Posts Tagged ‘Exclusivity of Jesus’
Welcome to the Life Under the Blue Sky Skycast (podcast). Below find the audio from last Sunday’s sermon (May 3) from the Acts 4:5-12 Lesson. The manuscript and study notes can be found elsewhere at this blog. The sermon takes about 35 minutes.
Be blessed. You can download the sermon at No Other Name or use the convenient inline player below.
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Soli Deo Gloria!
John 14:1-14 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 66)
1″Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
I mentioned in a post a day or two ago that I have been reading an older book by J. I. Packer titled Beyond the Battle for the Bible. The chapter I am currently reading, Inerrancy in Current Debate, centers around the idea that the Bible is, in fact, inerrant. I wholly agree with this conclusion. Inerrancy entails some very specific ideas concerning how we approach the Bible text. Packer proposes necessary entailments of inerrancy. I shall note only two.
First, he says that since the Bible is inerrant (and infallible) we should ‘see both words as safeguarding a particular procedure in interpretation.’ So he writes,
What are these words for? it is asked. What is their function? The immediate answer is: to declare that we accept as true what Scripture says. This is certainly part of the job they do. But the deeper answer to the question will surely be that we use them to declare our commitment to a way of interpreting the Bible which expresses faith in the truthfulness of the God who speaks to us in and through what it says and who requires us to heed every word that proceeds from his mouth.(51)
Second, he says that since the Bible is inerrant (and infallible) we should ‘recognize that the words have confessional significance and a self-involving logic.’ Thus,
Let it be understood that for me to confess that Scripture is infallible and inerrant is to bind myself in advance to follow the method of harmonizing and integrating all that Scripture declares, without remainder, and taking it as from God to me, however little I may like it and whatever change of present beliefs, ways and commitments it may require. (53)
Now if I apply these two statements to my interpretation of John 14:1-14 what conclusions will I come to and how will they affect my understanding of these verses? This is important because the current way of doing things, the popular way, is really to deny that Scripture is infallible and inerrant, and so somehow many have managed to create their own version of Christian faith which is really no Christian faith at all. In other words, we don’t change Scripture to conform to our experience, but we conform our experience to Scripture. It is quite dangerous that we should all create our own experiential religion. This also means that we accept the words of Scripture as implicitly true words that proceed from the mouth of God. For the Christian then, while it is conceivable that some may be led astray by errant teachers and fallible guides, it is inconceivable that it is because something in Scripture is not true. Again, when we begin with this premise, Scripture binds us and sets us free.
What can we then conclude from John 14:1-14 with this inerrancy and infallibility serving as the foundation upon which we build?
First, we can conclude that we are going to have reasons for being troubled in this world. No doubt. But, we can also conclude that Jesus who ‘went away’ to ‘prepare a place for’ us will come back for us. We accept this implicitly. It’s not a matter of if Jesus will come back any more than it is a matter of if he will be vindicated. No, Jesus said he will come back. He will not abandon us or leave us as orphans. We can have every reason for confidence that Jesus will indeed come back to this planet and rescue his people.
Second, we can conclude that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that ‘no one comes to the Father except through’ him. Now many in this world are convinced of a couple of different things. On the one hand some are convinced that there is no God for us to ‘come to’ and thus Jesus’ words are meaningless drivel. On the other hand, it is taught in many places that there are plenty of different ways to the Father. I’ve even heard popular preacher Joel Osteen make a comment to this effect in an interview with Larry King. If the Word of God is inerrant and infallible then we accept that Jesus is the Only Way to the Father—There is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. Period. But this also means that there is a Father for us to ‘go to.’ It makes no difference how many people deny it or mock it or ridicule it. If the Bible is the Word of God then this is what we believe and this is the way God has arranged salvation to happen: Through Jesus and Jesus alone. There is no Buddhist way, no Hindu way, no Muslim way, no Judaism way. There is only Jesus Messiah.
