Monday, November 30, 2015

The Good Shepherd

John 9:40-10:23

“And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?

Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:40-41)

Jesus had just said that he had come so that those who had never seen or understood the gospel would have the chance and that those who had the opportunity would be shown not to have seen what was right in front of them.  The Pharisees asked him if he thought they were blind, and  said that if they were truly blind they would be innocent, but their insistence  they knew made them guilty. 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.  This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.” (John 10:1-6)

Jesus then gave a parable based on herding sheep, an occupation they were very familiar with.  At night Herds of sheep were kept in large corrals with armed guards.  The owner of the sheep would come openly to the gate where the guards would let him in with no hesitation.  Anyone caught sneaking in obviously was up to no good.  Most animals are very aware of any possible threat and sheep are no exception.  They quickly learn to trust their herder, but will flee from anyone they don’t know.  The shepherd who has spent time with his sheep soon learns to know each one, and often names them.  When they know him, they will come when they recognize his voice, while a stranger’s voice will drive them away.   The Pharisees understood the story but didn’t see how it related to them.

“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.  All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.  The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:7-10)

Over the centuries there had been several who had claimed to be the Messiah.  Jesus said they were all trying to take away the people, and God’s people didn’t recognize them.  Jesus was the one the guards opened the door for, enabling the sheep to go in and out, and to be saved.  Those others were not interested in the good of the sheep, but only in satisfying themselves by killing or harming the sheep.  Jesus was and is concerned about his people, that they have everything they need in abundance and be protected from the things which might harm them. 

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13)

The good shepherd has an emotional and financial interest in the sheep.  As a result, he will even risk his life to protect them and keep from losing his investment.   The person who has no investment in the sheep either emotionally or financially will leave the flock to fend for themselves to avoid risk to himself, because he has nothing to lose.   Why should they put up with the problems of a shrinking attendance or low pay or buildings that need repairs?  They are not concerned about the people, but only about their own paycheck or reputation.    As a result the people are scattered and caught by wolves. 
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:14-16)

Jesus is the good shepherd.  He has taken the trouble to get acquainted with each of his sheep individually, and they know him.  He also has a good relationship with God, and is willing to sacrifice his life, his career and his income for his sheep.   He is reaching out to other people in an effort to bring them into the same fold.  This parable is important, not only because it shows us a lot about Jesus, but also because his is the example for pastors and church leaders.  In fact the word “pastor” means “sheepherder.”

The other sheep Jesus spoke of are the Gentiles who would turn to him.  One day, both Jewish and Gentile Christians will be united into one group.  They will no longer be Messianic Jews and Christians. 

“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  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. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

Jesus said God especially loved him for his willingness to sacrifice his life for other people.  He made the point that, as God in the flesh, no one could take his life from him unless allowed them to.   He voluntarily went to the cross to be sacrificed, and at the proper time he would take it back for himself.  He was just doing what God told him to do. 

“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.  And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?  Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21)

Jesus statements caused a major division among the Jews.  Some of them said he was insane and made no sense.  Others listened and said it made a lot of sense, making the point that insanity, or demon possession did not give people the ability to make a blind person see.  They were convinced there was more involved. 

And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. Joh 10:23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.” John 10:22-23)

This particular event took place during the festival known as Hanukah, celebrating the rededication of the Temple in 168 BC, under the Maccabees.  It takes place about Christmas time.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Willingly Ignorant

John 9:24-41

“Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.

He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:24-25)

They called the man back in and told him to recant and give God the glory, denying Christ had any part in it because they did not believe Jesus came from God.  The man said it didn’t matter whether Jesus was a sinner like they said or not, he still knew that where he had been blind he now could see.  Their opinion didn’t change anything. 

“Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?

He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?

Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples.  We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.” (John 9:26-29)

In an effort to trick the man into changing his story, like lawyers today, the Pharisee lawyers demanded he tell the story again.  The man said he had already told them the truth several times and there was no use repeating it unless they were thinking about becoming Jesus disciples.    That made them mad and they accused him of Being Jesus disciple because he was ignorant.  They knew where Moses got his law but they didn’t know where Jesus got his teaching. 

“The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.  Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.  Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.  If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:30-33)

The man said he was amazed they were so much smarter than he was and could ignore the evidence that Jesus was from God.   At no other time in history had anyone been able to make a person who had never seen able to see.    They knew God didn’t act on behalf of wicked people, but did act on that of those who worshipped Him.  Clearly their own teachings implied Jesus had to be from God or he could not have performed such a miracle. 

“They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.” (John 9:34)

When facts and logic make their position indefensible, people who refuse to consider any other viewpoint often impugn the intelligence and moral character of those who question their position, rather than admit they don’t have a leg to stand on.    The Pharisees accused the man of being an illegitimate child and thinking he knew more than they did.  They threw the man out. 

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?

