"Looking at the Light through John"

Chapter 1
(John 1:1-3) - Who is this Jesus
(John 1:4-5) - The True Light
(John 1:6-7) - That All Might Believe
(John 1:7-13) - New Life For All Men
(John 1:12) - Born of God
(John 1:14) - The Word Became Flesh
(John 1:14-18) - We Beheld His Glory
(John 1:19-23) - The Work of the Forerunner
(John 1:25-34) - John's Authority
(John 1:25-34) - John's Immersion
(John 1:29) - The Lamb of God
(John 1:35-39) - Jesus' First Disciples
(John 1:40-47) - Friends Tell Friends
(John 1:47-49) - Scriptural Foundations
(John 1:50) - Greater Things Than These

Chapter 2
(John 2:1-10) - The Wedding in Cana
(John 2:11-17) - Inklings of Jesus' Character
(John 2:18-21) - Trashing the Temple?
(John 2:19-22) - Raising the Temple
(John 2:23-25) - Reader of Hearts

Chapter 3
(John 3:1-3) - A Night Visitor
(John 3:4-7) - Born of Water and Spirit
(John 3:3) - The Kingdom of God
(John 3:6-8) - The Spiritual Birth
(John 3:11-13) - How Can These Things Be?
(John 3:14-16) - The Lifting Up Of Jesus
(John 3:16-17) - That They May Not Perish
(John 3:17-21) - The Judge of Hearts
(John 3:19-21) - The Coming of Light
(John 3:22-26) - Discussion on Purification
(John 3:26-30) - Stepping Aside for the Bridegroom
(John 3:31-34) - The One from Above
(John 3:35-36) - Jesus Is Above All

Chapter 4
(John 4:1-6) - Stopover In Samaria
(John 4:7-10) - The Promise of Living Water
(John 4:11-14) - Those Who Will Never Thirst
(John 4:15-20) - Progression from Curiosity
(John 4:20-24) - Seeking True Worshipers
(John 4:23-24) - Worshiping and Serving God
(John 4:31-38) - What Sustained Jesus
(John 4:43-54) - Early Reception in Galilee

Chapter 5
(John 5:1-11) - Trouble at the Second Passover
(John 5:10-15) - Caving In To Pressure
(John 5:16-18) - Fall-out from "Sabbath-breaking"
(John 5:19-21) - Tandem Teamwork
(John 5:22-23) - Jesus on J-Day
(John 5:24-25) - The Word of Jesus
(John 5:25) - The Importance of Spiritual Life
(John 5:25-29) - The Authority of King Jesus
(John 5:30-36) - The Father’s Testimony
(John 5:36-42) - Glory from the Father
(John 5:41-44) - Receiving Jesus
(John 5:45-47) - The Testimony of Moses

Chapter 6
(John 6:1-11) - Feeding the Five Thousand
(John 6:12-15) - Looking For An Earthly King
(John 6:16-21) - Genesaret Crossing
(John 6:22-27) - The "Free Lunch" Crowd
(John 6:27-35) - Signed and Sealed
(John 6:35) - No Hunger and No Thirst
(John 6:36-40) - The Will of the Father
(John 6:41-45) - The Grumbling Begins
(John 6:45-47) - The Guarantee of Christ
(John 6:47-51) - More Bread
(John 6:52-58) - Communing with Jesus
(John 6:59-63) - The Spirit Gives Us Life
(John 6:63) - Words of Life
(John 6:64-66) - Some Do Not Believe
(John 6:66-69) - Words of Eternal Life
(John 6:70-71) - Treachery Foreknown

Chapter 7
(John 7:1-5) - Prelude to Tabernacles
(John 7:6-10) - Cagey Comments
(John 7:11-14) - Stirrings in the Mob
(John 7:15-18) - The Mark of a True Teacher
(John 7:18-20) - Who's Crazy Here?
(John 7:21-24) - With Righteous Judgment
(John 7:24-28) - You Know Where I Am From
(John 7:28) - The Teaching Tells The Tale
(John 7:30-34) - "You Shall Not Find Me"
(John 7:35-36) - Seeking the Wrong Christ
(John 7:37-39) - Rivers of Living Water
(John 7:39) - Revealing the Mystery
(John 7:40-44) - A Muddled Multitude
(John 7:45-52) - "The Way This Man Speaks"

Chapter 8
(John 8:1-5) - A Trap for Jesus?
John 8:6-11) - Sin No More
(John 8:12) - The Light of the World
(John 8:13-20) - The True Witness
(John 8:19-22) - “You Shall Die in Your Sin”
(John 8:23-24) - Not of This World
(John 8:24-27) - “Who Are You?”
(John 8:28-30) - Lifting Up the Son
(John 8:30-32) - The Truth Frees
(John 8:33-35) - True Slavery; True Freedom
(John 8:37-38) - “My Word Has no Place in You”
(John 8:38-41) – Abraham’s Children
(John 8:41-43) - “Your Father the Devil”
(John 8:44) - What You Want!
(John 8:45-47) - “I Speak the Truth”
(John 8:48-51) - Demon-possessed?
(John 8:52-53) - Greater than Abraham
(John 8:54-55) - All Glory to the Father
(John 8:56-57) - Abraham’s Joy
(John 8:58-59) - Yes, Jesus Is Jehovah

Chapter 9
(John 9:1-5) - God Has a Plan
(John 9:4) - As Long As It Is Day
(John 9:6-11) - Washing in Siloam
(John 9:12-19) - More Controversy
(John 9:20-23) - Crumpling Under Pressure
(John 9:25-27) - Cross Examination

More Studies to Come

 

 

Who is this Jesus

The prince of darkness works assiduously to block the light. His is the black domain, and he can only keep his charges under control by keeping them from having contact with light or by setting up a system of smoke and mirrors so that the captive has a confused perception about the light. Thus it was, when the apostle John wrote his gospel account, Satan was already working to darken the understanding about Jesus; he could not stop the penetrating advance of the message of the Lord, but he could try to wrap His revelation with the cloak of confusion. The Holy Spirit, speaking through His apostle, was going to exalt Jesus to His proper place, worthy of the obeisance and obedience of the entire world.

Like a flash of sunlight Jesus came into a darkened world. His credentials are unparalleled, even hard to magnify to their proper proportion in the minds of men. How can anyone grasp that the great Jehovah would put Himself inside the confines of a human shell? How can anyone comprehend that the Creator would take the form of a diminutive part of the whole creation? When He indicates, therefore, that He came to communicate spiritual life, mankind should first listen in rapt silence, and then rush to obey whatever is commanded.

 

 

The True Light

Darkness is equivalent to confusion. It is consistent, therefore, to find that the god "of confusion" is the ruler of the "domain of darkness" (I Corinthians 14:33; Colossians 1:13). Jesus, as the Light of the world and Word of God, came to bring enlightenment to a darkened humanity, to clear away the fog of Satanic confusion.

Jesus, however, brought enlightenment in a way which mankind could have never designed nor would have ever anticipated. Rather than setting Himself up as a professor in an existing institution, channeling His way upward through the bowels of reputation-dom, He burst like a thunderbolt on earth’s scene. In a brief three and one-half year flash — from the time of His immersion to the time of His crucifixion - He healed the sick, raised the dead, and taught His parables. Following His resurrection to the heavenly throne, as the radiance of the Father’s glory, He shines through His revelation to the interested sons of men. "For the death that He died," emphasized the apostle Paul, "He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God" (Romans 6:10). The enlightenment that would come through Christ, then, would not come merely through His teachings during the years of His earthly sojourn nor even in the written record of those teachings; the enlightenment comes through seeing the unseen Christ in glory. It is this life, reflecting from the very courts of glory, that John had in mind when he penned, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it" (John 1:4,5).

Jesus is "the true light, which coming into the world, enlightens every man" (John 1:9). It is a sad commentary that the light shining through heaven’s gate should shine through the darkness and that darkness not comprehend it. But how joyful it is when the light shines on those who once sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, and have come to life through their obedience to the gospel of the glory of Christ.

 

 

That All Might Believe

"What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?" asked Jesus concerning John the son of Zacharias. "A reed shaken by the wind?" [I don’t think so!] The approving language of Jesus shows that the one He selected to be His forerunner was a man of strong character who would not cave in under pressure. This was very necessary in John’s case because, as the one chosen to go before the face of the Lord, he was going to be the point man in bringing the testimony of Jesus to a hostile world. "There came a man," recorded the apostle John, "sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the Light, that all might believe through Him" (John 1:6,7).

John came as a witness for the Light of the world. The world would believe in God through the One on whom the spotlight focused rather than through the one who focused the spotlight.

 

 

New Life For All Men

The Jew tended to think that the salvation of God was for his nation alone. When the apostle Paul, for example, suggested to his Jewish lynch mob that the Lord had actually said to him, "Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles," that contingent became quite violent. Later, upset at the Jews in Rome for their unwillingness to believe their own law and prophets, the same apostle emphasized, "Let it be known to you therefore that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen" (Acts 28:28). Because the reconciliation of all men was contemplated by the Omniscient from the beginning, the writers of the gospel accounts have plenty of "zingers" for any Jew who would read their records of Jesus the Son of God; the letters likewise contain broadsides for Jewish Christians who did not get the picture. Quoting Isaiah with regard to the Gentiles’ coming in, Paul noted what God had said, "I was found by those who sought Me not, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me." After marking the favorable acceptance of Jesus the Messiah among the Gentiles, the prophet also foresaw Israel’s rejection of Him, as quoted by the apostle Paul: "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Romans 10:20,21).

The apostle of love, John the aged, when he writes also uses language which makes it clear that the grace of God indeed had appeared to all men. John the Immerser, said the apostle, came for a witness of the Christ, that all might believe through Him. "There was the true light which, coming into the world," he added, "enlightens every man" (John 1:7,9). It is obvious that John, in his opening salvo, is taking his shots at any remnant of Jewish resistance to idea that the Messiah had come for all men.

In his first epistle, John would write, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God" (I John 3:1). By God’s immeasurable love and magnificent mercy, not only the Jews who received Him but also from all the ranks of the Gentiles - "even to those who believe in His name" - could experience new life in a new birth. Who is worthy or who is adequate for these things?

 

 

Born of God

The apostle John, opening his gospel account with a broad sweep, contemplates not only the greatness of God but also the blessings for men. "As many as received Him," says the apostle of the Jews who lived contemporaneously with Jesus’ sojourn, "He gave the right to become sons of God" (John 1:12) No one became a son of God during the days of Jesus in the flesh; no one could participate in the death of Jesus before Jesus died, and thus no one could arise to walk in newness of life as a son of God prior to Jesus’ execution. Hence John looks to the Christian era to work on one of his great themes, the promise of Jesus that sons of men could experience a spiritual birth and actually be born of God.

The creature that is now "born of God" is no longer a a mere fallen man. That which was stamped with the impress of Adam has been buried in the waters of immersion, and that which is now born of God is stamped with the impress of the risen Christ. From the time of Adam to Christ, no creature such as this was ever seen on earth. Jesus, the Son of God, was the first and foremost of the heavenly race to visit these material shores. By the design and power of the great God, His legacy lives on in those who bear His image and who now walk in His footsteps.

 

 

The Word Became Flesh

Few today would allow themselves to be called Gnostics. And most modern "Restorationists" would bristle if the appellation "Calvinist" were attached to their belief system. Both the Gnostic heresy of the first century AD and the Calvinist heresy of later centuries accepted the premise that the human body is inherently bad or depraved. The conclusions of this premise are that the body is always going to sin, and no one is going to overcome sin until after he dies and no longer has human flesh to contend with. Jesus, however, specifically came into the world as a man to destroy this premise. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us …" were the up-front words of the apostle John. The same apostle, so clearly combating the anti-christ philosophy that the body of man is inherently bad, made this emphasis - in his first epistle - concerning the Word of life which he and the others’ hands handled: "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5). The Word, who was with God, and who was God, did not sin even when He took on human flesh!

The ancient Gnostics, in order to break the horns of their dilemma, said that Jesus - who clearly did not sin - therefore did not have a body. John, in the gracious style of the apostles when confronting destructive heresy, as peacemakers of the first order, stated: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist" (II John 7). The Catholics, who effectively adopted Gnosticism under the heading "original sin," eventually had to contrive the doctrine of the "immaculate conception" - the doctrine that Mary was born without sin in contradistinction to all the rest of the human race, in order to give birth to a sinless Christ Child. The Calvinists transmogrified the doctrine to "total depravity," the doctrine that man, because of his flesh, is totally bad and cannot think or do anything good on his own. These Calvinists, then, had to set Jesus aside from the human race because no one could claim that Jesus was totally depraved.

But the concern here is primarily with what Dave Fagan of Laurel, IN, calls "neo-Calvinists" among the Restoration Movement. The neo-Calvinist wants to walk the same ground as the Gnostics, the Catholics, and the Calvinists without having that pointed out to anybody. The language he uses that is man is "depraved," that Jesus was different than the rest of us and had a special advantage over anyone else because He was God. The neo-Calvinist therefore arrives at the same conclusion as the Gnostic, the Catholic, and the Calvinist that the regenerated man is still going to continue in sin because of his flesh. Logic tells us that since the neo-Calvinist arrives at the same conclusion as the Gnostic, the Catholic, and the Calvinist, and uses the same logical process, he begins with the same premise.

To destroy that premise, the Word became flesh. "Therefore," the writer of Hebrews flatly states, "He had to be made like His brethren in all things" (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus never sinned; those who walk in His footsteps will get to where they never sin either. "And you know that He appeared to take away sins," John writes, "and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him" (I John 3:5,6).

Sin is not resident in the fleshly body of man. Rather, sin is resident in a heart that has chosen Satan as its father. "For from within," said Jesus, "out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts … All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23). If it were that the body as such that was bad, the law could have succeeded, for it imposed regulations on the body. But the law could not touch or transform the inner man. "For what the Law could not do," Paul concurs, "weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:3,4).

 

 

We Beheld His Glory

The Jesus who is, who was, and who is to come is the Jesus of glory. For a brief blip, even on man’s time scale, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Near the end of His pilgrimage, ad He approached the Kidron and the Garden of Gethsemane from the west, He prayed to the Father, "And now, glorify Me together with Yourself, Father, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (John 17:5). The Word who was with God, and who was God, was the Word in glory. In conjunction with His ascension to the Father, He was glorified just as He had prayed for. "And we beheld His glory," says John of himself, the other apostles, and sundry New Testament prophets, "glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

"We beheld His glory," said John of the Christ, resurrected and on His throne, "glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). What John by vision and revelation in the Spirit, disciples now see by written revelation. "What we beheld … we proclaim to you also, that you may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (I John 1:1-3).

