Friday, January 29, 2016

9 responses to Jesus

Read John 12.

The countdown to the cross had begun.  In the first verse of this chapter, it is recorded as "Six days before the Passover."  Chapter 13 starts with "Now before the Feast of the Passover."  Jesus and the disciples will eat the Passover meal together in an upper room.  As Jerusalem began to swell with worshipers preparing for their personal, annual sacrifice, the Lamb of God was being prepared to make the full and final payment for the sin of the world.

In times past, Jesus made it clear that it was not time yet, or His "hour" had not come.  Here, that changed.  "The hour has come" (v.23).  Facing certain this certain death He said, "But for this purpose I have come to this hour" (v.27b).  "Now is the judgment of this ; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (vv.31-32)

The drama intensified.  Responses from those involved could not have been more varied.
1. Mary (vv.3-4)
Out of motive of gratitude for what Jesus had done in the resurrection of her brother, she gave sacrificially to Jesus, both in cost and service.  Jesus connected her kindness to His burial.

2. Judas (vv.4-6)
His complaining was disingenuous.  He had made no sacrifices for Jesus or the poor.  He was a liar, a thief, and soon to be a betrayer.

3. The Chief Priests (vv.10-11)
Out of jealousy and spiritual blindness, they began to plot how to kill both Lazarus and Jesus.

4. The Crowd. (vv.12-13)
In 6:15, the people wanted to "make him king."  Now, they give Jesus a king's welcome.  Little did they know they were helping to fulfill the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9.

5. The Disciples (v.16)
Those closest to Jesus "did not understand these things," at the time.

6. The Pharisees (v.19)
When they saw and heard the people, it threatened their power and influence to the core.  From their perspective "the whole world has gone after him."

7. The Greeks (v.20)
The whole world, indeed.  Some of the Gentiles who had come for the Passover wanted to see Jesus.  Though not everyone in the world has or will respond in placing their eternal faith in Jesus. there will be those "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" (Revelation 7:9) who will.

8. God, the Father (v.28)
Jesus came to glorify the Father.  The Father was pleased.  This is the third recorded time the Father has audibly spoken in the Gospels: at the baptism of Jesus, at the Transfiguration of Jesus, and here.

9. Many Authorities (vv.42-43)
Not all religious leaders were spiritually blind.  Many saw the same signs (v.37) that some of their colleagues rejected and believed in Jesus.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why God? Why?

Read John 11.

When a need is great, people will often wonder, "Why doesn't God do something?"  When a human tragedy strikes, people will often wonder, "Why did God allow that to happen?"  Either way, God's motives are questioned and His actions get second guessed.

After the feast days in Jerusalem, Jesus had returned to minister in the north.  Now word came that His friend Lazarus was ill.  He had healed so many others, surely He would help His friend in Bethany.  Jesus announced that He would go, then waited two days to move.  In the interim, Lazarus died, his sisters and friends were broken hearted, and the funeral had taken place.  In fact, Martha said in verse 21, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."   Why would Jesus not come and spare His friends this time of suffering?  Jesus knew exactly what He was doing and what He would do.  But human reasoning could not make sense of it all until later.

1. His Motive (v.4)
Interestingly, Jesus answered the ultimate "why" question first.  This earthly life is a temporal existence at best.  The real issue has to do with where a person will spend eternity.  Frequently, when Jesus used the word life He was speaking of spiritual life.  However, notice His motive statement because it is the umbrella over all that God does.  "It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."  In other words, our God-given opportunities and experiences are not primarily for our comfort and prosperity.  The question is, "How can God receive the most glory from our lives and fulfill His purposes in us?"

The raising of Lazarus from the dead and the joy that followed were temporal.  It alone did not take away suffering.  One day, the man had to face physical death a second time and, presumably, his sisters endured a second funeral.

