Archive for June, 2007
60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67″You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel is long. 71 verses long. It could be that we have the entire conversation that took place. It could be that John give us the highlights. Either way, it is 71 verses in our English translations and John packed those 71 verses full to the brim. There is not much left to the imagination in these verses even if they are a synopsis of a larger conversation.
So, as we conclude our reading of chapter 6 together, I would ask you to reflect on what you read. Now, ask yourself this question: What did I hear Jesus saying? “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” What those gathered that day heard was difficult. They were still grumbling. “Well, this was all good when we got a meal out of the deal. When he stopped feeding us while we listened…well, this is just too difficult without a meal.”
Can you imagine that Jesus asks us to follow him in the difficult road that involves the consumption of his flesh and blood? Can you imagine that Jesus says those would be his disciples will, in fact, participate in his life and his death. His cross is unavoidable. If we want his life in us we will participate in his death. And it was this that ‘offended’ the people who were listening to Jesus that day. “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” When the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed there will be two distinct results. One is that some will believe. The other is that most will turn back and longer follow. Those who try to get there on their own (maybe because of a miracle or full tummy) will not last. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” Those who are drawn to Christ by God will last because they will hear what the Father is saying (remember: They will be taught by God, 45). A few heard Jesus that day.
He said to them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” This verse breaks my heart. It crushes me. It throws me down and stomps on my chest. My soul heaves up inside of me when I hear Jesus ask this question: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” What’s this do to you? Yes, Jesus the Son of God, the Almighty who walks on water, magics bread out of nothing, heals the blind and all that. Jesus the Son of Man: Rejected by his own, not welcomed by those whom he made, esteemed not by his brothers. Man of Sorrows. I hate talking about feelings, but forgive me for a minute: Do you feel the pathos in Jesus’ voice: You don’t want to leave too, do you? Do you hear him suffering for those who had left and concerned whether there were any on earth who had the courage to hear the voice of God.
I don’t like that verse. It puts us on the spot, shines a light on us. The penetrating, demanding voice of the Son of God, Son of Man, probing deep into us: You don’t want to leave too, do you? He forces our hand and makes us choose. Go with the crowd who are disenchanted? Or stay with Jesus? Go with the frustrated empty bellied crowd? Or stay with Jesus who is already filling us? Go with the vulgar culture whose only interest is in the here and now? Or stay with Jesus who has been promising all throughout this chapter life, life abiding, life to the full, Resurrection Life—now? What choice has the Father given us?
“What about you? You don’t want to leave too, do you?”
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” All throughout this chapter Peter and the others had heard Jesus saying only one thing: I am the way of eternal life, I will raise you up, I am your hope, I am your salvation, apart from me there is no life, I am the Way, I am the Bread of Life, I am Resurrection Life. This is all that Peter and a few others heard. I guess it matters what we are tuned into, what we are listening for, Who we are listening to. As soon as some heard Jesus say something about eternal life they were hooked. Go back through chapter 6 and mark out all the times Jesus says something about eternal life. Don’t be content with this life and the stuff of this life. Don’t be content with mere life. Stay with Jesus and have Resurrection Life even now.
Jesus speaks the Words of Life. Peter nailed it: To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. To whom shall we go? Even now this question is relevant and must be asked and answered. According to Scripture, according to Jesus, there is nowhere else to go. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Bread of Life.
“The final decision must be made while we are still on earth. The peace of Jesus is the cross. But the cross is the sword God wields on earth. It creates division. The son against the father, the daughter against her mother, the member of the house against the head—all this will happen in the name of God’s kingdom and his peace. That is the work which Christ performs on earth. Who has a right to speak thus of love for father and mother, for son and daughter, but the destroyer of all human life on the one hand, or the Creator of a new life on the other? Who dare lay such an exclusive claim to man’s love and devotion, but the enemy of mankind on the one hand, and the Saviour of mankind on the other? Who but the devil, or Christ, the Prince of Peace, will carry the sword into men’s houses? God’s love for man is altogether different from the Love of men for their own flesh and blood. God’s love for man means the cross and the way of discipleship. But that cross and that way are both life and resurrection. ‘He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.’ In this promise we hear the voice of him who holds the keys of death, the Son of God, who goes to the cross and the resurrection, and with him takes his own” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, (Touchstone: New York, 1995 ed), 219. Emphasis mine.)
The question I leave you with is this: If you want to have eternal life, where are you looking for it at? Are you searching in places where it cannot be found? Are you investigating the world’s idols? Are you seeking life in some sort of mysticism or mystery? Are you buying into false claims of false hope? Do you hear Jesus saying impossible things or do you, like his true disciples, hear Him saying: I am Eternal Life?
Day 28 of 90 with Jesus is brought to you in hope that you will, if you have not already, give your life to Jesus, the only Bread of Life.
Soli Deo Gloria!
52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
I have spent a considerable amount of Internet space writing these meditations on John’s Gospel. I have spent a considerably amount of time reading John’s Gospel and trying to make sense of it for myself so that I would be able to converse intelligently with you. What I continue to find in John’s Gospel, however, is a return to the same themes over and over again. Well, mostly I keep coming back to the same theme in my writing because John keeps coming back to the same theme in his Gospel: Jesus is the only Way to salvation, to the Father, to eternal life and that apart from Jesus there is simply no hope. If we trust the Bible to be God’s Word once delivered to the Saints, then we must believe what it says about these matters. The Bible affords us no other options but Jesus. We are given licence to preach in no other Name; we are given no other Name under heaven by which we might be saved. The message we preach is valid only when it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many in this culture we live in, however, have managed to convince great numbers of people (Christians included and especially!) that there are other ways. Eugene Peterson calls this ‘Christian idolatry.’ In his small book Living the Resurrection he comments on this phenomenon:
“But what we also do is look around for ways to affirm and cultivate our new life in Christ outside our workplace. And we soon find, quite to our delight, that there is a lot to choose from. A huge religious marketplace has been set up in North America to meet the needs and fantasies of people just like us.There are conferences and gatherings custom-designed to give us the lift we need. There are books, videos, and seminars that promise to let us in on the Christian ‘secret’ of whatever it is we feel is lacking in our life—financial security, well-behaved children, weight loss, sex, travel to holy sites, exciting worship, celebrity teachers. The people who promote these goods and services smile a lot and are good-looking. They are obviously not bored.
“It isn’t long before we’re standing in line to buy whatever is being offered. And because none of the purchases does what we hoped for, or at least not for long, we’re soon back to buy another, and then another. The process is addicting. We become consumers of packaged spiritualities.
“This is also idolatry. We never think of using this term because everything we’re buying or paying for is defined by the adjective Christian. But idolatry it is, nevertheless. It’s God packaged as a product—God depersonalized and made available as a technique or a program. The Christian market in idols has never been more brisk or lucrative. The late medieval indulgences that provoked Luther’s righteous wrath are small potatoes compared to what’s going on in our evangelical backyard” (Eugene Peterson, Living the Resurrection, (NavPress: Colorado Springs, Co. 2006), 35-36. Emphasis his.).
It is unbelievable that this is the situation, but I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who sees things this way. His is a warning to those of us who not only treat Christianity as if it were a cash-cow or who think that the Gospel can be promulgated through clever marketing campaigns or slick programming. Peterson is warning us that we are in danger of displacing God and replacing Jesus Christ with something less that is guaranteed not to create in us the sort of Resurrection Life that Christ has called us to live. Jesus said as much himself. “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” You can run from place to place, read book after book, follow all the rules of the super-teachers, adhere to all the principles of the preaching prognosticators and prophets, and yet still miss out on life because Jesus was not a part of your running around and consumption of goods. Most of this stuff is fast food. Only Jesus is a life giving, sustaining meal.
In other words, all this other stuff can either lead you to a deeper relationship with Christ or it can lead you to a deeper relationship with itself. It is easy to get caught up in all the goods and services and miss out on Jesus. Jesus says, from his own mouth—what he heard in the Father’s presence—that unless we find in him our complete nourishment then we are lifeless; that is, we are dead. Those who have no life in them are, for all intents and purposes, dead. Conversely, those who do find their nourishment in Christ’s flesh and blood are full of life; life now. It’s not even a life we have to wait for. It’s ours now! I believe His clear point is that those who are abiding in Christ are already living the Resurrected Life.
