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:
- They already wrote it and it’s already been said and commonly circulated
- 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)
- Who are you?
- What then?
- Are you Elijah?
- Are you the prophet?
- Who are you?
- What do you say about yourself?
- 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:
- He knew he was to prepare the way for Jesus
- He knew that Jesus takes away the sin of the world
- He knew he was to show Jesus to Israel
- He knew he was to baptize Jesus
- He knew Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit
- He knew Jesus was the Son of God (of exact character and nature)
- 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:
- He “cast out” the money changers and their sacrificial animals. Jesus was making way for the only acceptable sacrifice: Himself.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jesus’ human emotion on clear display here…angry
- 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
- The Reality of God’s Love. (vv 14-16)
- The Reason Jesus Came (vv 17)
- The Result of Belief (v 18)
- 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
The Honoring of Jesus
- His Supremacy (v 31)
- His Testimony (vv 32-34)
- 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
- Jesus first built the faith of this outcast woman
- He then built the faith of His own disciples
- 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