 

 

The Work of the Forerunner

"Behold," it is written in prophecy, "I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me" (Malachi 3:1). The Omniscient was very careful to state prophetically what He was going to do, so that when the events came to pass, no one could honestly claim that the testimony of Jesus is a myth. A great king has a forerunner to organize his engagements and to make preparation for his tour. It was fitting, then, for the Great King to have His forerunner. Furthermore, it was fitting for Him to have prophesied that He would have such a forerunner to prepare His way before Him. "And the Lord, whom you seek," continued the prophecy, "will suddenly come to His temple; and the Angel of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming." So said the Lord of hosts through Malachi.

Isaiah had earlier weighed in with his prophetic utterance. "A voice is calling," he recorded, "Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be laid low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 40:3-5). The forerunner was, in a manner of speaking, going to shave off the tops of the hills, fill in the ravines, and straighten out and broaden the cow paths so that the litter of the King could be run smoothly.

The apostle records the witness of the Immerser, for his witness was not limited to those of Jewish background. The voice in the wilderness was preparing all mankind to see the glory of Jesus in the heavenly realm and to recognize His coming was to the heavenly temple. "For My house," He said prophetically, " will be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (Isaiah 56:7).

 

 

John’s Authority

It is a basic rule of management: authority has to be commensurate with responsibility. John the Immerser was "sent" by God to prepare the way for the Lord, a major responsibility with major authority. It is also axiomatic that the greater the mission and responsibility, the higher the level of character required for the mission. Great responsibility is not given to those who are untrustworthy, and it would be foolish to give great authority to a fool. And while men might be mistaken in their judgment in whom to trust, the Almighty will not. "Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Immerser," was the Lord’s assessment. The character of John was his recommendation for his mission, his responsibility, and his authority.

The Jewish hierarchy is generally referred to as the "Jews" by the apostle John as contrasted to the common people, generally referred to as "the multitudes." The hierarchy, specifically the Pharisees, sent priests and Levites to the Immerser with some questions, and these questions had to do with John’s authority. "Why then," these priests and Levites asked, "are you immersing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" (John 1:25).

The statement, "this the Son of God" was understood by the Jews as equivalent to saying, "this is God." The witness of the Immerser was backed by the authority given to him, evidenced by the Old Testament prophecies. The voice of one crying in the wilderness began making straight the way of the Lord by pointing out who He was.

 

 

John’s Immersion

John was called "The Immerser" because of his introduction of a practice previously unknown among Jews. That this was a new practice is evident in the challenge to John’s immersing by the Pharisees. "Why then," they queried, "are you immersing if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" And that this practice originated from God is evident in John’s testimony, as a prophet, in his words, "He who sent me to immerse said to me …" The immersion of John, also called the immersion of repentance, served a number of purposes in the great plan of God.

The measured tread of God moves on through the matrix of man’s history. John’s immersion came at the right time to set the stage for Christianity. The tax gatherers and harlots welcomed the immersion of John; the scribes and Pharisees were left standing in place and guilty as the footsteps of God marched on.

 

 

The Lamb of God

The omniscient God, comprehending the dullness of hearing and slowness of understanding resident in mankind, spent considerable effort in Israel to establish that lambs were an important sacrifice. "Now this is what you shall offer on the altar," said the Lord through Moses, "two one year old lambs each day, continuously. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight …" (Exodus 29:38,39). Each lamb, as a burnt offering, when offered in conjunction with the appropriate grain offering and drink offering, constituted the morning oblation and evening oblation, respectively. When Elijah called down fire at Carmel, he did it in connection with the evening sacrifice being offered in Jerusalem, impressing on the minds of those drifting people the importance of the lamb being offered in behalf of Israel. This "soothing aroma’ was to "be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you," stated the Lord to Israel, "to speak with you there … And they shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God" (Exodus 29:41-46). The lamb for the continual burnt offering was a reminder that God dwelt in Israel.

Not only did God desire male lambs for the continual burnt offering, but He also requested a male lamb without blemish for the Passover. "Your lamb," said the Almighty, "shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or the goats" (Exodus 12:5). The Passover lamb - male, unblemished, without broken bones, and with blood shed - was a reminder that God saved Israel with a mighty outstretched arm out of the land of Egypt.

What a great God is the Almighty! The Passover lamb foreshadowed the deliverance of God’s people from slavery to sin, and the lambs for the morning and evening oblation prefigured God’s continuing presence among spiritual Israel. Who of the redeemed among the Gentiles could fail to fall on his knees in gratitude to Him who is the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world?

 

 

Jesus’ First Disciples

The three and one-half years of Jesus’ ministry on earth was the most intense of any three and one-half years of any lifetime. He had to generate the momentum that would produce the church; He had to fulfill all relevant Old Testament prophecies; He had to deal with all the interruptions connected with people’s personal needs; and, in the midst of all this, still keep His appointment with Calvary. One of the key factors in what Jesus was to accomplish was the generation of core disciples who could be selected as apostles for the establishment of the church. And herein John the Forerunner had opportunity to be of great service to the Lord.

Big things have little beginnings. Two disciples of John spent a day with Jesus, and the flywheel of momentum for Jesus’ work began its slow first turn.

 

 

Friends Tell Friends

The apostles are often viewed as case-hardened veterans of spiritual conflict. But they were not always so. In the process of becoming acquainted with the kingdom of God and the person of Jesus, they were fresh, curious, and eager. So when the Immerser pointed out "the Lamb of God" to John and Andrew, they were excited to be able to spend some time with Him and "weary" Him with their questions. They were not disappointed in Him; their zeal was fired and the flame never went out.

The work of John the Immerser was bearing fruit. Curious and eager men were turned over to Jesus as first contacts, and these in turn spread the word to their friends. But they had to have something of substance to be excited about. "We have found the Messiah," said Andrew to Peter. "We have found Him of whom Moses … and the Prophets wrote," were the words of Philip to Nathanael. In this way Jesus made initial contact with five of His original twelve apostles. Friends tell friends!

 

 

Scriptural Foundations

When the timing was right, Jesus came into the world. "But when the fulness of time came," observed the apostle Paul, "God sent forth His Son" (Galatians 4:4). The Father worked with mankind as a whole and with Israel specifically to set the stage for the entrance of Jesus into man’s history. Israel first had to be brought into existence as a cohesive nation, which was accomplished through Moses and Joshua. When the nation eventually split into two, the Lord ensured that the northern, split-off nation was carried off into oblivion so that the Jews in the southern nation would remain a cohesive people, and that Jerusalem would continue to be the center of their worship and world. When Judah also went into captivity and the Jews were dispersed through the ancient world, God had by then driven into their lifestyle a strict regard for the Law and their customs. Wherever the Jews went, they took the synagogue and the scrolls with them, and every Sabbath they assembled for "the reading of the Law and the Prophets" (Acts 13:15). Even Timothy, whose father was a Gentile, was reared by his Jewish mom with respect for and knowledge of the scripture, so that Paul reminded him "that from childhood you have known the sacred writings" (II Timothy 2:15). The Jews as a whole were literate in the Old Testament and this made it possible for some common Jewish guys to become apostles of Jesus Christ, newly come into the world.

Men like Nathanael, guileless and interested in truth, were prepared by the establishment of scripture in their lives. "Then what advantage has the Jew?" asked the apostle Paul at a later time. "Great in every respect," was his answer. "First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God" (Romans 3:1,2). Those foundations are important!

 

 

Greater Things Than These

One of the expressions often used in scripture to describe mankind is "dull of hearing." The words of God are being spoken, but the meaning is just not sinking in. Carnal man basically has a hard time putting the proper value on spiritual things, and, because he can’t gauge what is important and what is not, he generally misses the significance of major spiritual truths. But those who are interested in God’s spiritual realm are open to the manifold wisdom of God, and the Father is able to guide these by His written, step-by-step educational program. These are the ones who are not "dull of hearing," who indeed have ears to hear.

One such individual was one of the first disciples of Jesus, Nathanael, whom Jesus described as an Israelite without guile. When the Lord indicated that He had seen him earlier hidden under a nearby fig tree, Nathanael was able to draw the conclusion that Jesus was indeed the "Son of God" and "the King of Israel." "Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’ " (John 1:30,31).

Nathanael was not "dull of hearing." Open to the Lord, he in turn would have his eyes opened. The panoply of heaven would be spread out before him, and he and the other apostles would be able to give witness of Jesus, exalted above the heavens. Furthermore, anyone without guile can follow in Nathanael’s footsteps, climbing Jacob’s ladder, and, through the written revelation of God, "see" the greater things Nathanael saw.

 

 

The Wedding in Cana

Following His immersion, Jesus embarked on an intense three and one-half years of life. The first day back from His forty days in the wilderness, He was announced as the Son of God. The next day, in the valley of the Jordan, He picked up Andrew, Peter, and John as disciples. Following that, Jesus trudged up to Galilee where on that day He found both Philip and Nathanael. "And on the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee" (John 2:1). The Lord ushered Himself immediately into action, and the flurry of activity was to continue until He could utter His final words of human existence, "It is finished!"

Jesus’ working miracles is what proved Him to be the Son of God in Israel, as Peter would later say, "… a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs" (Acts 2:22). The apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, made a special point of recording the first miracle of Jesus, turning water into wine at an upscale wedding in Cana of Galilee.

 

 

Inklings of Jesus’ Character

One of the main reasons Jesus came to earth was to demonstrate the character of God in an understandable human form. Love, truthfulness, kindness, etc., are the same qualities whether they are exhibited by the unseen hand in heaven or whether they are demonstrated by God in the flesh. But if these qualities can be demonstrated by God in the flesh, they can be more easily apprehended by that group of spectators called the human race. It was the plan of the Father, then, that His Son should be a spectacle to the world, that the spotlight of the word should detail the life of Jesus on earth and thus expose His character.

Jesus began to show forth the character of the Father, demonstrating His divinity in the midst of His compassion for a couple at their wedding feast, being patient with His earthly family while they were slow in coming to an understanding of who He was, and exhibiting the fiery zeal of God in the establishment and preservation of holy things.

 

 

"Trashing" the Temple?

Back in Jeremiah’s day, the people of Judah lost sight of the spiritual and in consequence grasped the physical. Through the prophet the Almighty warned those in Israel, "Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ " (Jeremiah 7:4). Subtly, the Jews of that day had drifted into the mind-set that the building itself was holy apart from God and apart from the hearts of the people, and that it would therefore not be destroyed. God told them, "Do not trust in deceptive words." Just because the building was worth billions, and even because the Father had chosen to make His name dwell there, God was not going to withhold His terrifying judgment. Billions and buildings mean nothing to the Judge of all the earth; what matters is whether men have turned to Him with a whole heart. It was in the very same passage from Jeremiah that the Lord asked Judah of that day this rhetorical question: "Has this house, which has been called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight?" (Jeremiah 7:11).

Six centuries later, though the Jews should have learned the lesson from the destruction of Solomon’s temple at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BC, the people lapsed into the same spiritual laxity. They held to the outward form of godliness, carrying out the rituals of sacrifice and feast days at the temple begun by Herod the Great in Jerusalem, delighting in appearance rather than substance. Jesus, white hot in His intensity, cleared out that den of thieves with a whip of cords which He personally had made.

The Jewish hierarchy felt that their authority was challenged by Jesus. The Lord, knowing what their obstinacy would eventually bring, met their challenge and then raised the stakes to a spiritual level. He charged forward; they were left wondering about His remarks about destroying the temple.

 

 

Raising the Temple

Jesus, as the great Teacher, was always laying the groundwork of understanding in the minds of those who would hear Him. When the Jews demanded a sign from Him in regard to His authority to cleanse the temple, He replied, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). The great Teacher pointed to the great sign: His resurrection from the dead; the raised up temple to which He referred was His body. Later scribes and Pharisees would approach Him, also saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." His response again was directed to His resurrection from the dead as that which established His authority to do and to say all that He did and said. "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign," He averred, "and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:38-40). The resurrection would ultimately be the only and sufficient sign to establish the authority, prophetic ability, and verity of King Jesus.

The fact that Jesus raised His "temple" from the dead was the powerful, powerful sign of His authority in heaven and on earth. That His resurrection - all the way to glory - produced a spiritual "temple" proves the entire scripture to be the word of God, and that which Jesus now speaks from heaven are the words of life and have the power to save.

 

 

Reader of Hearts

Not only did Jesus cleanse the temple at His first Passover following His immersion, but He also performed many other signs. The Jews had asked Him, after He cleared out the moneychangers and other money grubbers, "What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?" His answer was curt, pointing to the big, ultimate, and spiritually sufficient sign, His resurrection to glory: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." First His bodily resurrection from the dead, then His resurrection to the throne at the right hand of the Majesty on high, where He was set in place as the chief cornerstone of the "raised up" temple, the church of God. But our Lord was patient and was willing to perform many preparatory miracles so that the "big one" would be believable and comprehensible to those who were trying to follow His progress.

Jesus knew what was in man, and had to search for those who had workable hearts. He had to find those who would really submit to His agenda, and would trust no one until his character was altered and proven. Yes, He knew what was in the hearts of men. He still does.

 

 

A Night Visitor

There are some people who have a lot to "lose," in an earthly sense, if they were to change their religious beliefs. Often such men have spent their entire lives building their businesses, developing their connections, establishing their reputations, and working their ways up the ladder in the spheres of their influence. A change in religious beliefs on the part of those men would result in the severance of some of those connections and the collapse of some of those spheres of influence. Thus those who operate in such heady realms are generally thoughtful and cautious about making any big spiritual shifts.

Such a man was Nicodemus. "Now there was a man of the Pharisees," avouched John the apostle, "named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews" (John 3:1). A ranking Pharisee, most likely a member of the Sanhedrin, and one whom Jesus called "the teacher of Israel," Nicodemus was well connected, a man of influence who had leveraged himself into those positions.

Nicodemus, feeling pressure from his peers, approached Jesus’ camp in the night, wanting confirmation that the Rabbi was from God. He got a lot more in response that he bargained for, and his head reeled from the time this encounter began.

 

 

Born of Water and Spirit

From the miracles Jesus performed, Nicodemus was able to conclude that Jesus had come from heaven as a teacher. But he was unprepared for the spiritual depth of the teaching that was about to come. The Lord rocked him with His first statement: "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Nicodemus, "the teacher" of Israel, and the epitome of the Jewish Rabbi, was locked in on the physical realm and not grasping at all what the Teacher come from heaven was saying. "How can a man be born when he is old?" he asked. "He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?" (John 3:4). Jesus did not let him rest nor did He make it easy for Nicodemus. Rather than backtrack to Nicodemus’ level, the Lord looked beyond the cross and expounded upon a foundational spiritual truth, the nature of the new birth.