Look what he says. Six times he makes reference to those who eat his flesh and drink his blood. Note them well in verses 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, & 58. Such a repetition can only mean that he really wants us to get it into our head. He really wants to consider deeply how imperative it is for those who would follow after him to be in such close communion with him that his life, his flesh, his blood is ours. It is impossible to live without food forever. Eat his flesh, have life in you. Eat his flesh, drink his blood, have eternal life and be raised up at the last day. Eat his flesh, drink his blood, and you will remain in Christ and He in you. The one who feeds on Jesus will live because of Jesus. The one who feeds on this bread will live forever. We will have life, he says, because of Him. Life is His work in us. It is not from ourselves or from anyone or any place else. We have life, if we have it, because of Jesus.
He said: Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever. Manna is fine as far as it goes, but it is incapable of providing sustained, eternal nourishment that will guarantee a life beyond this life. The same is true today. There is nothing wrong with books, seminars, and all that stuff. I love books as much as the next person, but I am not naïve enough to think that it will be my vast (that’s hyperbole) knowledge of and wisdom from books that will secure me the sort life Christ has promised. Those things are fine as far as they go, but they are temporary things that will eventually wear out and need replacing. They will be chewed on, consumed, digested, eventually pass out of the body. But Jesus? No. Once you feed on Jesus He stays with you. And the longer you stay with Him, the Longer he stays with you. Jesus provides the life that the idols of this earth cannot, will not promise or provide. So why do so many preach these idols? Why do so many feed on them instead of Jesus?
Jesus is saying that if you want Life, true Life, Eternal Life, Living Life, Abiding Life, Forever Life then you must, and he does not equivocate, eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. There is simply no getting around this at all.
I Hope you find that after 27 Days with Jesus your life is becoming more and more His.
Soli Deo Gloria!
41At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 43″Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44″No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
John’s Gospel as a whole contains mountains and mountains of stories relating various peoples’ objections to Jesus. There was always someone discontent with something he said, or something he did, or who he spoke to or with, or who he ate with, or where he went. These verses today begin with that idea: “At this, the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’” There was some deep seated dislike, distrust and hatred of Jesus inside these people. And here’s the irony. The story that precipitated all this conversation was the miracle of the loaves and fish. When Jesus did that, everyone wanted to make him a king. As the story has developed in John’s Gospel, the people have grown more and more angry, more and more disconcerted, more and more distant, and eventually, they turn away from him altogether and ‘follow him no longer.’
But why were the people so offended? What was so difficult for them to comprehend? Jesus gave them two scenarios. In one scenario, they were fed some bread that filled their bellies for a day until they were hungry again. In a second scenario, they were fed The Bread of Life and were satisfied forever. Again with the irony: They did not want bread that would help them live forever. They wanted bread on the table today. You know as well as I do that in the church today, many are saying: Jesus is all about bread on your table today. And as long as preachers say this, the flocks will grow. But as soon as Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (and he said it more than once, to be sure!), the people ran away, fast and furious.
These words, Jesus says, are not something to grumble over or about or because of. They simply did not like that Jesus said, “I came down from heaven.’ And they grumbled. And grumbled. And grumbled. Then they ‘argue sharply among themselves.’ John says later, in verse 61, ‘aware that his disciples were grumbling about this…’ Then some turn back and ‘no longer follow him.’ I sense in here, to a degree, that Jesus just kept raising the ante, the bar, the standard, the qualifications for being truly considered his disciple. And the more he raised the bar, the more they raised their voices in protest. He said, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then they argue. Clearly they were not too well versed in the use of metaphor.
They missed some things in Jesus’ words. They missed that he said he would raise them up at the last day (43), they missed that he said ‘everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me’ (45), they missed him saying that he had seen God (46), they missed that whoever believes has everlasting life (47), they missed that humans who seek to subsist on mere bread will die (48), they missed that there is a bread a person can eat and not die (50), that whoever eats the bread will live forever (51). They missed all this ‘live forever’ nonsense and focused in on that one tiny phrase ‘eat his flesh.’ At the same time, Jesus did not mince his words. There is no life at all apart from our appropriating his flesh into ours. There is no eternity save for those who have found their only survival in His survival. There is no eternal life for those who steadfastly refuse to participate in the life and death of Jesus. There is no eternal life for those who are more and only concerned about a king who feeds bellies here with bread that is not of himself. But Jesus shows the absolute pricelessness of what He offers to humanity when he says, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the World.” How can any such sacrifice have a value stamped upon it? His sacrifice for the world is beyond compare, beyond measure, beyond our comprehension. It is incomparable; utterly unrepeatable.
This caused only more argumentative debating and grumbling among the people. Strange or funny how people get hung up on the smallest aspects of the Gospel and thus are utterly turned away from it. Strange that these folks who wanted Jesus to be their king a couple days ago should turn on him so quickly when they find out his real motives and his real designs on their lives. They did figure out that it was necessary to consume Jesus; they just could not figure out how. So they rejected him altogether on the basis that his claim was utterly absurd. That is as near as I can figure.
I’m writing this rather late. I am on vacation and I had intended on writing earlier. I got caught up in a story I’m reading and a baseball game that was not quite as thrilling for the home team as last night’s game was. So it’s late, but I hear what Jesus is saying. What comes through loud and clear is that Jesus is offering eternal life to those who want it. What is necessary is a level of faith in him so deep that it can only be described in terms of eating his flesh. What is described by Jesus here is, to an extent, the forsaking of those confidences we place in the bread of this world. What is heard by those he spoke with that day is something like, “How will everyone eat his flesh? Eight months wages wouldn’t buy enough for everyone to have a single cell.” And yet the demand is no less demanded. Eternal life is found only by those who so identify with Christ through faith that it appears they have consumed his flesh, or been consumed by him. Either way, those who wish to live forever, according to Jesus, are left with no alternatives: It is either in Jesus or not at all.
What he goes on to teach us is that this way he is speaking of is terribly difficult and not at all strewn with marigold petals or lined with mammoth sunflowers. It is hard and at least most of the people did figure that much out and turned back. Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw this too.
“The path of discipleship is narrow, and it is fatally easy to miss one’s way and stray from the path, even after years of discipleship. And it is hard to find. On either side of the narrow path deep chasms yawn. To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenceless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray. But if we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of at him who goes before, we are already straying from the path. For he is himself the way, the narrow way and the strait gate. He, and he alone, is our journey’s end. When we know that, we are able to proceed along the narrow way through the strait gate of the cross, and on to eternal life, and the very narrowness of the road with increase our certainty. The way which the Son of God trod on earth, and the way which we too must tread as citizens of two worlds on the razor edge between this world and the kingdom of heaven, could hardly be a broad way. The narrow way is bound to be right” (The Cost of Discipleship¸ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 190-191).
May your 26th Day with Jesus be Full of Grace & Peace.
Soli Deo Gloria!
30So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34″Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” 35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Michael Horton wrote in his essay Christless Christianity, “The Greeks love wisdom, so show them a Jesus who is smarter at solving the conundrums of daily living and the church will throng with supporters. Jews love signs and wonders, so tell people that Jesus can help them having their best life now, or bring in the kingdom of glory, or drive out the Romans and prove their integrity before the pagans, and Jesus will be laureled with praise. But proclaim Christ as the Suffering Servant who laid down his life and took it back up again, and everybody wonders who changed the subject. The Church exists in order to change the subject from us and our deeds to God and his deeds of salvation, from our various ‘missions’ to save the world to Christ’s mission that has already accomplished redemption.”
He also wrote, “If the message that the church proclaims makes sense without conversion; if it does not offend even lifelong believers from time to time, so that they too need to die more to themselves and life more to Christ, then it is not the gospel. When Christ is talked about, a lot of things can happen, none of which necessarily has anything to do with his doing, dying, rising, reigning, and return. When Christ is proclaimed is in His saving office, the church becomes a theater of death and resurrection, leading to genuine lives of witness, love, fellowship, community, and service—yet always requiring forgiveness and therefore always coming back to the good news concerning Christ.” (Issue: “Christless Christianity” May/June Vol. 16 No. 3 2007 Page, 14)
They want signs. Many today want signs too. I have been writing about such folks for a few days now. Church buildings are filled with people who are astounded at the fancy building where they sings songs and go to McD— in the front lobby after the worship. Card sliders collect the offering on Sundays as if people were standing in line at Giant E—. Before you know it, we will be able to have virtual communion where we only imagine eating the loaf and drinking the cup. It’s a funny thing, in an ironic, terrifying sort of way, what the church has become. It’s not that all these modernizations are necessarily evil. It is that they signify a greater change in the church which is the lack of theological depth and appreciation for the things of God. I happen to be familiar with a congregation that is currently in the process of what appears to be a major expansion of their building. I also happen to know that this congregation does not have a baptistery and does not serve communion except in a private out of-the-view-of-everyone-room. I don’t know if there are any crosses inside or not. A new building is not evil; a shortened Gospel is. And in my estimation there is a correlation between the two.
