The Jews came (beauraucratic, not the common Jews) to interrogate John as to whether he was claiming to be Messiah.  They essentially asked seven questions: (vv 19-25)

  1. Who are you?
  2. What then?
  3. Are you Elijah?
  4. Are you the prophet?
  5. Who are you?
  6. What do you say about yourself?
  7. Why are you baptizing?

John’s answers were amazing, but humble.  He could have taken offense and gotten angry about their challenges.  But that wasn’t John.  That was why Jesus referred to him as “the greatest in the Kingdom.” (Matt 11:11)

He was humble as a little child.  Their questions were accusatory and condescending.

On Day 2 of this week, Jesus appeared.  (vv 29-34). He was then baptized by John.  John knew seven things about JESUS:

  1. He knew he was to prepare the way for Jesus
  2. He knew that Jesus takes away the sin of the world
  3. He knew he was to show Jesus to Israel
  4. He knew he was to baptize Jesus
  5. He knew Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit
  6. He knew Jesus was the Son of God (of exact character and nature)
  7. He knew Jesus was the son of Mary, were humanely related cousins

What does John teach us about how to be a witness?  (1) Focus on Jesus, not religion, not denomination, not church.  (2) Be humble. (3). Be authentic.  People want to know first if YOU believe this…believe ur belief

Day 3, we encounter the first testimony of the disciples.

They followed Jesus first as a Rabbi, or a religious teacher, when John the B pointed to Him as the Lamb of God.  We see the arrival of the first disciples, Andrew and John.

Day 4, Jesus determines to go on a three day journey to Cana, where a marriage (family member?) was taking place.  On the way (Day 5) He acquired two more disciples, Phillip and Nathaniel.  Jesus poured intently into twelve men.  That says something to us of our own priorities.  Nothing replaces the individual, one-on-one, life on life transformation of discipling people.

Day 6 they traveled and arrived at the wedding in Cana.  Day 7 surrounds Jesus and Mary at the wedding.  The disciples were not just passive.  They were witnesses of the life of Jesus.  (Flying car). They saw Him, heard Him, and watched God work in Him.  They were His witnesses.  So are we.  (“Jehovah’s Bystander”)

ii. The First Sign: Water into Wine   (John 2:1-11)

Jesus is, with this miracle, demonstrating His authority as Creator.  That it is happening at a wedding is significant, because the imagery of wedding, of the Bride and Bridegroom, points to the last chapter of the Bible.

The wedding of a virgin, according to Jewish tradition, would begin on a Wednesday.  That means it was probably Friday or Saturday when Jesus appeared with the disciples.  Weddings were days long in Jewish custom.

Jesus would have been accompanied, by then, by six disciples:  the four we met earlier and then John, the writer of the Gospel, and his brother James.

Ok Jesus was not rude to Mary…”woman” a term of respect…”What do you and I need to do?” “What would you have me do for you?”

Sign….pointing to something better that was coming

Water jars…used for religious ritual; purification 9-10 gallons.

108-180 gallons…miracle of substance but also of time?

Miracle was not for it’s own sake.  It pointed to a greater reality.

Some saw the miracle on it’s face…it was an incredible thing!  But others began to see with eyes of faith that something greater was happening.

iii.  The Temple Cleansing   (John 2:12-25)

If the miracle at Cana’s wedding was a sign of Jesus’ authority over creation, the cleansing of the temple was a picture of Jesus’ authority over the Jewish religion.  This was “HIS FATHER’S” house.

It was Passover; the first that Jesus and His disciples attended in Jerusalem.  For the Jew, attending Jerusalem…particularly Passover… once a year was mandatory if at all possible.  Jesus would probably have been on many other occasions.

While the other Gospels seem to point to only one visit by Jesus to Jerusalem, there are implications, even in the Synoptics, that there were several.

When He cleansed the Temple:

  1. He “cast out” the money changers and their sacrificial animals.  Jesus was making way for the only acceptable sacrifice:  Himself.
  2. He purified the Temple that was representative of His Father’s presence to the nations.  It was not primarily a reminder to the Jews of God’s presence, but a picture to the nations.
  3. He prepared the way for the teaching that HE was the temple…”destroy this temple.”  By now, the temple renovation had been underway 46 years and would not be completed until 63 AD, only to be leveled by the Romans in AD 70.
  4. By His coming, Jesus was “overturning” and “disrupting” the present Jewish system of religion and ritual.  The cleansing here and the week of His passion showed this clearly.
  5. Jesus’ human emotion on clear display here…angry
  6. When the religious authority asked for a sign as His authority to do this, Jesus pointed to His resurrection as the only sign they needed.

iv. Nic at Night. (1,000) (John 3:1-21)

Obviously sincere, but concerned about being seen with such a controversial person, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.  Flashed his resume.

