A Bible Lesson on John 21

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Chapter 21 of John amounts to a kind of epilogue to the book.  It is the account of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to some of the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee.

John 21:1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 

2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 

3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

“The” boat is perhaps Peter’s boat.  It seems as if that’s what’s being said.  They’re going to go out and use Peter’s gear.  It’s an interesting point that the disciples, in the whole of the Gospels never manage to catch one fish without the express work of Jesus.  Here again, the efforts of the disciples on their own are completely futile.  So are ours.

Night fishing on the Sea of Galilee is widely believed to be better than daytime fishing.  Besides, if they were thinking commercially, fish caught at night could be sold fresh during the day.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 

5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”

6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 

7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 

Why does it come to John that this is Jesus at this point?  See Luke 5:1-11.  The circumstances were similar when Jesus called James, John, Peter and Andrew.

Peter is always Peter.  He can’t wait for the boat to get to shore.  He gets properly dressed to greet Jesus and jumps overboard.

8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 

11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 

This, of course, has its literal meaning.  Most commentators also see it having a figurative meaning parallel to the meaning of fishing given at the calling of the disciples.  There seems to be a picture here of a great catch of human souls, so large that the disciples could barely handle it.

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

Once again, by saying “They knew it was the Lord” John is implying that there was some reason that they might have not been sure.  Jesus’s appearance may have been somewhat different from before His death and resurrection.

13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is recognized in the breaking of bread.  He is seen most clearly in the breaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper.  But before that, He’s revealed as the Son of God as He breaks bread and feeds the multitudes.  The disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize Him in the breaking of bread.

14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

John is evidently counting those appearances to the majority of the apostles at once.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus asks “more than these?”  It seems there are 3 possible meanings  1) “more than these other guys do?” 2) “more than you love the rest of these guys?” and 3) “more than you love this fishing gear?”  It seems pretty that the intention is the first, although some people have argued otherwise.

The question is ironic in that Peter has, at the last supper blustered that even if everyone else fails Jesus, he will not.  See Mark 14:29.  In fact, although they all failed Jesus, Peter did so most spectacularly.

But note now that Peter is not blustering, or promising more than he can deliver.  He’s simply appealing to Jesus on the basis of what Jesus knows to be true about him.  Here, instead of working from his ability or resolve, he’s pointing to Jesus’ supernatural knowledge and more or less throwing himself on the care of Jesus.

People have made a lot of the fact that in the Greek there are two different words for love being used in this conversation.  Jesus asks the first two times about agape love.  All three times Peter replies in terms of phileo love and Jesus’ last question is phrased in term of phileo.  Considering that the distinction between these is not present in either Aramaic or Hebrew, I don’t see much sense in trying to read meanings into the different uses.  The conversation was not carried out in Greek, and there is no hint on the part of Peter that the distinction is part of his meaning or what he’s picking up from Jesus.  It seems more likely that John is simply making use of literary variation, trying to avoid being repetitious in word choice.  Both terms are used of God’s love towards us, so it’s not really correct to think of one as inferior to the other anyway.

Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.”  See to it that the tender ones in the church are nourished and brought along in the Faith.  The measure of Peter’s devotion to Jesus is to be how he cares for the young church.

16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 

Jesus goes through this quizzing 3 times.  Do you love me?  This is painful, but it’s grace.  Peter had denied Jesus 3 times.  Here he’s getting a chance to symbolically wipe the slate clean, to wipe out the memory of his most miserable failure of the Lord.

3 times he’s told to care for the Master’s sheep.   Ryle said this “was meant to teach Peter and the whole Church the mighty lesson, that usefulness to others is the grand test of love, and working for Christ is the great proof of really loving Christ.  It is not loud talk and high profession; it is not even impetuous, spasmodic zeal and readiness to draw the sword and fight, — it is steady, patient, laborious effort to do good to Christ’s sheep scattered throughout this sinful world, which is the best evidence of being a true-hearted disciple. … Let us aim at a loving, doing, useful, hard-working, unselfish, kind, unpretentious religion.  Let it be our daily desire to think of others, care for others, do good to others, and to lessen the sorrow, and increase the joy of this sinful world.”

Again notice Peter’s attitude here in comparison to his attitude before the denial.  There he was full of himself.  Here all he can do is rely upon the perfect knowledge of Jesus, that as sincerely as he knows how, he does indeed love Jesus.

18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 

19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Some people see here an explicit prophecy that Peter will be crucified as was Jesus.  Whether the meaning was intended to be that explicit or not isn’t clear.  And it is not really important.  In any case Jesus is clearly telling Peter that he’s to feed the flock and follow his Master.  And that in the end, it is not going to be easy.  Nevertheless, he (Peter) has been so called.  Peter wasn’t up to the task the night of the arrest when he acted in his pride and self-sufficiency.  His outlook is different now and in dependence upon Christ, he will face persecution much differently.

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”

21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”

Peter, like the rest of us is so human.  He’s just been told that in following Christ and carrying out His will, hard things will be endured.  Immediately Peter wants to know what about John.  Clearly, that’s not Peter’s business.  That’s between John and his Master.  Jesus tells him so.

22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

Mind your own business Peter.

23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

John is correcting a rumor that was apparently rampant in his time.  According to tradition, he was the last of the Apostles to die.  Some thought that Jesus was going to return before his death.  John says that that was not what Jesus said.

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

John is saying that it was he who wrote this down and appealing to the fact that the truth of his testimony was well known.  His testimony is true in two ways.  Factually, what he has said is accurate.  And what he has said concerns the very origin of all truth, Jesus Himself.

25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

John ends his letter with a disclaimer that not all possible things were recorded.  But while His account is not exhaustive, it is sufficient to show an honest heart the way to Christ.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on John 20

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This chapter is John’s account of Resurrection Sunday.  Recall what John says in the first epistle of John.

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—

John was there, he saw these things and he recognizes that it is vital that you and I know that we’re hearing the account of such a witness.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

This is “early,” probably before dawn and it may be that here Mary Magdalene is alone.  Matthew and Mark place 2 Marys and Salome at the tomb later (at dawn).  But it is also possible that there are others here and John is simply concentrating on Mary Magdalene.

Ryle wrote of this scene, “… her conduct this memorable morning was so remarkable and prominent that St. John speaks of her alone.  All the women showed faith and courage and love, he seems to intimate; but none so pre-eminently as Mary Magdalene.  She was the first to come near the tomb, first to discover that the stone was rolled away, first to conjecture that something remarkable had happened, and the first to act at once on what she saw.”  He further said, “… we are distinctly told that she was one out of whom the Lord had cast ‘seven devils’ (Mark xvi. 9; Luke viii. 2), –one who had been subjected in a peculiar way to Satan’s possession, –and one whose gratitude to our Lord for deliverance was a gratitude that knew no bounds.  In short, of all our Lord’s followers on earth, none seem to have loved Him so much as Mary Magdalene. None felt that they owed so much to Christ.  None felt so strongly that there was nothing too great to do for Christ. Hence, as Bishop Andrews beautifully puts it, — ‘She was last at His cross, and first at His grave. She staid longest there, and was soonest here.  She could not rest till she was up to seek Him.  She sought Him while it was yet dark, even before she had light to seek Him by.’  In a word, having received much, she loved much; and loving much, she did much, in order to prove the reality of her love.”  He went on to infer that relative lack of passion for Christ and His Gospel follows from “a low sense of debt and obligation to Christ,” an inadequate grasp of the enormity and eternal implications of our sin.

John also doesn’t tell us the details of the stone.  By the time he is writing here, the synoptic Gospels are in wide circulation.  He expects his reader to know those accounts and doesn’t feel the need to repeat all the details from them … rather, he concentrates on those that are most relevant to his stated purpose in John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  

2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

The synoptics put Mary of Magdalene at the tomb with Mary the mother of James and Salome.  Ryle believed that immediately upon seeing the stone, Mary Magdalene ran off to get Peter and John, and in the meantime the angels appear to the other women, who are gone by the time she returned.  In any case, mark Mary’s reaction.  The furthest thing from her mind here is the possibility that Jesus has risen.

3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

We have here, not a single witness, but two, in keeping with Old Testament teaching on the importance of corroboration.  Modesty forbids John to say directly that it is he who outran Peter!

5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,

Peter is always Peter.  He charges right into the tomb, not hesitating the least in the possibility that the evidence that he’s observing concerns the most important occurrence of human history.  Ryle wrote, “Grace does not alter natural temperaments, when it changes hearts.”

7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.

In telling us the details about the grave clothes, John wants us to know that this is a real, physical, space-and-time resurrection, not some make-believe fairy tale kind of thing.  Nor is it the work of grave robbers.  Grave robbers wouldn’t leave behind the grave clothes and try to handle a naked, cold, slippery, stiff corpse.  Nor would they take time to fold up the cloth that had been around his head.

8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

We have the picture of Peter standing and gawking, not knowing what to make of the scene.  John enters and believes.  This is a detail that only an eyewitness could or would supply.  He believes that Jesus has been resurrected.

9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

John is saying that while he has believed that Jesus has been resurrected, he doesn’t see how it fits into the big picture.

Note that the disciples were caught completely by surprise.  The secularist attempt to explain this away as some kind of hoax that the clever disciples carried off just doesn’t square with their state of mind or with their fairly bumbling unsophisticated backgrounds and ways.

10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

“to their homes” is literally “to themselves”  They went back to where they were staying while in Jerusalem.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.