His motive statement is consistent throughout the Scriptures and this is at least the third time it appears in John's Gospel account.
-In 2:11, the purpose behind the embarrassment of the wedding host, "This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee and manifested his glory.  And his disciples believed in him."
-In 9:3, when questioned as to why the man was born blind, "Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'"

2. His Timing (v.6)
Waiting until Lazarus died, seems cruel.  Again, Jesus knew what He was going to do.  "But I go to awaken him." (v.11)  His statement, "I am glad I was not there" (v.15) sounds strange.  His explanation of purpose was "so that you may believe."

Seeing these events from Jesus' perspective shows that He was right on time to accomplish His will and His purposes, not their's.  This was true both in the lives of those suffering in Bethany and in the hearts of His disciples.  Our frustrations come when we want God to respond in our perceived manner and on our timetable.  We learn throughout the Bible that God is sovereign and is never late.  His timing is always perfect.

His Claim. (vv.25-26)
When responding to Martha, Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die."  It is one thing to make such a claim, it is another matter to prove it.  The miracles validated the message.  "Did not I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" (v.40).

Monday, January 25, 2016

Why did Jesus call Himself the Good Shepherd?

Read John 10.

In the last verse of chapter 9, Jesus pronounced upon some of the Pharisees that "your guilt remains."  Why?  What had they done wrong?  In their pride, they refused to admit their spiritual blindness.  The Messiah stood in front of them, but they rejected His claims of being the Christ (v.25) and God (v.33).  But Jesus did not stop there.  He referred to them here as:
1. Thieves, because they tried to live and teach the people "another way" to please God and enter His kingdom.  
2. Robbers, because they hijacked what did not belong to God for their own purposes.
3. Hired hands, because they had a positions and religious jobs but not a heart committed to God or the people.

The contrast Jesus made was blunt and clear.  Twice in this chapter He used the "I am" phrase.  This hearkens back to Moses' encounter with Jehovah, the I AM, at the burning bush.

"I am the door of the sheep." (v.7)
When the sheep hear their shepherd's voice they come (v.3) and gather in a safe place.  The shepherd makes sure that all His sheep are accounted for and none others have strayed into his flock.  Then, he stations himself at the entrance of the gathered place for security of the sheep inside and to protection from the outside.

Jesus will later state, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)  There are not two ways to please God and get to heaven.  Everyone must come through the one and only "door".

"I am the good shepherd." (vv.11 and 14)
In times of danger, as when a wolf attacks, the hired hands will not stand, do what is right, and fight.  They will run and protect themselves instead.  But "the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."  After using this analogy for a while, Jesus began to pull back the veil and reveal that He was actually referring to Himself.  Indeed, at the cross He will give His life for the redemption of His sheep "that I may take it up again" (v.17).  He looked forward to His own resurrection.

In addition, His provision for the sheep is "eternal life" (v.28a) and a security of the sheep for which He is responsible (vv.28b-29)

How loving and personal is this relationship between the Good Shepherd and His own!  "The sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (v.3)  "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (v.27)

The comparison with Psalm 23, written by David (also a shepherd), is inescapable.  We are in the flock of God, cared for, and free from all fears (both now and forever) because "The LORD is my shepherd".

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The only cure for Blindness

Read John 9.

When the disciples saw the blind man, they questioned Jesus based upon what they had been taught.  The religious leaders of the day propagated the false idea that bad things only happen to bad people.  So, any malady was the result of some personal sin.  Jesus' response put an end to that erroneous thinking.

But, then, He delivered one of those hard sayings.  Why did this man suffer blindness?  "...that the works of God might be displayed in him."  Really?  How can a bad thing bring glory to God?  God can get glory through comforting those who are afflicted (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).  In such cases, one learns first hand how to minister to others from their comforting experience with God.  Sometimes one is empowered to live with the affliction as a display of God strengthening grace (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).  Sometimes the best way for God to receive glory is by healing the problem, as in this case.

Then, Jesus made one of the great "I am" statements (v.5).  This is a direct tie to Exodus 3 where Jehovah proclaimed that His name is I AM, the ever present-tense and everlasting God.  Here, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world."

