Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Feed My Sheep

John 21:15-25

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15a)

After they had eaten the food Jesus had prepared for them, Jesus asked peter if he loved him more than these.  Many have taught Jesus was asking if Peter loved him more than his fishing career, and as we see in scripture that is a very important question but Jesus’ question had a different point.    Petrer had been very proud when he said he would never deny the Lord.  In fact, Mark 14:29 tells us, “But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.”  Peter was in effect saying,  I love you more than anyone else.  Jesus was asking if Peter still thought he loved the Lord more than anyone else. 

He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?

He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?

 Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” (John 21:15b-17a)

Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him.  Each time Peter answered yes, but the third time he was kind of frustrated that the Lord kept asking him the same question.   He felt like the Lord didn’t believe him because he’d denied him.    

“Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.  This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.” (John 21:17b-19)

The Lord was driving home the point that even those who think they are the strongest mess up from time to time.  Each time Peter responded , “I love you,” Jesus commanded him to feed the sheep.  If we love the Lord, our job is to feed the Sheep, whether they are the new Crhistians who have recently been saved, or people who have served the Lord for fifty years.  It is our job to see that they receive the teaching and encouragement they need to grow and stay strong in the Lord.  We shouldn’t get proud and refuse to work with them because they aren’t living up to our standards, and don’t love the Lord as much as we do.  At the same time we shouldn’t quit because we messed up.  As Jesus explains, as a young man, Peter was able to do pretty much what he wanted, but the time would come when he was no longer able to feed and dress himself or decide where he wanted to go.     In fact, in Peter’s case they would take him out and crucify him. 

“Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?  Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” (John 21:20-22)

People don’t like focusing on their sin or weakness, so Peter attempted to redirect attention, Asking what John was going to do.  What John did or didn’t do would not affect Peter at all.  Peter needed to focus on serving God himself instead of worrying about what the others were doing.    God would decide what happened to John. 

“Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?  This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:23-24)

Jesus had said that some of them would not die until the Lord’s return.  Luke 9:27 says, “But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.”  They remembered what he had said, and when he stated that it was irrelevant to peter whether John lived until the Lord’s return, some of them assumed that Jesus was saying John would not die.  John is quite insistent that Jesus did not say he wouldn’t die, but that it was God’s business whether it would be John or one of the others who lived until the Lord’s return.    As a result of the disciples assumption, many believe John will be one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, but as John points out he may not be. 

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25)

Even when we combine Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we only have a few of the most memorable of the things Jesus did in his time here on earth.  No one knows how many people Jesus healed or miracles he did that no one recorded.   We only have enough to make us know Jesus is the Messiah, and the accounts from four different men at different times and through different sources agree sufficiently to indicate the record is true, differing enough to indicate there was no collaboration of slavish copying each other.    

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Jesus Appears Again

John 20:24-21:14

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25)

The other Apostles had been there when Jesus came into the room and revealed himself to them Sunday evening after he was resurrected.  Thomas was not there, and refused to believe the testimony of the others until he physically touched the scars from the nails and the spear in his side.    I guess he was from Missouri. 

“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.  Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:26-31)

Jesus had instructed his disciples to meet him in Galilee at a certain place.  On Monday, a week after the resurrection, the disciples were assembled together as he had told them, and Thomas was with them.  Once again Jesus appeared among them without opening the doors, greeting them.  He then asked Thomas to touch the scars and believe.  Thomas didn’t need to.  He just called Jesus his Lord and his God.  Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for not believing until he saw, but he said that those who would believe simply because of the testimony of others or God’s word would be much more blessed. 

There are a great many people like Thomas.  While other people can believe without worrying whether Jesus was crucified on Thursday or on Friday, people Like Thomas need that information in order to make a commitment.  Until they are convinced of the Bible’s historical and factual accuracy they will not believe.   When we accept and teach traditions that cause doubt about the scriptures, we leave them with little hope of salvation.  Our doctrine is critical.  In I Timothy 4:16, Paul told Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”  If we are to win the people God has sent us to. It is critical we give them the information they need to make a decision.  II Timothy 2:15 instructs, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  If we genuinely care about people’s souls, we will study to make sure we are providing the truth so they can make real commitments. 

“After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself.  There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.

They say unto him, We also go with thee.

They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.   But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. ” (John 21:1-4)

Jesus appeared to disciples again, at the Sea of Galilee.  At the time Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and James and John were present.  Peter decided he wanted ot go fishing and the others went with him.  After fishing all night they had caught nothing .  The next morning they saw Jesus standing on shore but didn’t recognize him. 

“Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat?

They answered him, No.

 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord.

Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.  And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.” (John 21:5-9)

Jesus asked them if they had any food and they said no, so he told them to cast the net out the other side of the ship.  When they did, the net was filled.   John remembered that when Jesus called them the same thing had happened and told Peter it was the Lord.  Peter dove into the water and started swimming to shore, while the others rowed to shore dragging the net.  They were only about a hundred yards from shore. 

“As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.  Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.  Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.  This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.” (John 21:9-14)

Jesus already had fish cooking on the fire, but he told them to bring some of what they had caught as well.  When Peter pulled the net ashore and they started sorting them there were a hundred and fifty three big fish, each weighing several pounds.   It was far more weight than their nets would usually stand.  None of them dared ask who he was or how he knew where the fish were, because they knew he was the Lord.  This was the third time Jesus had appeared to them after the resurrection, about a month before he ascended into Heaven in Acts 1.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Resurrection

John 20:1-23
“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.  Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.” (John 20:1-2)

Long before sunrise, Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the tomb to finish the burial process.  When they saw the stone rolled away and were told that Jesus was not there, they returned to the city and told the apostles.  They were quite upset because they didn’t know where the body had been taken. 

“Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.  So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.  And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.  Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.  For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” (John 20:3-9)

Peter and John then went to the sepulcher, to see what was going on.  John ran ahead while Peter walked with Mary Magdalene.  When he got there John just looked inside and saw the grave clothes lying there empty, so he knew it was the right place.  Peter barged right on into the sepulcher.  When he did, he saw that the cloth that had been wrapped around his head was folded up and lying separate from the rest of the wrappings.  John followed Peter in and saw it as well, and believed what Jesus had said, although they still didn’t understand he would be resurrected. 

The description of the grave clothes, with a separate cloth wrapped around the head so that it could be opened to identify the body and the remainder tightly wrapped in similar to a mummy to limit the bloating as the body decayed is typical of Jewish burials of the time.   The description, and the fact that Jesus was not in the grave long enough to decay makes it very clear the Shroud of Turin cannot have been Jesus’ burial cloths, despite the traditions.   

“Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.  But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?

She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.  And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?

She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.  Jesus saith unto her, Mary.

She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. ” (John 20:10-17)

Mary remained at the sepulcher after John and Peter left, still concerned about what had happened to the body.  Looking into the tomb, she saw the two angels sitting where the body had been.  When they asked why she was crying, she said it was because she didn’t know where the body was and turned away.  Not expecting to see Jesus, she didn’t assumed he was one of the gardeners and didn’t recognize him until he called her by name.    He told her not to touch him because he had not yet ascended into heaven to complete his offering on the altar there.  He told her to go and tell the Apostles that He was going into heaven at that time.   

“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” (John 20:18)

Mary obeyed, telling the disciples she had seen the Lord and talked to him.  Apparently there was quite bit of discussion throughout the day Sunday. 
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.  And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

About sundown that same evening, the disciples were hiding from the Jews and had shut the doors to keep from being seen.  Jesus suddenly appeared among them, telling them not be afraid and showing the wounds in his hands and side so they would know it was really him. 

“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. “ (John 20:21-23)

Jesus then gave them a brief description of what their job would be in the future, designating them to receive the Holy Spirit, although as we saw in John 15, he could not come until Jesus ascended into heaven.   Just as he had promised earlier, they would have the power to make sure people were saved during this life, and not have to wait until they get to heaven to find out. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Jesus’ Death and Burial

John 19:23-42

“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.  They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.” (John 19:23-24)

After they had placed Jesus on the cross, the soldiers took his clothing apart at the seams civing each one a part.  In today’s society we would not even consider such an action, but in those days eachi piece of material started with a stalk of flax or a sheep.  Tthe flax h had to be beaten out to for the linen fibers or the sheep had to be sheared and the wool prepared, the linen or wool was then spun into thread by hand, then woven into cloth.  It took two or three months to make enough material for a man’s shirt, so cloth was a very valuable item and was not wasted.  They would carefully cut thing apart at the seams to keep from wasting any.  Jesus’ coat was woven using a special technique and had no seams, making it especially valuable.  They decided not to take it apart but to gamble for it.  In doing so they fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 22:18.

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!  Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:25-27)

Every year, Jesus’ parents had made the journey to Jerusalem for the Passover, and this was no exception.   Mary was there when Jesus was crucified, accompanied by her sister, also named Mary, and Mary Magdalene.    When Jesus saw her, He directed John treat her as his mother.  At that point John took her to his home.  Despite his own suffering, Jesus was concerned that his mother not suffer more than necessary.    

