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.

Compare

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.’

and

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.

A Bible Lesson on John 11:1-44

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 another of the signs John records that point us to who Jesus is and bring us to faith in Him.  It brings us to believe on, trust in, rely upon, cleave to, abandon ourselves to Him.  In Chapter 9 Jesus brought sight to the beggar blind from birth.  That was a public demonstration that Jesus is indeed the light of the world.  It is because of Him that the beggar could see and it is because of Him that we can see truly.  In this passage we’re looking at a public demonstration that Jesus is life itself.  Recall the first few verses of John and John’s purpose statement given in Chapter 20.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

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

5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Verse 4 says that Jesus is life and light.  The story of the man born blind in Chapter 9 is a graphic demonstration that he is light.  This text is graphic demonstration that He is life.

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.

The miracles in Chapters 9 and 11 are “signs.”  They are important because they point to something.  They point to who Jesus is, and in that we know who He is, we are brought to belief in Him.

This passage is not far in time from Passion Week, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.  One of the points that Ryle makes about the account is that what happens here leaves without excuse those in Jerusalem who will soon hear that Jesus is raised from the dead.  They only have to walk out to Bethany to see evidence of the resurrection power of Christ.

John 11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

Bethany was 2 miles from Jerusalem, and it seems that Jesus probably stayed with these folks when visiting Jerusalem.  These were good friends.  At the moment Jesus is on the other side of the Jordan river out in the boondocks, at the place where John the Baptist ministered.  It is at least a day’s journey from Jerusalem (and no more than 4 away).  In John 10:39-42 we can read that the officials in Jerusalem had tried to seize and kill Jesus, and that He and the disciples had retired across the Jordan to minister.

2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.

3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

So the sisters sent word to Jesus.  Ryle said, “This is an example of what all Christians should do in trouble.”  The message is a most beautiful little thing.  It is humble, respectful, and full of confidence in Jesus.  The sisters demand nothing, but take the situation to Christ and trust His good intentions and power.  Jesus loved Lazarus.  He loves us as well.  We know nothing remarkable about this man.  But he’s loved of the Lord and that’s what matters.

4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

We’d often rather not hear this.  Jesus knows that Lazarus is either already dead or soon will be.  We’d like for Him to intervene right now and see that the pain and grief connected with the death of His friend is avoided.  But that’s not what Jesus does, and in fact He says here that the real issue in the situation is that God be glorified.  Ultimately, death will not reign and ultimately Jesus will be glorified through the situation.  We’d like a guarantee that we’ll never face hardship, but that’s not in the deal.

“The Son of God will be glorified through it.”  In some hearts there will come belief and praise to God.  And the raising of Lazarus is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and drives the Jewish officials to see that Jesus is killed.  The real glorification of Jesus refers to the crucifixion and resurrection.  See John 12:16-19.

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Jesus is not indifferent to the real pain and suffering that His friends are enduring, but for their sakes, ours, and that of the Father, He stays put for 2 more days.  It’s not the way we would have written the script, but we are frail human beings.  God is God.  Ryle quoting Poole said, “We must not judge of Christ’s love to us by His mere external dispensations of providence, nor judge that He doth not love us because He doth not presently come in to our help at our time, and in such ways and methods as we think reasonable.”

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”

The disciples are not anxious to return.  In their minds, friendship is friendship, but this is serious danger that’s being discussed here.  Jesus, as always, knows the timing is ordained by the Father, and the Father is in control of when and how He’s going to die.  It’s not quite time for His death and He’s not in any way reluctant to return to Bethany.

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.

10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

It’s still time for Him to be traveling and ministering.  So He does so.

11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”

Literally, this is “I am going there to ‘unsleep him’.”

12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”

The disciples think that Jesus has just told them that the crisis point of Lazarus’s sickness has passed and that he’s now resting quietly.  They’re relieved.  He’s going to get better without any real necessity of return to Jerusalem.

13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,

15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Again, we must not think that Jesus is indifferent to the suffering of His friends in Bethany.  But the bigger purpose (that will be served for them and the rest of us as well) dictates that Jesus not be there to prevent the death of Lazarus, or even come onto the scene soon after his death.

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

There is an admirable loyalty in Thomas.  He may think that what Jesus is about to do is unnecessary and even foolish, but he’s ready to go with him and die with Him if he must.

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.

This fixes the length of the journey as from 1 to 4 days.  If it’s on the short end of the range, Lazarus died just after the messenger was sent.  If it’s on the long end, he died just before Jesus and disciples started out for Bethany.

The importance of the four days is that the guy is really dead.  The Jews believed that one’s spirit hovered near the corpse for 3 days, hoping for resuscitation.  But after that, it left.  The physical reality that Martha refers to is that decomposition was well under way by this time.  The Jews didn’t embalm and this is hot country.

18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off,

19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

The Jewish practice of the time was to get the body into a tomb and then mourn most intensely for 3 days, intensely for another 4 days, and to continue morning for 30 days.  Folks have come by to join in the mourning.