To prove the veracity of His claim, Jesus gave sight to the blind man.  That action displayed the glory of God in this unnamed man.  For the first time, physically, he saw light.  The miracles always substantiated the message.  Being able to see the light spiritually is another matter.

Notice the progression of the man's understanding that led to his belief in Jesus.
v.11-He only knew He was "the man called Jesus."
v.17-"He is a prophet."
v.33-"If this man were  not from God, he could do nothing."
v.38-"'Lord, I believe,' and he worshiped him.'"

A popular proverb says, "There is none so blind as those who will not see."  The saying is probably a paraphrase of Jeremiah 5:21-"Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not."  The Apostle Paul wrote: "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Far greater than physical blindness is spiritual blindness.

When a person places their eternal faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit removes the blinders so one may finally see and begin to understand what God is doing.  The testimony in verse 25 was simply this: "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."  That is amazing grace!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Jesus defines Freedom

Read John 8.

"The truth will make you free."  How often that one-fourth of a sentence from Jesus has been quoted while the other seventy-five percent goes ignored!  When quoted, the one phrase is commonly used to encourage a person to state the truth about an issue or, perhaps, confessing what they had done.  Such is a blatant abuse of Scripture and misses entirely what Jesus said.

The words "true" or "truth" is used throughout the Gospel of John; no less than eleven times in chapter 8, plus "truly" seven times (depending upon the translation).  Jesus continued to reinforce His teaching of the veracity of who He is and the validity of the Scriptures.  He and they are true.  All other beliefs are false and founded by the devil, "the father of lies" (vv.42-47).

Without Jesus, humans are enslaved to practice disobedience toward God.  Jesus called it slavery to sin (v.34).  A Bible is not required to observe this truth.  It is self-evident.  Isaiah wrote, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).  The invitation from Jesus is clear.  "I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (v.24)  Every one then is naturally born a slave to sin and, according to Jesus, there is only one way to be free.  "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (v.36).

Receiving Jesus and believing in Him as Savior and Lord changes one's eternal destiny.  How can we know and be reassured of the truth?  How can we live as free while overcoming our sinful practices?  The answer is found in the other seventy-five percent of what Jesus said in verses 31-32.

1. "If you abide in my word..."
There is no understanding, no spiritual growth, and no living as free from sin without the Scriptures.  One must make the reading, studying and practicing of the written Word of God a life long adventure.  "Abide" means to stay, to continue, to dwell, to stand.  Only when we abide in the Scriptures do we begin to understand God, ourselves, life, and others.  Only then do we have confidence that our lives are pleasing to God.

2. " are truly my disciples..."
Without the first part, one will not enjoy freedom from sin and prove themselves a true follower of Jesus.

3. "...and you will know the truth..."
Again, one will either waste their lives chasing false beliefs as a slave to sin or they will come to know Jesus and experience a life based on the truth.

4. "...and the truth will set you free."
It is the truth of God's word, not ours.  It is the freedom from sin that is being offered here.

Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.  "For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)

Friday, January 15, 2016

The first step in deciding about Jesus

Read John 7.

It was time for the annual celebration of the Feast of Booths.  Every October the nation gathered for a week of thanksgiving for the harvest of their crops.  Many people would make shelters of tree limbs for tents and use them for that week as a remembrance of how God provided for the nation, even during the wilderness wanderings.

Jesus had been ministering in Galilee.  In verse 3, his half-brothers urged Him to join them on the journey to Jerusalem.  They went so far as to tell Jesus that this was a perfect time to reveal Himself to the nation.  But the Scriptures here make it clear that their motives lay in their unbelief.  In other words, after all He had already done and said, they were still asking Jesus to prove His claims.

There should be no confusion about the next several verses where Jesus appears to say He is not going and then does attend the feast.  His response to His earthly family showed that He will go in His own way, for His own purposes, and in His own time, not theirs.  Timing is a repeated concept throughout the Gospel of John.  Indeed, Jesus did go to Jerusalem but waited until the middle of the week (v.14).