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.  Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:28-30)

Knowing every other prophecy about his death to this point had been fulfilled. Jesus said he was thirsty, and they gave him a little vinegar mixed with gall to suck from a sponge.  Contrary to a popular teaching, people who were crucified did not die of suffocation because of the way their weight was supported by their arms, as was demonstrated by American POW’s who were tortured in Vietnam, often living for weeks as long as they were given water periodically.  Instead they died of dehydration and exposure.  The vinegar and gall mixture was intended to intensify their thirst, not to alleviate the suffering.    Giving it to Him fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 69:21.    

When he tasted the vinegar and gall, Jesus announced, “It is finished,” and died.  In doing so he fulfilled his prophecy in John 10:18.  “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again...”

“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” (John 19:31)

According to Roman records, Most of those who were crucified lived two to three days before dying of dehydration.  When their legs were broken they usually succumbed within twelve to sixteen hours due to a combination of dehydration, shock, and internal bleeding.  The Jews requested that the prisoner’s legs be broken so they would die and could be removed before the Sabbath started.  Since the Sabbath officially started at sundown, such a request makes no sense if Jesus was crucified on Friday, as tradition claims, but makes perfect sense if he were executed on Thursday as the preparation for the Sabbath began at sundown Thursday. 

“Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.  But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” (John 19:32-34)

The Soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but since Jesus was already dead they didn’t bother.  Instead one of them ran his spear up through his side into the heart.  When he did, water and blood flowed out.  This does not indicate a broken heart as some have said, but that the blood had stopped circulating and the blood cells and plasma were beginning to separate in veins.   It is incontrovertible evidence Jesus was already dead before they pushed the spear into his side.  There is no possibility he just passed out and recovered consciousness after being placed in the tomb. 

“And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.  For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.  And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.” (John 19:35-37)

John states that he personally witnessed these things and knows them to be true.  He is not writing what others had told him.  Jesus is the Passover, and as John observed they did not break Jesus bones, fulfilling the command about the Passover lamb in Exodus 12:46, “…neither shall ye break a bone thereof…”  They also partially fulfilled the prophecy in Zechariah 12:10.

 “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.  And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.  Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:38-40)

Matthew 27:57 tells us it was already sundown when Joseph went to Pilate for the Body of Jesus.  “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea…”  Assisted by Nicodemus, they wrapped the body with a large volume of spices to mask the odor of decays, following the Jewish custom.    It would have been illegal for them to do this if Jesus was crucified on Friday as it would have been after the start of the Sabbath.  The next two verses emphasize that when they buried him it was the preparation for the Sabbath.  By laying Jesus in a ready-made sepulchre thye would be free to spend the following day preparing for the Sabbath. 

“Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.  There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” (John 19:41-42)

Why does it matter whether Jesus was crucified on Thursday or Friday? Matthew 12:39-40 tells us, Jesus “…answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  In other words , the only special sign that was given in that day was that Je4sus would be dead three days and three nights.  It there are not three days and three nights between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, no matter how you count, so if Jesus was crucified on Friday the prophecy has never been fulfilled and Jesus cannot be the Messiah.  As an atheistic professor said in one of my college classes, If God couldn’t even tell the difference between two days and nights and three, how can you believe anything else he says?  Satan has used the tradition to cause many to doubt the accuracy of God’s word.  By ignoring the scriptures and teaching the tradition, we help Satan deceive the unsaved world.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pilate Allows Jesus To Be Crucified

John 19:1-22

“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.  And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.  Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!” (John 19:1-5)

John writes the events as he remembers them.  Luke tells us that after concluding Jesus was Innocent, Pilate sent him to Herod, because he was a resident of Galilee.  It was obvious the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were determined to have him executed.  It there were outstanding warrants against Jesus in Galilee, Herod could deal with them and allow Pilate to escape having an innocent man executed or causing a revolt.  Herod’s conclusion was the same as Pilate’s, but in an effort to appease the Jews it was Herod who had Jesus abused by the soldiers, violating his rights.   When that didn’t appease them, Herod sent him back to Pilate as he was the one responsible for what happened in Jerusalem.   His choice was between the lesser of two evils.    

“When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.