John has apparently not filled Mary in on what he thought he knew about what has happened.  Mary is crying, upset about the location of the body.  From one perspective it is her incredible loyalty and love for Christ that puts her here to begin with, and especially after the men have left.  The “But Mary stood” is in contrast to the men who had gone.  But she’s also as thoroughly human and as blind as any of us.  Thank God the tomb was empty!  Thank God she doesn’t get what she thinks she wants!  Mary’s concern at this point is simply for the dead body.

12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.

Despite the fact that there is no natural explanation for how these beings got there without Peter and John seeing them, Mary may not recognize them as angels.  And even if she dis, she wasn’t going to let the appearance of angels get her off track from her grief over the missing body.

13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

The angels surely know why she is weeping.  They are not asking to gain information.  They are asking to prod her to think this through and figure out “Hey! This is wonderful! The tomb is empty!  He’s not here!”  Mary, in her authentic humanity, clings to her grief over the death.

14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

Apparently the phrasing in the Greek describing Mary’s turning is a bit odd, and has led commentators to speculate on why Mary turned.  Ryle saw the angels stirring at the entrance of Christ, and Mary being alerted to His presence behind her.  But she doesn’t know that it’s Him.  This is not the only time that His followers fail to recognize the resurrected Jesus.  His appearance must have been somewhat different than before.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Why are you weeping?  Who is it that you are looking for?  Like the angels before, Jesus hints to Mary that she wasn’t on the right track.  She was looking for a corpse, when she should have been looking for a person.  She was blind to her Help and Master, though He was right there beside her.  Indeed, why was she weeping?  And who was it that she thought she was looking for?  Was it a dead prophet, or the living Son of God?  She was indeed faithful and loving, but she was so absorbed in the situation that it didn’t even occur to her to use Jesus’s name describing the situation.  When she speaks it’s simply “him” who has been carried away, the one who is in the center of her thinking and her world.  But she also was a frail human being who wasn’t keeping clear in her head the divinity of her Master and His teaching on His resurrection.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

When the Good Shepherd calls His sheep, they know His voice.  Now Mary “gets it.”  Rabboni, (my) teacher.  This is a bit of an odd word.  It was usually used in calling out to God in prayer.  It was a somewhat more respectful form of “Rabbi.”

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ “


John 14:1  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 

It seems likely that Mary thinks that Jesus is back for the disciples.  Jesus says, “I have not yet ascended to the Father.”  He can’t mean that He’s been hiding in Jerusalem and isn’t yet ready to go see the Father.  It is, rather, likely that He’s saying that He hasn’t yet gone away in the John 14 sense.   He has not yet completed His ascent to the Father in the sense of leaving until the second coming.  Jesus’s command that she not cling to Him simply means that Mary’s desire for a physically-present Jesus won’t be realized at this time.  John 16:16 isn’t going to be realized in the way she expects.

John 16:16   “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”

Mary, the real human being she is, is making too much of the immediate physical presence of Jesus.

I am ascending”  is “I am in the process of ascending”  Things are not simply going back to the way they were before the crucifixion and resurrection.  Things are fundamentally different.

to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”  That language is parallel to Ruth 1:16.  Coming from the lips of Jesus, it emphasizes the great honor that God does us by inviting us into His family.  What mercy and grace there is in this language.  Jesus says, “go tell my brothers.”  Go tell the same ones who had a couple of days earlier deserted Him.  Jesus knows our weakness and frailty and in mercy calls such as you and me His brothers.

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

It’s worth noting that the first to carry the news of resurrection was Mary. Brentius said, “Jesus made Mary Magdalene an Apostle to the Apostles.”

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Peace be with you.”  Shalom.  May God give you every good thing and set all things right.  This is perhaps an ordinary Jewish greeting, but likely much more.  Remember that on just Thursday night Jesus spoke to them the words of John 14:27-28.  Here He’s confirming that indeed all is well, but that He is going to the Father.

Joh 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

In view of their behavior on Friday morning , the disciples might have expected worse.

John 20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

Jesus’s resurrection body is both similar and dissimilar to our present earthly bodies.  He entered the locked room, and yet they can see the wounds in His hands and side.  Luke 24:36-43 gives us more details.

Luke 24:36  As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”

37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.

38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,

43 and he took it and ate before them.

John 20:21  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Here’s a tall order.  Think of some of the implications of this.  Jesus’s mission is now our mission.  The Son must be present with us just as the Father was with Him.  Whoever saw Jesus saw the Father, so whoever sees us should see Jesus.  Jesus was submitted to the Father’s will and we should be to His.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

This should remind us of Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:3-5.

Genesis 2:7  then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Ezekiel 37:3  And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord

GOD, you know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.

5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

breath/spirit are the same word in both Greek and Hebrew.  Here the Holy Spirit is giving real, eternal life.

John 20:23  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

This famous verse has been the subject of much exegesis over the years.  Various interpretations have been offered.  Possibilities are 1) a statement of the church’s power of excommunication, 2) the bringing of guilt when the church declares the truth and it is ignored (more of John’s theme of implicit judgement). and 3) that the church’s forgiveness or lack thereof is really only of a declarative nature  (that is, that it is simply saying only what God has already determined).

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas is a hard-headed, skeptical, but intensely loyal guy.

John 11:16  So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

John 14:4  And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

John tell us about Thomas because there is value in watching an extremely cautious man come to faith.  This is not just some kind of mass hysteria going on here.  And in the end, Thomas’s confession of Jesus is the fullest and most magnificent in John’s book.  Barclay said “he was not airing his doubts just for the sake of mental acrobatics; he doubted in order to become sure; and when he did, his certainty was complete.”

John 20:25  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

The sense of the verb is that the other disciples “kept on telling him.”  He doesn’t believe the other disciples in spite of their repeated testimony.  In fact, he wants more evidence that they’re even claiming to have had.  He’s not interested in either participating in some kind of religious make-believe or in some kind of non-physical “spiritual” ghost-type resurrection.  The “I will not believe it” is closer to “I will certainly not believe it.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus could have been touched in exactly the physical way that Thomas talked about.  This was a real, physical event.  Nevertheless, there is probably a note of rebuke in Jesus’s statement.  Thomas crossed the line into impudence.  Jesus invites him to “stop doubting, but on the contrary believe.”

28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas recognizes 1) Jesus’s miraculous presence, 2) Jesus’s supernatural knowledge, and 3) his own impudence, and makes the most complete Gospel confession of Jesus.

John 8:28  So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM.

John 20:29  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

It was vital that there be witnesses, but the ordinary person is promised no glimpse of the risen Christ in this life.  We are encouraged to rely upon the written accounts of reliable witnesses.

Romans 10:17  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

“Blessed” Not any more blessed than Thomas, but blessed indeed.

John 20:30  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

This is John’s wrap-up of the main part of his account.  This is the plain statement of why he has written.  He’s hit the high point and the rest is epilogue.  Nothing greater could be said about Jesus.  One of the commentators said about these verses that if you are writing biography of a great dead person, you strive to be complete, but John’s not doing that.  He’s introducing us to One who is living.

He couldn’t tell everything, but he’s given us enough that we can believe and thereby have life.  The perfect tense that he uses to say “these are written” carries an air of permanence.  John has written to bear witness to the grand fact that God has acted on our behalf in Christ, and that there is thus life and wholeness if we will take it.  John says this reliance upon God has content.  It is not some vague thing.  It is reliance upon the facts that Jesus is Messiah, God’s anointed One, and that He is the Son of God, one with the Father.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on John 18:28-19:37

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is a re-post of a lesson first posted in March 2015.

The fundamental problem of the Bible is this: God is absolutely holy and perfect. Human beings are fallen, rebellious, and broken. By nature and choice we are sinful, unfit for His presence. How then, does a holy God maintain His perfection and holiness, and yet have mercy on such as you and me? If He ignores our sin, if He just looks the other way, He’s not just. But if He is just, it seems like we’re hopelessly undone. In this text we’re given the astonishing, awful, wonderful Gospel answer to this completely impossible problem. God, Himself, in the person of Christ Jesus bears the crushing weight of just punishment for sedition and blasphemy against Himself, and in that He gives us life.

In these verses and events we are at the very center of the Bible message. They are profound and deep, and are to be approached carefully, reverently, in holy awe. We have here a telling of the circumstances of the Death of the King of Glory.

John 18:28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

John 18:29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”

John 18:30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.”

John 18:31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”

John 18:32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus is brought to Pilate and the stated charge is “doing evil.” In the illegal show trial before the high priest and the Jewish council recorded by both Matthew and Luke, the charge was blasphemy. The accusation brought against Jesus there concerned His claim to be God’s Son. That is a true piece of evidence. And if the facts don’t match the claim, then blasphemy is a right description of His claim. But His accusers know that correct or not, such a charge won’t get Him killed by the Roman authorities. They’ve got to make one that will work in a Roman civil court. In verse 30, it sounds like they are a bit vague, maybe fishing for what will work. But listen to what Pilate hears.

John 18:33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Are you the King? Indeed He is THE KING. Handel got this right in his composing of “Messiah.” He’s the King of Glory. He’s the One of whom Psalm 24 speaks when it says

Psalm 24:7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

Psalm 24:8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!

Psalm 24:9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

Psalm 24:10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!

He, Jesus, is the promised Son of king David. He IS the promised eternal King. Of course, that is not what the accusers are insinuating. They are recasting their charge of blasphemy as a false charge of civil sedition. As far as Pilate is concerned, the Jews can have their silly religious disputes, as long as there is civil order. But the accusers make Jesus out to be a political figure, a threat to Roman rule.

John 18:34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”

John 18:35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”

Pilate is no Jew. And he has no evidence that Jesus is a political subversive. There was that strange parade into the city a few days ago, on Palm Sunday, but Pilate has no basis to know that Jesus was consciously fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

And even if Pilate had understood what Jesus was doing, it was no political threat to Roman authority.