Realistically speaking, we are much like the people in this story. They forgot that it was God who provided bread (manna) for them, not Moses; we have forgotten that is was Jesus who died for us, not some super preacher.
Jesus here says that these people did not recognize one very important aspect of life: It was God who provided for them and not Moses. They placed far too much value on Moses because they did not know the ultimate source of their own sustenance. If they knew where the manna came from, or rather who it came from, they would not be so hung up on Moses. As it was, however, they were hung up on Moses. Notice what else Jesus says: For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. There is a better source of nourishment that gives life not just to a few people scattered around Israel, but to the entire world. I wonder if we have such a grand conception of the Messiah?
Look, people today are no different: “Sir, from now on give us this bread.” Just like the woman at the well, “Sir, from now on give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming back here to draw water.” The difference is that she got it and these ones did not. She won’t go thirsty; they won’t go hungry. It’s all the same meaning: Jesus provides what this world cannot which is a satisfaction beyond this earthly life. Believing in Jesus results in hunger pangs abated, thirst slaked, and the death sentence rescinded. And what can stop Jesus’ work? Nothing. He says, all that the Father gives him he will never drive away. He will lose none of those whom God has given him. He will raise them up at the last day. I know that not too many Restoration Church type of people believe in the doctrine of eternal security, but here in John 6 a pretty good case can be made that one you are saved, there is nothing anyone or anything can do to snatch you from Jesus. I like that idea much better than the idea that somehow I can be lost after being saved.
Finally Jesus says that it is the Father’s will that everyone who looks to the sun and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. Sadly, not everyone will look to him, even fewer will believe in him, and I image that what Jesus said about the way being straight and narrow is true: Even fewer will be raised up at the last day. But for all those who hope and believe and put their faith in Jesus, there is this promise: Eternal life. It is a sad, sad reality that some will never look to Jesus. There is security with him, unrest without him. So what I cannot figure out is why more churches are not preaching this Jesus who saves. Why are so many preaching things that are bound not to last, things that cannot save, things that are simply, irredeemably, meaningless for the human condition? Jesus said that the will of God is that everyone look to Jesus for salvation. The work of God (v 29) is to believe in the One God has sent; to recognize who gives life and who does not. Jesus said: Even the mighty Moses is not the giver of something so simply as daily bread. Now if Moses could not do that, how can any other human give bread for eternity?
My hope is that those who read these words will look to Jesus. We who preach the Gospel must stay on task and preach Jesus. The church must stay on task and demand that their preachers preach Jesus Christ Crucified. There is no excuse for not doing so; and there is no substitute for Jesus. God has given one Loaf to all of humanity. His Name is Jesus.
I hope this 2 day of 90 is Blessed for you and yours in Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria!
If you happen to be one of those who think that the things I have been writing are mere fiction or the ravings of someone hysterical and mad, then I’d like you to follow the link below and read the article and tell me what you think. I assure you that you will not believe what you are reading.
This is unbelievable. And terribly, terribly sad.
22The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Later some folks from Greece will come to Philip and say, “We want to see Jesus.” And Jesus, rather than rush right over to them, launches into a short sermon about his impending crucifixion. Eugene Peterson wryly notes that Jesus is not a tourist attraction.
Well here in these verses some other folks are looking for Jesus. John recounts for us the great hysterics that arose the next morning when all those well-fed folks woke up and couldn’t find Jesus. They go on a great search for him, but do not find him. They look at the docks. They look on the beach. These people keep coming to realizations that Jesus has fled the scene. I suspect they still have designs on making him a king too, but he is not there. When they realize Jesus is not on land they get into boats and head out to find him—maybe on the water, maybe in Capernaum. They go looking.
I think at this point we can say that there should be a certain amount of admiration for these folks. They are really looking hard for Jesus. They really want to find him and Jesus is playing a game of hide and seek with them. Rich Mullins sang a wonderful song about this very thing, this God who ‘plays hard to get.’ I read the other day that people in this world are very spiritual and are on a great spiritual search. In fact, let me quote a little of what I read from a radio broadcast transcript of Luis Palau:
Hello, this is Luis Palau. Americans today are more interested in matters of faith than at any other time in the past four decades. While interest in spirituality is rising, however, it’s often experimental. Americans are dabbling in all things religious, often more concerned about how they feel than what is true an attitude …
What about you? If you knew you had only one week to live, what would be your claim to faith? The bottom line is you can be any religion you want to be, as long as what you believe about God corresponds to reality. After all, God isn’t Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, or Methodist. The question ultimately isn’t who owns God, but who God is. This is Luis Palau. (Source, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/09-11-97.html, September 11, 1997 original broadcast date; italics added.)
Many people are, in fact, searching nowadays. We see it too in churches around the country as people flock to them in droves each week. No doubt people are searching. I don’t happen to think, however, that they are searching for anything that is remotely close to the Biblically revealed Jesus. This is essentially what Palau is saying when he says, ‘you can be any religion you want to be.’ Uh, sure. A spiritual experience they may be seeking; Jesus they are not. This is the same problem we see in the verses we are looking at today.
Eventually these people who are looking for Jesus find him. And, they go to him and sheepishly rebuke him with a question, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Or, maybe they are feigning surprise like: “Wow! Imagine you being here too!” sort of thing. Perhaps they thought Jesus didn’t really know what their motives were. But the first words out of Jesus are not ‘Hey, I’m glad you’re here!’ or “Hey, good to see you!’ or ‘Hey, where you been?’ but instead, he cuts them deep by identifying their motives, “I tell you the truth you are not looking for me because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” In other words: You’d be better off not to even be here because your motives are impure.
In other words, if Jesus is not a tourist attraction then neither is He a vending machine! Too many folks just don’t get that at all.
Jesus essentially told these people what they wouldn’t tell themselves: They were not interested in the one who made the bread, just the bread. Jesus tells them flat out: “You people who come here looking for bread are wasting your time because you are looking for the wrong thing, the wrong stuff, the wrong bread. You’ve got it all backward.” I don’t believe that Jesus can be much clearer in his line of reasoning. The people were coming to him not because of who he was, but because of what they thought he would do for them: Give them bread.
To many people today Jesus is a Vending Machine Messiah and ATM Messiah or National Health Care Messiah. To many people life with Jesus is all about what He can give them. To many people on a great spiritual search Jesus is merely the answer to all their problems. As such, there is very little stability in disciples any more. If they don’t like the Jesus they encounter at one church then they up and go to another church. Eventually they will find a Jesus that suits them: I just wasn’t getting thing out of my last church. (Sometimes I want to respond with something smart like: Well, why don’t you go back and put something into that church. It seriously grieves me to here people say that as if Jesus is merely a social security net or something along those lines. I wonder how many preachers have the nerve to stand up on Sunday’s and say, “Many of you have come here today looking for Jesus not because he died for your sins but because you want your bellies filled.” How many preachers have the nerve to preach what is true, in other words, about human nature?
Someone has to have the nerve or else people will continue to go around searching for a Jesus who is not their eternal Savior but merely someone who gives us this day our daily bread. Now this is not to say we shouldn’t recognize where our bread comes from, but Jesus says our lives have to be about more. Man, he said elsewhere, does not live on bread alone; therefore, it is pointless to go around from day to day only looking for that scrap that will keep us going from day to day. We need something more Jesus said and our lives ought to have a little more ambition that mere bread. So, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” In other words: Set your sights a lot higher.