The words of Peter, delivered to the Jews on Pentecost, 30 AD, the first time the gospel was preached, still stand as the Biblical exposition of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: "Repent, and let each of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

 

 

The Kingdom of God

Our Lord was emphatic, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Since the time of David the king, the Jews had looked for the coming of God’s kingdom. As Jewish independence was swept away by the successive oppressions of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, and no descendant of David sat on a throne in Jerusalem, the people of Israel increasingly longed for the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament prophets. Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel,  was one of those who was waiting for the kingdom of God  (Luke 23:51), and who was interested enough to approach Jesus personally.

At the time that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, the kingdom of God was a future event. There are those who assume that Nicodemus was born again  on the spot, but the kingdom would not come until the events recorded in Acts 2, the beginning of the church. Nicodemus was not born again in John 3, did not know what the kingdom of God was, and did not know when it would come.

The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, and only those who are truly born of the Spirit  can see it. Those who misunderstand the way of salvation, who do not understand that one is born again through immersion in water into Christ, are blind, blind, blind; they cannot see.

Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,  was the final answer of the Lord. There are no exceptions, and no man-made schemes that will get anyone into this desirable kingdom. God saves His people, as the apostle Paul concurred, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit  (Titus 3:5). Only those thus saved may enter into the kingdom of God.

 

 

The Spiritual Birth

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh," stated our Lord, "and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). Those who are born of the flesh are formed in the image of Adam and are, in the words of the apostle Paul, "earthy" (I Corinthians 15:47). Earthy man has his focus on his physical existence - his planting, his harvesting, his buying, his selling, his marrying, his giving in marriage. Adam was doomed to failure in the Garden of Eden, not because he did not have the capacity to resist temptation, but because he did not have sufficient spiritual interest to maintain his focus. God never intended the Garden as the final or ultimate home of man; it was a physical beginning place, being a figure or type of the spiritual reality to come for a properly prepared spiritual people.

What an awesome concept and awesome execution Jesus brought into the world. Those who were "of flesh" had nothing but futility in front of them, and in consequence sunk to biting and devouring one another. But the spiritual birth liberates the spirit of man, elevates him to another plane, and implants hope into his heart. "Do not marvel that I said to you," emphasized the Christ, "You must be born again" (John 3:7).

 

 

"How Can These Things Be?"

The things that are impossible for men are possible with God. When Jesus spoke of a second birth, Nicodemus was incredulous, exclaiming, How can these things be?  These are the things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him  (I Corinthians 2:9). Jesus had, as evidenced by His inspiration of Isaiah, anticipated a response such as was given by Nicodemus. Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?  He queried. Man should be humble, and let God instruct him.

People have a tendency to acquire their religious ideas from all kinds of sources. But there is only One who has seen the heavenly side of the picture, proven by His resurrection from the dead. The fact that most of this earth’s residents will continue to reject the information provided by Jesus and accept all kinds of weird religious beliefs is an amazing commentary on the moral rebellion of mankind. When Jesus told Nicodemus the truth about being born again of water and Spirit, he asked, How can these things be?  Mankind as a whole is still asking that same question, and refusing to believe the answer.

 

 

The Lifting Up Of Jesus

The sting of a serpent is generally fatal. This is true in the material realm, and God uses this material truth to teach that the same is true in the spiritual realm; anyone who is bitten by the serpent of old dies.

Israel had this lesson really impressed upon them. Moses recorded some major whining against God and against himself, noting this complaint of the people, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food" (Numbers 21:5). God didn’t like whining any more then than He does now, so He "sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died." With thousands of people dying, and family after family struck by very visible tragedy, Israel temporarily came to their senses, and asked Moses to intercede on their behalf. "Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live" (Numbers 21:6-8). After Moses had made the bronze serpent and placed it on a pole in the presence of Israel, the Lord was true to His word, and "if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived" (Numbers 21:9). Jesus then used this lesson.

Satan has run a "sting" operation on all who are old enough to be responsible for their own actions. Jesus was lifted up on the cross publicly, in the sight of the world, through the preaching of the gospel, that all who truly look at Him thus crucified might be healed from the sting of death.

 

 

That They May Not Perish

Even the golden verse of the Bible cannot avoid a reference to the hellfire. "For God so loved the world," stated the Savior, "that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, by have eternal life" (John 3:16). That man would perish in the eternal fire apart from the tender and costly intercession of Jesus is the greatest possible indictment of man. Many have said, "I don’t believe that God would send a person to hell just because they aren’t baptized the way your church teaches," or somewhat similar remark. Such a statement indicates ignorance of what the real problem is - God does not send a person to hell because there was some item like immersion he neglected to do; God sends a person to hell because he personally has transgressed the law of God and thus actively committed sin.

The mission of Jesus was not to condemn man but to rescue the willing. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge [condemn] the world, but that the world should be saved through Him" (John 3:17). The analysis of our Lord was that each soul that had sinned would perish forever. He therefore came to provide the only way of escape from such punishment.

The Lord Jesus, through whom all things were created, knew what was at the end of the line for each human being. As the tee-shirt says: "It is not that life is so short…it is that eternity is so long!" There are only two places to spend that eternity - living in heaven with God or perishing in the fires of hell. God paid an immensely high price to rescue the lost; who of honest heart could spurn Him?

 

 

The Judge of Hearts

There are evil people in the world, and there are those who truly want to do what is right. The flawless judgment of God is that even those who want to do right have fallen into sin and are held captive by the devil to do his will. "For I am not practicing what I would like to do," observed Paul of the sinful man who wanted to do right, prior to his conversion to Christ, "but I am doing the very thing I hate" (Romans 7:15). "Blessed are the poor in spirit," Jesus similarly noted, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). The one who wants to do right knows the anguish of falling short of the glory of God; the one who wants to continue to do evil becomes hostile to the message from God.

"For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him," stated the Lord Christ, noting that the whole world lay in the power of the evil one, and that only Jesus Himself could successfully carry out the rescue mission. "He who believes in Him is not judged [condemned in judgment]; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God" (John 3:17-21).

In the will of God the judgment of God is exhibited in each man’s response to the message of Jesus the Christ, the only begotten Son of God. The eyes of the Lord roam to and fro throughout the whole earth, and where there is a man or woman of honest heart any place on earth, He who delivered up His only Son will ensure that the message of light will reach him. Those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel love the darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil. Such is the analysis of Him who judges the hearts.

 

 

The Coming of Light

One of the great themes running throughout the gospel account of John is light. The Holy Spirit and the apostle do not use the terms "light" and "darkness" simply metaphorically, referring to mere understanding or lack of it. God Himself is light, and that is far more than understanding. Satan is the prince of darkness, and that is far more than lack of understanding. The sons of the kingdom will shine as bright as the sun, and that is far more than a mere symbol or metaphor. Those who will not obey the gospel will be cast into the outer darkness, and that is not metaphorical. There is spiritual light and spiritual darkness, and one of the purposes of evening and morning in the physical realm is to communicate the stark, stark contrast between the two.

This is how the light is come into the world - first through Jesus, shining in glory; then through the church, which is His body. Because men as a whole love darkness, warfare is inevitable. Those who do evil - who form denominations, who become humanists, who are anarchists, who are locked in one of the pagan religions - hate the light, and will aggressively attempt to shut out the light. But light pushes back darkness. "You are the light of the world…Let your light shine …" (Matthew 5:14-16).

 

 

Discussion on Purification

The entrances of John the Immerser and Jesus Himself on Judea’s scene stirred the pot of religious discussion among the Jews. Probably thousands became disciples of the Harbinger, and multitudes more became followers - in varying degrees of comprehension and commitment - of the Lord. After Christ’s participation in the festivities of His first Passover following His immersion, "Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and immersing" (John 3:22). [Later scripture notes that Jesus personally did not immerse anyone, but that His disciples did the immersing for Him.] This time with the disciples was time well-spent; the stage was being set for eventual world evangelism.

The apostle John recalled the scene at the lower Jordan. "And John [the Immerser] also was immersing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and they were coming and being immersed. For John had not yet been thrown into prison" (John 3:23,24). The news of this activity had spread throughout the land and the throngs arrived at the place in the Jordan deep enough for those immersions to occur, making it clear that the ancient practice was indeed immersion of the body rather than sprinkling or pouring. "There arose therefore a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have borne witness, behold, He is immersing, and all are coming to Him" (John 3:25,26).

May the discussion about purification continue!

 

Stepping Aside for the Bridegroom

In the days of John the Immerser, more than the waters of the lower Jordan were being stirred. The ministry of John had struck Israel like a thunderbolt, undermining the restrictions imposed by the scribes and Pharisees, and offering liberation to the common people. John’s immersion was entitled "the immersion of repentance," and it was for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). Multitudes came into the wilderness of Judea to be immersed by John, being set free from the yoke of those who had seated themselves in the chair of Moses, and being offered a new start under the Law. When the Sadducees and Pharisees tried to regain their leadership position by being immersed also, the Herald refused them, saying, "Bring forth fruit in keeping with your repentance" (Matthew 3:8). No repentance forthcoming, "the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been immersed by John" (Luke 7:30). While the waters of the Jordan were being stirred by all these immersions, the Jewish hierarchy was being stirred to action as they perceived a threat to their pompous power and politics.

Then Jesus Himself arrived on the scene. A more powerful and insightful preacher and teacher even than John, He began to influence more people than the Harbinger, and through His disciples multitudes more were being immersed into John’s immersion. With the controversy swirling and the talk going on, some of John’s disciples engaged a Jew in a discussion about purification. The Immerser’s disciples seized this opportunity to meet with their master and pose their concern to him. "Rabbi," they said, "He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have borne witness, behold, He is immersing, and all are coming to Him" (John 3:26). Their concern was that their master’s influence was waning in the face of the Newcomer from Galilee.

The Immerser, like all true servants of God, was a humble man and willing to set aside any personal desire or agenda for the sake of Christ and the gospel. All who have that same attitude also step aside for the bridegroom, and say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

 

The One from Above

While Jesus’ feet touched the earth, His head was fixed on heaven. As the Son of God, appearing as the Son of Man, He was a heavenly being come to dwell among the sons of men, whose purpose was to declare the glories of the realm above to those whose affections were often rooted on the realm below. John the Harbinger, as the one sent before the face of the Lord, had an awareness of who He was, and what His mission was. When John’s disciples expressed concern about the apparent rising star of Christ and the diminution of John’s, the Immerser took the time to explain what was happening.

Jesus is the One who has come from above to bear testimony about heaven. His credentials are verified by the Spirit, and wise men will heed the witness Jesus has borne.

 

Jesus Is Above All

The disciples of John the Immerser were concerned that John was losing his influence to an upstart from Galilee. "Rabbi," they said, "He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have borne witness, behold, He is immersing, and all are coming to Him" (John 3:26). The Harbinger indicated to his disciples that it was no problem for Jesus to be increasing while he personally was decreasing in influence. John knew who Jesus was, having stated repeatedly, "I have seen, and have borne witness, that this is the Son of God" (John 1:34).

Jesus, as the Son of God, was not of the earth; He came from heaven. "He who comes from heaven," was the pronouncement of the Forerunner, "is above all" (John 3:31). Because Jesus was above all, John was willing to step aside as a servant of the King, and let the King have all the glory. May his example be emulated!

John, of the earth, spoke of the earth; Jesus, from heaven, spoke of heaven, and, having seen and heard the things of glory, was the only competent witness of the things above. Given the Spirit without measure, Jesus spoke words from God, but, even so, the bulk of the Jews did not receive His witness. The ignorance and rebellion of mankind was not going to deter the plan of God, however.

Eternal life or the abiding wrath of God rests in the balance. Jesus is from above and has been given all authority by the Father; and the inspired assessment of the Immerser is that disobedience to the Son will result in eternal condemnation. The charge, issued from the lower Jordan by the Harbinger, has echoed off the walls of the deepest chasm on the surface of the earth and continues to resound throughout the whole world. The terms are: believe in the Son, with all that includes, to eternal life; disobey the Son, and go to a Christless hell for all eternity.

 

Stopover In Samaria

Those who are in positions of influence, when they have "come up through the ranks" rather than inheriting the position, are generally clever individuals who immediately perceive a threat or challenge to their rank. Those who are humble and interested in good guidance and governance are willing to step aside when someone of superior ability comes along, but those who are driven by "position ambition" are going to try to destroy the challenge. John the Immerser was challenge enough for the Jewish hierarchy, but the entrance of Jesus on the scene provoked an instantaneous reaction as the scribes and Pharisees moved into "damage control" mode.

As Jesus came into the lower Jordan, and His preaching was impacting the multitudes in Israel, the Pharisees began to flex their political muscle to put a ring of containment around the Christ. "When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and immersing more disciples than John (although Jesus was not immersing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and departed again into Galilee" (John 4:1-3).

The Bible is not a fictive account, containing kernels of truth, shrouded in legend and mystery. The locations mentioned are real, and it is possible to follow the geographical progression of events as recorded. Jesus stopped over at Samaria at Jacob’s Well, and a stone marker could be set at the location for interested pilgrims to read as they passed through, following the traces of the Lord’s path on this earthly ground.

 

The Promise of Living Water

The Lord Jesus was a man, a descendant of David through Mary. The Lord Jesus was also a prophet, bringing information to earth concerning Himself, the kingdom of God, and the age to come. As a man, He suffered the turmoil of inhabiting an earthly tent; as the prophet from Galilee, He revealed more good news about the promise of God.

Having led His disciples northward, He parked His weary carcass by Jacob’s Well at Sychar in Samaria while "the disciples had gone away into the city to buy food" (John 4:8). Though the Lord once walked on the water to demonstrate that He was the Christ, the Son of God, to the apostles, He in the flesh was not faster than a speeding bullet, nor did He leap over tall buildings in a single bound. Voluntarily emptying Himself to take the form of a bond-servant, Jesus subjected Himself to all the trials, temptations, and frailties of man. He could have sucked energy from the sap of the tree of life, but chose instead to allow Himself to be wearied and thirsty at Jacob’s Well.

The offer Jesus made to the Samaritan woman is now open to all. Anyone who knows that Jesus is speaking to him through the written or preached word and is willing to be humbly obedient in immersion, will receive LIVING WATER. "For the promise," proclaimed Peter on Pentecost, "is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord shall call to Himself" (Acts 2:39).