Third, we can conclude that Jesus if we want to now God the Father, if we want to see him, we have to know Jesus. This is tied tightly to the above paragraph. What is simply amazing is that Jesus here is thoroughly identifying himself with God. In other words, Jesus is saying, “I am God.” This is amazing and profound. If we begin with our premise of inerrancy and infallibility, the testimony of Scripture to itself, then the implications of this statement are more than I can write in this space. He carries this on through verse 11. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him. The Words he speaks are not just his words, they are the words of the Father. The miracles He does are from the Father. If we want to ‘see’ the Father, we must look to Jesus. There is no other way to see God. Only through Jesus can we behold the Almighty God of Creation, of the Universe.
Fourth, we can conclude that Jesus will ‘do whatever we ask in his name to bring glory to the Father.’ We can conclude that Jesus is the proper object of our faith. We can conclude, in short, that Jesus’ will is to bring glory to the Father and nothing will prevent that from happening. We can have confidence that what Jesus spoke, he meant. And what he meant he will bring to fruition. And what he brings to fruition will bring glory to the Father. What we learn here is that the Will of the Father and the Will of the Son are in complete harmony with one another. There is no ‘competition’ or ‘struggle of the will.’ Jesus ‘always does what pleases the Father.’
I think what we see taking place in the American church today is that many feel like they have to skirt the issue of infallibility and inerrancy because they are afraid of being ridiculed by those who won’t believe. So what happens is that these preachers create a cross-less Gospel which involves believing in whatever you want to believe about the Scripture so long as Jesus is in there somewhere and so long as it has something to do with something vaguely referred to as church. But how can we believe this promises of Jesus if the Bible isn’t true at all points? How can I believe that Jesus is coming back to take us to the Father if in fact Jesus was really real, or if Jesus wasn’t really God, or if Jesus wasn’t really authorized to make such statements? If Jesus was not God then Jesus had no real authority to make such statements and we can rightfully ignore him.
When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, those who doubt the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scripture ultimately doubt Jesus. Scripture, from first to last, is a testimony to Jesus Christ (Luke 14, John 5). If Scripture’s testimony isn’t true can we reasonably assume that we are being told the truth about Jesus? There is great danger in reducing the Word of God from its God-breathed inerrancy to a collection of mere man-myths.
But if Jesus is God, and if the Scripture is inerrant and infallible, then Jesus does have the authority and the power to make such statements and to bring them to fruition. Many think that Jesus needs some help along the way. They think they are making God to be greater by ‘broadening’ the road and being more ‘tolerant’ and ‘inclusive’. Jesus didn’t think that was the way to bring honor to the Father. The way to honor the Father is by having confidence and faith in the Words that Jesus spoke, the Words that He means to bring to fulfillment when the ages have reached their conclusion.
Soli Deo Gloria!
All I did was type in the search box ‘Church News’. I ended up at the homepage of the United Church of Christ. I had some trouble at their page with a story I wanted to read so I went right to the source, the homepage of the Cathedral of Hope, located in Dallas, Texas. This ‘church’ bills itself as the ‘world’s largest gay church.’ In August they hosted a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum series designed to ‘train educators to teach human sexuality to 7-9th grades.’ (You can find this info at their page link above near the bottom of the page.)
But Wait! There’s More!
Dallas, Texas – August 12, 2007 – The Cathedral of Hope, known as the world’s largest gay church, announced today that it received $3,135,484.48 in cash and commitments toward its “Miracle Offering,” taken in order to build an Interfaith Peace Chapel designed by world-renowned architect Philip Johnson. The offering, taken on Sunday, July 29 in celebration of the church’s 37th anniversary, was given as the culmination of a yearlong “Miracle Project” and is the largest offering in the church’s history. Gifts were made by people living in three countries, 32 states and 98 cities in Texas.
Said the Rector of the “Church”
“Members and friends of the Cathedral of Hope have prayed, saved, sacrificed and worked hard to make the Miracle Project a success,” said Rector and Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson. “The real miracle, though, is this congregation’s continued commitment to serve our community by giving away more than one million dollars every year in goods and services while living into a God-given dream of creating a house of prayer and peace for all people, regardless of their faith.”
They have all the bases covered. I’d like to know where in Scripture it says that there is fellowship between Christian’s and people of ‘other faiths’? What exactly is a ‘gay church’? There is only one Church.