This seems rather plain to me and the comparisons between Jesus’ day and ours are unmistakable. Given a choice in the matter, I sadly think most people would take bread for today and miss eternity than to miss bread for today and gain eternity. And I hate to keep putting the blame on pulpit ministers (i.e., preachers) but I think in their haste to acquire a flock they (we) have largely compromised this message of the Gospel. We have substituted a Vending Machine Jesus for The Bread of Life; junk food for The Bread of Life; artificial flavors for the Real Deal. Oh, and one more thing: Jesus said, ‘On Him (i.e., himself) God has placed his seal of approval.’ You know what this means right? It means that God has approved only Jesus to speak thus, and that only Jesus can give this eternal life. It comes from no other source: Not Nickels, not Schwebels, not Wonder. None. Only Jesus.
And the great work we are to do? Believe in the One God sent. It could well be that there is someone reading this right now who has never given it a thought. Perhaps you are running from place to place trying desperately to find a Jesus who will do what you want him to do and fix all your problems. I think what Jesus is telling you is that you are missing the bigger picture. It is not that you come to Jesus to get your problems fixed as much as it is that you come to Jesus regardless of the status of your problems. Jesus says there is a greater search in this life than just the daily grind or hunt for food for the belly. There is a greater search for Jesus himself who is, as we will see, the Very Bread of Life. We are, or should be, searching for Jesus. That is the Work God has called us to: Search for Jesus.
Michael Horton wrote:
“To preach the Bible as ‘the handbook for life,’ or as the answer to every question, rather than as the revelation of Christ, is to turn the Bible into an entirely different book. This is how the Pharisees approached Scripture, however, as we can see clearly from the questions they asked Jesus, all of them amounting to something akin to Trivial Pursuits: ‘What happens if a person divorces and remarries?’ ‘Why do your disciples pick grain on the Sabbath?’ ‘Who sinned–this man or his parents–that he was born blind?’ For the Pharisees, the Scriptures were a source of trivia for life’s dilemmas. To be sure, Scripture provides God-centered and divinely-revealed wisdom for life, but if this were its primary objective, Christianity would be a religion of self-improvement by following examples and exhortations, not a religion of the Cross. This is Paul’s point with the Corinthians, whose obsession with wisdom and miracles had obscured the true wisdom and the greatest miracle of all. And what is that? Paul replies, ‘He has been made for us our righteousness, holiness and redemption’ (1 Cor 1:28-31).” (Source: http://www.modernreformation.org/ “What Are We Looking For in the Bible”, Modern Reformation Online, italics mine.)
I hope this 24th Day of 90 is truly blessed for you and yours.
Soli Deo Gloria!
[I have a lot more to say about this subject of the content of our preaching, but I’ll not tarry on it here. Suffice it to say that Christ must be the focus of our preaching, which is the point of the above quotation. I’m not suggesting that I am perfect, but I do have to wonder what would happen to the church in America if Christ were truly proclaimed in His glory, His Cross? What would happen if the Biblical Jesus were actually proclaimed from America’s pulpits? More preachers ought to try. The one’s I’m referring to know who they are. For now, the role of the preacher is to point to people the real reason they ought to be seeking Jesus and disabuse them of the idea that their motives are entirely pure. They need to be told that He is no Vending Machine or Tourist Attraction, but the Savior, the King, The Bread of Life. He's not just or merely a provider of bread, He is the Bread we should be searching for. That's what we ought to be proclaiming.]
16When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
I will welcome again into our pages of meditation on John’s Gospel, the comments and insight of Eugene Peterson:
“This sign is unique among the seven, the only sign, as it turns out to be free of ambiguity. The sign reveals Jesus as sovereign in creation, gladly received and welcomed as such by the disciples. And, most significantly, there is this: the narration of the sign is centered in the ego eimi expression in verse 20: ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ As we have observed, this is the form of the divine name with which Jesus identifies himself and that John skilfully and continuously weaves in and out of the fabric of his Gospel storying. This sign, set in the context of the sign that was beset by inadequate responses, counters the wrongheaded ‘make him a king (of Galilee)!’ with the assertion of uncluttered sovereignty over all creation, doing for his disciples what they, for all their strenuous rowing, could not do for themselves, and taking them where they were unable to get by themselves.” (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 96)
Jesus is not merely the king of Galilee and he cannot be made king by our hard work or our force. Jesus is King of all. He is Sovereign over the entire created order. His path is through the mighty waters. Nothing will stand in his way of accomplishing His objective. Raging seas: He walks on them as walking on solid rock. Raging storms: He walks through them as walking through a calm, summer day. Distance: He covers it in mere moments. What can get in the way of Jesus’ goal? Nothing.
But who wouldn’t be afraid to take him into the boat? Who wouldn’t be somewhat fearful of someone who is powerful enough to walk on water, in the dark, for two or three miles? I suspect I would be rather frightened too. I know I would be frightened. But something about Jesus’ response to them reassured the disciples. Why do you suppose that all Jesus had to say to the frightened disciples was: It is I. Is the identity of Jesus enough to quell even the greatest of fears? Then he said: Don’t be afraid. Is the command of Jesus enough to put down our greatest anxiety?
What I want to know is this: Why is the identity and command of Jesus enough to cause the disciples to go from fearful cowards to relieved welcomers? And just how did they plan to keep Jesus out of the boat? Don’t you find it strange that it was only after Jesus identified himself and gave the command that the disciples ‘were willing to take him into the boat’? Seriously: How were they going to keep a man who was walking on the water (in a storm that prevented twelve men from rowing more than 3 or 3 ½ miles) out of the boat? Can you picture this scene? Twelve men straining at the oars while Jesus stands in the middle of a storm. And they were threatened enough to not invite him into the boat straightaway. Isn’t that ironic?
I’m not sure we have that same sense of fear of God. Or, if you prefer, that same sense of fear of Jesus. Popular conceptions are that Jesus is our friend, our brother, our forgiver, our counselor, our partner along the path. Rarely are the conceptions of Jesus that He is the Awesome and Mighty God who treads across the water. Rarely is Jesus the One who commands the whirlwinds and thunderheads and lightning. Rarely is He conceived of as the One who causes the earth to tremble and quake. When this story of Jesus walking on the water is told and retold and taught in churches it is a story about how we need to have faith to get out of the boat (as in John Ortberg’s popular book If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat). Where are those who will look at this story and see a picture of the Great and Mighty Conqueror? Where are those who will read this story, preach this story, and tell of the Awesome Greatness of our King Jesus?
Perhaps it would do the church, and Christianity in general, if we got out of the mode of telling people that Jesus will make all our boo-boos feel better and start telling them that He is the Great King, The Mighty God, The Great and Terrible God of the Storm? Which Jesus do you think will evoke a proper attitude of worship: A Jesus who is our buddy? Or a Jesus who walks on Water? It’s a matter of perception, but truth be told, perception must be based on the Scriptural Revelation. In my estimation, a Sovereign Jesus commands our attention whereas a buddy Jesus commands our contempt and disdain. One exacts a certain level of discipleship the other not so. One commands our attention; the other our applause. Which Jesus are you associated with each day?
“The waters saw you,
O God, the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.”
I pray that your 23rd Day of This 90 with Jesus is a Blessed Day in the Lord!
Soli Deo Gloria!
1Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. 3Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4The Jewish Passover Feast was near. 5When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9″Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
Well as you can see I am significantly behind schedule. I anticipate that I will be able to get back on track sometime this week. I am on vacation and not going anywhere so time is not really an issue this week. All I know is that today I spent time working in my garden, fiddling around the back yard, and visiting with family. What a truly blessed day it was. Anyhow, there’s other things to think of now.
This is a most significant episode in the Gospel of John. Jesus has a great opportunity before him to win people over to his side—and what he does works for a while. When it is all said and done the people Jesus fed were ready to come and make him king by force. These people were not going to take no for an answer. The implication, I think, is that that was the sort of King they wanted. Here is our King: Give us Lord, our daily Bread! Jesus really could have made a big impression on people, and he did, but this was not, I say this for lack of better words, satisfying to Jesus. So what does he do? They want to make him king because he gave them bread: He runs and hides in the mountains.
Inside this story there are many details that are laid out for the readers. Jesus was testing Philip even though Jesus knew what he was going to do for the people. Philip wisely answers that here we are confronted with a problem that money cannot solve: “Eight months wages will not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” No, this was not a problem that was going to be solved by money.