 

 

Those Who Will Never Thirst

Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth and bring to their remembrance all that He had spoken to them. While some skeptics look at this concept with a "Yeah, right!" negative attitude, it is clear that the truths unfolded before the eyes of a very astounded set of apostles as the Spirit guided the development of the church as recorded in the book of Acts. Buttressed by the previously and intelligently written Old Testament, truly the things which eye had not seen, ear had not heard, and which had not entered into the heart of man were now revealed through the inspired preaching and teaching of these men. The gospel according to John (as it is now styled), written after Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seems designed to focus on events not recorded in the other accounts and therein to bring the teaching of Jesus concerning the Spirit to the fore.

At Jacob’s Well in Sychar, Samaria, such a conversation is recorded by John. While Jesus had been waiting at the Well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. After the Lord asked for a drink, the exchange led to Jesus’ offering her "living water" if she knew who was speaking to her, if she knew the gift of God, and if she would ask for it.

"Whoever" is the word Jesus used. Jew, Gentile, male, female, slave or free — it makes no difference to the gracious King — the offer is open to all who would obey Him. To never thirst — is this your experience, my friend? Does that Artesian well flow, or are you one of the ones still trying to satisfy a dry gullet with the materialism of modern Western Civilization?

 

 

Progression from Curiosity

The Lord Jesus was a master at working His contacts. Those who follow Him to fish for men would do well to pay attention to His methods and approaches. The Lord aroused the curiosity of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well by instigating a discussion on living water. Intelligently reeling her in, the Master Fisherman then produced a craving for something spiritual and moved her to conviction of her personal sin.

The Lord was the Master Teacher and Preacher. Step by step He led this lady into a deeper and deeper discussion for her benefit, and thus planted the seed of spiritual revolution in the ground of Samaria.

 

 

Seeking True Worshipers

Seven centuries before the Lord Jesus walked the earth as a descendant of David, God had the Assyrians carry the northern nation of Israel into captivity. Other nationalities were brought in to replace those who were dispersed, and some Levitical teachers were returned to teach the people about Jehovah; this admixture of peoples became the Samaritans. The Samaritans eventually built a facsimile of Jerusalem’s temple on Mt. Gerizim near Sychar and Jacob’s Well, established their own priesthood, and worshiped at this false temple instead of in Jerusalem.

Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink from Jacob’s Well, and in the ensuing discussion forced her to at least conclude that He was a prophet. This prompted a question in her mind about the proper place for worshiping God, and she posed her question as a statement: "Our fathers worshiped God in this mountain, and you [Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" (John 4:20). Our Lord followed with the only teaching there is recorded in pages of the New Testament on the subject of worship under the terms of the new covenant.

The Father in heaven was not and is not messing around. Out of all the peoples of the earth, the Almighty in His mercy is seeking for those who will in all honesty spiritually prostrate themselves perpetually before Him. All the rest will be consigned to the eternal fires and darkness. The emphasis of Him who knows all things is that those who worship God "must worship Him in spirit and truth."

 

 

Worshiping and Serving God

Men have their plans for planet earth. Some want to stop all evidences of civilization and return everyone else to a primitive, subsistence-level lifestyle. Some want to conquer the earth and subjugate its population. Some just want to have a nice home and a quiet neighborhood and for other folks to leave them alone. But the real question is, "What are God’s plans for planet earth?" Most of earth’s current citizenry have no clue as to what God’s real purpose was in creating earth and letting man subdue it. Hence God sent His Son into the world with His message, pre-figured by the Old Testament and explained in the New.

Jesus is eminently qualified, then, to testify as to what God’s purpose for the creation and mankind is: God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24)! Properly understood, the gospel is a winnowing mechanism the Almighty uses to separate the wheat from the chaff and to produce partakers of the divine nature who desire to, who can, and who will worship Him as He asks, in Spirit and in truth.

Carnal man cannot nor will not worship God "in spirit." Hence he substitutes "in the physical realm" for "in spirit" and retreats to calling things such as the Lord’s Supper, prayer, and singing "worship" in spite of the fact that the New Testament calls them "service." God is seeking only those who will worship "in spirit and truth." Who will honestly and sincerely answer His call?

 

 

What Sustained Jesus

The apostles returned to Jacob’s Well, having purchased food during their excursion into the town of Sychar. Upon their return, they were astonished that He had been carrying on a conversation with a Samaritan woman, but were hesitant to ask Him what He wanted from her or why He would deign to speak with her. When the disciples arrived, the woman took her cue that her private conversation with the Lord was over, went into the city, and got all the folks excited to go and to meet the celebrity she had discovered.

The Lord of the Harvest is intensely interested in the harvest. During the days of His flesh, He was sustained in His tremendous output of activity by His drive to accomplish the Father’s will in saving the lost. His character has not changed, and He still sustains His body, the church, in the drive to seek and save the lost sheep.

 

 

Early Reception in Galilee

Jesus scurried out of Judea when the Pharisees got wind of how many people the Lord was having His disciples immerse in the Jordan. Instead of traveling along the Jordan to reach Galilee, He and His disciples went up into the hill country and proceeded north through Samaria. After spending two days in Sychar, He continued northward into the higher elevations of Galilee, where the reception of Jesus by the Galileans is recorded in the gospel according to John.

Jesus began His concentrated effort in Galilee with a powerful miracle wherein the subject to be healed was not even present. If the royal official had been able to get word that Jesus had simply come out of Judea into Galilee, then the news of this miracle would certainly spread throughout the region. "This is again a second sign that Jesus performed, when He had come out of Judea into Galilee" (John 4:54).

 

 

Trouble at the Second Passover

From the first the Pharisees recognized Jesus as a threat to their system. The reason Jesus had to quit immersing people in the Jordan was because the Pharisees heard He was immersing even more than John the Immerser. But the intensity of their opposition increased as Jesus went down to Jerusalem to participate in His second Passover of the time of His ministry. The Lord was going to carry His offensive a step further by healing on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees would react.

Now the conflict in authority arises; the Pharisees are going to use the enforcement of their use of the Sabbath to start driving a wedge between Jesus’ movement and the current standard of Judaism. Their concern was not truth; their concern was their position, and they used the people’s general misconception of the Sabbath to inflame the public’s opinion against Jesus. The first pressure is evident as the apostle John enters the response of the man who has been told it is not permissible for him to carry his pallet on the Sabbath day: "But he answered them, ‘He who made me well was the one who said to me, "Take up your pallet and walk." ’ " (John 5:11).

 

 

Caving In To Pressure

"Do you wish to get well?" Jesus asked a certain man at Bethesda’s pool. Indications of his character showed in his answer; instead of simply saying, "Yes," he whined about the fact that he didn’t have a man-servant to put him into the pool at the stirring of the waters. The Lord healed him anyway, deliberately curing the sick man on the Sabbath, knowing that this action would bring down the condemnation of the Pharisees.

The character of an individual is demonstrated when he is tested. The man who was healed on the Sabbath, by the deliberate action of the Lord Jesus, was thrown into a situation wherein he would demonstrate loyalty to the One who had the power to heal or a loyalty to those who had the political power to punish anyone who broke their rules. He caved in under pressure and trashed Jesus for the sake of ingratiating himself for earthly gain.

 

 

Fall-out from "Sabbath-breaking"

Jesus was a nice guy. Jesus healed a man who had lain a long time by the pool of Bethesda. The man went to the Jewish hierarchy and "ratted" on Jesus because Jesus didn’t seem to offer the same type of benefits as he could receive by his "toadying" efforts to the ranking Jews. No doubt he had his reward in full.

But the opposition to the Lord, now beginning to build up steam, finally had an issue that they could use against Him. The issue wasn’t the issue, really; the real issue was that Jesus was a threat to their power and position. Since they couldn’t come right out and say that to the multitudes that the Nazarene was a threat to their power and position, they had to find an issue they could use to cover their agenda and inflame the passions of the masses. From their perspective, Jesus made a tactical error and handed them the ammunition they needed by healing the man publicly on the Sabbath.

The Jews were looking for an issue on which they might hang Jesus. The Savior deliberately healed on the Sabbath, and the hierarchy automatically raised the hue and cry about the Lord’s unorthodox action, when in fact God Incarnate was clarifying the understanding of the Sabbath for anyone willing to learn. When Jesus also referred to God as being His Father - which was, of course, a true statement - the "feeding frenzy" increased in fervor as the Jews intensified their efforts to vilify and eventually crucify Him. The truth about Jesus and the Sabbath was not the issue; the healing on the Sabbath was a smokescreen created by the hierarchy whose real goal was to preserve its position and power.

 

 

Tandem Teamwork

The Jews sought to kill Jesus because He violated their standards about the observance of the Sabbath and because He called God His own Father. "Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.’ " (John 5:19). God is Spirit; as Spirit He is not limited to the specific boundaries always imposed on the material realm. The Great Spirit is therefore beyond the clear understanding of man. "No man has seen God at any time," observed the apostle John earlier. "The only begotten [Son of] God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). Jesus was beginning the explanation process; the Jewish leadership, instead of listening and learning, began their drive to execute Him.

How close are the Father and Son? One of the ways our Immanuel had of answering the question was to point out that He and the Father moved precisely in tandem, that what the Son saw the Father doing, the Son imitated perfectly.

It is not the will of the Father that any should perish, but that all should be brought to repentance. Working in perfect unison, the Father and the Lord began to initiate the means by which all those truly interested in truth could be rescued. The tandem teamwork of Father and Son can save the world.

 

 

Jesus on J-Day

The Lord was always teaching. Whether any learned from the teaching or accepted the teaching was up to the one who heard; Jesus continued to share heavenly information with all audiences, hostile and receptive. "The Father raise the dead and gives them life," He taught. "The Son also give life to whom He wishes," was an addendum. In these simple statements the Savior of the world communicated volumes in terms of fellowship with God and participating in the proper resurrection. This He also used to introduce His teaching on Judgment Day.

Jesus’ teaching was to upgrade the understanding of His hearers, to introduce them to a clearer comprehension of the nature and character of God. When Jesus said that God "has given all judgment to the Son," He made it plain of whom John spoke in his Apocalypse: "And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them" (Revelation 20:11).

 

 

The Word of Jesus

When Jesus walked in the flesh, He made some audacious claims. He maintained that He could actually see what the Father was doing, and that He Himself did nothing except what He also saw the Father doing. He asserted that He could give life to whom He wished. He stated that He would be the One to sit on the great white throne of judgment. Only God could make such claims; the Savior certainly set anyone who really heard him back on his heels with such bold assertions. But He continued.

What a huge offer Jesus tendered to the spiritually interested - the opportunity to pass from death to life. But this opportunity only comes through the word, what the Lord would call the "voice of the Son of God." Take advantage of the opportunity. Hear, heed, and live!

 

 

The Importance of Spiritual Life

The recent specter of bodies plunging from the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and the fires burning at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., gripped the world. Millions watched in horror as live television broadcast the collapse of the twin towers that have for nearly thirty years dominated the New York skyline, trapping thousands inside. Hundreds of firefighters and policemen died trying to rescue those caught in the disaster, and the world witnessed death and destruction on a dramatic scale. Mankind came once again face to face with his mortality; time will show whether he turns to God, or whether he will plunge on in the darkness of his misunderstanding.

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live" (John 5:25). Against the billowing black backdrop of death stands the shining light called "life." But the life of which Jesus spoke was not mere earthly existence wherein a person might escape the collapse of a building but fall victim to a heart attack; the life of which He spoke was spiritual life, the life that lasts forever. This life is fellowship with God, with joys unspeakable in the here and now, and on in to eternity. Such life is earnestly to be desired, but its value only begins to become clear to humanity when it is contrasted to its opposite, the fires of hell.

Jesus has authority to call men out of darkness into light, out of death into life. Those who hear His voice live, and what value is there in that life! May the specter of falling bodies, burning buildings, and crashing towers move modern man to an appreciation of that which is life indeed, and may the brethren be exhorted to give thanks to God for spiritual life in Christ Jesus.

 

 

The Authority of King Jesus

Physical life is very complex. Man cannot produce life; he has determined, if he will admit it, the principle that life only comes from life. Just as the notes on a page of sheet music are toneless unless brought to life by a mighty orchestra, dead also are the complex organic chemicals which carry the information necessary for the conduct of life unless stirred by the mighty Conductor. Jesus Christ brought physical life into existence by His word, sustains it by His word, and will cause it to cease by His word. Mankind may rail against Him, men may beat themselves against the wall trying to deny His existence and power, but each will hear these words unless obedient to Him, "Tonight, you fool, your soul is required of you."

But as complex as may be physical life, it is only a teaching tool to move man to an understanding of spiritual life. And just as physical life is the product of Jesus Christ, so also is spiritual life.

The definition of a resurrection is the rejoining of soul and spirit with a body. Those who have already passed from this earth are absent from the body, and their souls and spirits are already in the torment of Hades’ fires or in the bliss of a Paradise with Jesus. But the One who has the authority to give life to those who hear His voice, and the One who is judge of all, will also give the appropriate resurrection at the end of time. Get it right, the first and only time!

 

 

The Father’s Testimony

The Prince and Savior made it clear that His attempt to rescue mankind was not a maverick operation. It was a carefully timed, coordinated event which involved angels, empires, and the spiritual condition of the Jews. It took thousands of years of planning and preparation to bring this rescue operation about; and it required the continued watch of the Father in heaven to save Jesus - not from death, but the wrong kind of death at the wrong time. The happenings of heaven had to be directing the happenings on earth, requiring a systematic and complete communications network between the two.

Jesus only did those works which were dictated first from heaven. The success of the rescue operation depended upon Jesus’ carefully carrying out the plan coordinated from heaven, that the witness of heaven might be brought to bear on who Jesus was. "I say these things," Jesus informed the Jews of the importance of the details of this rescue operation, "that you may be saved."

 

 

Glory from the Father

It is built into man to seek approval of some kind. Generally the sons of man look for acceptance from an earthly peer group, their insecurities driving them to establish some sort of pecking order. While a pecking order may make a bit of sense if a person’s focus is on earth, it is ridiculous and extremely childish from a heavenly perspective. So while man was scrambling to see which dog would be at the top of the pile, Jesus came from above to bring a view from heaven to the proceedings.

Those who desire the praise of men have their reward in full. Shallow though it is, it is all they shall receive; for once they have passed out of this life, they begin to burn in Hades. Jesus, knowing all things, would not stoop to seeking glory from men. He would press on, bearing testimony of the glories of heaven and the salvation of men.

 

 

Receiving Jesus

It is common today to speak of "accepting Jesus." When someone is described as having "accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior," the implication is that he is "saved," having had his sins forgiven in a spiritual "born again experience." So strong is the pressure from Billy-Graham-types that even those who ought to know better often use this denominational terminology, this modern language of Ashdod, speaking of someone who "accepted Christ and was baptized." This is double talk, a religious "newspeak" wherein somehow both God and men are to be pleased.