20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.

21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Is Martha complaining here that Jesus didn’t come sooner?  It’s impossible to know without hearing the tone of voice used, but she does show the funny human mix of real faith and human frailty.  On one hand, she knows that Jesus could have healed Lazarus.  But then again, she loses sight of the fact that Jesus certainly didn’t have to be there in person to heal.  He had demonstrated otherwise for the centurion’s servant.  She loses sight of the fact that this whole situation surely hasn’t caught Jesus by surprise.  On the other hand, she testifies that death or no, God will give Jesus whatever He asks.

At this point Martha’s understands Jesus to be a special intermediary to God.  Likely she thinks of Him as a prophet, perhaps like Moses, one to whom the people took their problems, knowing that he would approach God for them.  She does NOT, at this point understand what John told us in the prologue.  She doesn’t understand that Jesus is life itself, God in the flesh.

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

This may initially sound like polite funeral parlor talk, words expressing sympathy and offering long term hope.  At least that’s how Martha hears what Jesus is saying.  She hears “resurrection” as something for the last day.  But that’s not what Jesus meant.  He is, as we see Him doing again and again in John, drawing faith out of His people by degrees.  We don’t get the whole picture at once in perfectly plain terms.  That wouldn’t be good for us.  Rather, He gives us exercise in grace.  Martha’s expectation regarding a resurrection is at this point a vague and future kind of thing.  He’s going to show her (as Ryle put it) that “He’s not simply some human teacher about resurrection, but is instead the Divine author of all resurrection.”  Jesus says “I AM”!

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus says that Martha’s hope is much more immediate than she dared to dream.  She has correctly professed a belief in a resurrection.  Jesus says that He’s the source of that resurrection.  He’s the “I AM.”  The person that believes in, trusts in, cleaves to Jesus will have eternal life in spite of physical death.  The person who believes in, relies upon, cleaves to Jesus in this physical life will not face eternal, spiritual death.

27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

“I believe” says Martha.  The sense of it is really “I have believed and do believe.”  Martha makes the good confession.  She gets it straight!  At this point for this moment, Martha seems to understand exactly who Jesus is.  He’s Messiah.  He’s the Son of God.  He’s the promised Redeemer.  She probably doesn’t comprehend the implications of Christ being the resurrection and life, but note that she has nothing more to say regarding Lazarus.  It’s as if she says to herself “If this truly is the Son of God, He can be trusted with the situation.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.

30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.

31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

It sounds as if Martha comes in and whispers to Mary, who tries to go out without raising much of a ruckus.  The well-intentioned visitors go to comfort Mary.

32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary’s first words to Jesus are the same as Martha’s.

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

This is compassion for Mary, but it’s more than that.  It’s a deep indignation at the work of Satan and the consequences of the fall.  God is grieved that His creation has been subjected to pain, sorrow, futility through the work of the evil one and man’s choice to rebel.

34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

35 Jesus wept.

This is not the word for the extravagant public mourning, but rather a picture of someone being choked up with genuine emotion.

36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Note that there was no doubt in even these antagonists’ minds about the reality of the miracles that Jesus had been doing.  They knew that these were not just some kind of slight-of-hand.  So they set about attacking His motives.  Here they are accusing Him of really being indifferent to the plight of a friend.

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.

Once again, there is considerable indignation at the consequences of the fall here.  The purposeful blindness of the people is now also probably part of what Jesus is reacting to.

39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

The God of the Universe is going to raise the dead, and He has humans roll the stone away.  He’ll give us a part to play in His work.

Martha is a real person.  The Bible is always real and honest in the way it portrays people.  She has just made her magnificent confession of who Jesus is.  Now she’s afraid of Him not being able to come through in the clutch.  What a mess if He opens the grave and doesn’t come through for her regarding Lazarus!  Better that He not get into the situation!  How human she is.

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

That invitation is to Martha and all of us.  Jesus invites us to believe in, rely upon, cleave to, trust in Himself.  As we do that, God will be glorified.  The form it takes is up to Him, but the promise stands that He will be glorified.

41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.

42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

Prayer is communion with God.  For Jesus that was a constant reality.  The out-loud expression here is just as part of the sign that He is providing for us.  It is not needed in order to establish contact with the Father!

44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus has given us a visual aid.  He’s shown us a sign that indeed, just as John said in the prologue, in Him is life.  The sign has the same effect that all of the others do in John.  Tender hearts are drawn to Jesus.  The others refuse to accept the revelation and end up choosing judgment for themselves.  In fact, the sign seems to galvanize opposition to Jesus and make His execution necessary in the minds of the Jewish officials.

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 10:1-18

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 the 10th Chapter of John.  This is a wonderful passage describing the person and work of Jesus.  It can also be somewhat frustrating if one is reading it expecting to see a single story told in linear fashion, or a tightly constructed description made in a step-by-step style.  It’s not those things, but rather a series of related word pictures, having to do with the general theme of shepherding.  Those pictures tell us a number of things about Christ, not necessarily in the order one would use when giving a seminary lecture on His person and work.