Then there’s Andrew who has something in mind, but I’m not sure what. If eight month’s wages will not buy enough for everyone to have a bite, then how far indeed will five loaves of bread and two small go? We could say that Andrew had faith, but what sort and in what? Honestly, what was he trying to do? Bruce says, ‘Andrew drew attention to it simply to underline its ludicrous inadequacy for so many hungry people’ (FF Bruce, John, 144). A joke? Maybe.
But in the hands of Jesus this meager offering amounted to something. In the hands of Jesus even something to inadequate manage to stifle the hunger pains, and the grumbling crowd. I might be inclined to say something rather cliché like, “Even the smallest offerings in the hands of the Lord can be used for a mighty purpose.” But I don’t think you would allow me to get away with it. Then again, the Lord ‘already had in mind what he was going to do’ so maybe there is more to this boy’s offering that meets the eye.
When dinner was over, all had eaten, all were satisfied and there was an abundance of bread pieces left over—enough, in fact, to fill twelve baskets. And I’m sure if I took the time to look the scholars would tell they were very large baskets. So they clean up their mess and they practice good stewardship: One basket for each of the twelve disciples. Jesus has already told us that he has food to eat that we know nothing of so there was no need for a thirteenth basketful of bread pieces.
Then the end: After the people saw the [miraculous] sign Jesus did they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ They saw the sign and guess what? They actually made the correct assumption about him: He was the Prophet who was to come into the world. This Prophet is spoken of by the Lord in Deuteronomy 18:
“The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. 15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17 The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” 21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”
However, even though they correctly identified Jesus as The Prophet who was to come into the world they missed the greater significance of why He came. Thus when Jesus deduced they were about to force a crown on his head he went and hid in the mountains. Jesus is no Bread King. He is no Bread prophet. So Jesus refused the crown that the people of earth offered him when he fed them bread. He refused. Just like he refused Satan’s offer during his wilderness trials. Later we see the true nature of Jesus. He will not accept a crown on the basis of his feeding people bread and fish, but he will accept the crown offered to him at Calvary. Strange. Very, very strange. Why do you suppose Jesus would not become king after such a sign?
It doesn’t seem to make sense. Really, it doesn’t. Here’s a way that Jesus can become king and avoid all the horror and misery the cross was sure to bring into his life. And yet he refused. He fled and hid. What we might guess that He is The Prophet and He is The King, but he will be crowned king for other reasons. He will be exalted as King in another venue. He will become King not by the force of a fed humanity’s will, but by his own willingness to lay down his life. He will become king not on our terms, but on his own terms. He will be crowned king not for reasons of which we approve, but for reasons of his own determination. He lays down His life and takes it up again. Jesus is not someone we can force to be or do anything that is contrary to His stated objective: To finish the work the Father had given him.
In his book He Leadeth Me, Walter Ciszek wrote, “This tendency to set acceptable conditions upon God, to seek unconsciously to make his will for us coincide with our desires, is a very human trait. And the more important the situation is, the more totally we are committed to it or the more completely our future depends upon it, then the easier it is for us to blind ourselves into thinking that what we want is surely what God must also want. We can see but one solution only, and naturally we assume that God will help us reach it…[B]ut we were created to do God’s will and not our own, to make our own wills conform to his and not vice versa” (69). This is a most important teaching to live by. We don’t have the right to crown Jesus king based on our ideas of Kingship. It is our responsibility to submit ourselves to the King Jesus is, and not to try to force him into the kind of king we wish him to be.
I hope this 22nd Day of 90 is Blessed for you by our King!
Soli Deo Gloria!
31″If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. 32There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. 33″You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. 36″I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41″I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? 45″But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
Yesterday, I ended by noting that we need to understand how we can trust what Jesus was saying to be the truth. Let me begin today by saying the most obvious answer to the question: Everything that God did through Jesus he did in the context of history. In other words, it is verifiable. There were eyewitnesses. For example, the apostle Paul said one time that the Resurrected Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at one time (1 Corinthians 15). So God did not do something in secret, or behind a rock, or magically in the the hearts of a few. He did not send secret messages to individuals (as with Joseph Smith or Muhammad). He sent His Son, His One and Only Son, His Only Begotten Son, into the world of history. John said, ‘he camped among us’ (1:14). John also says something revealing in 1 John 1:1-4:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
He is saying that Jesus was real, that he heard what Jesus said, he saw what Jesus did. Jesus was so close that John and the others could touch Jesus with their hands. In John’s other words, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
But, as important as history is, Jesus does not end with history. No, in fact he says that there are more witnesses who testify to him. He says as much, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.” However, he says, my contention is that I’m not the only one testifying about myself. “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.” He begins to lay out his case. First he says, “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.” John the baptizer was the first testimony that Jesus mentions. Remember John’s testimony: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This is what John said to people when he saw Jesus.
Second, Jesus says, “I have weightier testimony than John.” In other words, ‘If John’s testimony to you is not good enough, how about this: The very work the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.’ I do not happen to think that this merely refers to the miracles and the teaching and the breaking of the Pharisees’ Sabbath laws. Only later, when Jesus was on the cross dying for the sins of the world, did he say, “It is finished.” That was the primary work that Jesus was sent to finish. He tells us, that work I am doing, testifies that the Father sent me. This does not exclude [miraculous] signs, teaching, and breaking Sabbath rules, but these are certainly not the main idea. Still, it is important to note the very nature of the work that Jesus did on earth. Maybe it was not evident to them at the time, but I would think at the cross it would be. And there is certainly no excuse for such ignorance now.
Third, Jesus says, “And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me.” Jesus will spend significant time discussing the Father’s testimony in chapter 8. Perhaps here Jesus is referring to his baptism when the dove descended and the voice of God spoke. In John’s Gospel, this is only alluded to (1:32-34). FF Bruce suggests that John’s readers would, not his present hearers in the story, would be sufficiently familiar with the account of his baptism to ‘fill in the details.’ He also remembers Hebrews 1:1: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” God has then testified about the coming Messiah and about Jesus in particular.
Fourth, Jesus says, “You diligently study the Scripture because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” The Word of God testifies about Jesus. This makes sense and helps us understand the nature of the written word, and also the purpose of the written word. When we read through those canonical Old Testament books we are reading the story of Jesus. Jesus himself said so in Luke 24 as we read of his Post-resurrection appearance to a couple of disciples, “‘How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). He said again, “‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45).
This is why it is so imperative that those of the Faith spend time in the Scripture. This is why it is so imperative that those of the pulpit preach what is written in Scripture and not what is in books and self-help manuals. Listen: The Scripture is about Jesus. When we study, when we learn, when we teach, when we preach, when we testify we do so from Scripture, and about Jesus. Too much time is wasted from pulpits in America because the preacher is too busy preaching about dreams, visions, the ‘end-times’, prophecy, purpose, new buildings, this, that, the warp and the woof, then, now, here and there. Preachers ought to be preaching and testifying about Jesus Christ. He’s who the Bible is about: Front to Back, side to side, Alpha to Omega, Beginning to the End.
Probably the reason we are so unprepared as Christians to testify about Jesus and to give evidence that He is the Only Way to Salvation is because we don’t have preachers who preach the whole counsel of God. But what if preachers, when they preach, got up and preached Jesus Christ and Him Crucified instead of how to have a Christianized version of the American dream? PT Forsyth is insightful on this very matter, “The church has lost much moral tone even in its occupation with ethical subjects. And why? It has lost power to guide the instinct of self-sacrifice when it reduces the cross to nothing else. Has it not lost religious weight in the weightiest matters with the weightiest people? And the deep cause is its moder failure to understand the cross, to see in the judgment of the cross God’s righteousness, God’s holiness, coming finally to its own, and to realise this as the one object for which man exists or the world” (The Cruciality of the Cross, 72). But that is not what is preached in most churches and if you need proof of it note Forsyth’s words again. The church has lost much of its moral authority in this world. Who listens to the church as a guiding voice? Now the church is reduced to a mere gad-fly that must be placated and appeased every other year by politicians who are soliciting her votes. All because preachers will not preach the hard truth of Scripture. Forsyth was right, in 1908!