Jesus makes a complete answer to Pilate. Yes, He is THE KING. No, He is not guilty of sedition. He says:

John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

John 18:38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Pilate renders an honest verdict on the sedition charge, and in the process speaks prophetically about Jesus. Indeed, there is absolutely NO guilt in Him. Here is the great righteous eternal King judged honestly and found innocent FOR HIMSELF. This is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

John 18:39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

John 18:40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

The truth regarding Jesus is “not guilty on all charges” (both the blasphemy charge because He really IS God’s Son, and the trumped up civil sedition charge). But fallen humanity doesn’t want a righteous King. In our reprobate state, we don’t want to be ruled by a holy God. We’d rather pretend that we are gods and kings. That’s been the case since Genesis 3. So the cry is not for justice, but for injustice. Spare the unrepentant guilty rebel in the place of the Righteous One.

John 19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.

John 19:2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.

John 19:3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

John 19:4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”

Maybe Pilate can appease the accusers by abusing and humiliating One he knows to be completely innocent. He doesn’t understand Jesus to be God, but he does know Him to be “not guilty.” So Pilate looks for a miserable human compromise that will abuse the truth but perhaps save him from the personal guilt of killing the Innocent.

John 19:5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

Behold THE MAN. Hear Pilate. He doesn’t really understand what he’s said, but we should. This is the perfect man, the second Adam. Here standing in “the dock” (in the defendant’s box) is the Son of God who is the Son of Man. The apparent defendant here is in Himself innocent of both blasphemy and sedition. But He’s not here for Himself, He’s here for humanity. He’s here for you and for me. He is personally NOT guilty of blasphemy against God nor rebellion against Caesar. BUT … you and I, in whose place He stands, certainly ARE guilty of both blasphemy and sedition against our Creator, the great I AM, the Alpha and Omega. “Behold THE MAN,” says Pilate.

John 19:6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

John 19:7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

Christ’s accusers pronounce their own verdict. They aren’t going to be satisfied with a little abuse and humiliation. They want this One, who has plainly claimed to be the Son of God, gone.

John 19:8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.

John 19:9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

Earlier, so that Pilate would know the truth in the case against Him personally, Jesus answered. He personally was innocent. But we are not, and as our representative He is not, and He doesn’t contest the proceedings. He doesn’t seek release. Isaiah prophesied

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Jesus doesn’t demand justice for Himself, because He’s not here on His own behalf! He’s here in your place and mine, and He is receiving the just verdict regarding our sedition and rebellion against the I AM. Believers, there’s no defense that could or should be made on our account, and He’s silent. Of course.

John 19:10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”

John 19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

Pilate presumes he’s in control. But neither he nor the accusers are in charge. They are there in the providence of God. Isaiah was told hundreds of years before

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring;

It was the will of the LORD to crush Him. This is in not in the hands of humanity.

John 19:12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

The accusers apply the pressure of position and self-interest, implicitly threatening to report Pilate to Rome.

John 19:13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.

Pilate’s earlier judgment was spoken more or less in private. Now he takes the official judgment seat. This is an elevated stone platform, out in the open, where verdict and sentence will be pronounced.

John 19:14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

“Behold your King.” In verse 5 Pilate correctly said, “Behold the MAN.” Now he correctly says, “Behold your King.” Before him is our representative who is also THE KING of glory. We must understand that in truth, it’s not Jesus who is on trial here. Pilate has already pronounced Jesus personally innocent. It is us in the person of His accusers on trial. It is fallen humanity whose guilt is about to be definitively established.

John 19:15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Our blood should run cold here. Listen to the self-condemnation of fallen humanity, the confession in open court! “We have no King but Caesar.” Except God grant faith and repentance, we will not be ruled by the real King. We’ll instead have one we make up. We’ll captain our own ship. Listen carefully. This is real sedition. This is real blasphemy. Human beings will reject the real King, who is also the real Man. Instead we’ll take Caesar to rule over us. We’ll put ourselves in the place of the King of Glory. Pilate, acting in official capacity, lets them have their chosen self-judgment. He doesn’t have to utter the verdict. Christ is going to be killed and bear the punishment, but the real guilt and real judgment is on rebellious seditious blasphemous humanity. And while Pilate allows it, the confession and implied judgment is spoken by the chief priests. Pilate doesn’t need to say who is “guilty.” It comes from the lips of the priests. Humanity is, by its own declaration, guilty.

But now, the awesome and wondrous central surprise that is going to unfold here is that the just punishment that rightly accompanies the judgment is not to be suffered by the guilty, but by the Innocent, by our righteous King.

John 19:16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus,

John 19:17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.

“He went out,” outside the city. It was against Jewish law to conduct an execution inside the city. And the Old Testament sin offering on the Day of Atonement was carried out “outside the camp.” (See Leviticus 16:27.) Jesus, the real and permanent sin offering for all repentant humanity, is taken outside the city. He is likely bearing the cross piece, and in this act fulfilling the Old Testament type/shadow of Isaac carrying the wood upon which Abraham had been commanded to sacrifice him.

John 19:18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

Fulfilling the words of Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

John 19:19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

John 19:20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.

It was standard to put a sign above a criminal’s head or around his neck giving the charge against him, and the official charge against Jesus was political sedition. Ironically, the false charge provides a true declaration of His identity. It’s written in 3 different languages, for all to read. This Jesus is King of the Jews. He is the King of Glory.

John 19:21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ”

John 19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

John 19:23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,

When they had crucified Jesus … Notice what John does and doesn’t emphasize. Crucifixion was a horrible, shameful, cruel death reserved for the worst of offenders. But the Gospels are purposely short on gory details. Their intent is not to evoke our sympathy for Jesus, but rather to show us who Jesus is and what He did on our behalf.

It is fair to see here that Jesus is no stranger to our pain and misery. But the deep horror of this scene isn’t the brutality of the death. Many humans suffer awful deaths, including two others crucified this day. The central point here, the horror, is the wrath of the Father and separation from Him poured out on the Son, rather than on you and me, as He willingly bears the guilt of our sin.

John 19:24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things,

John 19:25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”

John 19:27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

John 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”

“All” was now finished. Everything that the Father had given Him to do is finished. And in fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus, the only source of living water is thirsty.

Psalm 22:15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

John 19:29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.

Psalm 69:21 They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Hyssop had a prominent place in the Old Testament, where it was closely connected to atonement for sin.

Psalm 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

In Exodus 12:22 hyssop was prescribed for spreading the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts. In Numbers 19 it was prescribed for sprinkling the blood of the red heifer sacrificed outside the Israelite camp for the purification from sin. Here it figures in the substitutionary death of the King of Glory.

John 19:30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

IT is finished. All that the Father had given Him to do is complete. The great work of redemption/your salvation and mine, the perfect keeping of the Law, all of the Old Testament prophecies, all of the types of the Old Testament ceremonies, all of His sufferings, all of IT is finished.

Jesus “gave up his spirit.” Make no mistake, this is a very unusual description of death. You and I don’t “yield up our spirits.” But this is the Son of God and HE is in control of all this.

John 19:31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.

The legs are broken to hasten death. In accord with Deuteronomy 21:22-23, the bodies were to be taken down before nightfall.

John 19:32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.

John 19:33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

What the soldier intends here isn’t completely obvious. Perhaps he’s prodding Jesus to verify that He’s dead, and in this we know that Jesus really died dead. This was no swoon. But what is most important is the sign that comes through this action. This sign points back to the promise that Jesus would give the Spirit.

John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”

John 7:39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

There is living water flowing from Jesus. This is the fulfillment of the Exodus 17:6 picture of Moses striking the rock and water pouring forth. The event fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah:

Zechariah 13:1 On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.

Jesus Himself has opened the fountain of water that cleanses from sin and uncleanness.

John 19:35 He who saw it has borne witness— his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth— that you also may believe.

This is important. In 1st John, John writes:

1John 5:6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

1John 5:7 For there are three that testify:

1John 5:8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

There’s water and blood. Water is associated in Scripture with the Holy Spirit, with cleansing, and with life. Blood is associated with atonement and forgiveness, and the sacrificial death of a substitute to secure them. In the crucifixion these come together. There is water and blood. In death for our sedition and blasphemy, our great King brought cleansing, life, the Spirit, and full atonement. Those are not separate matters. Indeed, you cannot separate them. There is no real life without provision for sin. And both are aspects of His cross.

John emphasizes that this Jesus is the real sacrificial Passover Lamb and the righteous Man.

John 19:36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”

Speaking of the Passover Lamb, Exodus 12 says:

Exodus 12:46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.

And speaking of the Righteous Man that the LORD watches over, David prophesies:

Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

Psalm 34:20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

John 19:37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

This is a loose quotation from Zechariah 12:10.

Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

Zechariah sees God pierced by the apostasy of Israel, and the people mourning over what they have done, pleading for mercy, and somehow being moved by a spirit of grace. Jesus, God’s Son, has been pierced by the sin of all humanity. We ought to see the cross, mourn the enormity of our sin, plead for mercy, and rejoice in the grace of our relief.

In the death of the Innocent King of Glory, the real guilt of human rebellion/blasphemy/treason against God was judged. As our substitute, Jesus, bore its horrible just punishment. In that act, He provided life, cleansing/justification, atonement, and the Holy Spirit for all who will repent and believe. This is the center of our faith, Christian believers.

Thanks be to our great, glorious, and merciful King. Amen!

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on John 18:28-40

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This is a short lesson on John’s account of the trial of Jesus before Pilate.