It is helpful when looking at Chapter 10 of John to get the context right, both in terms of the immediate circumstances and also the Old Testament revelation.  In terms of immediate circumstances, Chapter 10 follows Chapter 9 with no apparent break in time or location.  Jesus has healed the man born blind.  That man has courageously maintained that it was Christ who made him whole, despite the browbeating of the religious officials.  They have tossed him out for not recanting his testimony regarding Jesus, but Jesus has hunted him down, revealed Himself to him, and figuratively taken him in.  In response to the miracle and his dealings with the man, the Pharisees have become more antagonistic toward Jesus.  Those are the immediate circumstances.

In terms of the Biblical/Old Testament context, we need to have clearly in mind that from the beginning God Himself had been understood to be the primary Shepherd of Israel.  The elders and officials of the people were spoken of as under-shepherds, working for the great Shepherd.  Most importantly, the Messiah had been long described as the coming true Shepherd.  There are passages like these:

Psalm 80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!  You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.

3 He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Isaiah 40:10  Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Jeremiah 23:1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.

2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.

3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.

4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

And probably most importantly, there is the whole of Chapter 34 of Ezekiel, some excerpts of which are:

Ezekiel 34:8 As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep,

9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:

 10 Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.

12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.

14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.

15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.

16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

And:

Ezekiel 34:23  And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.

25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.

26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.

27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them.

28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid.

29 And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations.

30 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God.

31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.”

So when Jesus begins to speak to the mixed audience of followers and antagonists in Jerusalem about being the Shepherd, He is making a clear claim to be Messiah (the fulfillment of the Davidic promise) and to be One who will replace the current religious officials who have failed as under-shepherds to God.  Their bad treatment of the man He has healed is standing as evidence of their unworthiness to serve.

John 10:1  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.

2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

This first figure is a picture of the propriety of the ministry of Jesus the Shepherd and His relation to His sheep.  He, as the real Shepherd comes in the door.  Those who aren’t come in by illegitimate means.  These sheep pens were apparently walled-in enclosures big enough to hold more than one flock.  Sheep (apparently) grow to know and follow the voice of their shepherd.  It was no problem to separate flocks from a communal pen.  A given shepherd needed only to call and his own sheep would beat it for the gate, leaving the others behind.  It’s not accidental that the man born blind has heard the voice of the true Shepherd and been willing to be tossed out by the Pharisees on His account.  He’s following the One who owns him.  J.C. Ryle dwells on this truth that real disciples know the voice of the Shepherd.  Where voices other than that of the one true Shepherd succeed in leading folks away from the Gospel, the truth about Jesus, Ryle says simply that they are not His sheep.

Note here the tenderness/affection that is present in the shepherd calling the sheep by name, individually, and in the fact that a shepherd leads, rather than drives as one would drive a herd of cattle.

4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

The man born blind of Chapter 9 is a case in point here.  The Jewish religious leaders have proven themselves to be strangers by their antagonism towards God’s Son.  And the fellow has not followed them, but rather Jesus.  Jesus is clearly saying that God’s sheep are His.  If He is not God incarnate, that is blasphemy.  The Old Testament is clear that Israel is God’s flock, not some human’s.

6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

As is usually the case in John, these folks don’t understand, not because of an intellectual lack, but because they don’t want to understand and take the implied reproof.  So Jesus continues and in doing so, switches figures somewhat.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

Commentators have tried to say “shepherd=gate/door since a shepherd might lie down in the entrance to sleep at night.”  But more fundamentally, it means what it says, and Jesus is now temporarily switching figures.  Jesus pictures Himself as the one who is in charge of coming and going in relation to God’s flock.  That is a clear claim to exclusive authority.  It’s relevant that many people sort of like the picture of Jesus as a gentle and compassionate shepherd, but this switch is not so palatable.  But the fact is that He is also the one and only way to the Father, He’s the only way into God’s flock, and He makes no bones about it at all.

He now jumps back, to again contrast His work with that of the Jewish religious leaders and false Messiahs of the time.

8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

Apparently the word rendered “robber” has a connotation that would allow it to cover the idea of one of the Jewish military/political rebel/banditos of the time, who often had pretensions of being the Messiah.

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

Jesus is declaring that His work (evident, e.g., in the healing of the man born blind) is to bring life.  His ministry is to provide salvation, to deal with our most fundamental lack.  To provide real life, life that is eternal both in the sense that it never ends and in the sense that it is God’s life.  It is eternal in quality.  There is this beautiful pastoral picture of the flock not being constricted or cramped, but having great freedom to follow its protecting Shepherd out into a wide pasture.

That is in contrast to the work of His antagonists.

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Satan, the enemy of our souls comes only to kill and destroy.  The Pharisees, who were unwittingly about the work of the devil, had just proved that they had no heart for the well-being of the man born blind.  They were concerned only for their place and their program.  In contrast, Jesus comes to freely give life, abundant life, life as it was meant to be from the beginning.