Here then is the complaint of Jesus: These people he was speaking to did not really love God because they accepted none of the testimony of God who testified about Jesus. I know it is popular nowadays to say something insipid and stupid like ‘there are many paths to God, but only one god.’ Well that is just plain nonsense. There is only one path to God and God has testified to that path through John (not that Jesus accepts human testimony, 34, or needs praise from men, 41), through the Cross, through his own mouth, and through the Scripture. Jesus came in the Name of God, did the Work of God so when people rejected Jesus they were rejecting the One who sent him; it is no different now. The people of this world who reject Jesus or put him on an equal footing with their local deities are rejecting God altogether. There is no Muslim path, Hindu path, Buddhist path, Spiritism path, Christian Science path, Scientology path or any other such nonsense. Jesus says the only path is through Himself. It is in vogue to seek the praise of people now and find some alternate path because no one wants the hard life that Jesus calls us to, or, as he says, that Moses called people to. “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” That is specific. Moses wrote about Jesus. Look it up: The crossing of the Red Sea, the Passover, the Plagues, the Sabbath rules, the Tabernacle, the Sacrifice, the Bronze Snake, the Water from the Rock, the Ten Commandments. It all spoke of Jesus.
Now remember this. Jesus said these words to Pharisees and other people that day. John preserved them for the church. What, then, do you think Jesus is saying to the church in these words? Well, these folks Jesus spoke to originally found their accuser in Moses. I wonder who is our accuser? They placed all their hopes in Moses, whom Jesus says they did not believe. In whom have we placed our hopes? Have we placed our hopes in the dreams and visions cast for us by marketing specialists wrapped in the garb of evangelists or prophets? Have we put our hope in popularizers of the offense of the cross? Have we put our hope in gurus, actors, yogis, imams, secularists, writers, monks, or some other such non-authoritative person? Or have we put our hope in Christ who preaches the Word of God, who is the Word of God? This is the question the church faces right now at this hour. Our greatest threat in the church is not global warming, Armageddon, the destruction of America by terrorists, the loss of wealth or even the lack of space because our buildings are not big enough (I actually read about a church going to court over such a travesty!). Our greatest threat, right now, today, is preachers who will not preach Christ Crucified. I ask again: In whom have you put your hopes?
I Hope this 21st Day of 90 with Jesus is Blessed for you!
Soli Deo Gloria!
19Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. 24″I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 28″Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
“The proliferation of websites promoting religious hatred is an unfortunate consequence of the universality of access to the Internet,” said Vinay Vallabh, the lead author of a report that attacked the Christian groups for their expression of their beliefs. “We must vigorously identify, condemn and counter those who use the Internet to espouse chauvinism and bigotry over the principles of pluralism and tolerance,” Vallabh said. (See the previously cited link to World Net Daily, posted yesterday for context.)
I just finished watching a four minute video of a preacher in India being persecuted. There’s no context to suggest, necessarily, why he is being persecuted, but the website where the video is posted (www.persecution.org an organization associated with Voice of the Martyrs) leads me to believe he is being harassed because of his faith. I have often wondered, why is it that those who are on the front lines screaming and yelling that others must be tolerant of their religion are so intolerant of the faith of others? What I mean is this: There are many, like Vinay Vallabh, who say that Christians must be tolerant and yet his level of tolerance is to censor and monitor Christian websites. I wonder if he feels the same about Muslim websites? He probably does not have that kind of nerve.
Or, let’s consider these excerpts from www.israeltoday.co.il/ or http://www.israeltoday.co.il/default.aspx?tabid=178&nid=13162
Gaza-based Muslim groups affiliated with Hamas and possibly Al Qaeda have warned local Christians that Hamas’ military conquest of the volatile coastal strip means they must now fully submit to Islamic ritual law.
In an [interview with World Net Daily], Sheikh Abu Saqer, leader of the group Jihadia Salafiya, said that Gaza’s Muslims “expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza.”
“Missionary activity” will no longer be tolerated, and those suspected of trying to covert local Muslims to Christianity will be “harshly punished,” said Abu Saqer. Additionally, the consumption of alcohol is now prohibited in Gaza, and all women must fully cover themselves in public.
Now, who is intolerant? Everyone is allowed to be who they want except for Christians. Everyone is allowed convert people to their faith, except for Christians. Who, I ask again, who is intolerant of whom? But let’s be honest with Scripture and see what Jesus says. He says he only does what the Father is doing. So he can’t do anything else. He only does what the Father does. Now look what happens next, because it is quite amazing.
First, he says that that Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does (v 20). There are no secrets not shared. God the Father is in complete communication with God the Son. They work in concert, together, in complete unity, harmony and there is no disparity between the two. Who else can say that?
Second, he says that the Father raises the dead, and so does the Son ‘give life to whom he is pleased to give it.’ (v 21) No one else can say this. It means that Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades. It means that Jesus is the life-giver and the life-receiver. It means that apart from Jesus there is no life. God has testified about no one else in this way.
Third, he says that the Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son (v 22). And here is what God has decreed: “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” If I am reading this correctly, what he is saying is that if you want to cross over from death to life (which necessarily means there are a lot of folks right now living in the land of the dead), then you must honor the Son. This is the most intolerant statement around! It is the most exclusive statement around: If you don’t honor Jesus you are not honoring the Father who sent Jesus. Life is found only in Him and in no one else.
Fourth, what I just touched on above is this: the Father and the Son share the honor of being God. (That’s probably not a very good way of saying it.) (v 23-24). The Father has decreed that apart from belief in Jesus there is simply no life, only condemnation. The Father has decreed this! God has said that apart from Jesus there is no life. He did not say through Hinduism, through Islam, or even through Judaism. He said through the Son. Period.
Fifth, (v 25-27) The Father has granted the Son to have life in himself. He has given the Son the authority to Judge—this means he is not only Sovereignly authoritative, but, I believe, morally authoritative. So, when anyone else passes judgment on Christians their judgment is essentially meaningless insofar as eternal life is concerned. Their opinion means nothing. The only opinion of the Christian that matters is the Son’s opinion.
Sixth, the Father has given the Son the right to determine the standards for salvation. He says those who do good will rise to live and those who did evil will rise to condemnation. But we know it is more than just good and bad deeds because Jesus has already said in verse 23 that eternal life involves honoring the Father and the Son, in verse 24, hearing the Word of Jesus and believing in Him and the One Who Sent Him. The point is, that Jesus is the One who makes this determination. It is Jesus who has decided, in line with the Father, the standards of salvation. No one else has been granted this authority, this right, and certainly no one else does these things in accord with the Father.
And this is because, as Jesus says again, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” I think it is hard to escape the meaning Jesus words in these verses. He is making exclusive, intolerant claims to the ways and means of salvation, to the path of life and death, to the conduct of right and wrong, to the honor of God and the Son. The answers to life, eternal life, judgement, the will of God, resurrection, salvation are all found exclusively in Jesus Christ.
The sad truth is that many in this world are trying to please everyone but God. Many are choosing to honor other gods and excluding Jesus. What most don’t realize that there is only one way to life, only one way to salvation, only one way to escape judgment and that is through Jesus.
Jesus begins by saying he only does what he sees the Father doing. He ends by saying he only does what he hears the Father saying. In other places he says he only speaks what the Father speaks. He judges as the Father judges. He gives life as the Father. Do you hear Jesus making clear, exclusive, intolerant statements about the nature of not only the world we live in, but about the nature of God? But how do we know that he is telling truth? How do we know we can trust Jesus? How do we know it’s not all some big lie? How can we trust his exclusive claims to the exclusion of all other claims? We’ll investigate this more tomorrow, but for now let me point you to the end of the book of John. It is there that the testimony is made complete.
This is the reality of the world in which we live. People will continue to persecute Christians if Christians continue to hold to the truth of Jesus’ Word. We must continue to trust Jesus’ Word; we must continue to be perfectly exclusive because apart from Jesus, there is no hope for anyone in this world.
I hope this 20th Day of 90 is Blessed for you by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Vinay Vallabh believes that Christian websites ought to be censored by Internet Service Providers as “a necessary step as we continue our balancing act between free speech and licentious speech that leads to violence in the electronic age” (from WND). And yet, Hindus continue to persecute Christians, not via the internet, but with their fists, and other weapons. Check out this article at World Net Daily.
Do you anything backward about this?