Sooner or later every individual chooses between heaven and earth. Those who choose to please men and to use terminology that pleases men will receive the smiles of approval and certificates of distinction from earth’s organizations but will experience weeping and gnashing of teeth in the eternal lake of fire. Those who choose to please God and to use terminology which pleases God will receive glory and honor and praise from the King of kings. The choice to undergo cursing from the crowd in order to receive glory from God is clear to those who have spiritual perception.

 

 

The Testimony of Moses

"All Scripture," said the apostle Paul, "is inspired by God" (II Timothy 3:16). "No prophecy of Scripture," affirmed Peter, was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (II Peter 1:20,21). God had affirmed and confirmed His word from Moses onward, and many was the man who learned the hard way that God did not deviate, except by petition in very special circumstances, from what was written. David the king, a man after God’s own heart, learned that when Moses had written that the ark of the covenant was to be carried by the priests on poles, that did not mean that it was acceptable for the ark to be hauled on an ox cart!

The Jew of Jesus’ day claimed to follow the teachings of Moses. The Pharisees, in fact, were a sect originally begun to foster the observance of the commands of God given through the Law of Moses. It was in this setting that Jesus had made the statement, "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life." They sought through the Old Testament, but were blind to the truth of what Jesus said in His follow-up: "It is these that bear witness of Me."

One of the most inspiring features of the scripture is the remarkable unity and harmony of all the writings. The testimony of Moses, written nearly 1500 years before the crucifixion of Christ, is in perfect unison with the testimony of the apostles and New Testament prophets. The word of God is written in such a way that it not only proves itself to be true, but it also tests the honesty of its readers. "For if you believed Moses," was a poignant and true thrust of Jesus, "you would believe Me."

 

 

Feeding the Five Thousand

Jesus was most careful to protect, maintain, and expand the momentum of His movement, which would eventually coalesce as the church in Acts. Even when He spoke some challenges, and numerous disciples walked away, that was still forward movement because dead wood and hindrances to the progress of Jesus’ spiritual revolution were eliminated. From the time that Jesus healed the sick man at the pool of Bethesda recorded in John 5 and the events recorded in John 6 took place, nearly a year passed and He continued to build that momentum. The Lord continued to perform miracles, to teach and preach in the synagogues of Galilee, and to add disciples to His following.

The feeding of the five thousand is recorded in all four gospel accounts, and is one of the major miracles of the Lord Jesus. The lesson of the ability of God to supply through faith was delivered to Philip and the other disciples. The Christian today must expect that he will encounter similar challenges wherein he will learn to have faith in God’s ability to supply in the face of impossible odds.

 

 

Looking For An Earthly King

Five thousand men, their women, and their children assembled on the lawn. Who could feed 20,000 plus people with five barley loaves and two fish? Jesus could! Sitting in companies of fifty or one hundred men, the five thousand were fed from the loaves and the fish "as much as they wanted."

The fleshly-minded of the five thousand, when they perceived the miracle of the provision of physical food, were convinced that the shout of an earthy king was among them. But Jesus anticipated their designs, hid Himself on the mountain, sent the apostles away, and thwarted the design of the "democratic" movement. The Lord was never to be a lowly earthly king!

 

 

Genesaret Crossing

Jesus hid Himself from the mob in the maze of the mountain. When the five thousand were fed, they sought to make Him an earthly king’ but instead of stepping forth to accept their laurels, Jesus thwarted their plan by disappearing, leaving the apostles at the base of the peak. These events took place near the southwest sector of the Sea of Galilee, and the Lord had apparently given some instructions to the apostles to direct their actions during His absence on the mountain.

"They came to land at Genesaret," (Mark 6:53). The evening had begun with a mob’s attempt to make Jesus king, had included several hour’s rowing against the wind, had encompassed both Jesus’ and Peter’s walk on the water, and had ended with the miraculous landing. No wonder the apostles never forgot the Genesaret crossing.

 

 

The "Free Lunch" Crowd

Some people will work harder at getting out of work than they would have to if they simply worked in the first place. Ever since God placed a curse on mankind when Adam sinned and man was going to earn his living by the sweat of his brow, a percentage of the race has tried to duck the curse. The times of Jesus the Messiah were no exception, and a "free lunch" crowd put a lot of effort into looking for another meal from the Son of God.

Jesus had fed the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish. When the significance of this miracle soaked into the consciousness of the multitude, an effort arose to make Him an earthly king. Jesus hid Himself, prayed, walked across the water to the apostles in the boat, and instantly landed with them at Genesaret. He had disappeared, and the "free lunch" crowd was going to have to find Him in order to receive a handout.

Fleshly man wants a god whose concern it is to make sure that physical needs are met - food, health, wealth, happiness. God looks past the "free lunch" crowd to find the single individual who will seek out the Jesus, the source of food that endures to eternal life.

 

 

Signed and Sealed

Jesus claimed that He was the special messenger from God. On the Son of Man, He said, "the Father, even God, has set His seal" (John 6:27). This was not an idle claim; the multitude were witnesses of His miraculous feeding of thousands of people. When He made the statement that the Father had stamped Him with His seal of approval, then they should have listened carefully to His teachings and should have obeyed His commands. "Work," He said, "for the food which endures to eternal life."

Jesus, the great Son of God and Son of Man, both divine and human, came to explain the ways of God and to point out the path of righteousness. Proof of His divinity was clearly established by the signs He performed. When He was immersed by John in the Jordan, He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and thus sealed with the seal of righteousness. Signed and sealed, He was then delivered — for man’s transgressions.

 

 

No Hunger and No Thirst

"Ho!" exclaimed the Lord through Isaiah. "Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy, and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost" (Isaiah 55:1). One of the words that is a sure attention grabber is FREE! Most people will focus on that word and then try to find out what it is that is being offered at no cost. "Why do you spend money for what is not bread," asked the Lord, "and your wages for what does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2). The Almighty, in this prophecy, offered true food and drink for FREE.

Jesus, during the days of His earthly sojourn, continued the offer. Having fed five thousand men and their families with five barley loaves and two fish, the Lord had set the stage for the lesson which He really wanted to communicate. "The bread of God," He said, "is that which comes down out of heave, and gives life to the world." Now properly stoked, they responded, "Lord, evermore give us this bread." But, as Isaiah had prophesied, it would be spiritual bread - not the physical bread which, when eaten, soon has to be purchased again.

"Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?" is a haunting question from the prophet. The offer of the Spirit is FREE! He who truly comes to Jesus will never hunger, and he who has an obedient faith will never thirst.

 

 

The Will of the Father

The issue of Jesus splits mankind into two camps: those who believe, and those who are condemned. "This Child," said the old prophet Simeon, at the redemption of the first born at the temple, "is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed … to the end that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34,35). When a multitude of Jews gathered after He fed thousands in the wilderness near the Sea of Galilee, the Lord pushed their belief level by informing them that He personally was the bread of life, that anyone who came to Him would not hunger and that anyone who believed in Him would never thirst.

The will of the Father is that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, but God is also willing to let men choose. Jesus Christ, on His part, came down from heaven to be the Lamb of sacrifice, to take away the sins of the world. Resurrected as Savior, He has the power to deliver all who truly trust Him.

 

 

The Grumbling Begins

When the multitudes sought out Jesus, looking for more bread, He responded, "I am the bread of life," "the bread of God…which comes down out of heaven" (John 6:35,33). Some of the crowd’s curiosity would have been aroused, and they would have looked further into the claim. Some would have been disinterested in the claim, coming along for personal reasons. But some, of a little more of a complaining nature, would have looked for an opportunity to put Jesus down for making such a claim.

The Father set in motion a plan before the foundation of the world to salvage the willing from the sons of man. The message was intimated in God’s promise to Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Amplified through the rest of the Old Testament, and increasingly clarified through the coming of Christ to earth, the message had its drawstrings now firmly attached. Men could grumble about it, or humbly learn and obey.

 

 

 

The Guarantee of Christ

Sometimes people wonder if God is fair. Another way of putting the question is to ask if God is just. The queries about the "justness" of God are clearly answered in a multitude of scriptures. "All who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law," penned Paul to the brethren in Rome. Both Jew and Greek, he wrote, were under just condemnation because each broke the law of righteousness. "For there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:11,12).

But still people wonder if God is fair. It is true, they will admit, that God is just or fair in condemning all who have sinned. But is it fair, they ponder, for God only to allow certain people to hear the message of salvation and to have the opportunity to be saved. Is it fair for others never to have even heard the word? The fact is, of course, that God intensely desires the salvation of each individual but must arrange the presentation of the word of God and order circumstances such that only truth-seekers will sort through the haze of confusion and come into the clear light of written revelation.

The great One had seen the Father. He then guaranteed that everyone who believes in Him - as the New Testament writings define belief — has eternal life! And as the One who had seen the Father, He has the authority to back that guarantee.

 

 

More Bread

"Give us this day our daily bread," was part of the way Jesus instructed His followers to pray. In a land and time of no preservatives, bread had to be baked daily. God so ordered the nature of subsistence so that for most people in most places, man has been very conscious of the connection between daily bread and imminent starvation. In Israel’s case, God even made the lesson more poignant in His feeding the millions with manna daily. "And He humbled you and let you be hungry," the Jews would read from their scrolls in the synagogue, "and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3). Israel especially knew the importance of bread, ground from wheat, appropriately called "the staff of life."

Jesus is the living bread which came down from heaven to offer Himself on behalf of all men all over the world. The picture is crystal clear: if anyone can "get his hands on this bread" and eat it, he will live forever. Let’s eat!

 

 

Communing with Jesus

Loathsome to the Jew, and rightly so, was the eating of human flesh. When the multitude found Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum after His feeding of the five thousand, the Teacher patiently moved them over several milestones of understanding. At first they were just looking for another free meal. This was used to produce an interest in doing the will of God. Jesus then maneuvered the conversation to a discussion on believing in Him as the bread of life. As He taught them that He had authority to raise up those who believed in Him "on the last day," His humanity was bandied about. As a man, with Joseph and Mary as His recognized father and mother, the Lord had them reeling with the thought that He was the bread that came down out of heaven. Then He added one more blow: "The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."

No wonder consternation broke out in the hearers. The apostle John recorded the uproar: "The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ " (John 6:52). Their minds for the most part were stuck in the physical realm. But Christ was willing to try one more time to move them over to the ground of spiritual appreciation.

"This is the bread which came down from heaven," He summarized; "not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever" (John 6:58). The call is for sleepers to come to life in Christ, and live on!

 

 

The Spirit Gives Us Life

The challenge God’s spokesmen have faced throughout the millennia is to get their hearers to see the importance of the spiritual realm. Man tends to be concerned primarily with his material welfare and secondarily with family or personal relationships. Liberal denominations in America, for more than a hundred years, have taken "salvation" to mean "a roof over every head, and a chicken in every pot." Church organizations often are rated on how much humanitarian aid they provide, whether they are an asset to the community, and how well they help families jell together. Is there any real community concern about whether people are reconciled to God and fellowship with Him through the blood of His Son in accordance with the terms of the written New Testament? NO! The modern focus, like those who have marched through the previous millennia, is on the physical, and the voices of the spokesmen of God have fallen on generally deaf ears.

Two and one-half years into His ministry, near the time of the third Passover in which Jesus was to participate following His immersion, He fed five thousand men with five barley loaves and two fish. A multitude tried to track Him down afterward, seeking for another free meal. Jesus eventually closed out His discourse on spiritual things, as the apostle John described. "These things He said in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum" (John 6:59). He had stated, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." A few seconds of serious thought would have enabled anyone to conclude that he was speaking in spiritual terms. But the crowd was there for more bread and more circuses, and was not generally interested in thinking a step or two deeper than a mere physical outlook.

The minds of most of the multitude who listened to Jesus in the synagogue were focused on the flesh, and those who were disciples in general wanted some fleshly benefit through association with Him. But the spiritually interested would stay with Him until they understood what He meant when He said, "It is the Spirit who gives life."

 

 

Words of Life

That which is written, as far as God is concerned, has power equal to that which is spoken. When the apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Spirit, descanted concerning God’s words to Abraham, he referred first to what God said in Genesis 17. Moses in Genesis recorded the occasion thusly" "And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.’" (Genesis 17:3,4). When the apostle referenced the account, he used the words, "as it is written." Moses also presented and earlier conversation between God and Abraham: "And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ " (Genesis 15:5). When Paul quoted this passage in Romans, he used the words "according to that which had been spoken" (Romans 4:17,18). That which is written, as far as God is concerned, has equal power to that which has been spoken.

The formation of the material elements of earthly existence by the word of God is easier to comprehend than the creation of spiritual beings. The plants, animals, rock, and seas are tangible, and the power to create them is relatively comprehensible; being born again of the words of Jesus is intangible and the power to create a spiritual new creature is more difficult to grasp. The thunder from heaven that strips the forests bare is nothing in comparison to written words, which when obeyed result in the formation of a new creature in Christ. But simply because the power is in the spiritual realm does not make it unreal. On the contrary, the only real life and power are in the words of Jesus.

 

 

Some Do Not Believe

Brethren are sometimes under the false impression that if they do everything perfect and pleasing, their contacts are guaranteed to become Christians. If the preacher of the day will preach just the right message, they reason, if the bulletin boards are attractive, and if everyone in the congregation is friendly, then guests in the assembly are guaranteed to be interested in the gospel. While bulletin boards should be attractive, brethren should be friendly to the Gentiles present, and the preacher of the day should preach the word of God, none of those should or could be ultimate "selling points" in the process of a lost soul’s becoming a Christian. God’s program with man is designed to sift and sort out the wheat of mankind and to separate the kernels from the chaff - to separate truth-seekers from excuse-makers. Even Jesus in His days on earth would not and could not prevent a significant percentage of His contacts from "flaking out."

Many had gathered in Capernaum’s synagogue to hear Jesus speak. Working off the theme of food - the feeding of the five thousand and God’s granting the children of Israel manna in the wilderness - the Lord stated, "My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink." Many of His followers were not hearing the platitudes that they wanted to hear, and they responded, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" But Jesus went on to move the willing off the flesh to a more spiritual mind-set.

Jesus is our great example; He would not compromise the truth simply to keep the crowds following Him. Those whose minds stay on the flesh are unspiritual, and they need to be let go when they walk away.

 

 

Words of Eternal Life

Jesus was willing to lose numbers of followers in order to hone the collection of disciples into a committed crew. He knew that His mission was to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, and that His words of spirit and life would exactly accomplish His purpose. The "hard" or difficult sayings of Christ would occasionally cause some of His hearers to bail out; He accepted that as part of the process.

After speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum, many of His disciples left. They just would not accept what they considered to be His outrageous claims, and they pulled back into the comfort of their standard Judaism. "Many of His disciples withdrew," was the fact of the account, "and were not walking with Him any more" (John 6:66).

Jesus is indeed the Holy One of God - not Two or Many. He alone could bring the message of heaven to earth, and He alone could deliver the only words of eternal life. To understand His word and through it to know Him is precious. Do not neglect such a salvation by not walking with Him any more.

 

 

Treachery Foreknown

Traitor! The word fairly hisses, for there is nothing so destructive to a cause as one who works from within to betray his companions. The traitor walks freely among his people; he speaks their language, wears their clothes, is aware of the nuances of speech and custom, and, above all, is regarded as trustworthy. He is able to worm his way into positions of leadership, privy to special knowledge and planning. His information is therefore of inestimable value to enemies, and his betrayal rips a gaping hole in the coordinated front of his brethren. There is nothing so despicable and destructive as a traitor, and the other apostles of Jesus can hardly, as they look back and record their history, write his name without spitting contemptuously on the ground.

The crowds were leaving. The numbers had reached their temporary zenith in the multitudes who came to Capernaum’s synagogue to hear Jesus preach after being aroused by His ability to provide food for five thousand men and their families. When He pressured them with the idea that unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood they had no life in them, they withdrew from His movement, muttering about no one’s being able to listen to such statements. When Jesus probed the apostles about their willingness to stay on, Peter responded that they had no one else to turn to, for the Lord alone had words of eternal life.

The Lord faced every temptation common to man, yet without sin. One of the most challenging of all would have been for Him to maintain His good and positive attitude, knowing that the one called Judas, as he sat day after day at the same campfire with the Christ, was going to betray Him, and attempt to torpedo all His efforts. Praise God for His great example!

 

 

Prelude to Tabernacles

When the viewer is close, the high peaks are often obscured by lower foothills. Only distance and elevation put the picture in perspective, and then the foothills are dwarfed by the magnificence of the majestic massifs which stand behind them. And so it is in the relationship of man to men. Proximity obscures the greatness of the truly great in the eyes of his close associates and his contemporaries; only the distance of time and the elevation of history make it possible for the outstanding character, signal achievements, and history-altering insights of some men to be evident amidst the range of normal of activities of their bedfellows in time.

Into the mix of men came the Lord Jesus; the Word dwelt "among us" (John 1:14). Those who were closest to him, the children of Joseph and Mary, had a hard time seeing His greatness. His contemporaries among the Jews were openly contemptuous, eventually putting Him to death. The small-minded and short-sighted have always despised glimmerings of greatness in others, and have always done everything they can to sabotage the positive progress that comes through the insight and accomplishments of those rare individuals who know what their purpose in history is, and who, by the grace of God, can seize the day. Thus it was, in the ultimate degree, with the blessed Lord Jesus.

The brothers may have been somewhat sincere in the advice and encouragement they offered. But they were too close to see Jesus’ greatness, and consequently unaware of the great spiritual battle that was already raging. And their advice, correspondingly, would have been dead wrong.

 

 

Cagey Comments

Because Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him and in what He was doing, He could not trust them. They gave some good worldly advice, saying that if He really wanted to get His movement going, He should set up His table and booth at the big convention in Jerusalem. "For no one does anything in secret, when he himself seeks to be known publicly," they said. Such a strategy was based on their perception that Jesus only wanted a share of the Jewish market; what they didn’t understand was that He eventually was going to destroy that market and replace it with a superior system.

The spiritual war was being waged under the noses of Jesus’ brothers, but they had no comprehension of the forces that were at work in the world to try to trap Jesus. When His "time" had "fully come," then Jesus would step out to meet those who would lead Him to His crucifixion. Until then, He sent His brothers on ahead to Jerusalem, leaving their heads ringing with the echoes of His cagey comments.

 

 

Stirrings in the Mob

In spite of the efforts of the Pharisees and Sadducees to silence Jesus, He had made a tremendous impact on the Jewish people. In a rapid-paced three years, He had spoken in synagogue after synagogue, performed numerous healings and miracles, talked to small groups, and lectured large crowds. By the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, 29 AD, there was a grass roots curiosity about Jesus that no suppression from the top could stop. But they had the pressure on, so that Jesus Himself was compelled to go up to Jerusalem, "not publicly, but as it were, in secret." In disguise, then, He approached the ancient city.

People talk about what is important or interesting to them. The Almighty would rather have multitudes discussing the pros and cons of various points concerning the kingdom of God than arguing which of the daytime television programs has the best plot. The Lord knew, as John recorded in His account, that He was making progress among the people when He was the topic of discussion at the Feast of Tabernacles. Even though some thought He was leading the multitude astray, He would have been excited to know that His ministry and message were having sufficient impact that He was being discussed by the common people and opposed by the chief priests and elders.

Progress comes at a price. Rejoice when the spiritual revolution becomes the topic of conversation. You can measure your effectiveness by the size of your enemies.

Jesus was making progress, and His time would fully come just six months later at the Feast of Passover, 30 AD.

 

 

The Mark of a True Teacher

Those who are in the educational establishment are in business. They are not neutral, nor have they ever been neutral. Anyone who goes into education has a message, a mission, or agenda, and he does not quit his field at a slight challenge. And those of the modern educational establishment work hard to promote their overall system; thus those who have not purchased Ph.D.’s at their price and from their system are not regarded as really educated or qualified to speak on a specified topic. They have it set up so that all education has to flow through their institutions and thus ensure the continuation of their "business," and that money continues to flow from tax coffers to the flood of their brainwashing citadels.

So it was in Jesus’ day. When He showed up incognito in the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles, those of that society’s educational establishment were greatly surprised at His message and delivery. "How has this man become learned," they asked, "having never been educated?" It wasn’t that He hadn’t been educated; it was just that He hadn’t been educated in their recognized institutions and by their rabbis. He had learned in the local synagogue where He grew up, and He especially had become learned by reading and memorizing His Bible.

Jesus did not come up through the established organs of Judaism, having a piece of paper on His wall proclaiming Him to be a certified rabbi. But His teaching came from God in accordance with what was written in the sacred word; it was clear that He, as a true teacher sent from above, sought no glory but what would accrue to the Father in heaven. May we so walk today.

 

Who’s Crazy Here?

The Jewish hierarchy had its agenda; the people as a whole — the multitude — were unaware of the conspiracy to destroy Jesus and anyone who taught the same things as He did. In disguise at the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall of 29 AD, Jesus was teaching with insights and depth unfamiliar to the ranking rabbis of Judaism. At their outcry over His lack of proper credentials, the Lord simply challenged them actually to apply the teachings to their personal lives in order to find out whether He was a fake or in fact a teacher sent from God.

But the Lord Jesus was not willing to leave the inquiry there in regard to His own teaching. The crowd was also, in a slightly more subtle way, challenged to examine the teachings of those others. "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory," was the astute observation of the Maker of men, "but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him" (John 7:18).

Mankind as a whole has its ambitions and desires, and weaves its will through the fabric of societies, customs, and mores of each localized group. Those of Jesus’ time worked through Jewish society, bending the teachings of Moses and the prophets to suit their will, willing to eliminate the Son of God when He stood in their way.

Father, help us to learn the appropriate lessons from these recorded conversations!

 

 

With Righteous Judgment

The incognito Jesus challenged the scribes and Pharisees in the midst of the Feast of Tabernacles. They wanted to know what His credentials for teaching were; He wanted to know whether they were honest and kept the law of Moses. When the answers to the honesty and law-keeping questions were "negatory," then the Christ of God pointed out that these self-righteous guardians of the gate were desirous of killing Him. The crowd, involved in the exchange, wanted to know who was seeking to put Him to death. Jesus to some degree brushed the query aside to continue to work on the Jewish hierarchy, with the crowd still participating in the proceedings.

The battle goes on: show vs. substance. Those who are interested in show judge according to appearance; those who are interested in substance judge with righteous judgment.

 

"You Know Where I Am From"

Look deeper than the surface, Jesus appealed to His hearers. "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). In a crowd different people are going to hear different things because of what is important to each person. Many, preferring to salve the conscience rather than cure the guilt, hear what sounds good to them; as long as the show has the form of godliness, they are satisfied. But there are a small percentage who ask the probing questions, who are interested in the true power of godliness rather than just holding to the form. Both types were present at Jesus’ incognito appearance at the temple during the Feast of Booths in the fall of 29 AD, and both had different reactions to the comments of the Lord.

The Lord Jesus was appreciative of those who were able to slice through the fog, some of which was precipitated by the mass manipulators. But He gave no one an excuse for not recognizing Him, as the apostle John notes in using the word "therefore." "Jesus therefore cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, ‘You both know Me and know where I am from …" (John 7:28). In the ultimate sense, He came from heaven with words of eternal life.

 

The Teaching Tells The Tale

Some of the assemblage drew the conclusion that the incognito Jesus was the Christ, but most languished in confusion. Behind the scenes and lurking in wait were "the Jews," the Sanhedrin and their representatives, looking to turn the crowd against Him at any opportunity. In the temple, the teaching Jesus cried out, pulling the perceptive heavenward in their thinking. "You both know Me," He said, "and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know" (John 7:28).

The teaching of Jesus, backed by His miracles, told the tale. He was indeed the Teacher sent from God, carrying heavenly truth to rescue captive man. "I know Him," were the Lord’s assuring words, "because I am from Him, and He sent Me" (John 7:29).

 

 

"You Shall Not Find Me"

Jesus was a fugitive from the law. It wasn’t that the Lord had broken any moral law, but the executive enforcers of law in Israel were twisting the statutes so that they could arrest Jesus and shut His mouth. His teaching attracted the interested among the Jews; "the multitudes were amazed at His teaching," noted Matthew the former tax gatherer, "for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes" (Matthew 7:28,29). The scribes noted the contrast and decided to use to force of the law to close down their competition.

The Jews would never find the Christ in the places where they would look for Him. Seeing with physical eyes only, they would look for a physical deliverer to bring in a physical kingdom, arranging for a physical salvation. "If You are the Son of God," they would later say, "come down from the cross," so blind that they did not know that the cross was the only means of spiritual salvation (Matthew 27:40). They would seek Him, but they would not find Him.

The final outcome was also sad but true. Jesus was absolutely correct in His assessment, "Where I am, you cannot come." Earthbound in their thinking, they would remain separated from God forever, spending eternity in the black burning recesses of the lake of fire.

 

 

Seeking the Wrong Christ

"He came to His own," the apostle John had recorded, in reference to Christ’s coming to the Jewish people, "and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). The Jews, like most others, had a tendency to think that God ought to run the universe so that it functioned according to their parameters. The Christ, if He ever came, would become a member of their good ol’ boys’ club, and position Himself with enough money, troops, and political backing so that He could run the Romans out. Since Jesus did not operate this way, and since He had nothing on His horizon that even remotely looked like it could reasonably challenge the Romans, the rulers of the Jews were confident that He could not be the Messiah. Their eyes were locked in on the physical realm, and there they would stay.

The Christ whom they sought was an imaginary one who would never come, and who has never come. But they tore their robes in rage over seeming blasphemy as Jesus the Messiah spoke to those with spiritual eyes: "Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).

 

 

Rivers of Living Water

One of the major, but subtle, messages of the gospel according to John is the indwelling Spirit. Jesus, in the discourses recorded by the apostle, often obliquely referred to the coming indwelling Spirit, and the Lord’s comments are generally not comprehensible unless viewed from a perspective of the completed New Testament. In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, for example, described in the third chapter, the Lamb of God spoke of being "born of water and Spirit." At the time of the conversation, it would have been impossible for Nicodemus to understand what Jesus was talking about, but when viewed from the perspective of the rest of the new covenant writings, it is clear that the water would be the water of immersion into Christ, and that being born of the Spirit would refer to the indwelling Spirit received at immersion. In chapter four there was the "well of water" springing up to eternal life, and in chapter six the Jesus of whom one could drink and be satisfied was a reference to Christ in the Spirit.

But the key that unlocks much understanding on the issue of the indwelling Spirit is found in chapter 7. Here the apostle recalled the events as the Feast of Tabernacles wound down. "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, ‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, "From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water."’" (John 7:37,38). The Old Testament scriptures had prophesied the flowing of waters of life from the inward parts of believers, according to Jesus. The apostle explained: "But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39).

The great God has had a very definite plan in motion to bring all possible men and women into fellowship with Him through His Spirit. The passage on "rivers of living water" brings the Old and New Testaments together, and helps the followers of Christ understand the plan and purpose of the Father of glory.

 

 

Revealing the Mystery

God is at war with the forces of Satan, and rescuing the salvageable elements of mankind. His means of salvation includes, as a major component, the imparting of information to the mind of man, that the new creation in Christ might be transformed by the renewing of the mind with the message of God. Hence God has a sort of spiritual "firewall" in place in order to ensure the safety of His data — to make it tamperproof — and to make certain that the information is transferred clearly to those who are to come through that firewall. The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is simple enough that a man of humble circumstances might easily understand it, but it is imparted in a tapestry so complex that if someone starts messing with the threads of the spiritual weaving, it is detectable because the picture communicated in the tapestry is immediately deformed. Hence it was that the Lord spoke in parables, so that only those who are "inside" understand.

God has also communicated through "secrets," or what are generally translated "mysteries," as revealed in the written New Testament. These mysteries include special information on the resurrection from the dead, partial hardening of the Jews from 30 to 70 AD, and the conspiratorial forces of wickedness at work within the church. But the All Wise has one He several times calls "the mystery," as the apostle Paul noted, referring to his fully carrying out the preaching of the word of God: "…that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations" (Colossians 1:26). This mystery, hidden in the pages of the Old Testament, is, in the inspired words of the apostle, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). "Christ in you" is another name for the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11).

"By revelation there was made known to me the mystery," wrote Paul to the Ephesians in a passage paralleling the one in Colossians. This "mystery of Christ," is "that the Gentiles are fellow heirs [by receiving "the Spirit of adoption as sons" — Romans 8:15] and fellow members of the body [by being immersed into one body and thus made to drink of the one Spirit — I Corinthians 12:13], and fellow partakers of the promise [the "Holy Spirit of promise" — Ephesians 1:13] in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). What was hidden from the past ages and generations was that the Gentiles would become partakers of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4).