John 18:28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

There is awful irony here.  The officials have illegally and unjustly decided on Jesus’s condemnation.  Yet here they are scrupulously keeping the finest details of the Sabbath/Passover law.  They’re in the midst of the most awful thing they could possibly be doing and they’re worrying about ritual defilement.  This is completely absurd.  Ryle quoting Poole here said, “Nothing is more common than for persons overzealous about rituals to be remiss about morals.”  In any case, they come to Pilate.

29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 

There is a reasonable amount known about Pilate from secular historians.  He ruled Judea from AD 26 through AD 36.  The historian Philo tells about his robbery, murder and inhumanity.  Josephus tells of his blunders of government and atrocities.  In Luke 13:1 we can read of a slaughter of Galileans that was his doing.

Pilate says, “What accusation”/charges?”  This seems like a formal/legal proceeding though it is illegal.

30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 

This has an arrogant tone about it.  They didn’t like this man and were on the edge of insulting him and his authority.

31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 

Roman occupation forces upheld local law, but reserved the right of capital punishment.  Implicit here is the idea that the Jews are going to ask for death on grounds that Pilate will recognize as a capital offense.  They’re going to charge political insurrection.  Pilate, for his part, is afraid to cross the mob and would like to avoid the case.  He’s smart enough to know that there was no chance that they’d be clamoring for the death of one whose plan was to throw off Roman rule.

32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

If the Jews had executed Jesus, it would have been by stoning.  Jesus has said it would be otherwise.

John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 

33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

John is speaking in sync with Jesus’s own words.

John 18:33  So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 

Are you a political rebel?  The title that Pilate uses, “King of the Jews,” is a title used by the last truly independent rulers (the Hasmonean priest/kings) before the arrival of the Romans in Palestine.

34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 

There is a double meaning here.  As Pilate is thinking, the title “king” means political rebel.  Prophetically it means “messianic king.”  Jesus is  not asking this question to gain information.  He’s asking to force Pilate to consider the shameful injustice of this whole situation.  It’s the same kind of question as “Adam, where are you?” in the garden.

35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 

Pilate disavows any firsthand knowledge of what’s gone on.  Instead he asks “What have you done?” claiming that this will answer the question whether Jesus is a threat to Roman rule.

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 

Jesus doesn’t answer Pilate directly.  Rather, he begins to explain to Pilate the nature of His kingship.  He says plainly that His kingdom is not a temporal one supported by armies and taxes and the trappings of earthly power.  It is a real kingship, in fact the most real kingship, for sure … but not the kind of kingship that Pilate should worry about as a political threat.  Pilate doesn’t pay attention.

37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 

Pilate says “So you are a king and therefore a political threat” … Jesus says “No, listen.  I’m not a politician.  I’m here to testify about Truth .  I AM the Truth.”  There is an implicit challenge to Pilate in what Jesus says to respond to that Truth.  Pilate wants to reduce all to politics and power here and now.  Jesus won’t let him do that.

38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 

Pilate is impatient and is turning from the Truth.  The big questions of life are not really of interest to him.  He dismisses them as of no account.  He breaks off the conversation, uninterested in any answer to his question.  Compare what Proverbs has to say about Wisdom.

Proverbs 2:4  if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,

5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Pilate is instead a “practical” man.  He tries to remain neutral between Jesus/the Truth and the world/the Jewish accusers.  He looks for an easy way out.  He’d like there to be some middle ground.

39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 

In Pilate’s mind, the plan here is that everyone gets what he wants.  He declares Jesus guilty and worthy of death.  That makes the Jews happy.  Then they turn around and choose to have Him released and Pilate doesn’t have His blood on his hands.  Everyone goes home happy … crooked, but happy.  But the knot-headed Jews won’t play ball.

40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

This is terribly ironic.  The Jews have presented Jesus (who is morally innocent) as a political rebel (which they know He is not).  They end up asking for the release of a real political rebel who is morally guilty of murder and under no interpretation of their won Jewish law should be released.  Pilate, by his trying to remain neutral, ends up doing something contrary to his own interests, releasing a real threat to Roman rule.  When we set out to suppress the Truth, the consequences are always insane.  And this is turning crazy.

It is also a picture of the substitution of Christ for all of us.  We all stand in the place of Barabbas, genuinely guilty and worthy of death.  And Christ died the death we ought to have died.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson John 17

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is a re-post of a lesson first posted in February 2015.

This chapter is the high priestly prayer of Jesus. It’s essentially the last thing the disciples hear from Jesus before the crucifixion. From a human perspective, we have here a most undistinguished rag-tag bunch of no-accounts huddled for a last time with their Master (who has failed to gain any huge acceptance or understanding of His real purpose or identity) on the eve of His embarrassing execution at the hands of the Romans. In truth and in the eyes of God, this is the Son of God about to accomplish a glorious salvation for you and me, praying for Himself and disciples chosen of God, who will by the strength of God, turn the world upside down with the message of the cross.

Jesus prays. This is formally addressed to the Father, but is in fact meant as much to instruct the disciples and us about the relationship of Jesus to the Father and us to them as it is to be a set of requests made to the Father.

Jesus begins by praying for Himself.

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

“Father” is “Abba,” an intimate form of address. The time has come. The time has come for the crucifixion and resurrection. The time has come for the plan of redemption to be completed.

Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you. The Father’s glory and the glory that Jesus will have in being perfectly obedient and bringing men to God are inseparable, all part of the same whole. There is no place for Jesus to have glory apart from the Father. (If we have any sense we will realize that there is no place for us to have any glory outside God’s work in and through us. If we do anything well, it is only His doing and ought to be only for His praise.)

2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

you have given (already in the past)/that he might give/to all whom you have given. Here again is the intertwining/inseparability of the actions of the Father and Son. Jesus gives eternal life, but it is in the context of the Father giving to Jesus.

The tense in “all whom you have given” is the perfect tense. It is completed and is still in effect. The disciples have been given to Jesus and He is still in possession of them.

Jesus gives eternal life. It is eternal in the sense of being everlasting and eternal in the sense of belonging to the eternal God. It is God’s life.

3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

What is this eternal life? It is to be in right relationship with, to have intimate knowledge of, the one true and living God. To know God is not only to know what He is like, but to be on the most intimate terms of friendship with Him. And this is only possible through the Son. Knowing the Father is inseparable from knowing Jesus. The tense of “that they may know you” implies that the knowledge is a continuing action.

4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

Jesus is so committed to the will of God that He can speak of the work as already completed. There is no question that He will endure it for you and for me. The die is cast. Jesus is going through to the end.

In the case of Jesus, it is His obedience to the Father and willingness to do things His way that brought glory to the Father. It’s no different for us. Actions speak louder than words.

5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus anticipates His return to the position that He had with the Father before the beginning of time. His obedience has honored the Father and the Father will honor Him for the obedience. Truly, providing the way for countless multitudes of us to come to salvation will bring Jesus glory and honor. It’s always the hard thing, not the easy route that brings glory. You honor a good student by giving him or her the hard task. A general sends his best units to do the most difficult assignment.

Jesus says what He has done.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

This is in some sense an amplification on verse 4, another way of saying the same thing. In completing the work given Him by the Father, He has brought the Father glory and revealed God to the disciples. The Father’s name is His character. The obedience of Jesus has produced obedience in the lives of the disciples.

7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.

Only as people see the Father at work in the Son, do they have a right concept of both the Father and the Son. The disciples had gotten to that point.

8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

The disciples may not have it all together, but their hearts are right and they recognize Jesus and what He’s told them for what they are, God’s word to man and God’s provision to man. They believed. They put their faith in, relied upon, trusted in, cleaved to Christ.

Jesus now prays for His little group of disciples.

9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

At this point Jesus is praying specifically for the disciples. It is obviously not the case that Jesus has no concern for the rest of humanity. But it is those the Father has given Him, the ones that have chosen to follow Him, those who are going to be His instruments to address the rest of humanity for whom He prays here.

When Jesus does (somewhat indirectly) pray for the world in verses 21 and 23, it is essentially that the world would cease to be worldly.

10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

Again, the Father and Son are in perfect harmony. Regarding “yours are mine” Luther said, “This no creature can say with reference to God.”

I am glorified in them. Again, chronologically this has not yet come to pass. Indeed, in human terms, it is totally unlikely! This rag-tag bunch of fellows is going to bring glory to Him and the Father? But Jesus looks at this as an accomplished fact.

11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Holy Father, protect them. Antagonism between the work of God and the world system (human society organizing itself without God) is real and simply to be expected. Persecution of God’s people will come. Jesus doesn’t ask that the disciples be taken out of the world. His mission was in the world and so is theirs. What He does pray for is their protection (see verse 15).

The name of God not only stands for His character, but for His power.

Psalm 20:1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!

Psalm 54:1 O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Jesus prays “that they may be one as we are one.” The basis for Christian unity is the unity that already exists in the trinity. We ought to think about the nature of that unity and by implication our unity as believers. It is unity of purpose and heart and will. It involves submitting oneself to the Father. It brings God glory. It is not organizational ecumenisms, or somehow looking like peas in a pod.

The sense of the disciples being one is not that they become one, but that they continually be one. Christian unity is already a fact. It is God’s doing, not something that we must achieve or for that matter could achieve by any of our own means. We sometimes talk as if it is something for us to manufacture in order to please God. It is instead something that already exists. We’ve got the power to destroy it by falling into the ways of the world and letting the old man have his way in our lives. Instead of praying for unity, we ought to pray to be delivered from evil ways and selfishness.

12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Christ had protected them by virtue of who He is, God incarnate. The “son of destruction” points to character rather than destiny. The expression means Judas was characterized by “lostness,” not predestined to be lost. Calvin said, “It would be wrong for anyone to infer from this that Judas’ fall should be imputed to God rather than himself, in that necessity was laid on him by the prophecy.”