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

The life that Jesus gives us comes at great price, at the price of His own life.  The phrase translated “lays down his life” seems intended to carry not only the idea of being willing to die at some point, but in fact dedicating one’s whole existence to the purpose of providing for the sheep.  That kind of heart is not in the Pharisees.  It’s not in many of those today that supposedly function as under-shepherds of Christ.  Instead, the position is often only a means of getting paid, something to be walked away from if the going gets too tough or the money dries up.

12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.

There’s a difference between Christ (and those who truly serve Him) and the hireling/false shepherd.  Sheep in the open country are safe only to the extent that they stick with the shepherd.  Christ owns and loves the sheep and is the protection for the sheep.  That’s His nature.  A pretender will turn tail and run when danger arises.  That’s the nature of the pretender.

13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

The pretender runs because of who he is.  He has no real concern for the sheep and no real stake in anything but his own well-being.  So there should be no surprise when he cuts and runs.  On the other side of this, we all know of wonderful Godly men that have endured terrible trouble for the sake of the Gospel and the flock of God.  That is evidence of the work of Christ in them.

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,

I AM.  Here is another clear claim to 1) the name of God and 2) the flock of God.  Jesus is making it plain that God’s flock is His because He and the Father are one.  He’s mincing no words.

15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus is likening real relationship of the believer to Him to the essential unity of the Godhead, to His relationship to the Father.  Again, if it isn’t true, it’s blasphemy and terrible heresy to the Jewish ear.

16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

And finally, if this whole thing wasn’t offensive enough to the Jewish mind of the time, Jesus is now suggesting that the flock of God is bigger than just the Jewish nation.  He has called some out of the pen of the Jewish nation (including the man born blind).  He will call others from other nations as well.  Not only will those in current religious authority in Israel lose their spots, but the Gentiles are going to be invited in!!!  That is you and me!.

17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.

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.”

One of the things that John makes sure we know, is that Jesus didn’t die by accident or because He was caught off guard by the authorities.  We are to know that they would have had no power over Him except that He voluntarily laid down His life.

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 9

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.

John 9 is one of the most attractive narratives in Scripture.  It is a story about a strong, attractive, humble personality coming to Christ.  It is also loaded with symbolic significance as Jesus reveals Himself as the light of the world.  In John 8:12, Jesus has made that claim for Himself.  John said that about Him in the prologue (see John 1:9).  Here he proves and illustrates that claim.

This is one of the signs of Jesus, one that has its full effect of bringing one to faith and causing others to choose darkness.  It is in line with John’s purpose statement in writing, given in John 20:30.  The purpose of these miraculous signs is that people will come to believe in, cleave to, trust in, rely upon Jesus.

John 9:1  As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.

This “from birth” is important on a couple of levels.  Symbolically, our condition is blindness from birth/by nature.  And it makes the sign especially startling.  Even with the physical apparatus to see, the guy would have no idea of what things ought to look like!

2  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

This was a favorite point of speculation/argument among the rabbis.  What is the origin of suffering?   The majority opinion of the day was that suffering came in response to specific sinful acts.  Some rabbis even held that it was possible for babies to sin inside the womb and that the sin of a mother could harm a child within her womb.  The disciples are probably inquiring here as to who’s to blame in the case of this pitiful beggar.

Jesus refutes the notion that all suffering is the direct result of specific sinful acts.  I don’t know that He’s really saying that the man was in advance caused to be blind for the purpose of God’s glory at this point, but He certainly is saying that God can be glorified through suffering and that the result, if not the cause of the man’s blindness will be the work of God being seen in his life.

4  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

Jesus says “work the works”  This is a matter-of-fact, everyday-activity kind of statement.  What Jesus does here on a physical level and we understand as a startling miracle, He is always doing on an eternal level.  And the import/magnitude of it is far greater.

“Night is coming” is an allusion, to the crucifixion.  This is the third year of the ministry of Jesus.  He is acutely aware of the urgency of completing the Father’s mission for Himself, and the looming cross.

5  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus says this again, because He’s about to give a visual aid on this point.  He says, in effect, “Here comes an illustration to help you grasp this point.”

6  Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud

7  and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Notice how little ink John spends describing the miracle, compared to the ink spent on showing its consequences in the lives of men.  The importance of the miracle is in what it shows about Jesus and the effect that it has on drawing them to faith or confirming them in their self-chosen darkness.  It is not in having an unusual story to tell.

Jesus spit on the ground.  This is perhaps not so wild in the context of the time as it sounds to us.  Spit was felt to have medicinal value, and the notion of making a poultice out of it and dirt was not unheard of.

Jesus “anointed” the man’s eyes.  Christ, the anointed one anoints the eyes and the man (and we with him) see!

Notice that the man went.  He was told to go, and he didn’t question Jesus wanting to know why, but obeyed.  In line with that humility, he was healed.