The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.  Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.  When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.” (John 19:6-13)

Pilate finally brought Jesus to them telling them to take him and crucify him if that’s what they wanted.  They insisted it wasn’t what they wanted but what their law required, which made the problem worse for Pilate, setting Jewish law against Roman law, since he was a Roman governor.  He knew he would be held responsible if he allowed them to prevail.  After Jesus told him that the primary fault would be the Jews, rather than Pilates, and that even the Roman authority came from God, Pilate worked desperately to free him.  Finally the Jews threatened to accuse him of treason for supporting a man who claimed to be a king without Roman approval, and Pilate capitulated.  

“And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!  But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him.

Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King?

The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:14-15)

It was about noon when Pilate released Jesus to them, announcing him as their king.  They refused to take him, demanding he be crucified. And Pilate asked why they wanted him to crucify their king.  For over seventy years, the Jews had been fighting against Roman rule, yet at this point they stated they had no king but Caesar. 

“Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified.  And they took Jesus, and led him away.  And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” (John 19:16-18)

Pilate finally authorized them to execute Jesus, using Roman soldiers, and he was taken out to be crucified, carrying his cross to Golgotha.  He was fastened to the cross with ropes and nails were driven through his hands to prevent getting his hands free.  Two thieves were executed at the same time. 

“And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.  This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.

Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” (John 19:19-22)

It was customary when a person was crucified to post a sign stating the crimes for which he was being executed.  Pilate wrote that Jesus was the King of the Jews, and the Jewish leaders demanded it be changed to say he claimed to be the king of the Jews.  In one final act of defiance, Pilate refused to make the change.  He obviously resented being forced to execute a man he believed was innocent.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

They'd Rather Have Barabbas

John 18:28-40

“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. “ (John 18:28)

While the Hebrew word for Passover refers to the specific meal on the fourteenth of Nissan, the Greek word refers to both the Passover and the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The day after Passover, was the first day of the feast.  It was to be a holy convocation, a day given to the Lord.  Some have taught that because it was a Sabbath the Jews had to wait a day after Jesus Arrest before the trial while others have taught that he was arrested a day earlier and crucified on the day of the Passover.    

John makes it very clear they did not postpone the trial and both theories are incorrect.  While the first day of unleavened bread was a holy convocation, a day when they were to avoid coming in contact with things that were polluted, it was not a Sabbath, and they were able to conduct business more or less as usual.  The Jews considered the Roman court as polluted and refused to enter it, but they took Jesus there as soon as it opened. 

“Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.

The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?” (John 18:29-33)

Because the Jews refused to enter the judgment hall, Pilate came out to enquire what Jesus was accused of.  They offered no explanation, simply saying they wouldn’t have brought if he wasn’t guilty.  They hoped Pilate would just order him executed on their word, or that he would authorize them to execute him without question.   Pilate told them to enforce their own laws, and they reminded him that they were prohibited from executing a person without Roman approval.  The Jewish method of execution was stoning.  Because his execution would be conducted under Roman authority rather than Jewish, Jesus would be crucified, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 20:18-19, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.”  Pilate then took Jesus into the court for further questioning.  He was familiar with the talk around town, and the traditions of the Messiah, and asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews as many thought. 

“Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:34-39)

Jesus asked Pilate whether he was asking because he really wanted to know or if he was asking because the Jews had put him up to it to try to justify his execution.   Pilate responded that he was not a Jew and didn’t just follow the priest’s orders.  He wanted to know what had actually happened.  After all, it was those Jews who were making the complaint. 

Jesus made the point that his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, and not a physical one,  As a result, it offered no competition to the Roman government.  That he was offering no resistance and there was no force trying to prevent his arrest and execution was the best proof possible he was not a threat to the Roman Empire.  Pilate asked if truly were king and Jesus explained that in the worlds eyes he appeared as a king but that he came to teach the truth, and that those who were interested in what was right would come to him. 

“Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.  But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?
Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:38-40)

Pilate then asked what right is.  Was it right to free Jesus, knowing it would almost certainly cause a revolt, or was it better to let them have their wan and kill an innocent man to protect other people.  He then went out to the Jews and said he could find no evidence of wrong doing to justify Jesus execution.  In a sudden fit of inspiration he offered them a choice.  It had become a custom that each year a political prisoner was released during the Passover week.  He offered them a choice between Jesus and the most hated prisoner they had.  Barabbas Was a known thief and gang leader who had caused several riots, and had been arrested for murder.  Nobody in their right mind wanted Barabbas free.  One can only imagine his shock when they demanded Barabbas be freed instead of Jesus.  His effort to save Jesus had failed.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Peter Denies the Lord

John 18:1-27

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.  And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.  Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.” (John 18:1-3)

After his time praying, Jesus and the disciples went into a garden where they had camped many times before.  It was where Judas expected him to go, and he brought a group of armed security officers and other men to arrest Jesus.    As Matthew tells us, Judas had told them to arrest the man he greeted with a kiss, and he walked up to Jesus embracing and kissing him. 