What I don’t understand, quite apart from the tolerance of homosexuality, is the house of prayer and peace for all people, regardless of their faith? What Muslim in his right mind would worship with a Christian? What Jew in his right mind would worship with a Muslim? What Mormon would worship with a Jehovah’s Witness? What Buddhist would worship with a Hindu? What Christian would worship with any of these pagan unbelievers?
What part of “There is no way to the Father except through Me (Jesus)” is difficult to understand? What part of “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” is complicated? What is mysterious about “There is One Name given to men by which they must be saved”? Has the good pastor Jo actually read the part of Scripture that says, “the homosexual will not inherit the kingdom of God”? Has she read that part that says “Be holy, for I am holy”? Have they read that part that says, “There is no fellowship between Christ and Belial, light and dark”? Seriously. What are we to do with those passages in Scripture God says that the only way to Salvation is through the Son? What are we to do with those passages that say “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation”? Or, “we must put off the old self, and put on the new”? Or, “repent”?
And, on top of that, 3.1 million dollars to build a meaningless building while Christians in the Middle East are being killed for their faith.
And we wonder what is wrong with the church in America. Did you see that story I linked to last night, the one about Rwandans?
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 14Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19Then they asked him, “Where is your father?””You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.
One has to admit, with even the slightest reflection on this world, that this world is, indeed, a pathetically dark and dismal place. Not a day can go by when we don’t read of some sickening new manner of killing or some despicable new manner of torture being invented by some decrepit and dilapidated person made in the image of God. It is rather disturbing, to say the least. Who among us doesn’t live with some sort of fear that we ‘might be next’ on some twisted deviant’s hit list? Who among us hasn’t been, at some point, afraid of the dark and what might lurk there?
This chapter begins no differently than chapter 7 had ended (if we exclude, only for literary purposes, 7:53-8:11). Jesus speaks to the people, the people (leaders) argue with him, and when it was all said and done they tried to seize him, but no one was able to ‘because his time had not yet come.’ I have this idea in my head that Jesus’ time was not yet come until he said everything that he was meant to say. His time would be in the fullness of time—what Annie Dillard calls ‘the scandal of particularity.’ Or what Paul wrote in Romans, “You see, at just the right time…” (Romans 5:6a). Is God’s time so particular that things never happen apart from ‘just the right time’ or was it only with respect to Christ Jesus that the time was just right? If God is so particular, the I think nothing happens apart from just the right time. But how can it for people who pray ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’?
As an example of this particularity, I offer this quote by Karl Barth, but I offer it with a small disclaimer. I confess that I am not entirely familiar with Barth’s theology. I have read three of his books (Dogmatics, pt 1, Romans, and Homiletics), they are difficult reads, and I make no profession to understanding all that he said. To be sure, this quote I offer here may not have the complete context, but it appears that what Barth is doing is showing that even the smallest (most particular) of details was not left up to chance, his race any more than the timing. As to the stated principle I agree; as to the consequences of this principle, I’m not sure. He wrote,
“The Word did not simply become any “flesh,” any man humbled and suffering. It became Jewish flesh. The Church’s whole doctrine of the incarnation and the atonement becomes abstract and valueless and meaningless to the extent that this comes to be regarded as something accidental and incidental. The New Testament witness to Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, stands on the soil of the Old Testament and cannot be separated from it…The Christian kerygma as it is addressed to the world has this statement about an Israelite at its very heart. This means nothing more or less than the bringing of the world into the sphere of the divine dealings with the people Israel. It does not speak generally of the existence of a Son of Man who became man for many (with many in view), but of the fact that the Jesus who has come as the Messiah of Israel has come into the world as the Saviour of the world…His universality is revealed in this particularity.” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV.1, 166-7)
Jesus also said this: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He makes this statement or a statement similar to it in three other places in John’s Gospel (11:9, 10 and 12:35). It’s not the content that I am concerned about here (although John has introduced this conflict between light and dark as early as the first chapter in his Gospel). Rather, it is this other scandal of particularity, mentioned by Barth in the quote, but stated absolutely here by Jesus. It is this: there is no salvation apart from Jesus. Christians did not invent that claim. Christians did not ask for it to be that way. Christians are those who have accepted it as the truth. Christians are those who have said, “If Jesus said it, then how can anyone else say it?” Of course, others can say it which is precisely what makes the claim of Jesus so revolutionary: He backed up his claim at Calvary.