8  The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”

9  Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”

People aren’t sure if they recognize the man.  That’s no real surprise.  On top of the fact that they know it’s not possible for one born blind to be walking around seeing, there is the virtual certainty that he’s carrying himself quite differently than before.  Instead of moving about tentatively, he can see!  He’s probably walking with a spring in his step!

The man was a beggar.  So are the rest of us.  The man insisted.  This guy has some real spunk.

10  So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

11  He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”

Notice what he calls Jesus at this point.  His understanding of who Jesus is pretty rudimentary.

12  They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

Remember that Jesus sent the guy off to Siloam to wash.  He hasn’t seen Jesus, nor does he have any reason to know His whereabouts.

Now begins the a series of interrogations of the man and his family by the Pharisees.

13  They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.

14  Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.

The rub here is going to be the Sabbath rules that the Pharisees had invented to interpret the 4th Commandment in their effort to spell everything out so that a man could try to establish his own righteousness by keeping the law perfectly.  They believed that making mud on the Sabbath and healing were both work.  (Some even went so far as to hold that one could only spit on the Sabbath if the spittle hit a rock.  If it hit the dirt, then one was working.)  Jesus hasn’t violated the intent of the commandment, only the Pharisees’ interpretation/amplification of it.

15  So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

The beggar hasn’t got the full ramifications of the whole thing sorted out yet, but he’s sticking to the reality of his experience/encounter with Jesus.  Ryle observed that the proper question was “whether, in fact, he had been cured, and not in what way”  The proper issue is the fact, not the mode.

16  Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.

The Pharisees are all over the map at this point.  They are all confused, but at least some recognize its reality and the fact that what has happened is good.  Note that some use the word “signs” and see such as inconsistent with the work of anyone but God.

There are things that make this sign particularly worrisome for them.  This is completely unprecedented.  There is nothing comparable in the Old Testament record, and yet there are the Messianic passages of Isaiah that promise that Messiah will bring sight to the blind.  See Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 35:5, and Isaiah 42:7.

17  So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Notice what the beggar has now called Jesus.  He’s making progress.  A prophet is pretty much at the top of the list of holy people (as far as he could see), certainly above a Rabbi or Pharisee.

Now we get the interrogation of the parents.

18  The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight

The powers that be call in the man’s parents to browbeat them.

19  and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

The first 2 of these questions are sensible.  The last one clearly is not.  How in the world are they supposed to know how it is that their son can now see?  They give the officials a browbeaten, groveling, deferential reply.

20  His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.

21  But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

22  (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)

23  Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

Now begins the second interrogation of the man healed.

24  So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”

The Pharisees say “Give glory to God.”  They are clearly not saying “Well, bless God. Praise Jesus.  Thank Him for healing you!”  The Old Testament instance of the use of this phrase is in Joshua 7:19 where Joshua is telling Achan to come clean about his sin of taking the things devoted to God and the disaster that the sin caused.  The meaning is “Fess up!”

25  He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

The beggar bravely sticks to what he knows has happened to him.  He doesn’t understand all the details, BUT HE KNOWS THAT HE SEES!  All their theory doesn’t change that.

26  They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

Again these are not sensible questions.  They are instead simply meant to browbeat.

27  He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

The man is losing patience.

28  And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.

The inquisitors are reduced to frothing at the mouth, and the irony is, of course, that they are NOT acting as true disciples of Moses.

29  We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

This verse contains an interesting irony.  Indeed they don’t know where He’s from.  They don’t recognize He’s from God.  Yet in John 7:27 they’ve ruled out the possibility He’s the Messiah on the grounds that they do think they know where He’s from.

9:30  The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.

31  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.

9:32  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.

9:33  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

Through the heat and pressure the beggar is coming to see spiritually as well as physically.

34  They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

As the beggar is moving toward Jesus/light and seeing ever more clearly, the Pharisees have gone to the point of ignoring the wonderful work of God and essentially saying “A pox on you!  You deserved your blindness!”

Jesus hunts the beggar down and brings him to faith in Himself.

35  Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36  He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

This is strongly reminiscent of the woman at the well in chapter 4.  This guy is by now ready to trust in, rely on, believe in, cleave to the Savior.

37  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”

38  He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

This is the proper response to the revelation of Jesus to us.

39  Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

As always in John, the judgment is one that people choose for themselves.  It is an implied judgment, that people given light either move towards it or away from it and thereby condemn themselves.  See again John 3:19-21.  That’s what has been illustrated so graphically here in this account.  The beggar, exhibiting substantial humility has moved progressively towards

Jesus (see verses 12, 25 and 36).  The Pharisees have moved away from Jesus (see verses 16, 24 and 29).

40  Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”

41  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

Human pride and refusal to admit our wrong is at the heart of our guilt.  The Pharisees denied their blindness.  So do we.  The result of denying our wrong/blindness is to plunge deeper and deeper into ignorance with self-confident wrong statements.

 

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 8:31-59

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.