13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

Looking at the reality here truly ought to bring us joy. Our salvation is about to be finished on Calvary. God is our protection in the present world.

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Again, it should come to us as no surprise that believers suffer the persecution and antagonism of the world. Its system is at war with God. We are not of the world because we don’t have its mind set independent of God. We’re not hostile to God and are thus are going to suffer the world’s disdain.

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

“Sanctify” them. The word has two related meanings. There is “to set apart” for a special task. There is also “to develop in a person the qualities of mind, heart, and character necessary to complete that task.” It is set apart and equip them “in the truth.” Jesus Himself is the truth.

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Salvation is not just for the purpose of being saved. The disciples are consecrated, sanctified, set apart, equipped for God’s service and to do what He asked. So too us.

Jesus prays for you and me.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

This is good news for us. We today are a part of this prayer.

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Unity (opened in verse 11) has to be seen. The world is supposed to see Christian unity and take note. There has to be here community, forbearance, patience, kindness generosity, real love, or it won’t be visible. Real unity is God’s. If we don’t destroy it, it is a beautiful, attractive thing, something that draws people to Christ. There is in this verse the important cycle that faith produces unity produces others coming to faith.

22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,

The “as” here has two dimensions. Our unity is as/like the unity between the Father and Son. It is also caused by the unity of the Father and the Son. Again, if our unity is to be like the unity between the Father and Son, it will be a singleness of purpose and heart, and a submitting of ourselves to God.

23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Again, ultimately this has its basis in verse 3 above. And here is our heavenly destiny:

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.

26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on John 16:16-24

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This is a short lesson on part of what Jesus says to the disciples on the evening of the Last Supper.

John 16:16  “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”

Jesus says, “a little while” and then “again a little while.”  The first “clearly” refers to the short time before His crucifixion, but then again, maybe rather to his ascension.  The second may refer to the resurrection, it may refer to the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, or it may refer to the second coming.  In all probability, Jesus means all of these things.  They all fit the facts and things that He said to the disciples.

17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?”

The disciples are confused, and understandably so.  If it’s not absolutely clear to us (or especially to the best Bible scholars over 2000 years) it’s no surprise that the disciples, having no advantage of hindsight are perplexed.  He has said to them in John 14:12  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” and in  John 14:28  “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”   And He’s told them that He is going to be killed, but they can’t know what He means by verses 16 and 17, and they are confused and thereby troubled.

18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”

The disciples don’t ask Jesus directly, but rather discuss among themselves.  They really want an explanation, they want to know.  But, in God’s sovereignty, it’s not for them to know.  The point is never to have foreknowledge of what’s going to happen, but to know Him who orders all things.

19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?

Surely the disciples want to know.  They want the details and the reasons.  They want a look at the script.  The whole uncertainty of it is getting to them.  It seems like things are coming to a head, and there are conflicting indications as to how it’s going to go.  On the one hand, this truly is Messiah they are following, and He has amazing power, and amazing relationship to the Father.  But then again, He seems loathe to use that power to put down His enemies.  And powerful forces seem bent on His destruction.  He’s been speaking of going to the Father.  The uncertainty is miserable.  Notice what Jesus gives them, not the script, but rather His promise.

20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

There is genuine misery coming here, for Jesus and for His disciples.  From their perspective, they are not only going to see the death of their beloved Master and Friend, but also the apparent end of all of their greatest hopes and most pious longings.  They are going to have their world turned upside down in the next few hours.  They are going to see evil apparently win the day and pure goodness crushed.  They don’t get a detailed roadmap, and it certainly isn’t that they are spared this misery.  But it’s not all without purpose, and Jesus promises that it is only temporary, and that on the other side of it is joy, real joy.  In fact, the situation can be compared to one the disciples can understand for the great blessing that it is.

21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

What the disciples were about to experience was completely gut wrenching.  But compared to what was on the other side of it, the misery was inconsequential.  That was true of them for the next few hours.  In the bigger picture, it’s true of the life of every saint.

2Corinthians 4:17  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

You and I await the consummation of this great promise.  We will see Him, all things will be right, and He will be rightly worshiped and revered in the whole universe.

22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

In the short run, there would be the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.  They would see Him again briefly on earth.  And those experiences of the Apostles are the foundation of a Faith in a risen Savior that brings joy to every believer, regardless of the momentary afflictions they face.

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

“In that day” is probably referring to the period between the resurrection and His second coming.  The phrase “you will ask nothing” is ambiguous in the Greek.  It could be either “you will ask me no questions” or “you will ask me for no gifts.”  The meaning is most likely the first.  To this point, they’ve had physical Jesus to straighten out their confusion.  From the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God will be in His people teaching them and straightening out their understanding of the truth.  Henceforth, their access to the Father will be direct, in His name.

24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

The truth about Jesus, revealed by the Father, understood, and declared, brings joy.  Remember how John opens the book of 1st John.

1John 1:1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life–

2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us–

3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on John 15:1-17

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This is another lesson from John’s account of the night of the Last Supper.  Jesus has been comforting the disciples, giving them last instructions and promises before the crucifixion and resurrection.

John 14:31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

It’s not absolutely clear where this takes place.  Perhaps they move from the upper room at this point.  John 18:1 says When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.  It may be that they are still in the upper room.  Or it may be that John 15 is spoken while they are outside walking, and if so, they could conceivably be walking through a vineyard.

John 15:1  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

Here is another (the last) of the great “I AM” statements.  “I AM the true vine.”  The Old Testament background for this statement is that Israel was often spoken of as God’s vine, vineyard, and son.

Psalm 80:7  Restore us, O God of hosts;  let your face shine, that we may be saved!

8 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.

9 You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.  

10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.

11 It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River.

12 Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?

13 The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.

14 Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,

15 the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.

16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face!

17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!

18 Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!

19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!


Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.

2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.

4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.  I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!


Ezekiel 19:1 And you, take up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,

2 and say:  …

10 Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard planted by the water, fruitful and full of branches by reason of abundant water.

11 Its strong stems became rulers’ scepters; it towered aloft among the thick boughs; it was seen in its height with the mass of its branches.

12 But the vine was plucked up in fury, cast down to the ground; the east wind dried up its fruit; they were stripped off and withered. As for its strong stem, fire consumed it.

13 Now it is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land.

14 And fire has gone out from the stem of its shoots, has consumed its fruit, so that there remains in it no strong stem, no scepter for ruling. This is a lamentation and has become a lamentation.


Ezekiel 15:1  And the word of the Lord came to me:

2 “Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest?

3 Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it?

4 Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything?

5 Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything!

6 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

7 And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.

8 And I will make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly, declares the Lord God.”

The Old Testament figure is that Israel has been an unfaithful/unsatisfactory vine.  Jesus announces that He is the TRUE vine.  He is not “true” in contrast to being some kind of impostor, but real in the sense of John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  Jesus is the reality of which Israel is only a foreshadowing or picture.  Where Israel failed to consistently obey God, Jesus is perfectly obedient.  The picture here of the Father as the gardener is perfectly consistent with the Old Testament figure.

John 15:2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

He cuts off/casts off every branch that bears no fruit.  In our soft/sloppy 21st century way, we think that sounds harsh.  Bit what is the purpose of branches?  Who needs them if they aren’t fulfilling their purpose?  Compare the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9.

Luke 13:6  And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.

7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’

8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.

9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

The whole purpose of a vine/of a vineyard is to bear fruit.  If it’s not doing that, it is literally good for nothing.  The Ezekiel 15 passage points out the uselessness of an unfruitful branch.  It isn’t good for carpentry.  It isn’t even really any good for burning for heat.  You make a bonfire with them just to clear them away.  The intention here isn’t to send us into a fit of paranoia over possibly being cut off or to extract a few additional good works from us.  It should only drive us back to the vine.

The rest of this passage tells us how it is that we will bear fruit.  Verse 2 tells us that God prunes or trims clean every fruitful branch.  God will shape, mold, discipline us.  He will cut away that which hinders.  It is inherent in who we are that left to our own devices, stuff will grow that is not fruitful.  The promise here is that those who are vitally connected to the vine will be pruned.  Nobody says that’s pleasant for the moment, but in the end it is wholly good.

Ryle said, “Trial, to speak plainly, is the instrument by which our Father in heaven makes Christians more holy.  By trial He calls out their passive graces, and proves whether they can suffer His will as well as do it.  By trial, He weans them from the world, draws them to Christ, drives them to the Bible and prayer, shows them their own hearts, and makes them humble.  This is the process by which He ‘purges’ them, and makes them more fruitful.  The lives of the saints in every age are the best and truest comment on the text.  Never, hardly, do we find a saint, either in the Old Testament or the New, who was not purified by suffering, and like his Master ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.’ (Isaiah 53:3)  Let us learn to be patient in the days of darkness, if we know anything of vital union with Christ.  Let us remember the doctrine of the passage before us, and not murmur or complain because of trials.  Our trials are not meant to do us harm, but good.  God chastens us, ‘for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.’ (Hebrews 12:10)  Fruit is the thing that our Master desires to see in us; and He will not spare the pruning-knife if He sees we need it.  In the last day we shall see that all was done well.”

3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Already you are “clean.”  That should remind us of: John 13:10  Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”  There is comfort in this verse.  The promise is that Christians are free from all that prevents fruit-bearing … because of “the word I have spoken.”  This is the logos, the whole body of Jesus’s instruction and revelation to them.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Verse 4a expresses the same thing 2 different ways.  There are not two realities here.  There is one reality, remaining in Jesus and He in us.  Paul says much the same thing in:  Galatians 2:19b-20 I have been crucified with Christ. 20It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Apart from the vine a branch is nothing, only a dead twig.  We are utterly dependent upon Jesus.  Outside of Him we are dead twigs.  A branch produces no fruit outside the vine.  We produce nothing good apart from Jesus.  Again, this is not a means of coercion or threat, but is rather comfort and promise.  As we continually depend upon Jesus, the Father WILL prune us and there WILL be “fruit.”