He used the opportunity to teach.  Jesus taught the truth (v.18 and v.28) with authority given to Him by God, the Father "who sent me."  Mentioning that there were those who wanted to kill Him, He foretold, in veiled terms, of His own death, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven (vv.32-36).  Then, in verses 37-39, "on the last day of the feast" Jesus repeated the message of John 4 and His offer to give people "living water."  This living water not only satisfies the soul but flows out to serve others in spiritual need.  This work of the Holy Spirit in one's life is only for those who believe in Jesus (John 1:12).

The responses were mixed.
Some challenged Jesus with disbelief (v.5).
Some concluded that Jesus was demonically possessed (v.20).
Some committed to a plan to kill Jesus (vv.25 and 44).
Some considered the words of Jesus (v.46).

What is the sticking point?  What is the requirement for one to cross the line of faith and embrace Jesus as personal Lord and Savior?  "If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God..." (v.17).  The first question is, "Do you really want to know the truth or not?"

Saturday, January 9, 2016

What is the meaning of the Sign?

Read John 6.

Either attracted or repelled, we are influenced by what we see.  Many in the crowds that followed Jesus were only there waiting to witness the next miracle (v.2).

The Greek word translated miracle (or interchangeably translated sign) refers to a supernatural occurrence with significance.  Jesus never used His power for a show or to enrich Himself.  Each miracle had the intent of proving who He was and confirming His message.  Some got the message; some did not.

Using only a boy's lunch, He fed 5,000 men, plus women and children, with plenty of leftovers for His twelve disciples.  As a result, "When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, 'This is indeed the Prophet who is come into the world!'" (v.14)  They made a direct connection to Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses predicted that the LORD would raise up a prophet like him for Israel.  Eager to usher in God's kingdom on earth, they sought to make Jesus their king "by force" (v.15).  But as others have noted, there will be no kingdom without the cross.  His redeeming work of sin must come before His reigning on earth.

What the people truly believed about Jesus as the Messiah surely was mixed among them.  Some followed Him only for what they could get out of it.  Jesus said, " are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." (v.26)  That is when Jesus quickly turned from the miracle to the message.  Food will provide a temporal satisfaction for the body.  Christ offers "food that endures to eternal life" (v.27).  Jesus is that "true bread from heaven" (v.32).  "I am the bread of life" (v.35).  The signs all point to Jesus!

The people asked, "What must we do?"  (vv.28-29)

Jesus responded with point by point clarity.
1. "This is the work of God..." 
No one will experience the forgiveness of sin and entry to heaven by their own self-efforts and good works.  John already made that clear in 1:13.  The Apostle Paul wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

2. "...that you believe..."
In verse 40, Jesus stated, "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."  It is not a belief in a religion, an organization, an icon, or philosophy, but it is a personal trust in a real Person.

3. " him whom he has sent."
Later, the Apostle John penned in 1 John 4:9, "In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him."

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

8 claims of Christ

Read John 5.

Who is Jesus Christ?  That is the second most important question in the New Testament.

Ask the so-called Jehovah's Witnesses and they will tell you that Jesus Christ is a created being, and that "Jesus was not God" (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, chapter 6).

Ask the Mormons and they will say that Jesus is merely the "elder brother of the rest of human kind."  They further teach that Jesus was a polygamist who fathered physical children before the crucifixion.  (Is Mormonism Christian, chapter 4.)

Ask the New Age religion what they think of Jesus.  They "esteem Jesus as a spiritually attuned or evolved being who serves as an example for spiritual discovery and evolutionary advancement." (Christianity Today, "The Shamanized Jesus, 4/29/91).

What were the claims of Jesus about Himself?  The only source of that information is the Bible!
1. He is God in the flesh. (vv.17-18)
His enemies understood clearly what Jesus meant.  That is why they were offended and wanted to murder Him.  It is strange that those who claim to esteem or even love Jesus do not accept what Jesus said.

2. He is uniquely equal with God, the Father. (vv.19-20 and 30)
Along with the Holy Spirit, these three persons of the Godhead work together.

3. He has the power of life. (v.21 and 40)
This is not only the power over physical death but also He has the power to give eternal life.