So he says, ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ There is virtually no difference between this statement and the one he made in verse 12. If you want to know the Father, then you must know Jesus. It’s rather obvious why this statement is so continually repeated in John’s Gospel. Over and over again: Jesus is the Way, Jesus is the Light, Know Jesus-know the Father, Look to the Son—formulate any combination you like and it all adds up to the same thing: Jesus is all we have.
Finally, there was the particularity of testimony. “I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” Of no one else has the sky cracked open and the Father testified as such but Jesus. Even when Moses and Elijah stood on the Mountain of Transfiguration (Matthew 17, etc.), only of Jesus did the voice say, “This is my Son, listen to Him.” When the terrified disciples opened their eyes who was left? Moses? Elijah? No; only Jesus. Only of Jesus did God say, “This is my Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.” There is simply no getting around it and that is why John continues to draw us back to it time and time again. He is concerned that we understand just how particular God is when it comes to salvation, eternal life, walking in the light—or any of the other metaphors you wish to copy from John—His way; the Jesus Way.
There are a great deal of people and preachers available right now whose sole purpose it is to distract people from this particularity. It the purpose of John to show us in as many ways possible that those folks who try to turn our eyes from Jesus are lying liars who tell lies (a little Al Franken humor there). John keeps bringing us back to the same message time and time again by recording for us the various times, places, and ways that Jesus expressed this truth about himself. If you are reading John hoping to come to some other conclusion or learn some other thing you are not getting what John is writing.
The Scandal of particularity took three forms here. One was from Jesus’ mouth: I am the light of the world (which means no one else is). A second was from the Father’s mouth: He testified about Jesus in a way about which he testified to no other. A third was in the matter of time: He came in the fullness of time. Think you now, at this moment in your life, that there is any less scandal of particularity? Think you now that God’s providence has guided you any less?
Soli Deo Gloria!
25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? 27But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” 28Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” 30At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?”
In yesterday’s meditation, we learned that Jesus’ teaching does not come from himself but the Father. People thus reject Jesus’ teaching at their own peril: In rejecting His teaching they are rejecting the authority behind the teaching (The Father), the subject of the revelation (God’s Will), and the intentions behind the prophecy (transformation by God’s intent). Now what he is saying here is this: “I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true.”
But notice what the people’s response is to this newest revelation: More objections. They object to Jesus’ teaching because they are convinced that he is not educated enough or, at least, that he was not educated by the ‘right’ people or the ‘right sort’ of people. Now they object to him again: “But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” Objection after objection. They keep looking for reasons to not follow Jesus and searching for excuses not to believe in him. Furthermore, their response to him is always the same: violence, persecution, attempts at murder. They really do not like Jesus and search for any reason they can to lay him to waste. This time it is no different: At this they tried to seize him.
So here then it was not their ignorance that prevented them from knowing and loving Jesus. It was, in fact, their knowledge. In verses 14-15, they objected because they did not know where Jesus got his teaching form. Here they object because they do know where he is from. Jesus cannot win either way. But I think there is something more to it than that. I think these people were just, much like many in today’s world, searching and searching for reasons to reject Jesus. But if I hear Jesus’ answer correctly, then I am hearing him say to these people who objected: No, in fact, you don’t know me at all. As Jesus will later say in the Gospel: “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” He also says, “Anyone who has seen me has see the Father” (John 14:7-9).
I suppose that if people want to find reasons to object to Jesus they will find them easily enough. There is an entire discipline of Biblical studies dedicated to the task of refuting such objections (it’s called apologetics). Murray thus says that, in spite of the fact that we live in a different time and age and culture than when this book was first written, ‘…the revelation of God in Christ is directed to our age no less than to people in the first century of our era…And the challenge of Jesus’ claim to be the bearer of the revelation of God and the instrument of his redemption demands of every one of us an answer that we can give before the judgment seat of God, for that is what in the end will be required of us’ (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 36, John, GR Beasley-Murray, 123).