He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?

And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.

And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” (John 9:35-38)

After the man had been thrown out, Jesus asked him if he believed in the Messiah, the man asked who he was so he could believe.  When he learned it was Jesus himself he had no doubt that it was true.  He worshipped him. 

“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?

Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:39-41)

Jesus said he had come into the world for the purpose of enabling those who had no idea the truth to understand it and showing that those who thought they knew it all knew nothing.  Some of the Pharisees challenged his statement, asking if he thought they were blind to the truth.  Jesus said if they were truly ignorant, they would be open to learn the truth.  Because they were convinced they knew the truth, they would not listen to the truth and they were thus guilty.  A person can be excused for not knowing, but there is no excuse for a person who refuses to even consider the facts.    They have chosen to remain ignorant.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Healing a Blind Man

John 9:1-23

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.  And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:1-5)

Seeing the blind man, the disciples made the same assumption most people make, that it must have been punishment for something he or his parents had done.  It is the same assumption made by Job’s friends when he was being tested.  Such assumptions hurt a lot of people.    Jesus said that the blindness was not the result of either one’s sin, but that God had allowed it so that they could see God’s power in the man’s life.  By healing him Jesus would be showing god’s power to the world, so that people could believe on him and receive salvation.   While Jesus was alive he was the light of the world, but after his death, he would not be able to do those things, and it would be up to his disciples to portray him to the world. 

In Job’s case, God was revealing himself more fully to Job, helping him to understand it was God’s mercy rather than Job’s goodness that had given him so much, but in the process, Job’s friends got a new understanding of God’s working.  If the problem is God’s judgment for something the person has done, we don’t usually need to tell them.  For example liver cirrhosis as a result of alcoholism or drug addiction, AIDS as a result of a promiscuous lifestyle , a mate leaving as a result of one’s unfaithfulness, or bankruptcy as a result of materialistic greed are fairly obvious, as they are directly related to what one has done.  Frequently the connection is less obvious but if it is God’s judgment, they still know why they are experiencing the problem, though they may deny it.  A woman who was unable to get a certain job because of certain legal constraints accused me of believing it was because she walked out on her husband, even though I hadn’t been aware she was having the problem.  Apparently God was causing her conscience to bother her. 

Frequently, like the blind man, or Jo, people go through problems to draw them or others closer to God, or simply because those things are a natural part of life.  Because we do not know what God’s purpose is, we are not to judge them.  Job’s friends were rebuked by God for what their blasphemy against God and Job.  . 

“When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” (John 9:6-7)
It is interesting that this time, Jesus spat on the ground and rubbed the resultant mud on the man’s eyes then told the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  Other times he touched a blind person’s eyes or just spoke.  It makes it very clear that God does not always do things exactly the same way, but uses various things, as he sees fit. 

I Corinthians 12:4-11 states, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”  Just because a person has a different experience or way of doing things does not mean he is wrong. 

“The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?  Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.  Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?

He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.  Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.” (John 9:8-12)

The people who knew the man were amazed.  Some thought it must be somebody who just looked like him and others were sure it was him and wanted to know what had happened.  He explained what Jesus had done and his command to go wash and that when he did so, his eyes worked.   He didn’t know where Jesus might have gone while he went to the pool to wash. 

“They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.  And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.  Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.  Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.” (John 9:13-16)

Under the law, a person who was healed was to go to the priests and offer a sacrifice to God.   Hillel’s school of Pharisees required they be brought to the Pharisees instead so they could decide whether it was from God or not and what the person needed to do.  The man explained what Jesus had done ot the Pharisees.  Some of them stated that since he had done it on the Sabbath day Jesus could not be from God, while others questioned how anyone who was not from god could do it at all.  It caused serious conflict.    

”They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes?

He said, He is a prophet.

But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. Joh 9:19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?

His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.  These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.  Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:17-23)

The former blind man was convinced Jesus was a prophet.  Unwilling to acknowledge that he was or might be, the Pharisees attempted to discredit the miracle, refusing to believe the people,  His parents confirmed that it was their son and that he had been blind from birth but they had no idea how he had been healed except what he said.   Knowing that the Pharisees had threatened to excommunicate anyone who said they believed Jesus was the Messiah, they told the Pharisees they’d have to ask the man.  It is amazing how far some people will go to try to force others to accept their opinion regardless of the evidence tot eh contrary. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Carnal Cannot Understand The Spiritual

John 8:31-59

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

There was a major division among the Jews, even before Christ began his ministry, with the debates between the many schools of interpretation by the Scribes and Pharisees, as well as the conflict between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.   If they were going to be Jesus disciples, they would have to follow his word instead of the teachings of all those groups.  It is essentially what he would tell the twelve in John 14:23-24.  “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.”

 If a person doesn’t care enough to find out what God wants and try to do it, he really isn’t a Christian.  If a person loves the Lord he will try to obey, and the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth to him, so that he can live confidently.