(vv 4-13). The New Birth

(vv 14-21) The Love of God

  1. The Reality of God’s Love. (vv 14-16)
  2. The Reason Jesus Came (vv 17)
  3. The Result of Belief (v 18)
  4. The Response of Man (vv 19-21)

v.  Jesus and John the Baptist  (John 3:22-36)

The Humility of John’s Ministry and Misunderstandings

(vv 22-30)

The Honoring of Jesus

  1. His Supremacy (v 31)
  2. His Testimony (vv 32-34)
  3. His Authority. (vv 35-36)

These statements were from John’s own mouth, reminding those who still insisted on following John as the possible real Messiah, that he was not.

vi. The Samaritan Woman (John 4:1-42)

Jesus departed (“sent Himself away; went away”) from Judea into Samaria.  Jesus rested (“after extreme toil”).  Jesus was human.  He experienced all that we experience, even our temptations, yet without sin.

The Samaritans were despised by the Jews, and had their own temple and their own worship on Mount Gerizim.  This goes back to the history of Israel when the father of King Ahab conquered the hill of Shemer and the center of worship was moved there for the northern Kingdom.  Rabbis taught that “to eat with a Samaritan was to eat swine’s flesh.”  No friendly relationship here!

Jesus transgressed:  Racial distinctions; (Samaritans came from five tribes or people groups in Mesopotamia); religious distinctions (sat and spoke with a Samaritan); gender distinctions (initiated conversation with her).  The truly religious Pharisee would not even speak to his wife in public!

Jesus pointed to Himself as the water of life

Jesus did not condemn this woman, married multiple times

Jesus diagnosed the woman’s emptiness and thirst

Jesus taught about true worship, without condemning her for following the wrong one

  1. Jesus first built the faith of this outcast woman
  2. He then built the faith of His own disciples
  3. Then He built the faith of a Samaritan city

vii.  The Second Sign:  The Nobleman’s Son   (John 4:43-54)

Authentic faith is not spiritual curiosity but commitment

Samaritans were curious about Jesus, but curiosity is not belief.  People today are spiritual…I saw a number of posts the other day after people had the “spiritual” experience of looking at the Wolf Moon.

Authentic faith is not emotional feeling but informed belief

The Nobleman who’s son was dying did not base his son’s survivalon a feeling.  He believed “what Jesus said…”

Authentic faith is not a single decision but a growing dependence

Saving faith is not a momentary flash of emotional experience, but a genuine, trusting and growing dependence upon Jesus as your Lord.  The nobleman first believed in the spoken Word of God as his son was healed.  But then he believed in the incarnate Son of God, and was saved.  This act of faith was placed in contrast to the Galileans who only believed because of the Sign.

John is pointing to a pattern of Jesus’ ministry that modeled the Great Commisson:

  • Jerusalem:  Nicodemus
  • Judea. (4:1-3)
  • Samaria. (4:4-42)
  • Uttermost Parts (4:43-54)—-Gentile nobleman’s son/belief with household

Prologue: John 1:1-18

PROLOGUE   John 1:1-18

“The Revelation of the Word of God”

His Deity  (1:1-2)

“Who Was Jesus?”

How is Jesus to be understood?  Did he stride out of the wilderness 2000 years ago to preach a gentle message of peace and brotherhood? Or did he perhaps advocate some form of revolution?  When did he realize his mission would end with death upon a cross?  Did he view himself to be the promised Messiah?  Did he understand himself to be both God and man?

Ostling, Time

For those who say that Jesus did not see Himself as God, the opening verses of John 1 correct their view.  “Confusion about the deity of Christ is inexcusable, because the biblical teaching regarding it is clear and unmistakeable.  Jesus Christ is the pre-existent Word, Who enjoys full face-to-face communion and divine life with the Father, and is Himself God.” (MacArthur)

It’s important for us to keep straight in our thinking that Jesus was not created.  When He was born in Bethlehem, a body was provided for Him, born of a virgin, conceived by God in Mary’s womb.  “A body you have prepared for me…I have come to do your will O God.” for “When all things began, the Word already was.” (Continuous action)

We have to wrestle a bit with the idea of Jesus as “the Word.” What exactly does that mean?  “Logos” in the Greek, (“logic”) the idea of Jesus as “the Word” of God hits us as a little strange.

What do words do?  Well, words can strengthen a nation for war, as Winston Churchill showed us during WW 2.  Words can change the direction of our lives, as some of you have known when you said, “I do.”

But words also reveal.  God tried to tell us Who He was in the Old Testament.  But here as Jesus enters history and time, He SHOWS us by His Word.

It was by the Word of God that the world, and in fact that all of the material and even spiritual aspects of creation came into existence.  What do we see over and over in Genesis 1?  “And God said….”

Those of us who have used the phrase, “well sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” have never been on the receiving end of a critical parent, or a verbally and emotionally abusive spouse, or have never read hurtful and untrue comments on Facebook that amount to bullying.