“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.  As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.  Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye?

And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.” (John 18:4-9)

Jesus knew exactly who they were an why they were there, but he asked who they were looking for.  When he told them he was the one, the entire group was knocked over backward by God’s power, but it made no impression on them.  When they got up Jesus repeated his statement that he was the one they were seeking and Asked that his disciples be allowed to go free.   He was not concerned about his death, but that they would not be killed. 

“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.  Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:10-11)

Peter had promised he would stand for Jesus, even to the point of death, and he proved his sincerity by attacking the band of men, but only succeeded in cutting of one of the men’s right ear, which Luke tells us Jesus touched and healed on the spot.  John and Matthew were so used to Jesus healing people they didn’t even mention it.  Jesus told Peter he had to fulfill the responsibility God had given him. 

“Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.  Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:12-14)

The band of men arrested Jesus and led him to the home of the High priest’s father in law where they could interrogate him and decide what charges to bring before taking him to court.  The High Priest, Caiaphas was the one who sometime before had said that they needed to kill Jesus so the Romans would not turn against the Pharisees and priests and kill the people. 

“And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.  But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.” (John 18:15-16)

When Jesus was arrested, all the disciples fled, but Peter and John only went a little ways, and they followed the officers to see where they took Jesus.  Because John was acquainted with the Hiph Priest and his family, he was able to go into the meeting.  Peter wasn’t known, and he stayed outside until John got permission for him to come in as well. 

“Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man's disciples?

He saith, I am not.  And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.” (John 18:17-18)

The gate keeper recognized Peter as one of Jesus disciples, and he didn’t dare go into the house, but stayed outside with the servants and officers, where he felt he would be safer. 

“The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine.  Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.  Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.

And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?

Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?  Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. “ (John 18:19-24)

After some initial interrogation at Annas’ house, Jesus was taken to the official residence of the high priest for more official questioning.  Caiaphas asked what Jesus taught and what his disciples believed, and Jesus told him it would mean more if he asked the people who listened to him.  Their statement would mean far more than what Jesus could say.  His statement made one of the others mad and he slapped Jesus for being disrespectful to the High priest,  Jesus asked why he hit him when ti would be far better proof than anything  Jesus might say. 

“And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples?

 He denied it, and said, I am not.

One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him?  Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.” (John 18:25-27)

As Peter stood around the fire, some of the people remembered having seen him with Jesus, and he denied it again.  A little later, a relative of the man whose ear he cut off, who had been there to arrest Jesus recognized him, and Peter began to curse and swear he didn’t even know who Jesus was.  Almost immediately the Rooster crowed and Peter remembered what the Lord had told him.  He was horribly embarrassed.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Jesus’ Prayer For Believers

John 17:1-26

“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.  And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.  And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.  I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.  Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.  For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” (John 17:1-8)

Jesus had just made it clear that he was going to be killed and resurrected.  He then looked up to heaven, praying that the things were about to happen would reveal Jesus as the Messiah, and thus demonstrate God as the loving Father fulfilling his promise to the world, by giving them eternal life.  He pointed out that eternal life is knowing, literally being with God, and with his son.  Eternal death is being separated from forever. 

During his life here on earth Jesus had shown God’s power and love, revealing God to those who loved and sought after him.  Now Jesus was asking that they see him as truly God, understanding that the Father and Son ore in fact one, and that while he was sent by god he is more than just a prophet or teacher, he is God. 

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.  And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.  And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:9-12)

Jesus was not praying for the unsaved, but for those who believed because they were God’s, asnd thus Christ’s as well.  Their faith in him glorifies Christ   Knowing that they will still be in the world and that he will no longer be with them, Jesus asks that the Father keep them depending on the truth of his promises to stay faithful through the period while he is away, so that they are united just as God and Christ are.   While he was here, Christ had kept them by his power, with only Judas, who had never truly believed turning away. 

“And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.  I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:13-19)

Christ was going to be with God, but he was speaking to the lost world, offering them the chance of internal hope and joy.  That hope is based on God’s promises, and the world hates their hope because they have rejected God and have no hope.  As the saying goes, “misery loves company,” and hates those who are happy, deliberately trying to destroy their happiness, rather than changing their own situation. 