“They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.  And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.  I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.  I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” (John 8:33-38)

Once again the people focused on the earthly rather than the spiritual concept, claiming as descendants of Abraham, they had never been servants to anyone.  As so often happens when people take a defensive attitude, they ignored the facts.  Israel had been slaves to Egypt, to Babylon, to the Persians, to Greece, and at that time were held by the Romans.  They were actively seeking to throw off Roman rule at that time.  They denied any need to be set free. 

Jesus made it clear he was not talking about physical freedom, but spiritual freedom.  When a person commits a sinful act they allow a sinful attitude or spirit to control them. Romans 6:16 asks, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”     Fortunately, a person can be delivered from slavery, and when Christ makes us free, we are completely free.  I Corinthians 6:9-11 states, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  When a person allows Christ to have control, he is no longer a slave to sin. Romans 6:22 says, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”While the Jews were physically Abraham’s descendants, spiritually, they had Satan’s attitude rather than Abraham’s. 
“They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father.

 Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.  But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.  Ye do the deeds of your father.

Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.  Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?  He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” (John 8:39-47)

In John 6:44, Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”  Unless God causes a person to understand the spiritual they will always be limited to a carnal understanding.   I Corinthians 2:14 tells us, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  This group of Jews never allowed the Lord to teach them.  They didn’t understand that while they were physically children of Abraham, they were spiritually Satan’s, even after repeated attempts to show them.   Satan had such control of their thinking they could not understand.  Instead they would do what Satan wanted.  The very fact they wanted to kill him for telling them what God said was proof that they were believing his lies.  Satan was the original liar, starting with his lie to Eve, and he has never changed.  Though they had no evidence that he was lying, they refused to believe Jesus, because they were not of God. 

“Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.  And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” (John 8:48-51)

A common ploy when one has no valid argument is to begin to attack one’s reputation and character.  The Jews accused Jesus of being controlled by Satan and of being a Samaritan.  It was a racial slur implying he was not really a Jew at all.  Jesus responded that his teaching honored God and their slurs were disrespectful of both him and God.  If a person would do what he was teaching that person would never face spiritual death. 

“Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.  Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. ” (John 8:52-59)

Still hung up on the physical, They pointed out Abraham had died some 2200 years before, despite obeying God.  Did Jesus thing he was better than Abraham or all the other prophets?  Jesus pointed out that what mattered was that God honored what Jesus said by making all the miracles happen, and that while they claimed to know him they ignored what he said.  Clearly they were lying as much as Jesus would b to say he didn’t know him.    He said that Abraham foresaw his day and rejoiced at what he knew was coming. 

The Jews took his statement as saying Jesus had been alive in Abraham’s day and challenged his claim, since he was less than fifty years old.  Though they had deliberately misconstrued what he said, Jesus told them he had been alive long before Abraham had been born.    While they didn’t believe him, John 1:1-3 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”  As John 1:10 states, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. “

They attempted to stone him to death, but Jesus simply disappeared and walked through the crowd unseen.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

If You Know Me, You Know The Father

John 8:12-30

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.   Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.  And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. ” (John 8:12-16)

The Jewish leaders had just asked Jesus to comment on the Law’s requirement for the death penalty for adultery and Jesus had made the point that even if they executed the woman, they were not following the law properly.     The crowd who had been present when the leaders asked him the question were still there and Jesus spoke to them.  He referred to himself as the light of the world, the one who reveals the truth, as light reveals things.  Like a person who carries a flashlight or lantern can avoid tripping hazards, a person who walks with God can avoid violating God’s laws because he has that light in his life to show him what is wrong.    Had they been following God they would not have had such a question. 

Some of the Pharisees accused him of lying because he was talking about himself.  Jesus pointed out that just because a person is peaking of himself, it does not automatically mean he is lying.  He knows who he was and where he had been and they did not.  They were judging strictly on their own opinions, but Jesus said he judges no man.  If he were to judge. His judgment would be right, because it would not be based on his opinion alone, but also on that of God. 

“It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.  I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.” (John 8:17-18)

Deuteronomy 19:15 states that nothing could be established as fact solely on the word of one witness. But that two or more provided enough verification.  “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”  They accused Jesus of having no supporting witnesses, yet God himself had testified on his behalf, both at his baptism, when God spoke from heaven, and through the many miracles.  Legally, they should not dismiss his statements out of hand. 

“Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” (John 8:19)

The Pharisees then demanded where his father was so they could ask him.  Jesus pointed out that they really didn’t know him, but were just jumping to conclusions, and they didn’t know his father, God, at all.  If they had taken the trouble to get to know Jesus, they would have gotten to know his father as well, just as a child’s friend son gets to know the child’s father, both by the child’s talking about him and by visiting in the home or meeting him at various functions. 