John 8:31  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,

Jesus says, “If you abide in my word …”  This is not a condition of discipleship to be checked off a list, it is a description of in what discipleship consists, and it is a continuing matter.

Tasker said, “True discipleship … means abiding in His word, i.e. welcoming it, being at home with it, and living with it so continuously that it becomes part of the believer’s life, a permanent stimulus and influence in every fresh advance in goodness and holiness.  Christ’s word is indistinguishable from Christ Himself.  He is the Word.  To abide in His word is therefore to abide in Him, to always be within earshot of His voice …”

Bruce said, “… discipleship is something continuous; it is a way of life … The teacher’s instruction becomes the disciple’s rule for faith and practice.”

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This must be one of the most often quoted and misused verse in all of the Bible.  Politicians try to appropriate this, philosophers try to appropriate this.  But it is not a political, educational or philosophical statement. It is a statement about faith in, reliance upon, trust in the person of Jesus.  It’s Jesus who is the Truth.  Look down at verse 36.  It’s the Son who sets free.  And it’s not political freedom or freedom to exercise one’s unbridled will that is promised.  It’s not even firstly freedom from ignorance, but rather freedom from sin, death, and hell.

33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

These fellows don’t even see that they are in bondage.  Sure they are under the thumb of Rome, sure their forefathers had been slaves in Egypt and Babylon, but the Jew was proud of being free in conscience, never bowed in his insistence upon his Jewish religion and national identity.   But that wasn’t what Jesus was talking about, and their pride only blinded them to the real situation as regards their souls.

J.C. Ryle said, “The power of self-deception in unconverted man is infinite.  These Jews were not more unreasonable than many now-a-days, who say, ‘We are not dead in sin; we have grace, we have faith, we are regenerate, we have the Spirit,’ while their lives plainly show that they are totally mistaken.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

Whether we realize it or not, when we continue in sin, we are slaves to it.

Tasker wrote, “Whoever habitually asserts his own will, priding himself on his own independence, following his own inclinations, and primarily concerned with pleasing himself–whoever, in a word, is living a self-centered life– is a slave.  Such a person is confined within the limits of his own self-interest.”

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

We have no power to liberate ourselves.  A slave cannot emancipate himself.  A slave cannot have the status of a son nor live as a son.  Help must come from outside.

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

An adult son in a free household has authority.  Jesus, Son of God, at one with the Father, from the Father, has authority.  He has authority to set us free from bondage to sin, and we will be free indeed.  True liberty is liberty not to do whatever we please, but to do what we ought.

Ryle said, “Wherein does the liberty of true Christians consist?  Of what is their freedom made up?-They are freed from the guilt and consequences of sin by the blood of Christ. Justified, pardoned, forgiven, they can look forward boldly to the day of judgment, and cry “Who shall lay anything to our charge?  Who is he that condemneth?”-They are freed from the power of sin by the grace of Christ’s Spirit.  Sin has no longer dominion over them.  Renewed, converted, sanctified, they mortify and tread down sin, and are no longer led captive by it.  Liberty, like this, is the portion of all true Christians in the day that they flee to Christ by faith, and commit their souls to Him.  That day they become free men.  Liberty, like this, is their portion for evermore.  Death cannot stop it.  The grave cannot even hold their bodies for more than a little season.  Those whom Christ makes free are free to all eternity.”

37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.

38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

“speak” and “do” are both in continuous tenses.  Jesus is talking about persistent practice.  He says, “I continually speak, you continually do.”  Jesus speaks of “what I have seen.”  Jesus has unclouded vision.  They are blind and see nothing.  Their hearing is from their father, and verse 47 says plainly that they do not hear God.

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did,

40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.

The basic principle here about sonship is that a son does things in accord with the nature of his father.  A son behaves like his father.  And the kinship that matters is not physical kinship, but rather, moral kinship.  Want to be a son of Abraham?  Then act like he would act.  Physical descent alone is nothing.

41 You are doing what your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.”

Jesus says, “You are doing what your father did.”  There is a family resemblance.  They say, “We were not born of sexual immorality.”  This may be meant as an insult to Jesus, a slur about his parentage.  Or it may simply be a denial that they have strayed from God’s revelation.  In the Old Testament, apostasy was often described as fornication and thus linked with illegitimate offspring.

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.

Ryle wrote, “… If words mean anything, no man is really a child of God who does not love Jesus Christ. … the reality of sonship to God, and all its blessings, no one possesses who does not love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”

Calvin said, “Christ’s argument is this: whoever is a child of God will acknowledge His first-born Son; but you hate me, and therefore you have no reason to boast that you are God’s children.”

F.F. Bruce said, “Jesus insists on using terms like ‘father’ and ‘children’ in an ethical sense: the children are those who reproduce the father’s qualities.”  The point is again that family affection would bind real sons of God to the one Son, but they hate Him.

Jesus repeats what He has said again and again.  He is no independent agent but rather was sent from and is one with the Father, the I AM.