Jesus does not ask that they be taken out of the world or freed from the trials and hatred, but that they would be protected from going along with and becoming part of the world.   By placing the Holy Spirit in them to guide them into the truth of God’s word,   they can remain separated from the world and dedicated to God, Just as Jesus himself deliberately avoided adopting the world’s practices for the believers’ sake.

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

Jesus wasn’t just praying for disciples of that day, but for us who believe today as a result of their teaching.  Jesus was praying specifically for you and I just hours before he was crucified.  He prayed that there would be unity and love among those that believe, so that the world could see his coming as evidence of God’s love.  Christ has given believers the same demonstration of God’s Spirit as Jesus had while he was here on earth, enabling them to have the same unity with Christ and God and that they can be perfect, in complete unity with God and each other, experiencing his love fully. 

“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.  And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:24-26)

Finally he asks that the believers be able to be with him and see the love of God for him and how God has worked in his life from the very beginning of the world, to provide their salvation because of his love for them.    The world doesn’t know God or understand his love, but the believers have known Christ and trusted his teachings about His love, so that they can experience it for themselves.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Warnings About What Was To Come

John 16:1-33

“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.  They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.  And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.  But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:1-4)

Jesus had begun telling his Apostles about the Holy Spirit’s coming and his crucifixion so that they would not give up hope and turn away when it happened.   The day would come when they would not be allowed in the Jewish churches, and people would believe they were serving God by killing them, because, although they are very religious, they do not know God.    He hadn’t told them these things earlier, because he was there with them and they would have simply forgotten it.  Now his death was near and they would remember that he had warned them these things were going to happen. 

“But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?  But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.  Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.  All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.  A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.” (John 16:5-16)

The apostles were finally understanding Jesus was going to die and were no longer asking where he was going, but they were upset by the warnings of his impending death.    He had promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to them, but he couldn’t come while Jesus was still here.  When he came he would make the world aware of their sin for refusing to believe on Christ.  He set the standard for righteousness, and they would constantly be reminded they didn’t measure up.  They would be reminded how flawed their judgments were that they had Jesus punished even though both Pilate and Herod ruled he was innocent. 

There were many things Jesus needed to teach them, but teaching takes time and concentration, and there was not enough time nor would they be able to focus for the next few days.  When the Holy spirit came, he would guide the believers into all truth.  He would always focus on the things of Christ rather than on himself, teaching them the things God said, and enabling them to understand the things that were to come.  Everything that belongs to God also belongs to Christ, and the Holy Spirit teaches those things.  In the meantime Jesus would go to the father, but after a time return.

“Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father?  They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.” (John 16:17-18)

Having figured out that Jesus was going to die and go to heaven, they were confused as to how they were going to see him again after a little while.  John 20:9 explains, “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.”  They still didn’t understand the prophecy in Psalm 16:10, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."

“Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?  Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.  A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.  And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John 16:19-22)

Though they hadn’t asked, Jesus knew the disciples were wondering what he meant that, that they would see him again and that their sadness would be turned to joy.  He used the illustration of a pregnant woman.  During the birth she goes through intense pain and struggle, but when the baby is placed in her arms, all the suffering is forgotten in the joy of having the baby.  He said he would see them again and they would experience that same kind of joy. 

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.  These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.  At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.  I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” (John 16:23-28)

When that time came they would no longer ask Jesus for what they needed, but would ask God on Jesus’ authority.  Up to this point they had not prayed claiming Jesus’ authority, but at that time they should expect their prayers to be answered.  He would no longer use stories, but explain things clearly, and when the time came they could ask God directly, and not have to depend on Jesus to pray for them.   God himself would love them because they loved and believed in Jesus, and would answer their prayers.   

“His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.  Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?  Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:29-33)

The disciples were amazed that he knew what they were thinking and said that they fully believed he was the Messiah and that he knew what they needed to know without their asking.   Jesus said they thought they believed, but that very shortly they would be scattered and full of doubt again, deserting him.   He was telling them these things so when it all happened they would not be caught completely by surprise.  They needed to understand, that as long as we live in this world there are going to be problems.  As Job 5:7 says, “…man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”  Anyone who doesn’t have problems better check his pulse to make sure he is still alive.  We can rejoice in our trouble knowing we are still alive and that Christ has overcome the world so they can’t destroy us. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

We Are Not Better Than Christ

John 15:17-27

“These things I command you, that ye love one another.  If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:17-19)

Once again Jesus emphasized the importance of loving other Christians.  I John 4:20 tells us, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”   A person who does not love other Christians cannot love God, because they hate people who do what he wants.  The world hates Christians because they hate God and his ideas.  God has chosen us out of the world to be different.  The world does not like those who do not conform. 