“These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.” (John 8:20)

When Jesus spoke these words, he was in the treasury, one of the rooms of the Temple, and though the Jews had ordered his arrest, no one was willing to make the arrest because it was not yet his time. 

“Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.

And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.  I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8:21-24)

Jesus than announced again that he would be leaving and they would not be able to find him and would die in their sins because they could not go where he was going.  They understood he was talking about death but thought he was talking about committing suicide.  He made the same point that he had made to Nicodemus, that if they did not believe in him they were condemned already. 

“Then said they unto him, Who art thou?

And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.  I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.  They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.” (John 8:25-27)

When they asked who Jesus was he told them he was exactly who he had claimed to be from, the beginning, the Son of God.  He had much to tell them and things they were doing that needed correcting.  God was and is always right and they could depend on what Jesus said because it came from God.  The people still did not understand that he was talking about God.   They were still hung up on their traditions and customs. 

“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.  And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:28-29)

Jesus said that when they saw him crucified, and resurrected, fulfilling the prophecies, they would understand that he really was the Messiah, and that he was doing what God directed, and that God had not turned away from him.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter reminded the people of the prophecies they knew and how Christ fulfilled them and three thousand people were saved.   A little later, in Acts 3, Peter reminded the people again of the prophecies and what had happened and another five thousand were saved as a result. 

“As he spake these words, many believed on him.” (John 8:30)

Many believed on Jesus just because of what he said.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Woman Taken in Adultery

John 8:1-11

“Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.  And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.” (John 8:1-2)

The Mount of Olives was a popular campground for visitors to Jerusalem, and Jesus was camping there.  When he came to the temple early in the morning, a crowd gathered and he sat down and began to teach them. 

“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?  This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.” (John 8:3-6)

A woman had been arrested for committing adultery during the night.  Looking for something that Jesus said that was in clear contradiction to the Law, the scribes and Pharisees brought her to Jesus to see if they could get him to do something that people would find offensive.  They referred to Law, saying that it demanded that an adulteress be executed.  They asked him if he thought that was an appropriate punishment.  Since they had caught her in the very sex act, there was no question of her guilt.  Jesus simply stooped down writing in the dust as if he hadn’t heard them.

“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.  And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.” (John 8:7-8)

They refused to be ignored, demanding He answer their question.  Finally, Jesus stood up and told them that the one who had never done thing wrong should be the one who started t5he process, casting the first stone.  Guilty people are not qualified to judge others, as Paul points out in Romans 2:1.  “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”  They tend to excuse those most like themselves while being very strict with those who are different. 

The Law they were referring to was Leviticus 20:10.  “And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”  Since they had caught the woman in the sex act, they also knew who the man was.  The Law specified that both the man and the woman were to be executed.   By executing the woman and letting the man go free, they were setting a double standard, and violating the Law themselves.  After giving his opinion, Jesus stooped back down and continued what he was writing. 

“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (John 8:9)

They all knew exactly what the Law said, as did the rest of the crowd.  None of the leaders dared throw the first stone, knowing to do so would only call attention to their guilt.  They slipped away hoping no one would notice, leaving Jesus and the woman standing in the middle of the crowd.  

“When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord.

And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)

After a few minutes, Jesus stood up and asked the woman where her accusers were or if they were still bringing charges, and she said no one was pressing the charges.  Jesus said he wasn’t going to bring any charges against her, but that she needed to make sure she didn’t do it again. 

Jesus clearly did not condone her sin, or excuse it, but under the law, a person could not be executed unless there were two or three witnesses to prove his guilt.  Deuteron0my 17:6-7 says, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.  The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.”   When the rulers slunk away no witnesses were left to accuse her.  Legally he had to let her go if he was to follow the Law.  He in no way impugned God's righteousness by implying that the sentence was unfair or excessively severe.    

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Disagreement Whether Jesus Is Messiah

John 7:28-53

“Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.  But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.   Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.” (John 7:28-30) 

The Jews from Jerusalem had decided Jesus could not be the Messiah because they knew his background and they had been taught no one would know where Jesus was from.   Jesus said they knew him and where he was from physically but that he had not come for his own purposes but for those of the one who sent him.  Unfortunately, despite all the teaching they had had about God, they didn’t know him, and thus were unable to determine whether Jesus was from him or not.  Since they didn’t know God themselves they were dependent on degreed from the different schools of interpretation or other people’s opinions.  Jesus was from God and knew him, having been sent as God’s representative.  There was a concerted effort to arrest Jesus, but God protected him because it was not yet time for his death. 