43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

Jesus says, “you cannot bear to hear”  “cannot” is a moral inability.  You are so hard that you are incapable of hearing the message.  You are purposely deaf.  This is not a failure of intellect, but of will and spirit.

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

It’s not “despite the fact I tell the truth,” but rather “because I tell the truth.”  These folks are again “sons” of the devil in an ethical or moral sense.  They have chosen the side of lies and murder, and in light of their ethical lineage, it is only to be expected that they would not believe Him.

46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?

Godet said, “The perfect holiness of Christ is proved in this passage … by the assurance with which Jesus lays this questions before them.”  His conscience is absolutely perfect and absolutely clear as He speaks.  Morris wrote, “We are often so interested in the fact that they found no charge to lay that we overlook the fact that the really striking thing is the making of the challenge … It betokens a clear and serene conscience.  Only one who was in the closest and most intimate communion with the Father could have spoken such words.  It is impossible to envisage any other figure in history making such a claim.”

47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

He and the Father deal in the truth and are completely righteous.  These folks and Satan deal in lies and murder as reflections of who they are.  Jesus would give us eternal life.  The devil would kill every son and daughter of Adam eternally.

Jesus’s very nature is truth.  To reject or oppose truth is to reveal a nature consistent with the devil’s, and an allegiance with falsehood.  He who belongs to God hears God.  The antagonists don’t hear, therefore they don’t belong.

48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

The Pharisees fill the air with blue smoke.  They are wrought up, losing the “argument,” and resort to name-calling.  Jesus replies in a calm, measured way.

49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.

50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.

The reply is that 1) the fact that Jesus honors the Father shows the charge to be incorrect, and 2) this whole thing is ultimately not a matter of opinions, that of Jesus against that of the Pharisees.  Rather it is God who judges; it is His judgment that matters.

51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

To “never see death” is to never face real and eternal death.  As is constant in John, these hearers will attempt to interpret the statement of Jesus on a different level than was intended.

52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’

53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

“Who do you make yourself out to be?”  Are you greater than the patriarchs?  The implicit assertions are that, of course, Jesus’s promise cannot be true and that, of course, the patriarchs would side with them in this dispute.  They are wrong on both counts.  It doesn’t even seem to occur to them that just possibly Jesus understood exactly what He was saying.  Jesus doesn’t duel with them over who has the approval of the patriarchs.  Instead, He says again that it is the approval and testimony of HIS Father, who sent the patriarchs that matters.  They claim this God as their Father too, but that can’t be.

55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.

He is not really their God at all.  Jesus says, “… you have not known him. I know him.”  Jesus could say this not only because He was with the Father from before time, but because He was perfectly obedient to the Father, perfectly in line with the will of the Father.  Knowing God is always tied up with loving obedience to Him.

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

Abraham and the patriarchs were with the Father on the issue of the coming Messiah.  Calling them as witnesses wasn’t going to work for the Pharisees.

57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

This is, obviously, the climax of this whole narrative.  In terms that are completely unmistakable to these folks, Jesus appropriates God’s personal name, the I AM, for Himself.  They immediately see what He’s said for what it is, judge it to be blasphemy, and try to summarily execute Him.

“Jesus hid Himself” is really better rendered “Jesus was hidden.”  It is not that He cleverly escaped trouble, but that the Father hid Him from them.

Ryle commented, “It is a wise remark of Pascal, that our Lord’s enemies, by their incessant cavilling and interruption, both here and elsewhere, have supplied us unintentionally with a strong proof of the truth of His teaching.  If our Lord’s doctrines had only been delivered privately to a prejudiced audience of kind and loving disciples, they would not come down to us with the same weight that they do now.  But they were often proclaimed in the midst of bitter enemies, learned Scribes and Pharisees, who were ready to detect any flaw or defect in His reasoning.  That the enemies of Christ could never answer or silence Him, is a strong evidence that His doctrine was God’s own truth.  It was from heaven, and not from men.”

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 8:12-30

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.

Again, the setting of John 7-8 is Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles.  Jesus encounters sharp opposition and makes claims for Himself that are consistent with who John told us He is in Chapter 1, but that must have been startling to His hearers.  Here in John 8, it’s the middle of the feast and Jesus has begun teaching.

John 8:12  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus says again “I AM.”  John told us in Chapter 1 that Jesus is the light.  To hear all of what the 1st hearers heard, we need to know that not only is the “I AM” use of the personal name of God, but we also need to know a bit about how tabernacles was celebrated.  On the first night of the feast there was a ritual lighting of 4 huge candlesticks at the temple in the court of the women.  It was the celebration of “the Illumination of the Temple.”  The top of these candelabra had to be reached with ladders and wicks floated in golden bowls of oil.  When lit, all Jerusalem reflected the light that burned there, and Jesus is speaking where this took place.  He is clearly saying that He is superior to lights that light only the temple and God’s city Jerusalem.  He’s claiming to be God incarnate and the fulfillment of the ritual that they have been celebrating.  The Rabbis sometimes used the word “light” to refer to the Messiah (God’s light).  In all of this Jesus is making no small claims.