Words have power.  The Hebrew people knew this.  They would literally duck if someone starting cursing at them!  Words have power.

To the Hebrew person, words had energy and an independent existence.  It’s still true of folks living in some parts of the east today.

If you have read or heard the story of Isaacs blessing of Jacob which he was deceived into doing, and you hear the “unblessed” brother Esau begging his father for any word of blessing, you see something of this.

Words have consequences.  Jesus said that we would be held accountable to “every idle word” we speak.  We are responsible for the use of our words.

But to the Greek reader, the word “logos” meant “reason” or “wisdom.” It was the “logos” in Greek thought that brought order and meaning to the world.  They never understood what it was or where it came from, but they did not deny it’s existence.

His Creation  (1:3)

God created through His Word, Who was Jesus.  Jesus was the agent of God’s creation, both in the beginning and as Jesus, the Word of God personified and incarnated, the Word of God was inseparable from God as your words are inseparable from you.

Before the world or anything in all creation was brought to existence, Jesus existed.  Jesus was God!  God has always been like Jesus.  One little girl, after encountering some of the more difficult and violent places in the Old Testament, felt the need to defend God’s actions.  “These things happened before God became a Christian!”

Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you have created all things and by your will they were created.”

All things came into existence by Him.  Not a firefly, a sunset, a sunrise or an amoebae exists without Jesus bringing it to life.

His Illumination   (1:4-5)

John now introduced two words that will come back many times in the Gospel. The words are “LIFE” and “LIGHT.”  Jesus does two things by His coming:

1). He brings LIFE.  Jesus is LIFE.  “The wages of sin is death…”  We lost life with God because of sin.  We are separated from God when we are spiritually dead.  Eternal punishment is eternity separated from LIFE with God.  “We are dead in trespasses and sins…but alive because of the grace of God.”  Death, by definition, is “the inability to respond to life.”  Physical death is separation of the spirit or soul from the body.  Life is no longer present.  Jesus came to call that which was formerly dead to life.  A Christian is someone who was once a spiritual corpse but is now alive with resurrected life.

You know, eternal life (and John deals with that term later) begins at salvation and never ends.  It doesn’t stop when your body dies.  Life never returns to death when Jesus brings it.

The word “LIFE” is tremendously important in John’s Gospel.  Thirty five times, the word “zoe” or “life” appears.  Fifteen times the statement “to have life” appears.  Fifty references exist in total about LIFE.

2). He brings LIGHT.  “The light shines in the darkness…”. John uses the word for darkness that means “the realm where God is not loved.” This darkness is a darkness that is the natural realm of those who do not want to do good.”  The light shines in that darkness and brings illumination.  In the letter of 1 John, he talks about those who prefer to stay in the darkness and not walk in the light.   Jesus brought enough light for every man.  No one needs to remain in darkness unless they choose to do so.

His Forerunner  (1:6-9)

John came to point people to the Light that was Jesus.  It’s interesting that people need to be directed to the light.  You would think that people who are walking in darkness would welcome it!  And yet, people don’t do they?  They become accustomed to living in darkness.  Their eyes become acclimated to the dark.  Do you know there are fish that are found in pools of water is some of the deepest, darkest caves that don’t even have EYES?  What do they need eyes for?  There’s nothing to see in the darkness.  But we need to be pointed to the Light, and John makes clear that HE isn’t the Light, but he knows where the Light is, or better, WHO the Light is.

John was “SENT” (apostelo) from God.  One of the big debates among the religious authorities of the time was who John was.  He had huge crowds that would come to the Jordan River, near the wilderness, to hear him preach and see him baptize.  He had a following of disciples that we run into several times later in the New Testament.

Once when Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees over something He did that made them mad, they demanded to know, “Where did you come from?”  Jesus turned the question around on them and said “Was the baptism of John from God or from men?”  This caused them a problem.  If they said, “From man,” the people would riot against them.  But if they said, “From God,” then Jesus would say “then why didn’t you believe what he said about me?”

His Rejection   (1:10-11)

So Jesus came to bring LIFE and LIGHT.  Why would people not want that?  Wouldn’t you want LIFE if you were dead, and LIGHT if you were blind?

But “He came to His own, and His own (People) did not receive Him.” However, their rejection of Him opened the way for the offer of salvation to be offered to “Whosoever will…”. “As many as received Him…”  That’s you.  That’s me.  We are the “whosoever.”. We are the “as many…”

His Offer   (1:12-13)

John uses the word “teknon” to describe our new birth in Christ.

In John 3 when Jesus talks to Nicodemus…(“born again…”)

Paul uses the term “huion” which is more a legal term.  John emphasizes birth into Jesus.  We are regenerated, “born again” into the family of God.