“And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?  The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.” (John 7:31-32)

Many of the people thought about the miracles Jesus had done and concluded that no other Messiah could have given more evidence of his qualifications than Jesus. And believed in him.  When the Pharisees heard that people were believing what Jesus said, they got with the chief priests, formally charging him as a false teacher and arranging for officers to arrest him. 
“Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.  Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.
Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?  What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?” (John 7:31-36)

In the meantime, Jesus announced that he was only going to be there for a short time, before he went back to the one who sent him, and that when he went they would no longer be able to find him.    He was referring to his death and subsequent ascension into heaven.    Not understanding the prophecies that the Messiah would be killed, the Jews could not figure out what he was talking about.  They concluded he must be talking about going to the Jewish settlements in other countries where other Jews were not welcome. 
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:37-39)

On the last day of the feast, Jesus used the same metaphor he had used in John 6, of eating his body and drinking his blood.  Like he had told the Samaritan woman, he said anyone who believed him would have a fountain of living water.  As John notes here that fountain of living water is the Holy Spirit,
At the time the Holy Spirit had not yet been given  because As John 16:7 tells us, he would not come as long as Christ was still here.  “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.”

“Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.  Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?  Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?  So there was a division among the people because of him.  And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.” (John 7:40-44)

After hearing what Jesus said and realizing it was what the prophecies said, Many of the people concluded Jesus was another prophet, while others believed he was the Messiah.  A third group insisted that since the prophecies stated Messiah would be a descendant of David and come from Bethlehem, and Jesus was from Galilee. He could not be the Messiah.  As we learn from Matthew and Luke, both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David, and Christ was born in Bethlehem, Joseph’s home town.  They simply hadn’t bothered to check out the facts.  As a result there was a lot of disagreements, and while the officers had orders to arrest him, they were hesitant, fearing it might cause a riot. 

“Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?

The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.

Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?  But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.” (John 7:45-49)

When the officers returned without Jesus, the Pharisees and priests demanded to know why they hadn’ arrested him.  The officers essentially said after hearing what he said and seeing its effect on the crowd, they were afraid to.  The leaders asked how they could fall for it because none of the experts, the ones who had been to the schools of interpretation believed it.  The people who didn’t know the law like they did were cursed. 

Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

“They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.  And every man went unto his own house. ” (John 7:50-53)

Nicodemus was one of the Leaders, and he asked how they could order a man’s arrest and execution without giving him a proper hearing and checking out what he said.  That really upset them because he was one of them.  They accused him of being one of those ignorant Galileans as well.  They told him he needed to check out the scriptures because God wouldn’t call a prophet from Galilee.  They had the same attitude that is common today, that only those who have their doctorates are capable of knowing what is right.  Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is dismissed as being ignorant.  Unfortunately, educated people often find it even more difficult than others to consider the possibility they are wrong.   

Monday, November 16, 2015

At The Feast Of Tabernacles


“After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.  Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand.  His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.  For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world.  For neither did his brethren believe in him.” (John 7:1-5)

Twice Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for Passover and at for some of the other feasts.  The Jewish leadership in Jerusalem had become very upset during visits and after the latest visit for Passover, were actively seeking his death.   Six months later, when the Feast of Tabernacles, the national camp out celebrating the forty years in the wilderness, came. Jesus considered it too risky to go early and make public appearances in Judea. 

Though they supported his efforts to reach the people, his own brothers did not believe he was truly the Messiah.  They were convinced he was overstating the danger.   They told him that if he wanted the people to follow him he needed to go on tour publicize his teaching.  The only way to get national attention would be through a good publicity campaign.  It is the way Politicians get a large following, and musicians popularize their recordings, and has gained large followings for the leaders of various religions, and they thought it would work for him. 
“Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.  The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.  Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.” (John 7:6-8)

Jesus said they did not understand.  He came to die, but first he had to fulfill the prophecies.  To be killed at that time would have prevented his being able to be our savior.  Because they thought of him as just their older brother, they didn’t understand the hatred of the people as a result of Satan’s influence.  He was different from the world and it is natural for people to hate those who are different, especially if the difference calls attention to their own deficiencies, and Jesus did point out their sin.  To go early would give his enemies an opportunity to kill him.  The publicity would work against what God had planned.   He encouraged his brothers to go ahead, saying he would come later. 

“When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.  But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.  Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?  And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.  Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.” (John 7:9-13)

After his brothers left, Jesus went to the Feast anonymously.  The people were expecting to see him as the law required every man to celebrate the feast, and were actively seeking him.  Some believed he was teaching the truth while others thought he was just another would be cult leader.  Because of the threats by the religious leaders, they did not dare hold a public discussion of his teachings, however. 

“Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.  And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (John 7:14-15)

The Feast of Tabernacles lasts a full week, and when Jesus had not made an appearance for the first few days, the Jewish leaders assumed he wasn’t there and let down their guard.  Jesus went into the temple and began teaching.  The Jews in Jerusalem considered people from Galilee uneducated and ignorant, and could not believe a person from there could understand the scriptures like he did, since he had never earned a doctoral degree from one of their accredited colleges.   

“Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.  If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.  He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.  Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” (John 7:16-19)

Jesus said he was not teaching his own understandings but what God had told him.  Anyone who cared enough about pleasing God to see what he said would be able tell whether it came from God or not.   As he said, a person who teaches his own ideas and principles is trying to build his own reputation, but a person who speaks God’s word can be trusted.  Though they had had the law since Moses time. Some sixteen hundred years before, they were not keeping it and as a result they were trying to have him killed. 

“The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?

Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.  Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.  If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. “(John 7:21-24)

Some of the people accused Jesus of having a demon that caused  him to be paranoid and think the leaders were trying to kill him, but as we have seen, the crowds were afraid to talk about him because they feared retaliation by the Jews. 

The only legal basis for having Jesus executed was for healing the man at the pool on the Sabbath, which the claimed broke the Sabbath.  Jesus pointed out that since the Mosaic law required that a child be circumcised when he was eight days old, they thought nothing of performing the circumcision on the Sabbath.   If it was okay to perform elective surgery on the Sabbath it should also be okay to heal a person.  They needed to focus less on the ritual actions and be fair in their judgment. 

“Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?  But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?  Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.” (John 7:25-27)

The people from Jerusalem knew the Jews had ordered Jesus arrested and killed for breaking the Sabbath.  They couldn’t understand why they hadn’t already arrested him unless they believed he was the Messiah.  They were sure he couldn’t be the Messiah because they knew where Jesus was from. And didn’t think anyone would know where the Messiah would come from.  After all they had been taught about Messiah’s coming by the experts, the scribes and Pharisees, the doctors and religious leaders of the day.    They ignored the fact that the prophecies said Jesu would be from Nazareth,  that his family would originally be from Bethlehem, that he would be a descendant of David, and various other prophecies.  They were accepting the “experts” interpretation of the scripture as more important than what they read for themselves.   

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Flesh Profits Nothing

John 6:52-71

“The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52)

Most of the Jews were still caught up in the thought of physically eating the body of Christ and were having trouble with what he was saying.  They could not understand how he could give them his body to eat.

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.  As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.  This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” (John 6:53-58)

When Jesus insisted they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life they were even more confused.  The only way that was possible was if he died.  It is this passage coupled with his statements at the last supper that is the basis for the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.  Matthew 26:26-28 describes what happened.  “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Like the Jews, the Catholic Church assumed Jesus was speaking in a literal sense, concluding that one had to physically eat the body and drink the blood of Christ to be saved.  They interpreted Jesus’ statements to mean the bread and drink of the communion service were literally changed into Christ’s physical body.  While most of the Protestant churches do not believe the elements are transformed into Christ’s literal body and blood, several of them taught partaking communion is essential for salvation. 

The Jews did get one thing correct.  Jesus was in effect telling them he would have to die for them to be saved.  However, they didn’t understand was that the eating his flesh and drinking his blood was a spiritual rather than a physical concept.  Christ would die on the cross, offering his blood as a sacrifice for sin just as the sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament.   The person offering the sacrifice had to place his hand on the animals head while it was killed, admitting his guilt and identifying that sacrifice as being for his sin.   It was a physical act, not as spiritual one.  Salvation is the result of doing the same thing spiritually, of personally acknowledging one’s sin and by faith accepting Christ’s sacrifice as atonement for our own sins. 

“These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.   Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?  When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?  What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” (John 6:59-62)

Many of those who came to hear what Jesus said concluded what he was saying was too difficult for anyone to understand.  Jesus said if they were confused and upset by this, what would they think if he just went back to heaven without making the sacrifice?   Would seeing him go even make them understand what they were missing?

 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.  And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (John 6:63-65)

Jesus than made the point that the physical sacrifices or actions mean nothing unless the heart attitude is right.   Even praying the sinner’s prayer will not make any difference unless the spirit is right is a waste of time.  Sadly, in the church there are many doing all the right things but who have never accepted Christ.   About two years before his crucifixion, Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him and that many others did not believe.  As he told them earlier, no man could come to him unless God draws him and makes him to understand. 

One of the basic requirements for teaching is a pupil who is willing to learn.  It is impossible to teach someone who has decided they know everything they need to know or that they aren’t interested.  God is not willing for anyone to go to hell, but if they refuse to listen and learn he will not force them to accept him.  As a result. They will not be saved. 

“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.  Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?  Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:66-69)

When they heard that they would need to change their inmost attitudes rather than just their outward actions, many of the people walked away.    Over the years we have had a lot of people come to the church because they saw others who came get victory over alcoholism or marital problems.   After a while they dropped out because it wasn’t doing them any good, because they were not willing to let God change their underlying attitudes.  They wanted to continue to hang around with their drinking buddies and wicked friends.  This is exactly what these disciples were doing.    Jesus asked the twelve if they were more committed or if they would turn away as well.  Peter said they were convinced there was nowhere else to go because they were sure he was the Messiah. 

“Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?  He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” (John 6:70-71)

Jesus pointed out that he had personally chosen them and one of them was a devil, was following Satan.  Judas was called by Christ, and he served as one of the apostles, attaining such respect that even when Jesus clearly identified him as the one who would betray him, they thought they were more likely to betray him than Judas, yet the whole time he was a devil.  He didn’t lose his salvation, he never had it. 

There is an important lesson here for the modern church.  Judas was called of Christ, he went soul winning with the others and was so active that they made him their treasurer, preaching and teaching others, yet he had never been saved and was serving Satan.  He is perhaps the supreme example of what Paul was talking about in I Corinthians 11:13-15.  “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.   And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” 

Far too many Christians have been deceived by a person like Judas’ actions.  Jesus did not say we would know them by their actions, but by their fruit, by what the Holy Spirit produced in them.  The fruit of the Spirit, described in Galatians 5:22-23 shows up in a person’s life as a group of attitudes.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  If he is present, the Holy Spirit will produce all of these attitudes to some degree.  Romans 8:9 is very specific, “…if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  If these attitudes are not present in a person’s life it implies he isn’t a Christian, no matter how zealous he may be.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

No Respect Among His Own

John 6:41-51

“The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.  And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?” (John 6:41-42)

Mark 6:2-4 describes this event.  “And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?   Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”

Jesus had grown up in Nazareth.  Capernaum was only about twenty miles away, and like many rural areas everyone knew each other.  As a carpenter Joseph had worked on many of their homes, or sold them things he had made, and they had friends and acquaintances in every community.  They had not moved to Nazareth until Jesus was five or six years old so few knew the details of his birth.  When Jesus said he came down from heaven, they thought he was making up a story.   They were sure they knew everything about him. 

Frequently people will choose a local man for political office because they think they know what he thinks and believes and will act on their behalf.  At the same time they will often reject a teacher or employer, convinced they know as much or more than he does.  As a result, groups tend to overlook some of the potentially most valuable leaders and teachers, looking for someone with a different background instead of finding out what their own people know.   No one knows how many groups or churches have been destroyed because they assumed “experts” from somewhere else were better qualified than members of their own group.  The focus on human education and experience opens a door to false doctrine.   Much as they liked hearing Jesus and seeing his miracles, they clung to the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees rather than listening to Him.  After all, they had the doctoral and legal degrees.

Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.  No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.  Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” (John 6:43-46)

Certain revivalists have been known for their ability to persuade people to “come to Jesus,” to make a profession of faith.  Their techniques have been closely examined by others in an effort to learn how they can have similar results.  As a result pastors and teachers are taught to incorporate certain elements into their messages to get people to respond.  There have been a number of contests to see who could write the most effective “soul-winning” sermon.  Such an approach completely overlooks what Jesus teaches in this passage. 

Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”  No matter how persuasive or stimulating the message is, a person cannot be saved unless the Lord produces the desire.  It is not the skilled or eloquent appeal of the speaker or soul-winner that results in their salvation, but God teaching them.   We do not have to rush them into a decision because, “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”  It is not just those who have heard the Word, but those that have heard and have learned from him that come to Christ.  A basic law of learning is that a person must think about a subject to learn it.   Rushing them to a decision prevents their thinking it through and learning what God intended.    

One is left to wonder how many of those professions are the result of the speaker’s eloquence or skill in using psychological princioples rather than of God drawing them.    Matthew 7:21-23 warns, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.   Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?   And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.  I am that bread of life.  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:47-51)

Once again, Jesus stated that anyone who believed on him has everlasting life.  As he pointed out though the Jews ate manna every day in the wilderness, they still died.  Jesus is the living bread and anyone who eats it will not die.  Jesus would sacrifice his human body to make eternal life available to the world.  Anyone who partakes of that sacrifice will live forever.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Explaining Salvation To the Galileans

John 6:22-40

“The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.  And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?” (John 6:22-25)

The people had seen the disciples depart, and knew that Jesus was not with them.  There were no other boats close by but the town of Tiberias was close and there were boats there.   Since Capernaum was home for several of the disciples and thy had not returned during the night. the people assumed that was where they had gone and hired boats in Tiberias to transport them across the sea.  They were amazed to find Jesus already there and asked how he had gotten there so quickly. 

“Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.  Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” (John 6:26-27)

Rather than answer the question, Jesus pointed out that their primary concern was not even curiosity about the miracles, but about the free food that he had provided.   Even those who came to be healed were only interested in having their bodies healed.  Sadly, today many come to the church for financial aid, or to get help with marriage problems or addiction with no interest in anything beyond their immediate condition.   In most cases they are only interested in superficial changes.   They need to change their focus from temporal physical things such as food, to the spiritual things that are eternal.  Those things come through Jesus Christ, by the power of God.   

