Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (7)

good-shepherd

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Jesus’ seventh discourse recorded by the Apostle John contains two I AM statements that I covered in previous articles. The main theme of the discourse is the relationship of the Shepherd to His sheep. Jesus says, “I AM the door”[1] and “I AM the Good Shepherd.”[2]

In the first I AM statement, Jesus portrays Himself as “the Door” to the sheepfold (John 10:7, 9). As the Door, Jesus places Himself at the singular entrance to the sheepfold – the place of protection for the sheep. Anyone wanting to gain entry must go through Him. Only those sheep belonging to the Shepherd gain access to the place of comfort, peace and protection. All others are excluded. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine).

In the second I AM statement, Jesus declares that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). The Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep (John 10:11).  The Good Shepherd knows His Sheep and His Sheep know Him (John 10:14). The relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep is interesting. John the Baptist identified the Good Shepherd as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). That title impressed John the Apostle so much that he refers to the Risen Lord as “the Lamb” throughout the Apocalypse (Revelation 5:6,12,13; 6:1,16; 7:9,10,14,17; 12:11; 13:8,11; 14:1,4,10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7,9; 21:9,14,22,23,27; 22:1,3).  The Lamb is also the Good Shepherd; He is like His sheep in many respects. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). The Apostle Paul says that He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8, emphasis mine).

The Good Shepherd became a Lamb in order that He might lay down His life for his sheep (John 10:15). Sometimes Jesus is seen as a “victim” of the crucifixion, but that is far from the truth. Jesus said, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18, emphasis mine).

From the time of the Fall (Genesis 3:21), it required the spilling of innocent blood to cover – atone for – the sins of man. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11, emphasis mine). However, man sinned, not animals, so the only suitable blood sacrifice was that of an innocent man. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, emphasis mine). The problem is that there are no innocent men. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, emphasis mine).  Therefore, the Good Shepherd, the only sinless man, laid down His life to atone/cover/pay for the sins of His sheep. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28, emphasis mine).

Reader, if you are not under the protection of the Good Shepherd’s sheepfold, why not come to Him today? He is the Door, the only way in.

Notes:


[1]  Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (3): https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/09/18/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-3/

[2]  Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (4): https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/09/25/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-4/

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (6)

light-of-the-world

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)

This dialog recorded in Chapter 8 of John seems to be an extension of the conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees in Chapter 7. It was now the day after the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37; 8:2). At the end of Chapter 7, the Jews would have taken Jesus into custody, “but no man laid hands on him” (John 7:44), and the religious leaders were at odds as to what to do with Him (John 7:45-53).

On the following day, John records that the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in the act of adultery asking Jesus to pass judgment on her. Some “scholars” suggest that John 8:1-11, which relates this account, either is not original to John, or if it is original to John, it was not included in the original writing. They come to this conclusion based on variant manuscripts of the Gospel, some of which do not contain the narrative at all, and some that do contain the narrative find it in other locations of the same Gospel. Personally, I will go with the Textus Receptus that places it right where it is in all of our Bibles.

I believe the narrative falls logically into this place. Consider that Jesus debated the Jews on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37). The conversation ended with their failed attempt to arrest Him (John 7:44). The Jews were then in a dilemma as to what to do with Him (John 7:45-53), and Jesus retreats to His base camp at the Mount of Olives (John 8:1). Then, “early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them” (John 8:2). At this time, the Jews brought the woman to Jesus, and Jesus turned the tables on them suggesting that “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). “Being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last” (John 8:9). It is worthy to note that, even though Jesus did not condemn the woman, neither did He accommodate her sin. “Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11, emphasis mine).

Apparently, a crowd, including some Pharisees that were not involved in the “sting operation,” observed what took place and saw how the accusers tucked tail and left. Jesus then addresses the audience that remained. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis mine).[1] In spite of what the “scholars” say, the narrative of the woman caught in adultery fits perfectly in this place. The light Jesus brought to bear exposed the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders and sent them into hiding (temporarily). John’s prolog alerts us to the light Jesus brought into the world. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it notThat was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9, emphasis mine). Light dispels darkness and exposes evil. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:19-21, emphasis mine). The Pharisees were in the dark, and the light of Jesus exposed them for what they were.

The dialog between Jesus and the Pharisees continued even though they understood very little of what Jesus had to say. In the conversation, Jesus makes several important points. First, believing in Him is essential to salvation. “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24); “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Second, if you believe in Him and claim to be His disciple, i.e., follower/student, you must be faithful to His teaching. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32, emphasis mine). His Word is the Bible, and the truth contained in His Word liberates the soul. Jesus is the Living Word (John 1:1), and He gives us His written Word. Therefore, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Third, only those who belong to God can hear and understand God’s Word. “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47). The Pharisees did not understand Jesus’ message because, even though they were “religious,” they were not “of God.” Fourth, they who are of God understand His Word and keep it; therefore, they will enjoy eternal life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” (John 8:51, emphasis mine).