Paul emphasizes the legal phrase because his emphasis on salvation is more focused on adoption than new birth.  Both are different dimensions of the same reality.  We are made new, made part of a new family, a new community, we come into a new relationship with God…no longer as slaves and subjects but as children in a new family.

His Incarnation   (1:14)

Jesus did not come simply to dwell in a human shell.  He BECAME flesh.  When He was born physically through Mary, He received a body that is STILL alive today.  When you go to Heaven one day, you will see the very body of Jesus that was crucified for you, and that was resurrected.

If Jesus wasn’t human He couldn’t be tempted

If Jesus wasn’t human He couldn’t be an example to us

If Jesus wasn’t human He couldn’t die for us.

“…the humanity of Jesus is not a miracle of nature, but a marvel of grace.”

(JI Packer)

His Witness   (1:15-18)

Tabernacle

“pitched his tent”  “set up his tabernacle” among us

Glory

The visible presence of all the excellence of God’s character and nature.  No one could stare directly at the glory.  Often it was accompanied by a dark cloud that kept the glory from blinding those who looked

Fullness of grace and truth….we do not behold Him now through signs and images and symbolism.   Now we behold all the fulness of God (which dwelt bodily in Jesus).  Everything you will ever need to see and know of God is seen bodily // physically in Jesus.

  1. The Gospel is a rescue story, and Jesus is the rescuer
  2. The Gospel is a promise and Jesus is the fulfillment of it
  3. The Gospel is a grace story, and it is grace that leads us home

Cowper “God Works in a Mysterious Way”.  Struggled with depression, and guilt, and darkness his whole life.  On Jan 1, 1773 Cowper tried to commit suicide.  It was also on Jan 1 1773 that John Newton’s congregation sang the song “Amazing Grace” for the first time!  Newton wrote the stanza that said, “Through many dangers, toils and snares…”  with his friend, William Cowper in mind.  He had tried numerous times to convince Cowper that all of his sin had been covered by the grace of God.  He had hoped that singing the stanza of this song Newton had just written would persuade his friend to trust in the grace of God.

The Empty Hope of Greed

It is important to remember at the conclusion of our little series that God is the owner of everything.  That means you really own…nothing.  He gives us “all things richly to enjoy.”   When we take an offering to “give” something to God,  we are only giving to God what He already owns.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having nice things and enjoying them.  The Bible does not condemn wealth or wealthy people.  But it does condemn the love of it.  “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” When we pursue wealth as an end in itself, it becomes the wellspring of all kinds of evil.

  1. We cannot separate our attitude toward money and material possessions from the true condition of our spirituality.  Your money and your use of it is a test.
  2. You cannot relate to Jesus authentically without dealing with this issue.  Jesus dealt with money (materialism, mammon) more than He talked about faith, or prayer or heaven.  Over 2,350 verses to be exact.  Most of the parables of Jesus are related to money.  You cannot hide and shelter your money as though it has no consequence to your eternal health and well-being.

Covetousness is probably one of the most downplayed yet most prevalent sins we are guilty of today.  All of us.  We have all tasted greed.

The Tenth commandment in Exodus 20:17 warns us, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions.” His wife, his home, his servants, his animals.  Don’t look over the fence and long for what your neighbor has.

Paul pointed out that the law convicted him he was covetous:

“For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.”   Romans 7:7-8 ESV

He lusted for things that he should not.  And in Colossians he makes a startling connection:

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”   Colossians 3:5 ESV

What is covetousness?  Idolatry.  You are looking to something or someONE created for your ultimate satisfaction, your ultimate good, your identity, your value… instead of to the God Who created these things.  As Tim Keller wrote, “The human heart is an idol factory.”

Are you an “accidental idolator?” Do you convince yourself that, in fact, your life DOES consist of the things you possess?  If you possessed MORE, you would be happier… more contented… more fulfilled?

Are you trying to prove Jesus was wrong?  Is the focus of your life on getting more, having more?  Do you realize this is all driven by fear?

The early Israelites bowed before the idol of a golden calf because they were afraid:  The idol gave them a sense of security in something they could see.  Covetousness is a default sin that we resort to when we’re afraid.

When we are very young, we covet because we are afraid we are going to miss out on something fun…something good.  Her bicycle is more fun.

When we are hitting adulthood and middle age, we covet because we are afraid we are going to be thought of as unsuccessful… as a failure in life… as less than we could be.  So, we covet power, and prestige, and wealth.  Our fear is we are not measuring up.

When we get older, we covet because we are afraid, we are not going to have security to last our retirement years, or afraid we will not be able to retire at all!

Covetousness is idolatry, and it demands we possess more, own more, make more money…it becomes our ultimate search for significance and meaning in life.  And at its root is fear.

But the Bible says you are serving an idol… a false god… a golden calf… that can never keep its promise to you.

When you see it for what it truly is, you will stare into the abyss of an empty hope.

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