What is this fruit?  It is real faith in Jesus, obedience, Christian character, good works, the fruit of the Spirit, multiplication of the Kingdom, the love that Jesus is about to command.  The fruit is, in effect, the likeness of Jesus seen in us.

7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Verses 7 and 8 belong together.  Verse 8 gives the context of the answered prayer promised in verse 7, namely the Father’s Glory.  Jesus is talking about prayer in accord with His purposes, on His behalf.  Note that the words of Jesus are important.  We don’t get to come to a made-up Jesus that exists only in our own dark imaginations and suits our fantasies.  What He said to us is not separable from this vital union with Him and the Father.  That is true of the things that we fancy we like, and it’s true of the things against which our human natures obviously rebel.

Fruit bearing is not an end in itself.  It is not some kind of “personal growth” trip where essentially we are selfishly concerned with our own well-being or development.  Jesus’s constant purpose is to honor the Father.  By obvious implication, if we are branches connected to the vine, that will be our purpose and the effect of our lives as well.  The vine and branches make one plant, with one purpose.

“so prove to be my disciples,” says Jesus.  The obvious meaning is that “no fruit” implies “not a branch.”  We can look at ourselves and see.  We are either vitally connected to the vine and bearing His fruit or we are not.  Verse 8 is forward-looking.  This glorifying of God is now possible and real through Jesus.

Verses 9-17 have the themes of love and obedience, but are connected to and part of the vine/branches/abiding/fruit-bearing picture of verses 1-8.

9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

“As the Father” … in as much as the Father, or because the Father … “has loved me, so I have loved you.”  Ryle comments at length on the remarkable thing that is said here.  You and I cannot really begin to comprehend that depth of love that has always existed between the Father and the Son.  With this kind of love, Christ loves us, and He tells us to keep this always before us.  He says “remain in my love (for you).”  Disciple, keep in mind the great love of Christ for you.  Ryle put it this way, “Christ’s free, and continued, and mighty love should be the home and abiding place of a believer’s soul.”

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Biblical love is not abstract, or some kind of mystical experience or mushy feeling.  It is simple, concrete, and tied to action.

John 14:31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

That was true for Jesus, it must be true for us.  Our love for God is revealed or denied in terms of our obedience to God.

Jesus’s love for the Father was seen in His constant obedience, and brought with it the constant awareness of the loving approval of the Father.  That was joy in the life of Christ.  The same will be true for us.

11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

The Westminster Catechism rightly says that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him eternally.”  Knowing/having relationship with God is highest joy.  It is what we were made for.  If God is our Creator and Sustainer, the great and all-powerful person the Bible says He is, anything but obedience amounts to rebellion and the breaking of that fellowship.

abiding/relationship/love/obedience/joy are all part of a single whole.  Morris, quoting Strachan said, “… ‘joy’ and ‘pleasure’ must not be confused.  ‘The joy of Jesus is the joy that arises from the sense of a finished work.  It is creative joy, like the joy of an artist.'”

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Jesus turns this love horizontal.  The Father loves Jesus, Jesus loves us, in turn we are to love each other.  It is a matter of sharing the family characteristic/nature.  And we are to love “as I have loved you.”  This is a most startling proposition.  We are to love like Christ in intensity and sincerity.  As we see Him demonstrate love, we are constrained to similarly give ourselves to tangible and self-sacrificial action.  We can’t really duck John’s words in

1 John 3:16  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

So we’re brought back to the servant mentality of the foot washing.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.

Jesus has already humbled Himself to do the most menial of tasks for the disciples.  He is about to carry His servanthood to the most extreme/intense level possible.

14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

The friends of Jesus are those who habitually obey Him, plain and simple.

15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

A servant is literally a “human tool,” a hammer or screwdriver that happens to be a living person.  One doesn’t consult with or explain to his hand tools what is intended or how something is to be done.  Jesus says that you aren’t like that.  There is more here than just a master/servant relationship.  Jesus uses the word “friends.”  More literally, it is “loved ones.”  Our English is really too casual at this point for us to quickly get the right meaning.  This “friends” is “ones beloved of Christ and God.”  This too is something almost too wonderful for you and me to take in.  That we would be called “friends” of the self-existent One, our Maker and Redeemer, ought to take our breath away.

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

The initiative was and is with God, and the result is first that we “go” as His emissaries and second that we bear fruit.  This is not fruit that fades or turns to dust when touched, but real enduring fruit.  It is in this context that prayers are answered.  And part of the obedience that produces such enduring fruit is love of the body of Christ.

17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on John 14:1-26

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This passage is part of John’s extended account of the last supper.  As we pick up the narrative, Jesus has already washed the feet of the disciples, He has predicted His betrayal, told the disciples that He is going away, and predicted Peter’s denial.  This is a dark, unsettled, confused, and distressed time.  We can look back on it and see the great salvation plan of God at work, but the disciples living it were understandably disoriented, discouraged, and completely unable to process what is going on.  They had pretty much staked their whole existence on Jesus, and now He’s been talking in ways that they hear to mean that all is lost.  Beginning in Chapter 14 Jesus brings comfort to the disciples.

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”  John has described Jesus as Himself troubled, at the death of Lazarus (11:33), His coming death (12:27), and Judas’ betrayal (13:21).  He’s borne that for you and me, but He comforts the disciples and you and me, and tells us not to be troubled.

Apparently the “believe in God” and the “believe in Me” could each be rendered either as exhortations or as statements of fact.  English translations have typically taken the first as a statement of fact and the second as exhortation.  What is clear and essential is the inseparability of Jesus and the Father.  It is universally assumed that most people in some vague way “believe in God,” but there is no true believing in God outside of trusting in Jesus.

2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

There are many rooms/places/dwelling places.  The feeling is one of permanence, of being home, of no longer being a stranger and pilgrim, but truly being where one belongs.  There are many rooms.  There is room for the whole family, all those who name the name of Jesus.

Jesus assures the disciples that He’s not leaving them hopeless and without a future.  But He has a work to do on the cross.  Jameison/Faussett/Browne say, “to prepare a place for you” is “to obtain for you a right to be there, and to possess your ‘place'”  And too, He, through the Spirit, has a work to do in them.  Augustine said, “He prepares the dwelling places by preparing those who are to dwell in them.”

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.


John 13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’


John 13:36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 

Jesus had to go to the cross alone, but He promised to return.

Consider the Old Testament parallel:

Deuteronomy 1:29 Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them.

30 The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes,

31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’

32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God,

33 who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.

God went ahead of the Israelites into what they saw as great danger.  Jesus promises the same for us all!  He goes first.  And what is the end of all this?  It is that His will be with Him!  What are the details??  Those are simply not so important!  They will surely be glorious and take care of themselves.

4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

We humans would dispute with the Lord as Thomas is going to do.  We want details and mechanisms.  We don’t think we “know” enough.  But Jesus tells them that they know what is both necessary and sufficient to the salvation of their souls.

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Thomas may not be a perfect role model, but he’s at least candid.  He’s confused.  Peter has shown he’s equally confused, but he either won’t admit it or isn’t even aware that he’s befuddled.

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

“I AM”  Once again, this is an appropriation of the personal name of the God of the Bible (the 6th of 7 recorded in John).  Thomas asks “How can we know the way?”  Jesus answers with the emphatic “I AM”

Jesus is the “way.”  He is the way to the Father.  In Acts 9:2 and 19:9,23 the church, the visible manifestation of Christ on earth, is referred to in this way.

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

He is the “way” in that He is both “the truth” and “the life.”  John in Chapter 1 already told us these things about Jesus.

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

As Paul put it

Colossians 2:9  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

Barnes said, “Truth is a representation of things as they are …  Jesus Christ was the most complete and perfect representation of the things of the eternal world that … can be presented to man.”

“No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  This only makes sense.  If God has, at infinite expense to Himself, provided grace/pardon for us, to look for another way is just outrageous rebellion.  The only real and lasting goal of life is to “come to the Father,” and Jesus is plain that coming possible is through Him and Him alone.

Again, Barnes wrote, “To come to the Father is to obtain his favor, to have access to his throne by prayer, and finally to enter his kingdom. No man can obtain any of these things except by the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. By coming by him is meant coming in his name and depending on his merits. We are ignorant, and he alone can guide us. We are sinful, and it is only by his merits that we can be pardoned. We are blind, and he only can enlighten us. God has appointed him as the Mediator, and has ordained that all blessings shall descend to this world through him. Hence he has put the world under his control; has given the affairs of men into his hand, and has appointed him to dispense whatever may be necessary for our peace, pardon, and salvation …”

7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

“If you had known me …”  The disciples had known Jesus deeply in some ways.  But they had not really known Him in His full significance and glory.  They knew Him as a human being, but they had not grasped that He is God incarnate.  That is about to change.  The cross and the resurrection are going to alter things.  They are going to see the deep mystery and truth of the harmony of the Father and Son.  They are going to some degree get it that seeing Jesus is seeing the Father.  From now on, henceforth understand you do know Him and have seen Him!

It’s significant that the Jews rarely talked about anyone actually “knowing God.”  That was mostly something for a future blessing, for the last day.  Or people might be urged to “know God” but the implication was that people rarely did.  What Jesus is promising here doesn’t sound to us nearly as stunning as it must have sounded to the disciples.  That ordinary people like the disciples and then you and me would really “know God” and truly see Him was to them really quite shocking.