“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.  But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.  If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.  He that hateth me hateth my Father also.  If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.  But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.”  (John 15:20-25)

It is important we understand we are not greater than the Lord.  We should not expect or demand more than he received.  He was persecuted and reviled regularly. We should not expect to be treated like royalty.  He had no home of his own, and we should not demand a nice home or certain salary as his servants.   Though most people would never say they are better than Christ, when we get upset or don’t obey because we don’t have the respect or income we think we deserve, we indicate we are more important than he is. 

The homosexual movement has done their best to block groups who counsel Homosexuals to stop because everyone who stops is proof that it is not genetic, but is their choice.  If it is genetic, they can’t be held responsible, but if it is a choice, they are responsible for what they do, and they don’t want to take the responsibility.  Before Jesus came and fulfilled the law then provided a way to correct past sin, people could excuse themselves for what they were doing on the grounds they couldn’t help it.  Once Jesus came and told them how to correct it, they could no longer use that excuse, and must take the responsibility.  They hate both God and Jesus for making them take that responsibility, even though he provided a way to eliminate the guilt. 

When we teach people the word of God we run into the same problem.  A popular saying among those who are trying to get ahead is “never admit you’re wrong because it makes you look weak.”   For a person to have their sins forgiven it is essential to admit they were wrong, as I John 1:8-9 says.  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Several years ago a woman told me “you preachers just make people feel guilty.”  She never understood I was trying to show her how to get rid of the guilt.  Instead she chose to go to a psychologist who told her guilt was false guilt and she didn’t need to worry about it.  As far as I know she is still carrying it around, but if she had been willing to acknowledge it, she could have gotten rid of it.  The problem with never admitting you are wrong is that you can’t fix the problem right away.    
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:25-27)

After Christ’s death the Holy Spirit would come and show people Jesus is the savior of the world.   The disciples would also be able to testify because they had been with Jesus from the beginning and had seen what he did.  In I John 1:1-3 John describes the basis for his teaching and writing.  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”    Peter made a similar statement in II Peter 1:16-18.  “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

Branches Of The Vine

John 15:1-16

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.  Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:1-4)

Israel in that day was an agriculturally based society, and Jesus used agricultural illustrations because they would be understood by agricultural people of any culture.  Sadly, as we become a more urban society, we are losing those understandings, and I fear that the next generation may find the teaching in scripture almost unfathomable. 

Even the largest cities were surrounded by farmland and orchards or vineyards, and the food sold in the markets came from those farms and orchards.  Almost everyone had a family farm and most of them helped on the farm from time to time.  They were familiar with what it took to make a grape vine or fruit tree more productive.  They knew that if a branch was cut off it soon withered up and died.   They also knew that diseased branches didn’t bear fruit and it allowed to remain would infect other parts of the tree, so if the husbandman saw branch that had no fruit, they removed it to protect the rest of the tree.   Removing the diseased branches allows a tree to devote more nutrients to the fruit bearing branches, increasing production.  Pruning also eliminates excessive fruit and enables lower branches to receive needed sunlight, enabling the tree to produce more and larger fruit.

Jesus describes his relationship to his people in the same way.  A Christian who is not firmly connected and deriving his spiritual nutrients from the Lord soon stops producing and dies, and has to be removed.  Even fruitful Christians are not perfect and need things removed from their lives periodically to make them more productive. 

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:5-8)

A person who learns to live in the Spirit, depending on Christ for everything will produce much fruit, but without his power we can do nothing, as John 6:63 states.  “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing…”  A person who will not place his faith in the Lord is separated out and soon wither s and dies.  Once the dry up there is no possibility of restoring them,  so they are burned, because as Hebrews 6:4-8 tells us.  “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.  For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”

A person who abides, who lives by faith, allowing God to have his way in his heart can have expect god to supply anything he asks for, because he is glorifying God by the fruit he is producing. 
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12)

According to John 14:23-26, our obedience is the proof of our love for God.  If we will keep his commands, we will abide in him like the branch abides in the vine or tree, and just as Jesus has kept God’s commands and abides in his love.   If we learn to do so we will experience a life full of joy on continuing basis.  That commandment is what we find in John 13:34-35.  “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:13-16)