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
To paraphrase an old friend, ‘Now that is remarkable. Here is a man who has been laying idle for 38 years and the first thing you Pharisees point out to him is that he is carrying his mat on the Sabbath. The man hasn’t carried a mat on any day for 38 years. He hasn’t carried a mat for 13, 870 days and you are worried about today? Did you praise him on any other 1,976 preceding Sabbath’s that he did not carry his mat?” Here is no miracle, for sure. The only thing that happened was that the law was broken. That is all they saw. They did not see a man set free, they did not see a man healed, they did not see a captive loosed from his prison, they did not see a man cured of a disease that had left him completely impaired and despairing for 38 years—a man who had, for all intents and purposes, simply lost the will to live. Of course he had no one to help him in the water when it was stirred—he didn’t want anyone to; it was easier to do nothing each day.
I quoted from an essay, in my previous meditation, written by Tim Keller. Here’s another helpful paragraph:
Moralism is the view that you are acceptable (to God, the world, others, yourself) through your attainments. (Moralists do not have to be religious, but often are.) When they are, their religion if pretty conservative and filled with rules. Sometimes moralists have views of God as very holy and just. This view will lead either to a) self-hatred (because you can’t live up to the standards), or b) self-inflation (because you think you have lived up to the standards). It is ironic to realize that inferiority and superiority complexes have the very same root. Whether the moralist ends up smug and superior or crushed and guilty just depends on how high the standards are and on a person’s natural advantages (such as family, intelligence, looks, willpower). Moralistic people can be deeply religious–but there is no transforming joy or power.
These are the people who find no joy in the ‘success’ of others because they are far too concerned with the sins of others. They are utterly incapable of being joyful—joy-filled. To these folks, life is a burden they must carry around as they trudge from person to person helping them work out their own salvation—with fear and trembling of a kind the apostle Paul was unaccustomed to. These folks are ‘holier-than-thou’ types. They care not about a person’s walking and leaping and praising God, only about his carrying a mat on the Sabbath. It is a terrible way to live, and sadly, it is a life completely devoid of grace.
They said, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ I take this as their way of saying, ‘It is the Sabbath; we forbid you to carry your mat.’ I take these to be very cold, callous folks. Seriously, who is more concerned about a mat being carried than about a man being healed of a 38 years long trip to nowhere? My Lord! There should have been a party in the temple precincts! They should have killed the fatted calf! They should have invited Jesus to turn the Jordan River into wine so the party would not have to end! But, these sour-pusses stared down their pronounced noses, glared over the top of their gaudy bi-focals, stretched out their long, pointy fingers, and declared with the authority of a prophet, the justification of Scripture, and in the voice of God: “You would be better off still crippled by that pool in Bethesda than to be carrying your mat on the Sabbath.” Isn’t that really what they are saying?
I think those people still exist today.
But the man replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” Funny, isn’t it, how Jesus’ authority was good enough for this man when it came to getting well but afterwards Jesus is merely scapegoat. I take nothing positive from this man’s actions between verses 11-15. I think he became an ingrate or at least his true colors began to show. He evidently goes back to a life of sin—a life of sin that may have led to the condition that had laid him up for 38 years to begin with. Jesus did not set this man free from his prison so that he could go and pick up where he left off in sin. No he picks him up, sets him free, and demands, I think, a life that reflects that freedom. Instead, he went back to sin. Let’s read Mr. Keller’s essay again:
Relativists are usually irreligious, or else prefer what is called “liberal” religion. On the surface, they are more happy and tolerant than moralist/religious people. Though they may be highly idealistic in some areas (such as politics), they believe that everyone needs to determine what is right and wrong for them. They are not convinced that God is just and must punish sinners. Their beliefs in God will tend to see Him as loving or as an impersonal force. They may talk a great deal about God’s love, but since they do not think of themselves as sinners, God’s love for us costs him nothing. If God accepts us, it is because he is so welcoming, or because we are not so bad. The concept of God’s love in the gospel is far more rich and deep and electrifying. (There is a link in yesterday’s meditation where you can access the entire essay.)
I think those people still exist today also.
The guy is a tattle-tale, and Jesus is the one who is persecuted for it. ‘For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.’ There will always be someone who wants to persecute and kill. I don’t know about you, but I find it not one bit surprising that it was the religious folks who wanted to persecute Jesus. It was the religious folks who wanted to kill him. It was the religious folks who had no room for him in their scheme of things. They had it all worked out: the rules, the laws, the manner of obedience. There was no reason for this Jesus guy to come in and mess things up for them. He was only making matters much worse than they had to be.
I think those people still exist today too.
Seriously, there are too many religious folks in the church and too many irreligious folks in the church. Here’s Keller’s point: They are both folks who want control over their own lives and over their salvation. Religious folks want saved by their rules and laws and obedience to them; they tell Jesus what to do. Irreligious folks determine their own paths of right and wrong: They don’t need Jesus telling them what to do. You know what is scary? I have lived both ways. This is what I realized in that short van ride last night: For a very long time I did because I had to if I wanted to be saved. There was no joy in serving. It was all work. All burden. All trying to please God day in an day out because I could not grasp grace.
Then there was a time when I did because I wanted to. I confess, it is a lot easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. So instead of submission (‘Go, and sin no more.’) out of love for what he had done for me that I could not do for myself, I simply did what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted. Again, there was no joy because there was only ever guilt, shame, and the humiliation of having to come back to him again and again asking for that forgiveness I thought so easily obtained. Neither is a way to live properly in grace. This was an abuse of grace.
Up until about 3 years ago I never did because because God did first. In other words, I did not do because of grace. Life was either serve to be saved or sin and seek forgiveness later, but never saved to serve—gladly, freely, without obligation, simply because the love and joy of God had done for me what I could not do for myself, because grace had broken in, because I had been set free. I was a slave to law; I was slave to sin. Never was I a happy servant of the Lord. I realize that both of these folks were ingrates. The religious folk because they didn’t see a healed man; the healed man because he went back to sin. I think these are both ways of doing the same thing: persecuting Jesus, plotting his death, or turning him over the authorities who wish to do so. But never recognizing that one who claims to be equal with God has the right to set me free from slavery on any day of the week and determine the course of my life after I have been set free.
I think these folks still live in the church today. And shall they be set free?
Both parties missed grace—the leaders and the healed man. My hope is that we won’t: Neither you, nor I.
I hope this 19th Day of your 90 with Jesus finds you living in and because of Grace.
Soli Deo Gloria!
(Uh, I’m either behind a day, or I have numbered somewhere incorrectly. I will investigate and correct the problem. Thank you for your patience.)
1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7″Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Tonight was night three of Vacation Bible School. We had a fantastic night. 34 kids and a ton of helpers. I told the kids last night, “If you have 30 tomorrow (which was tonight) I will let you pelt me with water balloons.” We had 34. I told them tonight, “If tomorrow we have 40 kids, I will let you pelt me with water balloons and cram a pie in my face.” We’ll see.
We are collecting change for our missions. The kids brought in $69 worth of change tonight. I counted 650 pennies alone. We are more than half way to our missions goal and we’ve only had three nights of VBS. The kids are really thrilled to be here and everyone is having so much fun—especially when they get to pelt the preacher with water balloons.
I tell you all this to set the stage. Most of the kids participating don’t even belong to the church. They have been invited word of mouth by the few kids we do have and by adults who know them. Some of these kids we see only once per year—at VBS. Even all this is beside the point, sort of. I took one of the kids home after the program was over tonight. My son and I gave him a ride to his place down the road. On the way to his house I got to thinking about grace. I got to thinking about all the volunteers who are helping with VBS. I got to thinking about all the kids. I got to thinking that I’ve done more for VBS this year than I have ever done; shamefully. I got to thinking about why we do VBS. I got to thinking about why we serve the Lord at all. I drove past one of the other church buildings in town; they are adding on to their building what looks to be a huge addition. I snarled outside; melted inside. Jealous.