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Philip apparently misunderstands.  He’s probably thinking of a Moses-type look at the back of God.  It should go without saying that such a request is pretty silly.  Visual/sensory apprehensions of God have never changed peoples’ hearts.  At the giving of the law, there was fire and smoke, and 40 days later a pagan orgy.  Peter had been at the transfiguration and seen Jesus glorified without fundamental change in his character.  He’s about to deny Jesus.  A vision adds nothing to what God has said to us about Himself in Jesus.

9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

“Have I been with you (plural) so long and you (singular) still do not know me?”  There is gentle rebuke here.  Philip has had Jesus before him for 3 years.  He’s had the opportunity to weigh the significance of what Jesus has done and said.  He’s had a chance to ask himself how this man could possibly be who He is.  And he’s not gotten to the point of seeing His complete harmony with the Father.  We’d like to think we would have been otherwise, but we are every bit as frail and purposely blind.

10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

“Do you (plural) not believe?”  Jesus speaks not just to Philip, but to all the disciples and to us.  Is it not obvious that Jesus is in complete harmony with the Father in both word and deed?

11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

“Believe me”  Saving faith is reliance upon, trust in, adherence to a person, but it also absolutely has a factual objective dimension.  How could one rely upon a God unless one believes what He says?  If Jesus is pulling our legs on this, if He’s not one with the Father, He has no legitimate claim on anyone’s loyalty!  What He said ought to be self-authenticating, but if we won’t think that deeply about it, consider the physical evidence.  He raised a man dead long enough to stink, He healed a man born blind, He rose from the dead.  If nothing else, if we’re so hard of heart, at least look at the signs!

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

“… will also do the works I have been doing”  What has Jesus been doing?  He’s been pointing people to God, bringing life, giving people sight, pronouncing Himself to be one with the Father.  He has been doing what the Father gave Him to do.  These are the works that Jesus now says will become the works of those who believe in Him.

Our human minds always run to “bigger miracles” when we read “greater works.”  But Jesus didn’t mean “more spectacular in kind or greater in power.”  Especially in John it is clear that miracles have a place only as signs that point people to the truth.  Jesus is saying that as He goes back to the Father, His work of pointing people to God will be wider in scope and opportunity than when He walked the earth as a single human being.  He won’t be restricted to a single location.  Huge multitudes of Christian people will be at work offering eternal life to people across the planet.

13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus never asked anything outside the will of the Father.  Asking in the name of Jesus is asking in accord with all that name stands for.  It means asking in accord with the purposes and glory of God.  And Jesus says “I will do it.”  This is no mere mortal speaking.  He is the One who answers, to the glory of the Father.  That on the lips of any other human who has ever lived is foolishness.  But this is the very Son of God.

15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

This only makes sense.  Biblical love is tangible, real, not some mushy vague feeling, but something seen in action.  If the Father and Son are who Scripture says they are, Creator, Sustainer, Lord, how could it be otherwise?  Barrett said, “John never allowed love to devolve into a sentiment or emotion.  Its expression is always moral and is revealed in obedience.”

16  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,

“another (of the same kind) Helper”  Jesus is the first.  This is the famous word “counselor/paraclete.”  The word has at least 4 shades of meaning in Greek and the New Testament.  It means 1) helper/friend/intercessor/mediator/spokesman, 2) a comforter or consoler, 3) an exhorter and encourager (related to apostolic preaching) and 4) one called along side to help/an advocate or defense attorney.  The “comforter” meaning that we in the 21st century hear as somebody who will sympathize with us when we’re sad isn’t true to the real meaning.  It is much more One who will enable someone who is dispirited to be brave and carry on.

This is not a description of the Holy Spirit apart from or in contrast to what Jesus has been to the disciples.  It is not a matter that Jesus is the Son and separately the Holy Spirit is our Helper/Counselor/Comforter/Exhorter.  Rather, He continues what Jesus already was to the disciples, namely Immanuel/God with us.

Jesus says, “to be with you forever.”  This is not on an intermittent basis, but forever.

17  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

This is “the Spirit of truth.”  Jesus has already declared Himself to be the way the truth and the life.  No surprise then, the Holy Spirit’s work is thus described in the same terms.  And the reaction to the work of the Spirit will be the same as the reaction to the work of Jesus.

But “you know him.”  They have known Jesus the man and the Holy Spirit will be the same in essence.  There will be no discontinuity in essence and he lives with you.

18  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

“I not leave you as orphans.  I will come to you.”  The language here emphasizes the unity in the Trinity.  A “spirit” separated from the person, work and purposes of Jesus is NOT the Holy Spirit.

19  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

The world will “see me” no more.  The world will not see 1) the resurrected Jesus or 2) the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Jesus has and gives life.

20  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

There is unity in the Trinity AND with the Christian believer.  This is not in some kind of Hindu/universal consciousness sense, but instead in purpose, action, communication and fellowship.

21  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

Again, Christian love is not simply a feeling.  It is tangible/observable.  The “whoever” at the start of this verse ought to be encouragement for us.  This is for all who hear and have a heart to know and obey God.

22  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Jesus has heard this kind of appeal before, in John 7:1-5 from His relatives.  They say essentially “If you want to be somebody, you need to be seen by the masses.”  Or perhaps Judas is expressing a vague concern for humanity in general without a real grasp on what that entails.  Jesus makes an indirect reply to Judas’s question.

23  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

24  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Jesus WILL be seen by those with a real desire to know/obey God.  The others are incapable/unwilling to see, just as many looked at Jesus’s earthly ministry and failed to see Gods’ Son.

25  “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.

26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The first meaning of this is directed to the 12.  This is essential to our faith.  Christianity is founded on the reliable recollections and testimony of the Apostles.  And the Spirit of Christ was at work in them reminding them

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on John 13:1-17

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This is a lesson on the first part of John 13.  The setting seems to be Thursday of Passion week and Jesus is sharing a meal with the disciples.  Jesus gives the disciples a visual aid about who He is and what He is doing, and about how they are to act and what they are to become.

If you compare the accounts of the last supper in the other Gospels to this one, you will find that John chooses to highlight different things than Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  This account is unique to John’s Gospel.

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

John says this is before the Passover Feast.  Passover begins at sundown on Friday.  It seems from this that the last supper was not a Passover meal.  On the other hand, the other Gospels indicate clearly that it was the Passover meal.  There are various theories on this matter offering plausible resolutions of this.

“Jesus knew.”  John repeatedly says this.  Jesus is not just rolling with the punches.  He knows and is in fact in charge of what’s going to happen here in accord with the will of the Father.  Notice that this is very near the “end” in terms of Jesus’s full-time teaching of the disciples.  We might infer that what He calmly takes time to picture and reinforce here is vital.

Having loved them, He loved them “to the end,” or more literally “to the uttermost.”  He loved them both “to the end” and “absolutely.”  The word “love” is key to the whole of John, the whole of the Passion, and to this particular incident.  Jesus loves these guys, who He knows well will desert and deny Him within just a few hours, but it is His very nature that He loves them (and us) and moves ahead, knowing full well what is to come.

2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,

Judas was there in spite of His decision to betray Jesus.  J.C. Ryle writing on this passage makes much of the warning this should be to us, that privileges and head knowledge don’t save us, and in fact only make hell more horrible when there is no real submission to and dependence upon Christ.

3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,

Again, Jesus knew.  He is calmly going about what He knows to be important, without any hint of panic over the next day’s events.  Recall John 10:18, Jesus speaking of His life says

John 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

So in deliberate fashion, Jesus goes about a symbolic act.  What He’s about to do is symbolic in two ways.  In the first place, He illustrates for us what the cross will be about, washing us clean from sin through His own humiliation.  In the second place, He’s setting an example for the disciples and us, letting us know what we are to do for each other.

John 13:4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

The verb rendered “laid aside” is the same one used in John 10:15 “… just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

What have the disciples got to be thinking here?  Just how menial was the task that Jesus was performing?  This was so low, that it couldn’t be required of a Hebrew slave!  Certainly no Rabbi would be touching the feet of another person.  Feet were considered so unseemly that they weren’t mentioned in polite conversation.

It is revealing to hear from one of the other Gospels what was going on in the way of conversation as Jesus begins to do the work of the lowest servant.

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.

26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

The disciples have been disputing about who is the greatest, and Jesus takes the opportunity to illustrate for them.

John 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

The “you” and the “my” are emphatic.

7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

Calvin said, “These words teach us that we should simply obey Christ, even though it is not clear to us why he wants this or that thing done.  In a well-organized house, the decisions are taken by one person, the head of the family; and the servants have to use their hands and feet for him.  Thus the man who refuses God’s commands because he does not know the reason for it is too haughty.”

8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

Think what’s going on in Peter’s head here.  He’s shocked, surprised, embarrassed.  But there’s pride evident here.  He’s humble and proud of it, and in the process, he’s not afraid to be ordering Jesus around!  Peter is whole-hearted, but misguided and flat wrong.  Peter is loyal, but he’s loyal to a Jesus that he’s making up, that he thinks should be acting in accord with his/Peter’s view of things. not to a Jesus that is revealing Himself to be other than Peter expects.  In Peter’s little mind, Jesus needs some straightening out.  He does not give in when corrected.  He’s obstinate.  Calvin said, “The true wisdom of faith is to approve and embrace with reverence whatever comes from God, knowing that it is done rightly and properly. … until a man renounces his freedom to pass judgment on God’s deeds, no matter how much he may try to honor God, pride will always lurk disguised by humility.”

Jesus says “If I do not wash you.”  Jesus is not talking about foot washing at this point, but instead about washing us from sin by His blood on the cross.  He says, “you have no share with me.”  You are not in fellowship with me.