The greatest test of love is a willingness to give one’s life for one’s friends.  People who follow Christ’s commands demonstrate their love for him and he considers them his friends.   Employees are expected to do what they are told whether they understand the reasons or not.  We are Christ’s friends and partners, and as such we are privy to the secrets an employee would not know.  We didn’t choose Christ as our partner, he chose us, designating us to be his representatives and produce fruit.  The fruit we produce is eternal.  As Christ’s partners, anything we ask by his authority will be given us.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Demonstrating Our Love

John 14:15-31

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.  At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.  He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:15-21)

Just a few days before, in John 13:34-35 Jesus had told his disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  That love for each other is the evidence to the unsaved world that they are God’s children.    If Christians will keep Jesus’ commandments, he promises God will give them the Holy Spirit.  The world has no understanding of the Holy Spirit but the Christians will because he will be in them.    Though Jesus would ascend back into heaven, his disciples would never be alone.    Like any good parent, God will give extra attention to an obedient child. 

“Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22)

The  other Judas , from Acts 1:13 we know this to be James’ brother, asked how Jesus could manifest himself to believers without the world also seeing him.   

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.  These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:23-26)

Jesus explained that if a person loves him, he will obey God’s commands.  While a parent loves his children, those who will not obey are scolded and punished, but those who are obedient get to know their fathers love in much more pleasant manner.  Disobedient children frequently feel their parents don’t love them.  In the same way, God is able to share his love for obedient children in a more loving manner.   He will come into them and live with them.  A person who doesn’t love him enough to obey him misses out on that close communion.  This is God’s plan, and the Holy Spirit’s job is to teach us and remind us of what God has commanded.  Sadly, many people spend all their time trying to get god’s attention by other activities rather than simply obeying. 

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.  Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.  But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” (John 14:27-31)

The world always thinks Christ came to send peace to the world.  In Matthew 10:34-36, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.”    Though Jesus offers peace, his very presence causes conflict, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” according to Romans 8:7.  As a result, Isaiah 48:22 tells us, “There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.” 

While the world tries to obtain peace, Romans 3:17 says, “And the way of peace have they not known.”  The peace Jesus promises is that inner peace in one’s heart.  It does not mean there are no conflicts around us, but that we are not upset by the things around us.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Jesus Is The Way

John 14:1-14

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” (John 14:1-4)

Jesus had just told his disciples he was going to be betrayed and killed, and that there was nothing they could do to prevent it.  He told them they should trust him just as they did God, that he knew what was happening and had it under control.  His death would not be the end, He was just going to prepare things for them (and us) and would return for them.  When he came back for them, they would be with him permanently.  He told them that they already knew where he was going and how to get there. 

“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:5-7)

As usual, Thomas refused to take anything for granted, demanding all the details.  They didn’t know where he was going and how could they know the way unless they did?  While such an attitude can prevent making a lot of mistakes, it can also make one appear indecisive and prevent one from acting.  Remember, this is why he was known as Didymus. 

Jesus explained what he had explained to Nicodemus in John 3:16-21 again.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

Jesus is the truth, the standard by whom all will be judged.  He is also the source of life, and the only way of salvation is faith in him.  It is the same message they had heard him preach for three years.  If they had really understood him, they would have understood God’s plan as well.  After what they were about to see, they would understand his plan and his love. 

“Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?  Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.  Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.” (John 14:8-11)

Philip said that if they could understand God they would be satisfied.  Jesus questioned how they could not understand that he and the Father are one, and that to truly know one is to know the other, almost like knowing identical twins.  Jesus’ words were what the father had said and the things he had done were done by the Father ‘s power.   It didn’t matter whether they believed him because of what he said, or because of what he said since both were by God. 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

Jesus then told them that people who believed on him would do the things he had done and even greater works because he was going back to his father.  As a result many have insisted on trying to perform miracles, not understanding that wasn’t the work he was referring to. Miracles were just a tool to draw people to Christ, the work is drawing people to Christ.  The Jews had heard the gospel for two thousand years, and many of them were ripe to accept Christ because the seed had been planted and watered for so long.  The greater work is to reach people who have not had that constant teaching. 

Another fallacy that has arisen from this statement is that if we pray “in Jesus’ name”, God is obligated to give us what we ask for.  I John 5:14-15 clarifies this somewhat.  “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”   The prayer needs to be according to his will.  For several years I worked for a plumbing company.  As their employee, I was authorized to buy materials we needed to do the job in the company’s name, but I was not authorized things I wanted in their name.   Attempts to buy things which were not authorized would not be honored.   In the same way Christ has authorized us to ask for certain things credited to his account, but we are not authorized to demand everything we want, and such prayers may not be honored without prior approval.