4. He is the ultimate Judge of every person. (v.22) 
Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18)

5. He is to be honored by every person. (vv.23-29)
Those who receive Jesus for who He is and what He has done for them look forward to what is referred to hear as "life."  Those who reject Jesus have only eternal judgment ahead.

6. He came to earth that "you may be saved." (v.34)
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

7. He is revealed in the Scriptures. (vv.38-39 and 46)
Jesus said that the reason His enemies did not know and receive Him for who is was that they did not believe the Scriptures.

8. He is the source of experiencing God's love. (v.42)
"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 5:10)

The most important question in the New Testament is found in Matthew 16:15.  Jesus asked, "But who do you say that I am?"  The answer is the difference between eternal life and eternal judgment.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Seeing people as God sees Them

Read John 4.

Here is a lesson in overcoming bigotry and discrimination.  Jesus taught how to begin seeing people as God sees them.  In John chapter four, the issue concerns Samaritans.  These were the off-scouring of the Jews.  A Jew wanted nothing to do with a Samaritan.  Racially, they were half-breeds.  Centuries before, during the Assyrian invasion, some of the Jews had intermarried with some of the Assyrians.  These half-Jew, half-Gentile outcasts settled in Samaria in the center part of the nation, between Galilee and Judea.  Culturally, they were despised as traitors to Israel.  Since the Samaritans were not allowed to worship at the temple in Jerusalem, they made up their own religion, based upon Judaism.  Jews wanted no contact with them, not even eye contact.

But that is not how God sees human life or human need.  If followers of Jesus were going to be all that God wanted them to be, if they were to be used as God wanted them to be used, then some wrong attitudes would have to change.  How did Jesus teach for this life-change?

First, Jesus provided an unforgettable illustration. (vv.1-30)
Jews did not speak to Samaritans.  Rabbis, or any other upright citizen of Israel, did not associate with immoral people.  Men did not speak to women in public.  With one simple request, Jesus cut across all the lines of cultural separation, discrimination, and rejection of certain people.  Jesus masterfully moved from the known to the unknown, from physical needs to spiritual needs, and from false beliefs to transformational truth.  

Second, Jesus provided an unforgettable instruction. (vv.31-37)
It began by sending the disciples into town for food.  This had to be a strange thing for them to do.  "For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." (v.9)  They were considered "unclean" and, perhaps, the disciples were the only Jews there at the time.  Being the minority in a city was a new experience.  Then, after returning with the food, Jesus said, "I have food to eat you do not know about."  Again, the Teacher moved from the physical to the spiritual.

He compared reaching people with the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life with a harvest.  That is how God sees the human population.  The harvest is ready and abundant.  The opportunity to see lives changed with the message of Jesus is ripe.  The disciples thought they were to go into town to buy food.  But while the disciples were going about their business, they ignored the spiritual needs of each person around them.

To correct this, Jesus gave them a three steps to create spiritual sensitivity of others.
1. Look (v.35).  Pay attention to the people around you.  What do you see?  What do you hear them say?  What are they feeling?  What is their spiritual need?  How can you use this appropriately as a divine appointment to introduce them to Jesus and His Word.

2. Know (vv.36-37).  In agriculture, when the farmer knows that it is time for harvest, there is an urgency.  Reaping time takes priority above everything else.  It is a Satanic scheme that causes believers to be negative and think people are not interested in removing their sin and guilt.  Faith in Jesus is the one and only solution.  There is no guarantee of tomorrow.  Truly understanding these facts will create urgency in our prayers and actions.    

3. Go (v.38).  Seeing the need and knowing the solution is not enough.  Jesus said, "I sent you to have entered into their labor."  There is work to be done in the name of Jesus.

Third, Jesus provided an unforgettable involvement. (vv.38-43)
Then, Jesus does the unthinkable.  At the invitation of the those who had believed, He and the disciples stayed in that town for two days.  It meant a change in thinking, a change in plans, a change in the disciples, and a change of eternity for many in the town of Sychar.

Do you see people as God sees them?