9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

Indeed, as Jesus said in verse 7, Peter doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on.  And, he’s still dictating to Jesus how things ought to go.  Morris says, “Peter is reluctant to let Jesus do what he wants.  He prefers to dictate the terms.”

10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”

Jesus makes one of these statements, half of which is meant literally and half of which is not.  The first phrase of verse 10, about a person who has had a bath, is a statement of physical fact.  People didn’t come out to dinner without washing up, especially Jews concerned with not defiling themselves with something unclean would have washed up.

“And you are clean, but not all/every one of you.”  The “all” would refer to “all” of their bodies.  That is, their feet needed washing, so their whole bodies weren’t clean.  This is probably what the disciples heard Jesus saying.  The “every one” (as rendered in the ESV) meaning would refer to “every one, the whole number” of the disciples.  That is, Jesus recognized the presence of Judas in the group and the fact that he was about to betray Jesus.

11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Jesus has given the disciples a picture of the embarrassing, demeaning humiliation that He is about to suffer on the cross for their (and our) washing from sin.  He now states for them, in fairly explicit terms, the implications of His humility for their relationships.

Jesus has set a pattern for attitudes and action in the church.  We should hear this for ourselves, not for someone else.

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?

13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.

14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

The standard for our willingness to do what is needed, in spite of how menial it appears and how important we think we or our time are, is the example of Jesus.

The New Testament letters amplify on this theme a number of places.  For example there is this:

Philippians 2:3  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

This, if we would be honest about it, is a radical, shocking attitude.  Humility, both then and now was equated with weakness.  !!Obedience!!  These are more than just nice platitudes.  They constitute a challenge to our old nature of the most vigorous sort.

There are also these:

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,

2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

1Peter 5:5  Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

6  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

How tangible is all of this supposed to be?  It is supposed to be possible to actually SEE it worked out in practice.  Note again verse 17.  You will be blessed if you DO them.  Jesus never sanctions knowing about truth or giving mental assent to truth without action.  1Timothy 5:10 is interesting in this regard.  It is speaking in reference to the support of widows in the church.  The church is to JUDGE the good deeds and humility of a widow in the congregation.  No visible evidence of this kind of humble attitude, no support from the church.

1Timothy 5:9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,

10  and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

What Jesus models in the foot washing must be tangible, or its not real.

Is there anything too menial for a servant of Christ?  Cleaning church toilets?  Cutting the church grass?  Physical labor?  Helping in the nursery?  Changing kids’ diapers?  Doing the grunt work of organizing some program or congregational event?  Bringing help to a harried young mother, or a shut-in old person?  If there are things that are just too low for me or my time, I am really saying that I am above my Savior, that His wishes and example are not applicable to me.

We ought to ask ourselves “In what tangible ways do I put this example into practice?” … remembering that verse 17 holds a promise.  We will be blessed if we do them.

Ryle said, “Let us note the solemn principle which lies beneath the verse.  Doing good is the only sure proof of spiritual life.  Knowledge without practice is the character of the devil.  None knows more truth, and none does more evil than he.  Let us not forget that!”

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on John 12:20-46

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This part of John relates the final time that Jesus addresses the crowds, the last of His public teaching.  It is, of course, Passover/Passion week, and Jesus is in Jerusalem.

John 12:20  Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.

21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

This is significant.  Jesus has taught for 3 years, speaking to the Jews.  Now at the end, here are some Gentiles/Greeks seeking Him out for an interview.  In all likelihood these are not full Jewish proselytes, but rather “God-fearers” who took part in the synagogue worship without becoming full members of the Jewish community.  The “who went up” in verse 20 likely carries the meaning of “who usually went up.”

22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Jesus doesn’t seem to immediately respond to the request of the Greeks.  But it triggers this explanation of what is about to happen.  The coming of the Greeks is consistent with the fact that the time for the crucifixion has come.  We see repeatedly in John (e.g. in John 8:20 and John 10:18) that Jesus is completely aware and in control of where He is relative to the cross.  The time has come.  But consider what the disciples probably hear in this.  To their ears, the glorification of Christ can only mean that finally the program is under way! He’s going to set up His kingship and they’re in line for prime jobs.  Then He says

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

This is surely not what the disciples are expecting.  It’s not what any of us expects thinking from the perspective of this world.  Jesus talks of His life as like a seed in the plant world.  Apparent death brings life more plentiful than the single seed that one starts with.  Jesus is clearly talking primarily of His own sacrifice for you and me.  But there is probably also application in this verse to us, in terms of the death of the mortal body and resurrection described in ICorinthians 15.

25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

This is clearly about you and me.  Those who truly follow Christ will not have a different experience than Christ.

To love one’s life is to give selfish considerations priority over the interests of God’s kingdom.  This is to reckon in terms of the natural life of man, seeking to satisfy its appetites, desires and affections.  This grasping, selfish attitude in fact destroys real life both here and beyond the grave.  The amazing thing about humans is that we know this to be true, we can see it in others, and yet we try to find a middle way.

Hating one’s life is the antithesis of “loving” it.  It describes a spirit of self-sacrifice that counts nothing in this world dear in comparison to obedience to Christ.  And the truth is that a heart that sets no store in this life in itself, gains both real life here and real life beyond the grave.

26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Again, the experience of Christ will be the experience of His people, both now and in eternity.

The agony of Christ is real.  But He is very aware of where He is in terms of the will of the Father.  The whole purpose of His coming is about to be fulfilled, and He focuses His attention and ours on that which is primary, the honor of God.

28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.

31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

Jesus says that what is about to happen will bring judgment.  We’ll do well to read again John 3:16-19 and bear in mind the nature of God’s judgment.

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

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

The judgment of God is an implied, legal, judgment, something that people choose.  God’s purpose is redemption.  People judge themselves by rejecting that redemption.  And now, says Jesus, is the time for judgment, in that people will be required to either accept or reject His atoning work on Calvary.

Joh 12:32  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Here is the answer to the request of the Greeks put in verse 21.  Through the cross, they will have the same access to Jesus enjoyed by His Jewish disciples.  All men will be drawn to Him, regardless of nationality or religious heritage.  The word “draw” is the same one as in Joh 6:44  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

We’re reminded that Christ is not only our means of reconciliation with God, but it’s the work of His Spirit that makes us willing to accept that reconciliation.

33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”

The crowd objects to this talk of Jesus’s death.  They understand perfectly that this is what He’s discussing, but that doesn’t fit with how they understand the Old Testament scriptures.  They are thinking perhaps of verses like:

Daniel 7:14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Ezekiel 37:25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.

Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

In the minds of the people in the crowd, the “Son of Man” is connected with or perhaps is a conquering Messiah, one that would live forever.  Jesus is claiming to be the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13, yet is alluding to His death.  It doesn’t add up for them.  They ask what kind of Son of Man He is anyhow.

This is, by the way, the last mention of the crowd.  To the end they remain confused and perplexed about who Jesus is.

John 12:35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.

Jesus doesn’t answer them directly, but rather tells them to act on the light that they have.  If they will put aside their wrong notions of what Messiah should be and trust in Him, their questions will be answered.  The tense of “walk” is present imperative.  It is “keep on walking” while you have light.

36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.

“believe in/put your trust in the light” brings us back to the realization that “the light” is not some abstract illumination or knowledge.  It is the person Christ Jesus.  This is not some general admonition to do good or think wise and enlightened thoughts.  It is an admonition to trust in, cleave to, cast oneself upon the mercy of Jesus.  And the end of it is that one takes on the very characteristics of Jesus, the light.  The Hebrew idiom “son of” indicates having the ethical qualities of the one referred to.  These are not people with a passing interest in the light, but rather ones who have so embraced Him that they reflect His nature.

Jesus warned them to make use of the light while they had it.  Now, figuratively, the light becomes hidden.

37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,

Again, it is “signs.”  The way John uses this word emphasizes the moral content, the fact that what is done points to who Jesus is.  And the construction rendered “had done” emphasizes the permanent and continuing quality of what Jesus had shown them of Himself.  By all rights, it’s reasonable to expect that such substantial revelations of Himself would have produced faith.  But it did not.  They still did not believe.

38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

“could not believe” is “could not continuously/habitually believe.”  They couldn’t come to faith in any real and enduring way.

40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

None of this excuses the people.  There is the “did not” in verse 37.  There is the “could not” in verse 39.  Much as in Exodus the account of Pharaoh in response to the plagues alternates between “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” and “Pharaoh hardened his heart.”  Humans are responsible for their own disbelief.  But none of it thwarts God’s sovereign work.  Paul deals extensively with the fact of Jewish rejection of Jesus in Romans 9-11 and he concludes that the hardening of the Jewish heart toward Christ provided salvation for us Gentiles.  Remember where we started in verse 20.

42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;

43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

The rejection of the Jewish leaders was not complete.  Take for example Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  It’s obvious, however, that John is not impressed with a secret “belief.”  What John describes here is a far cry from the wonderful picture of the blind man made able to see in John 9That fellow knew he used to be blind and now could see, and he didn’t care a whit that people wanted him to soft-peddle that fact.

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.

Jesus cried out.  This was not said quietly.  Jesus is offering dying humanity life eternal and He’s not whispering.  This is of final and ultimate importance.  Whoever relies on, trusts in, cast him or herself upon Jesus, is not only believing in the man from Galilee, but upon His Father.

45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.

And whoever steadily looks upon Jesus sees not only Him, but His Father.  They cannot be separated.

46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

I (emphatic) have come forth and remain in the world as light, the only light.  He delivers us from our natural state of darkness.  That’s His purpose in coming.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.