So, the particular objections John wrote about may or may not be particularly relevant to us in this present culture. We are not Jews who would fret about something such as where Jesus was from or where he got his teaching (ie., his education). Indeed, the questions were even deeper than that in John’s context. Just examine all the different things people were saying about him in the chapter (v 1-5, 12-15, 25-27, 31, 35-36, 40-52). They objected to nearly every conceivable aspect of his life: Education, pedigree, race (he was from Galilee), etc, and at every objection they were ready to arrest him or kill him or persecute him. Still, in our culture we face a not entirely different set of objections that all trace their main point back to the same root: People still do not want to believe that Jesus is the Way, the exclusive Way, to the Father. “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” What about him did they not want to believe in? Well, read chapter 6 again and see!
This is the problem we face today. It’s not so much that people even object to Jesus necessarily. Many religions have grasped him and melted him into their pantheon of religious instruction. But Jesus is no mere teacher of wonderful, blissful things (as I pointed out yesterday). As long as Jesus is a good teacher, a humanitarian, an animal lover, an anti-global warming poster child, or some other such non-sense, Jesus is ‘just alright with me’ is the mantra for many folks—even Christians! But when cross-carrying Christians, rightfully and under obligation and mandate and because of love, preach that Jesus is exclusively the Messiah, God, the Crucified and Resurrected Sovereign Lord, well, then those who have lauded his teaching, moral character, and social activism turn back and no longer follow him. It is not strange to me at all that chapter 7 follows chapter 6 in this sense: Jesus made, in chapter 6, some of his most divisive, contumacious, and public claims to exclusivity yet in John’s Gospel, and many turned back, following him no longer. Now we see in chapter 7 their objections articulated, their hatred escalated, and their violence accelerated.
This is no different from our own world. And, to be sure, people cannot have it both ways. You cannot have Jesus the good, moral, upstanding citizen teacher and reject his exclusive claims to Supremacy and Sovereignty. This will not do. David Wells rightly notes, “The only way in which we can be God-centered, then, is to be Christ-centered, for God is salvifically know known nowhere else. It is popularly argued to the contrary that to be Christ-centered is to be other than God-centered because it excludes all religious options other than Christianity and hence excludes much of what God is doing in the world today. Whatever the attractions of this argument, it is simply unscriptural. It makes the reality of God diffuse, assails the uniqueness of his revelation in Christ, dispenses with Christ’s saving death, and upends the premise of the entire biblical narrative, which is that God alone has reality, while the gods and goddesses of the pagans are nonentities. The New Testament unequivocally sounds the note of Christ’s uniqueness, the clarion call of historical particularity, which vitiates every other religious claim” (God in the Wasteland, 132).
So, if God is doing anything in this world, he is doing it through Christ. Apart from Christ, God does nothing. He holds all things together in Christ. He saves through Christ. So, if people have rejected Jesus on this ground or that ground they have rejected God’s appointed heir, God’s appointed Messiah, God’s chosen Servant. Apart from Christ there is no one sent from God. Jesus came from God and that very fact teaches us a great deal about the manner in which we should respond to Jesus.
I hope this 32nd Day of 90 is blessed for you!
Soli Deo Gloria!
10However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?” 12Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. 14Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?”
I wonder if you see the same things in John’s Gospel that I see? Do you see parallels with our world? Do you see similarities between their culture and ours? Seriously, take away all the plastic gizmos and electronic hickamagiggies and really tall buildings and you are left with the same thing as existed in Jesus’ day. There are still people and as long as there are people, nothing will ever really change. Frankly, I’m kind of tired of the whole thing. Every time I read the paper or the scan the Internet I am bombarded with the dregs of society, the scandal of the politicians, the mischievousness of Hollywood, and the downright stupidity of sinners. There’s a new way to sin invented every single day. There’s a new objection to Jesus every day. Not a day passes that someone has not found some reason to objection to Jesus or complain about him.
Jesus refused to go to Jerusalem during the feast in order to gain popularity. Bruce wrote, ‘Jesus’ going up to Jerusalem ‘as it were in secret’ is in marked contrast to his brothers’ insistence that he should court publicity’ (173). Really it is quite astounding that Jesus has no inclination to go up in order to make a spectacle, or to parade around for applause, or to play the monkey to his organ-grinder brothers. Jesus is shown here as one who moves according to His time schedule and no one else’s. Again, Bruce, ‘The evangelist’s point is rather that the whole incident marks his steadfast resolution not to run before the Father’s guidance nor lag behind it’ (173).