Ezekiel and Zechariah are two of the Old Testament books wherein are passages referring to the coming of the indwelling Spirit to the Gentiles. In Ezekiel 47, in the vision the prophet sees, a trickle of water is flowing from the spiritual temple of God (a prophecy of the church). 4000 cubits away, the trickle had become a "river" of living water which made the Dead Sea come to life. This, according to the apostle John, was "the Spirit." Similarly, Zechariah says "that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea" (Zechariah 14:8).

These prophecies of the indwelling Spirit to the Gentiles obviously had their meaning well hidden; it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for someone studying the Old Testament to arrive at that conclusion. But John and the Holy Spirit, in their authoring of the account of the life of Jesus, had carefully prepared the way. In chapter one, Jesus was described as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" not just the sins of the Jews. In chapter three, the Lord was described as saying, "God so loved the world," not just the Jews. In chapter four, a Samaritan woman was told that "living water" would be given to "whoever." In chapter 7, the Lord’s words were "any man" would be able to have "rivers of living water" flow from his inner being.

"But this He spoke of the Spirit," was John’s inspired information. Thus the "mystery" was revealed, and faithful followers were given a key to unlock the meaning of many previously hidden prophecies of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles.

 

 

A Muddled Multitude

Some say that Jesus was merely a great teacher. But if He were only a great human teacher, He was the greatest combination egoist/martyr-complex that ever lived. "If any man is thirsty," He cried, "let him come to Me and drink." He was so great, was the implication, that any person on the surface of the earth should come to Him and drink from Him. At the same time His martyr complex was kicking in, evidenced by His words, "For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me." Crazy, wasn’t He? Or maybe He was truly the Son of God.

The multitude present at the Feast of Tabernacles, AD 29, was thrown into a further state of confusion by the words of the Lord. Some were intrigued, some were challenged, and some were turned off. Thus it was, and thus it is.

Everywhere Jesus went, there arose confusion and division. This was not because the Lord Himself was a destructive personality, but because many were not spiritual enough to comprehend or desire to comprehend the upward truths which He was setting before them. Light and darkness collided at the Feast of Tabernacles, and the darkness was forcibly trying to repress the light.

 

 

"The Way This Man Speaks"

Controversy! Always controversy! Some were saying that Jesus was the great Prophet raised up in the place of Moses and some were saying that He certainly was the Christ. But others were adamant in their refusal to recognize anything special about the incognito Jesus, saying that the Christ had to come from Bethlehem rather than Galilee. Adding to the confusion were the officers sent by the Jewish hierarchy to arrest Jesus and take Him into custody. Failing in their mission, they returned with their heads hanging down to those who commissioned them.

Isaiah 9:1,2 would have solved their search. Never did a man speak as Jesus spoke, and men still make their justifications, intimidations, and general brushes-off. Let us instead hear His words and act upon them.

 

 

A Trap for Jesus?

At the feast of tabernacles, the incognito Jesus amazed the crowd by standing and crying out, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37,38). When the officers sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest Him returned empty-handed, the hierarchy was concerned that Jesus was getting to them. “You have not been led astray also, have you?” (John 7:47). When Nicodemus tried to point out that the Law of Moses required a fair hearing before condemnation, the ranking Jews brushed him aside with the irrelevant comment that “no prophet arises out of Galilee” (John 7:52). Jesus, in accordance with a custom He would continue to follow roughly six months later at His final Passover, “went to the Mount of Olives” (John 8:1).

Joseph, when he found out that Mary was pregnant out of wedlock, “being a righteous man,” did not desire her punishment. Jesus, in even a greater sense, loved this woman “set in the midst.” How is He going to escape the trap set for Him, pinning Him between the horns of Moses’ Law and His being the Bearer of mercy?


Sin No More

The woman was caught in adultery. But the intent of the Jewish hierarchy had nothing to do with the woman’s innocence, guilt, or punishment; the goal was to “get Jesus.” Pitting the mercy of the Lord against the Law of Moses, they “were testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him.” So what would Jesus say? Nothing! “But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground” (John 8:6).

“All things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” Hebrews’ writer informs. Any person who commits sin is “caught in the very act” by Him who never slumbers. But He is willing to grant mercy, and motivate His children of faith to love and good deeds. “I urge you therefore, brethren,” pleaded the apostle Paul, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).


The Light of the World

Light and darkness are absolutely incompatible. Darkness is driven into the corners by blast of light, and the light of day is snuffed by the inky curtain of night. God allows the circadian battle of light and darkness to go on, that His children might understand that the war between good and evil is a daily one.

Having sent the accusers of the adulterous woman packing, Jesus was teaching in the treasury area of the temple, working on one of His themes of light vs. darkness. “Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ ” (John 8:12).

Be “doers of the word,” said James, early on one who did not believe in Jesus, but who later became one of His followers, “and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). The choice is clear: follow Jesus, or walk in darkness. No exceptions.


The True Witness

Men, for the most part, are a pack of liars. Even if they seem to be telling the truth, they often have a hidden agenda. So, within the confines of the church of living God, that most noble group of people ever assembled on the face of the earth, there are likely to be those who are using the freedom of Christ “as a covering for evil” (I Peter 2:16). There are men and women who are “hidden reefs in your love feasts, when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves” (Jude 12). “They are stains and blemishes,” chimes in Peter, “reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin” (II Peter 2:13,14).

The Pharisees, then, being in general a bunch of hypocrites and liars, expected that Jesus was lying and running a hidden agenda also. When the Lord spoke of His being the “light of the world,” they responded as expected. The apostle John records, “The Pharisees therefore said to Him, ‘You are bearing witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.’ ” (John 8:13). The Lord was not going to let that pass. Speaking in the temple treasury, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true …’ ” Then follows His reasoned discourse.

Jesus’ claim to the be the only light for the whole world was bold and bodacious, but He affirmed that He could back the claim with the witness from heaven! “These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come” (John 8:20). That hour would come.


“You Shall Die in Your Sin”

The desire of God is that men might know Him as God. The Jews of Jesus’ day were in general ignorant of God (although scripturally literate), trusting in a series of laws and customs to provide comfortable boundaries for their behavior and activities. The Lord’s words cut like a blow torch through thin iron: “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also” (John 8:19). Instead of trying to find out how to know God, the Jews attempted to seize Jesus and kill Him. “He said therefore again to them, ‘I go away, and you shall seek Me, and shall die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come” (John 8:21).

For most, the god of this world has blinded their eyes that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. They shall die in their sin.


Not of This World

It is a basic Biblical truth: if you chose earth, it will cost you heaven; if you choose heaven, it will cost you earth. Jesus, outside the splendor of the newly built Roman capital of Ceasarea Philippi, explained to the apostles, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it” (Mark 8:35). Those who are of “this world” feather fruitless earthly nests instead of laying up treasures in heaven.

“I go away,” Jesus had remarked to the Jews in the temple. Not knowing that it was prophesied that the Christ was to suffer, their thought was that He must be contemplating suicide. Here the truth expressed by Isaiah is surely manifest: “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord, ‘for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9).

Those who choose earth will barter away their eternity for a daily mess of pottage. The bulk of the Jewish multitude would cave in to family pressure and centuries of customs, refusing to believe even their own scriptures which pointed so clearly to Jesus as the Messiah. “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins,” was the Savior’s warning, “for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:23,24).


“Who Are You?”

Jesus point-blank told the Jewish hierarchy questioning Him in the temple: “Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). A bold statement indeed, for the Jewish mind-set was that forgiveness of sins was taken care of in their sacrifices. The writer of Hebrews exposes their shortsightedness in his argumentation. “The law,” said the inspired scribe, “can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.” The Jewish listener would be inclined to say, “Why not?” The well-reasoned sword thrust comes in the next verse: “Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?” (Hebrews 10:1,2). The fact that the sacrifices had to be offered yearly on the Day of Atonement was proof to Israel that forgiveness would need to be granted through some other offering. Jesus started the ball rolling for serious thinking by stating, “Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.”

“And so they were saying to Him, ‘Who are You?’ ” (John 8:25).

The Chief Cornerstone not only spoke to the Jews, but eventually through His spokesmen He would “speak to the world.” And the response from many would still be, “Who are You?”

“Who are You?” is still a great question. But the answer is greater still!


Lifting Up the Son

Jesus, being a prophet and also cognizant of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him, knew that He was to die by crucifixion on Passover, 30 AD, in Jerusalem. Mark records Jesus’ instructing the apostles, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). The apostles did not understand what He meant, and they had the benefit of much close association with Him. The hostile Jews and others, listening to His responses in the temple treasury would have really been puzzled at His teaching and at a loss to understand His oblique references to His upcoming crucifixion.

The apostle John includes Jesus’ words here in his account, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father has taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28,29).

The Lord’s impassioned discourse in the temple was not without fruit. “As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him” (John 8:30).


The Truth Frees

The speech of Jesus was not like that of the scribes and Pharisees. His ability to handle questions marked His intelligence and spiritual insight, His parables pulled on people’s spiritual interests, and His personal references to His heavenly Father set Him apart from the “divines” of the day. As He spoke, then, in the temple treasury, “many came to believe in Him” (John 8:30).

In the inspired minutes, the apostle John reported, “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31,32). This powerful, remarkable, and foundational statement of Jesus is the core of Christianity. All other religions are founded upon the philosophies of men or some collective emotional appeal, whereas Christianity alone is based upon truth, presenting the testimony of about 40 witnesses, written over a period of 1500 years. The testimony is written so that those who examine the testimony have the opportunity to scrutinize and analyze its contents. Because truth has no fear of questions, the truth of Jesus invites all of mankind to come and test its teachings. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” states John in his Revelation (Revelation 19:10). God “desires all men,” said the apostle Paul, to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time” (I Timothy 2:4-6).

The only set of documents that can be proven to be completely true and accurate are those which comprise the Bible. Know the words of Jesus and obey the words of Jesus, and you will be a free man!


True Slavery; True Freedom

“You shall know the truth,” stated the Lord Jesus Christ, “and the truth shall make you free.” Mankind as a whole tends to live in one form of denial or another, pretending that things are different or better than they actually are. Truth shatters the crystal foundation of denial and scatters the fragments to the winds; then and only then can the shackles which bind the minds of men be loosed.

The Jews confronting Jesus in the temple treasury had their own little collective denial. When Jesus said that the truth would make them free, their minds immediately swung to their proud heritage as the nation Israel. “They answered Him,” the apostle witnesses, “ ‘We are Abraham’s offspring and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, “You shall become free”?’ ” (John 8:33). Everywhere in Jerusalem were signs of Roman domination and occupation, and these Jews were trying to say that they were not enslaved to anyone! They had been slaves since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, as their own scripture testified: “Behold, we are slaves today, and as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its produce and its bounty, behold, we are slaves on it” (Nehemiah 9:36). The Jewish leadership were not only in denial of their slavery, but furthermore were looking for an answer in the physical realm rather than in the spiritual.

True slavery is slavery to sin, while true freedom is freedom from the dominion of sin. Announcing the coming of Jesus into the world to Joseph, eventual husband of Mary, the angel said, “And you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). He was given the very name “Jesus” (God our Savior) to emphasize the freedom from sin He was making possible; rephrased, He was making it possible for His people to live sin-free lives. Praise God that the Son has made us free. Rejoice in the weekly freedom celebration at His table!


“My Word Has no Place in You”

 

The biggest case of “sticker shock” comes when an individual finds out the price of his sin. First he finds out that he has sinned, and then he finds that the wages of even one sin is eternal death in the lake of fire. The recoil from that shock is no minor matter; it is what got Jesus killed. His analysis near the end of His earthly sojourn was, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well” (John 15:22-24). An irrational hatred of exposure arises in the hearts of those who are slaves of sin and who have no intention of changing their condition. Jesus, reader of the hearts of men, knew what the recoil would be every time He encountered slaves of sin.

 

Abraham’s offspring — “We are Abraham’s offspring,” the Jewish hierarchy had puffed. They did not recognize that the true offspring of Abraham were those who would trust the words and works of Jesus rather than one who could lay out an earthly pedigree. But for the moment Jesus was not quite ready to say that, so He conceded that they were physical descendants of Abraham. “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring, yet you seek to kill Me …” (John 8:37).

There are only two voices to listen to: the voice of the devil and the voice of the Lord. The Christ made it plain that the voice these Jews heard was Satan’s, and, consequently, His word has no place in them. The devil works through the desires of the flesh, whispering his suggestions in weaker moments and times of temptation. The Lord now speaks only through what is written, that there might be no mistaking His voice for the voice of darkness.


Abraham’s Children?

 

Abraham was promised that his descendants would be as numberless as the sand of the seashore or the stars of the sky. Because God had repeatedly emphasized the importance of Abraham, the Jews — particularly the hierarchy — always claimed their physical descent from Abraham to give themselves an elevated position as they regarded their standing with God. The Pharisees and Sadducees had conveniently forgotten the admonition of John the Immerser when they had come for their immersions in the Jordan: “Therefore, bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance,” he had excoriated those whom he regarded as a brood of vipers, “and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3:9,10). Those who had paid careful attention to the message of God were aware that physical descent gave a person no standing whatsoever before God; only the proper heart was acceptable to Him.

The Redeemer of Israel and Savior of the world was therefore working on the Jews who were confronting Him in the temple treasury. “My word has no place in you,” He said. He was able to draw this conclusion because of their response to Him; to Him it was clear that spiritually they were not of Abraham but of another “father.” “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father,” He had stated, “therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father” (John 8:38).

Abraham is called the father of the faithful because he listened to God and did what he was told. Jesus likewise possessed “the faith of Abraham,” saying that He spoke “the truth, which I heard from God.” Abraham would not have persecuted the Son of Man; he would have fallen at His feet and worshiped Him.

But there was one lurking about, probing the recesses of men’s minds, who did want to kill Jesus. This evil one, the serpent of old, was the true father of those who claimed their descent from Abraham.


“Your Father the Devil”

Truth is a very powerful weapon. In fact the combination of truth and love cannot be matched by any of the forces of darkness in the long-term discourse of mankind. “You shall know the truth,” Jesus had told those who would be honest disciples of His. But the truth also exposes hidden motives and guilty consciences. The Jews disputing with our Lord in the temple were step-by-step pinned to the wall by the verbal sword thrusts of the Prophet from Galilee. Claiming to be of Abraham, these Jews were pushed from that position as the Christ established that they were not of the same mind-set as Abraham, having their own guilty consciences used against them to drive them on like leaves scattering before an autumn storm wind.

The voice of the Lord is given in the Bible. The voice of the darkness is heard in the promptings from the prince of the power of the air, working on the fleshly side of man. Each of the peoples of this world decide to hear the prompting of the evil one or to search out and obey what is written in the word of God. Each chooses his spiritual father.


What You Want!