“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:28-29)

The people understood that there was something needed on their part, just as most people who come to the church for help understand they need to take action.  Jesus told them the thing they needed to do was to believe in Christ.   It was exactly the same thing he told Nicodemus, and that we find throughout the scriptures.    Unfortunately many think faith is not enough, and that one must be baptized or join the church or follow some set of rules.  They are in effect calling Jesus a liar. 

They said therefore unto him, What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?  Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (John 6:30)

The Jews continuously wanted some miracle to prove that a message was from God.   Though Jesus had done many miracles including feeding just the day before, they were demanding another proof.   In Matthew 16:3-4, a little later, Jesus rebuked the people, “He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?   A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.”

They were willing to accept the signs of the clouds and the color of the sunrise or sunset as indicating what the weather would be but they refused to accept the signs God had given them, even when they were less ambiguous.  They wanted a sign like the manna that came every day because they were not willing to commit.   

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” (John 6:32-33)

Jesus pointed out the bread did not come from Moses but from God himself.  Even the manna was a temporary expedient to supply earthly needs.  God offers an eternal supply that will provide life to the entire world.  Just as he used the water to witness to the Samaritan woman, He uses the food they were seeking to witness to the Galilean people. 

“Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.  But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.  All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.  And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. “ (John 6:34-40)

They asked for that bread, just as the Samaritan woman asked for living water.  Jesus then made it clear he was not talking about ordinary food, but spiritual life which is obtained by believing in him   Though they had seen all the evidence, they had chosen not to believe, but anyone who did would be saved.  He will not refuse anyone who comes to him because he came to please God rather than himself and as II Peter 3:9 tells us, God “…is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  Anyone who believes on him will be saved, and it is God’s plan that none of those who are saved be lost, because they “…are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” according to I Peter 1:5. 

This is the second detailed example of how Jesus witnessed to people.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Feeding The Five Thousand

John 6:1-21

“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.  And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.  And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.  And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.” (John 6:1-4)

A year after he began his ministry, shortly before Passover, Jesus had crossed the Sea of Galilee.  A large crowd followed him because they saw the miracles he did to heal the sick.  Jesus led his disciples up on the side of a mountain and sat teaching the people. 

“When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?  And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.  Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.” (John 6:5-7)

Looking at the crowd, Jesus asked Philip where they could get food enough to feed the crowd.  Jesus already knew what he was going to do, but he was deliberately challenging their faith to help it grow.   Like muscles, faith only grows stronger as it is exercised.  Looking at the crowd, Philip concluded that two hundred days pay at minimum wage would not be enough to satisfy everyone. 

“One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:8-9)

The disciples asked around, but only one little boy had thought ahead to pack a lunch.  He had five loaves, similar to flat bread or pita bread, and two small fish.  He was just guessing how much he would want.  As the disciple said, it wasn’t even a drop in the bucket of what they would need. 

“And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.  And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.” (John 6:10-11)

It was a very grassy area and Jesus had them sit on the grass in groups of about fifty people.  There were about five thousand men, not counting the women and children.  After blessing the food, Jesus began to break it up and put it in to baskets and the disciples served to each group, giving each person as much as they wanted. 

“When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.  Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.” (John 6:12-13)

After everyone had eaten as much as they wanted, Jesus had the leftovers collected so nothing would be wasted.  Each of the disciples collected a full basket full to take home to their families.

“Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.  When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” (John 6:14-15)

After seeing Jesus provide for the crowd, the multitude wanted to force Jesus to become a king.  They still believed the Messiah was going to set up an earthly kingdom and make Israel a world power again.  They assumed that the prophecies about Israel being destroyed and the Gentiles having power had already been fulfilled during the Persian, Greek, and Roman empires and ignored the details of Daniel 2 and Daniel 11.  Over the centuries, hundreds of other groups have tried to set up Christ’s kingdom or the rapture, using parts of the scriptures while ignoring other parts.  To prevent them from trying to make the prophecies happen before the proper time, Jesus left the crowd and went up into the mountains by himself. 
“And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.  And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.  So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.  But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.  Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” (John 6:16-21)

Late that evening, the disciples went back down to the seashore and started across the sea toward Capernaum and their homes.  Jesus had not met them and sometime after dark a storm began.   As experienced fishermen they knew how long it took to row across the Sea, and that they were about half way across, three or four miles out from shore when the saw Jesus walking on the water, catching up to them.  They all saw him and knowing where they were assumed it was some kind of apparition or ghost were afraid until Jesus told them who he was.  They were glad to see him and helped him into the boat.  Immediately they arrived at the other shore.    Each of the disciples note different aspects of the story,  Matthew was amazed and remembered Peter walking on the water, Mark recorded the sudden quieting of the storm, and John recorded the instantaneous arrival on the other shore.