This meditation is too personal. Too close to home. But I got to thinking about why I do what I do. I got to thinking about grace. Let me be honest, I tried for a long, long time to do my work for the Lord: grinding day in and day out, slaving away trying to be all things to all people at all times and in all ways, doing ministry like a fire was in my britches, always trying very, very hard to win the Lord’s approval. Always trying, very, very hard to get as much work done in a day as I could. I thought I had to. I honestly had very little concept, honestly, of grace. I’m serious. Every time I fouled up, read ‘sinned’, I seriously thought I was ‘out’ and that I had to work harder to get myself back ‘in.’ A preacher named Tim Keller wrote a sermon on this very thing. He titled his sermon The Centrality of the Gospel. He wrote this:
We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal.3:1-3) and are renewed (Col.1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom.1:16-17). It is very common in the church to think as follows. “The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But Col.1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not sanctify you–it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32) (You can access Keller’s entire essay here: http://www.redeemer2.com/resources/papers/centrality.pdf)
That’s what I got to thinking about tonight. Truth is, many times in life I have simply tried to hard and for scarcely any reason. Here’s why I bring it up. One day Jesus was walking around Jerusalem and he came across a man who had been laying beside a pool of water for 38 years hoping that he would be the first one in the pool when the waters were stirred. Problem is, evidently, he was suffering some sort of paralysis and thus could not get into the waters when they were stirred. So, there he lay. I make a couple of conclusions from this. The man had not friends or family (he says as much in verse7). And, second, he did not really answer the question Jesus asked. Jesus said, ‘Do you want to get well?’ The man said, ‘Sir, I have no one…’ We might reasonably ask if the man did, in fact, wish to get well. You mean to tell me for 38 years this man laid beside this pool with absolutely no one to help him in? No friends? No family? If he really wanted to get well, don’t you think he would have kept someone standing beside him 24-7? I suppose the truth is that some people really don’t want to get well. Some people, I am convinced, are perfectly content to stay sick.
OK, that’s the work-up to a very simple meditation. Do you realize how long this man laid there beside that pool? 38 years!? 13,870 Days. 332,880 hours of doing absolutely nothing but laying there and thinking of ways to not get well, bemoaning having no one to help get into the water, and suffocating any hope of living a normal life. Then one day Jesus walks by. I’m sure there were others laying beside the pool. If there were not, then it would not have been a competition for the man to get in when the waters were stirred. Why do you suppose Jesus focussed in on this one man? Why focus on the man who was, probably, at least in his 40’s? Were there no others? Why didn’t Jesus help them all? Why was there a question of whether or not this man wanted to get well? Doesn’t every one want to get well? Would the man have been cured if he had remembered it was the Sabbath and chosen not to ‘pick up his mat and walk’? What if he had refused to ‘get up’? Jesus makes it clear, I believe, that in order to get well the man had to obey Jesus’ commands to: Get up, take your mat, and walk. Apart from this, the man would have continued to waste away beside the pool.
There is a ‘however’ though: Jesus did for this man in one second, with a couple of words, that this man had been incapable of doing for himself in 38 years. The Bible says, ‘immediately the man was cured’ then he obeyed. So, he was not cured because he obeyed. He obeyed because he was cured. He got up and walked because Jesus enabled him to get up and walk. My premise holds true: Jesus did for this man in 1 second what the man could not do for himself in 38 years.
This is grace, my friend. It is the absence of striving and trying to prove. It is the absence of trying to impress or slaving away because we want to be cured. Oh, I fully believe that we have to answer the question of Jesus affirmatively, “Do you want to get well?” must be answered ‘yes’ or else it is a moot point. But once we say ‘yes’ and he cures us I think we get up and walk about in his grace. It doesn’t mean we don’t do anything. It means, however, that we do something for reasons other than our own justification. We work, do VBS, take kids home afterwards, count 650 pennies, roll $69 worth of change, get pelted with water balloons not because we hope to be saved, but because we are saved. (And, furthermore, getting pelted with water balloons is quite fun.) We love, Scripture says, because He first loved us. I hope this puts grace in a proper light for you.
Why did Jesus pick this man instead of anyone else? I think it was simply because he could. I think it was simply to demonstrate his grace. I think also to show that no one, not even someone who hasn’t walked for 38 years, is beyond his reach or grace. So it got me to thinking: How long have you been laying beside the pool, waiting, hoping for the mystical, magical waters to be stirred? How long have you been waiting to walk with no one to help you in to the water? Well, let me introduce you to Jesus. He can and will help you in an instant. He can do for you what no one else will help you do, and what you cannot do for yourself. He asks everyone today the same question: “Do you want to get well?” Then takes it upon himself to make them well. That is grace.
I hope this 18th Day of 90 was Blessed for you. I hope this is a blessing to you even so late in the day.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I am taking today off to get some jobs done around the house. Please check back this evening, later this evening, and I will have your meditation available. In the meantime, I will be focussing my thoughts on John 5:1-9 when I write later.
1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7″Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Be Blessed and a Blessing.
43After the two days he left for Galilee. 44(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. 46Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48″Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” 53Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.
Let’s begin today with a quotation from the venerable Eugene Peterson who begins by noting that this short section contains the second sign that Jesus performed and that in this section there is both an affirmation and a criticism of signs. After the man comes and requests Jesus to heal his son Jesus says, negatively, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ Now Peterson writes, “But the father, undeterred, persists, as if to say, ‘I don’t care about signs, I want you to heal my son!’ And then comes the interesting part: Jesus tells him, ‘Go; your son will live’; and ‘the man believed’ and left without any evidence of the healing, which is to say, quite apart from sign or wonder. The father responded believingly to Jesus without benefit of a sign, we might almost say without the distraction of a sign. Jesus’ word, not the sign, formed the man’s belief. It was not until the next day as he neared home—it was a twenty-mile hike between Capernaum and Cana—that he learned that his son got well at the very time of the day before that Jesus, in Cana, had said that he would.” (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 95)
So, even before the sign was complete, the man believed. This is amazing! And it is contradictory. It is contradictory because, nowadays especially, people tell us and, have others convinced, that what is necessary for forming faith is not the preached word but the recounting of someone’s ‘story’ or the recounting of how ‘Jesus has touched me’ and made my life meaningful, or satisfying, or the recounting of some experience based this or that of how Jesus loved me so much that I got over everything I ever feared or some such jabberwocky. It’s not that those things are wrong. Oh, don’t misunderstand me; what they are is rather insufficient. What they are is incapable of being a platform upon which to build a life of faith in Christ. They will not stand the fires of the furnace of trial and temptation. They are simple insufficient for building a life as a disciple. Yet there are plenty who want to insist upon relegating the difficult, doctrinal, and biblical preaching of theology in favor of these rather faddish techniques. If we can, some think, just tug at the heartstrings enough then we should find a crowd out there ready for Jesus.
In my estimation, this simply will not do. This will not produced disciples with the courage and conviction to stand in the face of persecution and defend Christ. But the kind of faith displayed by this man says this: ‘The Word of Christ is sufficient; so I go and expect to find my son well.’ This man knew Jesus in what way? Reputation? Rumor? Had he met him before? Either way, all we can say about this is thus: He trusted the Word of Jesus implicitly. He needed no other confirmation from anyone except the Word of Jesus. Will this sort of faith be found on the earth now? Will this sort of faith do in the church today? Is it enough for those who call on the Name of Christ to be their Savior for His word to be sufficient? Bruce Milne is surely correct, “Faith based on signs and miracles must not be mistaken for true faith, however, which is why Jesus does not encourage it. It fails to honour God, since by it he serves us rather than the other way round” (John, BSP, 92).
Let’s insist then that this is true for today as well. Let’s insist then that our faith be built upon that which cannot be trumped, overturned, corrupted or defeated. Let’s insist that while miracles and signs may carry some weight that they do not, in fact, form a proper substitute for true Biblically defined faith; faith of substance. Let’s insist that in the church the word of God be properly proclaimed—all of it, too! Verse 50 says this: “The man believed in the Word Jesus spoke to him, so he left.” Let’s insist that preachers preach the Word of Christ to us that instills such courage and faith that we, too, can and will believe the Word of Jesus the way this man did.
The irony here is that this man believed apart from seeing any sign from Jesus even after Jesus insisted that people would not believe unless they saw signs. I think Jesus said this to the man almost rhetorically. That is, Are you like everyone else who will not believe unless they see things like signs and wonders? And the man, judging by his response, insists that he believes regardless; he wants his son well again.
Some time ago I marked a note in the margin of my Bible in response to Jesus’ words, ‘You may go. Your son will live.’ I wrote: As if this is all the man needs: Your son will live. As if that’s all the man needs. As if that’s all the man needs. Do you get it?
I hope this 17th of 90 Days is Blessed for you in the Lord!
Soli Deo Gloria