When he finally arrives in Jerusalem, it is to no fanfare, no trumpet blasts or PA announcement or Monday Night Football commentary. He arrives in secret and doesn’t even go up to the temple until half-way through the Feast. When he did go up, it was to teach. Then people could only find some reason to snarl about him, ‘How did he get such learning without having studied?’ (Solomon wrote, “…much study wearies the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).)
These verses we are looking at today are filled with people’s objections to Jesus. The first objection is that he doesn’t appear on other people’s time schedules, “Where is that man?” In other words, he should be here now. We demand he appear before us. We demand that he make his appearance. We demand…we demand…we demand…some folks get done doing nothing but making demands of Jesus. Some folks get done doing nothing with Jesus but wondering why he is not moving according to their wishes. “Where is that man?” they ask in a snarl of anger and not a little hubris. But I suppose we have a right to demand Jesus appear when we want him to, don’t we?
Then some folks say, ‘He is a good man.’ But I don’t put much stock in folks who say this either. It was all whispering, a hush-hush affair. People didn’t want to say anything, good or bad, about Jesus for ‘fear of the Jews.’ So I don’t put much stock in folks who are willing to whisper niceties about Jesus but are not willing to make any sort of public declaration about Him. What good is whispering when Jesus said that we are to be like Lights shining in dark places, cities on hills, shouting from the rooftops the things said in secret? What place is there for us to be ashamed of the Gospel? What good is a good man if no one is willing to stand up for him, talk about him, or share him with others? What good is a good man if all those who know he is good live in fear of what others might say or do? Nah. I’ve got no use for Messiah whisperers even if they say the right things.
Then some complain about Jesus and say, ‘No, he deceives the people.’ Oh, just imagine that! This was a trick of those others who did not like Jesus. They thought his only ambition was to subvert the lower classes of people, you know, those without education, those who don’t know better. Professor Bruce instructs us again, “…others maintained that his deeds of mercy and power were simply a smokescreen to cover his real intentions: he was actually an impostor, claiming to be what he was not, and thus misleading the common people” (174). There are plenty of folks running around the world right now claiming very similar things about Jesus.You know one of the greatest perpetrators of this accusation: Dan Brown, author of the best-selling book The D* V**** C***. The whole premise to the book is that Jesus is not who he claimed to be, and that his disciples have gone out of their way to cover up the ‘truth’ about him. Same claim; different time.
Then there were those who complained about his level of education: ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’ This objection Jesus answers: “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” It’s like Jesus can tolerate all other objections and complaints but he will not sit quietly by while people malign the Word of God. It is this objection that Jesus answers—perhaps because it carries the most weight. Perhaps it is because, as he has said and will say again, that rejection of his teaching is ultimately a rejection of God who sent him.
What is more amazing is that Jesus is being talked about even when he wasn’t around. People were saying all sorts of things about him that were either not true or only half-true (which means they were lies too). People had very little understanding of what he was, who he was, what he was doing. So later he tells them, ‘Yes, you know me, and you know where I’m from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him because I am from him and he sent me’ (28-29). If you want to know the Father, you have to know me—but they did not want to listen to the things Jesus was saying.
We demand of Jesus. We are silent about Jesus. We falsely accuse Jesus. We reject his teaching because he has no recognizable pedigree. Nothing in the world changes. People are no different today than they were in Jesus’ day. I wonder when people will start getting it? If the Scripture is true, and I believe it is, there are a lot of people who are on the wide road that leads to eternal damnation. If Jesus was indeed telling the truth and He alone is the Only Straight and Narrow Path to God, then there are a lot of people already frustrated by God’s judgment. What are people around you whispering about Jesus? What are they saying? Better, are you prepared to talk to them and ‘set the record straight’? Are you prepared with an answer? Can you speak intelligently about the Messiah? The right information is useless if you keep it inside and to yourself.
I hope your 30th Day with Jesus is Beyond Measure!
Soli Deo Gloria!
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!
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!