 

Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Isaiah 60:19 The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

Micah 7:7  But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

 

Jesus is the light.  To have light is to have Jesus and there is no light apart from Him.  Jesus says “whoever follows me.”  It is “whoever gives himself to Me body and soul.”  The construction implies a continual following of Jesus, not some casual interest.  And the “will have the light of life” is also continual.  Jesus is talking of ongoing relationship.  Too, Jesus is the light of the world.  This is not some narrow thing peculiar to only Israel, but applies to everyone everywhere.

John 8:13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”

The Pharisees clearly don’t want to allow anything like what Jesus has just claimed.  So they make a technical challenge to it.  They implicitly refer to the Old Testament principle that two witnesses were required to establish something legally.  They contend that they therefore don’t need to pay attention to Jesus’s claim.  The ESV says “not true,” but it would be better rendered “not valid.”  They are ignoring the substance of what was said and making a technical challenge.

Morris wrote quoting Wright wrote, “‘There are types of so-called religious apologetic, which, distrusting the intrinsic claims of religion itself, seek to put in its place ‘external evidences’ and ‘institutional safeguards.’  How can light convince us that it is light except by what it does for us?  We do not demonstrate that light is light by treatises, or by analyses of its constituent rays.  It is only light to us when it illumines and quickens us. … Anyone can to his own satisfaction, confute the claim which Beauty makes, by saying, I do not see it; or the claim inherent in Goodness, by saying, I do not hear it; or the self-evidencing nature of Truth, by saying, I do not know it. But man does not create Goodness, or Truth, or Beauty; and to say that he cannot see them is to condemn himself, not them.’ So with Light.”

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.

15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

Jesus replies that He is qualified to speak on this matter while His attackers are not.  They don’t see reality for what it is.  Their blind earth-bound mentality fails to see Him for who He is.  In their foolishness, they judge Him guilty of blasphemy.  He didn’t come to condemn anyone, but nevertheless, their wrong blind judgment of Him boomerangs and condemns themselves.  The judgment of Jesus is so different from the kind of thing the Pharisees are doing that it shouldn’t be called by the same name.

16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two men is true.

18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Jesus says that even if it were His word alone, it would be sufficient, but if they want to get technical and count to two, there is implicit in His words the testimony of the Father.  What He says, He doesn’t say alone, but in complete harmony with the Father.  In verse 17, the testimony of two men suffices.  If that is true, how much more the testimony of the Father and the Son?!

The verbs in verse 18 are in the continuous tense.  Jesus continues to bear witness about Himself and the Father continues to bear witness about Him.

19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

They confirm exactly what Jesus charged in verse 15, that they have only an earthbound human perspective on this.  They really aren’t qualified to judge or even serve as witnesses in this matter.  So they ask this purposely obtuse question, ignoring the obvious in Jesus’s claim that He’s talking about God in heaven.  He tells them that it is possible to know the Father only as we know Him, Jesus.  The Pharisees, who pride themselves on their knowledge of God, in that they know the Scriptures, in their failure to see Jesus for who He is, in fact don’t really know God at all.

20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Jesus is in charge.  This is not some out-of-control series of accidents, and it’s not yet time for Him to suffer and die for us.

21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”

If we never get past our human stubbornness and blindness to see things as they really are, we will indeed die in our sin.  Jesus is going to the Father, and on their current path, these folks are headed for destruction.  “sin” here is singular.  The reference is almost surely to the ultimate sin of failing to see Jesus for who He is, God’s own Son, very God of very God.

22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

“Our deaths will differ,” says Jesus, “but that’s not all that separates us.”  The origins and basic concerns of these folks differ from His.  Jesus is from above and is concerned with the will of God.  These Pharisees are from below and are not concerned with the will of God.  These people know neither where Jesus is from nor where He is going.  Their frame of reference is temporal and earthbound.  His is eternal.

24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Literally it is “if you do not believe that I AM.”  (“the one I claim to be” of the NIV isn’t there.  Neither is “he” in the KJV or this ESV.)  There is one way of escape for fallen humans.  That is to cast ourselves on the mercy of Jesus, the I AM.  These guys are in the process of throwing away their opportunity, and dying without hope.  They will die in their sins (plural), the inevitable fruit of the fundamental sin of unbelief.

25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.

“You!  Who are you to be saying such things?”  It’s pretty hard to believe that by now the Pharisees still don’t know what Jesus is claiming.  That they may not believe what He’s claiming and would demand another explanation, is another matter.  And their disbelief brings with it an inevitable and terrible implied judgment.

26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”

27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.

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.

In the cross it is evident to all, friend and foe, that Jesus was completely submitted to the will of the Father, that He is in complete harmony with the Father.  And the cross is the final definitive answer to the question the Pharisees asked in verse 25, “Who are you, anyway?”  See the cross and it is evident who He is.

29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

 

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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.