The human race as a whole is in mad pursuit of what it wants, or what it has been persuaded that it wants. Sometimes political tyranny blocks the rush, sometimes community moral standards, and sometimes financial or other problems — but the rush is on, on a mass and individual scale.

Into this rush steps Satan himself. The master of deceit and the champion of fomenting unwholesome desires awaits each person at each corner hawking his wares and fanning the smallest fancy into a mighty flame of desire. Rebellious himself, and kicked out of heaven for his insubordination, the deceiver wants to “sell” others on joining him in his rebellion, shoving God aside to satisfy self.

The Lord Jesus, of course, was always aware of the lord of darkness. “Parachuting to earth in his Adam suit,” in the words of Steve Doty, He personally came behind enemy lines to rescue man and thwart the rebellion. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose,” stated the apostle John in his first epistle, “that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8). His sensitive spiritual nose trained to detect the pungent odor of evil, Jesus was conscious of Satan in the midst of the Jews who confronted Him in the temple.

How is darkness able to gain such ascendancy among man that walks? How is it that the evil one is able to block the penetration of gospel seed in the hardened ground? It comes back to the desire of each individual. If someone is honestly searching for truth, he will come to the Light. “For everyone who does evil,” the Lord had earlier mentioned, “hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). It’s “what you want!” If you want your own desires, the devil is your father. If you want truth, then you can become a child of God.


“I Speak the Truth”

The outcast angel of darkness is more subtle and influential than even most Christians realize. An outsider, watching the exchange between Jesus and the Jews in the temple treasury, would not have been particularly conscious of the presence of the devil. He would have seen the words and expressions become increasingly intense as the Lord first challenged His hearers in regard to their personal sins and then moved on to say that they were of their father the devil. The Prince of Righteousness, however, was acutely aware of the movement of Satan in their midst and conscious of his inciting the Jews to take his side against truth. “He is a liar,” said Jesus, “and the father of lies.”

Jesus, though once dead, now lives! Jesus, though once He spoke on earth, now speaks from heaven! He “speaks the truth” through what is recorded in the pages of the book of Acts onward, and those who have hardened hearts reject His words. “Because I speak the truth,” is His everlasting excoriation, “you do not believe Me.” And the great positive principle likewise stands everlastingly: “He who is of God hears the words of God.”


Demon-possessed?

Things were getting pretty hot and heavy in the temple treasury. Jesus the Messiah had pressured the Jews about their own slavery to sin and had pointed out that He was the only One who could free them. They recoiled at the thought of being convicted as sinners and mentally were plotting to kill Him. Knowing the thoughts and intentions of their hearts, Jesus went on to accuse them being in league with the devil, being liars and murderers. Then He dropped the ultimate hammer; those who did not listen to Him were not of God, because He spoke the words of God.

Rebellious men still use Jesus’ name as an epithet, and still call Him and His teachings crazy. Demon-possessed? No! Possessor, instead, of the words of life!


Greater than Abraham

What an audacious claim! Jesus, the Man from Galilee, flatly told an increasingly hostile group of Jews, “If anyone keeps My word, he shall never see death.” Fear of death has always plagued mankind, and no man had ever been totally victorious over death. The Lord’s claim that anyone who would keep His word would never see death was more than they could handle; to them He was obviously crazy. “Now we know that You have a demon,” they shouted. But if He had merely been crazy or demon-possessed, they could have dismissed Him easily. The problem was that He did not act demon-possessed, and the clarity of His reasoning and ability to out-think His opponents testified to His sanity. Inwardly, they knew that their accusations were wrong, and they had a serious challenge on their hands.

Truly great men are rarely recognized as great by their contemporaries. Pride and personal ambition generally cloud the view, and only from the elevation of history do the peaks of great character stand out from their peers. Jesus, without question, was an Everest among foothills, but the Jews of His day could not even contemplate that He would even be as great as Abraham or the prophets.


All Glory to the Father

The Jews charged Jesus with being arrogant. In response to His statement that if anyone would keep His word, he would not taste death, the Jews queried, “Whom do You make Yourself out to be?” They knew that death had demonstrated its power over even the greatest of the Old Testament greats; consequently, they presumed that Jesus was boasting with great, swelling words about His mastery over death.

The Lord definitely was not interested in earthly glory. The hierarchy present certainly had the network in place wherein Jesus could have come to the pinnacle of the Jewish political structure. He sought not earthly glory, however, and desired only to please the Father. He told the truth.


Abraham’s Joy

Abraham, said the apostle Paul, “in hope against hope believed” (Romans 4:18). What was Abraham’s hope, and what promises did he believe?

When Abraham was seventy-five years old, he departed from his central staging point of Haran for the Promised Land. After wandering for an unspecified number of years — five or six perhaps — the word of the Lord came to Abraham and promised him that “one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). When Abraham was eighty-five, his wife Sarah (ten years younger than he) persuaded him to take her bond-maid Hagar and become a parent through her. Thus at the age of eighty-six, Abraham became the father of Ishmael.

Ishmael, however, was not the child of God’s promise. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram” (Genesis 17:1). “Sarah, your wife,” said the Almighty, “shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac” (Genesis 17:19). For years and years, “in hope against hope,” he had waited, and in honest Abe’s one hundredth year, Isaac was born.

The major promise Abraham believed, however, was not that he and Sarah would have a son, but that God would make him “a father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5). This promise could only come through Isaac, by the will of God, and not through Ishmael or any of Abraham’s later sons, as the Lord had spoken, “through Isaac your descendants shall be named” (Genesis 21:12). Abraham’s joy was the birth of Isaac, and Isaac appropriately means, “He laughs.”

Abraham rejoiced in the day when he saw Jesus, and when Jesus promised him the son through whom his offspring would come. “Is anything too difficult for Jehovah?” was the Lord’s question then. And now!

 


Yes, Jesus Is Jehovah

“For a Child will be born to us,” stated Isaiah the prophet, “a Son will be given to us” (Isaiah 9:6). While not quoted in the writings of the New Testament, this passage clearly refers to the coming Christ. The government would indeed “rest on His shoulders.” The rest of the verse, if analyzed, carries a powerful, powerful truth about who Jesus is. “And His name will be called,” come the inspired words of the prophet, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” It is, to most, no surprise that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, bringing pardon and peace to those who are obedient to the faith. But the prophecy also notes that He is the Mighty God, the great “Elohim” of the Hebrew writings. The word of the Lord, however, is not content with only these two listings; it also states that the Child is the “Eternal Father.” The words are simple and not easily twisted — Jesus is the Father. Furthermore, the scripture reads that the Son born is the “Wonderful Counselor” — another name for the Holy Spirit. All there is about God was poured into Jesus’ earthly body. “All the fullness,” remarked Paul, was “to dwell in Him” (Colossians 1:19). There is only one conclusion that can be drawn: Jesus is Jehovah (Yahweh).

When Abraham was informed that Sarah his wife would give birth to Isaac, it was Jehovah who appeared in earthly form. The record in Genesis 17 is: “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, Jehovah appeared to Abram” (Genesis 17:1), and the record of the restated version of Genesis 18 is the same. Jesus, in the temple treasury, stated to the hostile Jews in His presence — referring to the day of His appearing in Genesis 17 and 18: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” The Christ was saying that He was the Jehovah who appeared as recorded in the scriptures of these Jews.

Yes, Jesus is Jehovah. The ranking Jews refused the evidence rendered by miracles done and the powerful and consistent teachings of the Christ, regarded Jesus as a blasphemer, and attempted to stone Him for His blasphemy. But the truth they rejected would become the core concept upon which the church of Jesus would be built.


God Has a Plan

The scene in the temple treasury ended with the Jewish hierarchy’s standing with stones in their hands and Jesus’ scurrying for safety. A lengthy discussion beginning with the Lord’s statement, “I am the light of the world,” and ending with His claim, “Before Abraham was born, I AM,” resulted in open warfare on the Jews’ part. Jesus could have called for His angels, but instead used an escape route out of the temple, humble in the form of a hiding man.

Making His way out of the temple buildings and on to the dusty streets of Jerusalem, Christ led His followers to safety. “And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1). Startling events were to about to devolve from this “chance” passing of Jesus by this blind man, fleeing through town on a Sabbath day.

The plan of God centers about the mission and message of Jesus. May each of us voluntarily serve in this grand schematic of God, executing His will with joy and peace.


As Long As It Is Day

“The mind of man plans his way,” noted the wisdom of Solomon, “but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:15). Man must plan, or he gets nothing done. This was true of the Lord Jesus during the years of His earthly sojourn also; without a plan He would not have accomplished His mission. “We must work the works of Him who sent Me,” He commented, “as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4). Conscious of the shortness of time, the Master of disciples expressed the urgency of His mission to the apostles; in His expressions, He laid the foundation for stewardship of “the day” for all who would claim His name in the age of the church.

The harvest of souls was the great concern of Jesus, tiller of the fields of humanity. “Lift up your eyes,” He had told the apostles earlier, in a passage through Samaria, “and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35). Those with a love for the lost will see with uplifted eyes, and, straining with every fiber of their beings, will make the most of the time, bringing in the harvest while it is yet day. The time for rest — the night — will come.


Washing in Siloam

The blind man sat in his place as the apostles of Jesus passed by. But this was not your average blind man; this man was one who would stand for truth in the face of the strongest opposition. He did not yet know this about himself, and the apostles certainly were not cognizant of how special this cast off from the nation of Israel was. Jesus, however, did know. In answer to the disciples’ query about whether the man himself was a terrible sinner or whether it was his parents who had grievously transgressed, the Son of Man responded, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). In the providence of God, the right man was in the right place at the right time, in the right condition!

Spitting on the groundAfter commenting that He was the light of the world, the Lord acted. “When He had said this,” affirmed the apostle John, “He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes” (John 9:6). Jesus apparently used His spit in connection with His healing quite often. Mark records that a man who was dead and “spoke with difficulty” was taken aside by Christ, and Jesus “put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva” (Mark 7:33). In the case of the blind man, the Lord spat on Jerusalem’s dusty street, stirred the mixture with His fingers, and slapped the resultant goo on the man’s eyes.

On to Siloam’s pool Jesus was in a hurry; the men who were seeking to stone Him could not be too far behind. To protect Himself and the apostles, He arranged this particular healing so that He would go one way, the man to be healed another, and the searchers would be standing empty-handed in the street. The Lord “said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing” (John 9:7). The Lord did not need to be physically present; but the man needed to follow instructions.

The neighbors’ confusion As numerous as Jesus’ healings were, they still only touched a fraction of the people personally. When the formerly blind man now saw, and returned to his neighborhood, the residents had difficulty believing that a real miracle had happened. “The neighbors therefore, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, ‘Is this not the one who used to sit and beg?’ Others were saying, ‘No, but he is like him.’ ” (John 9:8,9). Their confusion was great; even though he clearly looked like the former beggar, some were not quite willing to admit it was the same man. “He kept saying, ‘I am the one.’ ” He had to keep emphasizing that he was one and the same as the blind man.

Following instructions Increasingly convinced that he had been healed, now the neighbors want the details. “Therefore they were saying to him, ‘How then were  your eyes opened?’ ” (John 9:10). His answer was straight-forward: “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight” (John 9:11).

The washing of this man is instructive, pointing to the washing away of believer’s sins in the waters of immersion. No one would seriously claim that this man earned his sight by walking to the pool of Siloam and washing the mud out of his eyes; this was a healing that Jesus performed out of His great mercy, and the man simply followed instructions. In the same way, no one could seriously claim that by walking to a pool and being lowered into the water a person would be earning his salvation. The Lord out of His great mercy offers opportunity for remission of sins for all, and those desirous of His blessings simply follow instructions.


More Controversy

Those who associate themselves with Jesus often find themselves involved in controversy, because the agenda of the Lord runs counter to the agenda of this world, and the world in reaction becomes hostile. Consider the case of the innocent man healed by Jesus when he followed instructions by washing his eyes in the pool of Siloam. After he received back his sight, his neighbors were confused and argumentative. Some said that he was the one who used to sit and beg; others said that he could not be. When the man then gave the details about Jesus’ healing him, they then asked, “Where is He?” As he had gone one way and the Lord another, the formerly blind man had to answer: “I do not know” (John 9:12).

The truth of God was especially revealed in Jesus Christ. The god of this world – Satan – wants to wipe the image of Jesus off the earth, and envelope mankind in a plastic layer of falsehood. Consequently, those who stand for the Lord and for the truth are constantly in the middle of controversy. Thus it was, thus it is, and thus it shall be, until Jesus comes again.


Crumpling Under Pressure

The forces of darkness use intimidation, incarceration, or annihilation to pressure people into molds that do not support the truth. The scripture records the unfolding of the plan of God in the matrix of human history, and dutifully notes the efforts of Satan’s minions to shut down the forward movement of God. These are written for our instruction and edification, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

A blind man was healed when he, at the instruction of Jesus, washed a spitball mudpack from his eyes in the pool of Siloam. Because this was done on a Sabbath, the Pharisees hauled him before their tribunal, trying to find out what was going on and to intimidate the Jewish people in general no longer to participate in any such activities on the Sabbath. He who was formerly blind caused consternation among the ranking Pharisees by indicating that he thought Jesus to be a prophet. His parents, however, were not so bold on the witness stand.

The blind man’s parents crumpled under pressure, caving in when intimidation showed its face. We, as Christians, empowered by the Spirit, “are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). Jesus is indeed “Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1).


Cross Examination

First, the man who had been formerly blind appeared before the Pharisees’ kangaroo court. When he stated that he believed Jesus to be a prophet, they immediately drew the conclusion that the man had an agenda of promoting Jesus, and had made up the story of his being healed. The parents of the man did not give them much satisfaction either, for when the key question came as to how this man had been healed, they would not answer. “Ask him,” they said. “He is of age, he shall speak for himself.”

This man was grateful to Jesus for His having given him sight. It was not a mere passing “thank You.” This individual was willing to stand before the ranking Jews and firmly defend the Lord, and even press on their minds the idea that they should become Jesus’ disciples.

But the receiving of physical sight is small and temporary as compared to receiving spiritual sight. Those who have had the veil of their flesh removed in Christ and can thus the see the glory of God in the face of Christ should be infinitely more grateful. This man could now see the green grass and flowers, kittens and baby goats, and the faces of those who loved him. But what are these compared to the glories of the eternal city and the face of the God who loved us enough to give us His Son?

If this man had the courage to confess Jesus to be the Christ, how much more those who have received the indwelling Holy Spirit? If this man pressed a hostile audience to become disciples of Jesus, how much more those who have the opportunity to spread the word among family, friends, neighbors, and work associates? May our attitude of gratitude be reflected in our earnest desire to make disciples!