The fifth point Jesus made revealed His eternal nature and His equality with God the Father. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Some scholars believe Jesus was referring to Abraham’s hope in the promise of Messiah, however, that does not seem the fit the Pharisees’ reaction. “Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” (John 8:57, emphasis mine).

If this mean no more than that he had a prophetic foresight of the gospel-day – the second clause just repeating the first – how could the Jews understand our Lord to mean that He “had seen Abraham?” And if it mean that Abraham was then beholding, in his disembodied spirit, the incarnate Messiah [Stier, Alford, etc.], the words seem very unsuitable to express it. It expresses something past – “he saw My day, and was glad,” that is, surely while he lived. He seems to refer to the familiar intercourse which Abraham had with God, who is once and again in the history called “the Angel of the Lord,” and whom Christ here identifies with Himself. On those occasions, Abraham “saw ME” (Olshausen, though he thinks the reference is to some unrecorded scene). If this be the meaning, all that follows is quite natural. (Emphasis mine)[2]

That is my take on just the normal reading of the text. Jesus referred to His encounters with Abraham recorded in the Book of Beginnings, as the LORD (Genesis 12:7; 15:1-18; 17:1; 18:1), as the Angel of the Lord who stopped him from sacrificing Isaac (Genesis 22:11-18), as Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20), and as one of the three “men” that visited with him in the plains of Mamre (Genesis 18). The Pharisees rightly understood that Jesus referred to personal encounters with Abraham; therefore, they questioned, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” (John 8:57, emphasis mine). Abraham lived 2000 years prior to this time, so how could a mere man, not yet even in his fifties, have a personal encounter with him? Jesus cleared up their confusion. “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58, emphasis mine). With His authority as God, Jesus identified Himself as the Great I AM. His message was clear and the Pharisees understood precisely what he was saying. “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59, emphasis mine). For a mere man to make such a claim was blasphemous, and it demanded immediate execution.  However, Jesus was no mere man, and His claim was “Verily, verily” (Truly, truly).

As I AM,[3] Jesus is also the Light of the World. Jesus “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen [i.e., “the light], nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16, emphasis mine). “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all … But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:5, 7, emphasis mine). “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6, emphasis mine). “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5, emphasis mine). “And the city [the New Jerusalem] had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it” (Revelation 21:23-24, emphasis mine).

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis mine). Reader, have you seen the light, or are you still hiding from the light?

Notes:


[1]  Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (2): https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/09/04/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-2/

[2]  Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Commentary on John 8:56.

[3]  Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (1): https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/08/28/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-1/

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (5)

47642620 - cascade on small mountain stream. cold crystal water is falling over mossy boulders into small pool.

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)

Jesus was in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) and taught in the temple throughout the weeklong festivities (John 7:14, 37). Knowing His devotion to observing the Mosaic Law, the “Jews” looked for Him (John 7:11) hoping to find some excuse to kill Him (John 7:1). Regardless of the threat, Jesus went up to the feast anyway, albeit incognito (John 7:10).

Jesus must not have posed a particularly striking appearance. He probably looked like a common, uneducated Galilean, but His speech bewildered the Jews. “And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (John 7:15). To be sure, Jesus, the Word, knew the Scriptures better than they did. “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16-17, emphasis mine). The Greek noun translated “doctrine” is didachē and it means “instruction” or “teaching.” This teaching comes from God, therefore, because they were not doing God’s will, they did not understand the instruction, nor recognize the One delivering the message. The same problem exists today. One can understand the “unchurched” not doing God’s will, but sadly, many so-called “churches” preach a “gospel” contrary to the will of God, and are as fundamentally ignorant of the “doctrine of God” as are the unchurched.

Jesus demonstrated kindness and compassion, but when it came to the false teaching of the Jews of that time, He pulled no punches. “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” (John 7:19, emphasis mine.). Jesus revealed Himself here, but the Jews failed to recognize Him. They searched for Jesus to have Him killed, but standing before them, they did not recognize Him. “Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel” (John 7:21, emphasis mine).  Some commentators believe Jesus referred to the healing of the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda,[1] but that was six months before during Purim. That healing took place on a Sabbath, and for that, the Jews sought to kill Him! Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. “If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man [completely] whole on the sabbath day?” (John 7:23). It seems reasonable that if a circumcision can be performed on a Sabbath, a healing should be just as valid, if not more so. Therefore Jesus admonished them, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

At this point the Jews started to realize that this was Jesus, whom they sought, and Jesus no longer hid the fact. “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me” (John 7:28-29,emphasis mine). More than Jesus healing on the Sabbath, they hated His claim of being from Him more than anything. Jesus claimed equality with God, and it irked the Jews. “Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:30, emphasis mine).

Jesus caused quite a stir. Many of His hearers believed in Him, but the Pharisees and other religious rulers sought the more to take Him into custody. Jesus then alluded to His crucifixion and resurrection. “Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (John 7:33-34, emphasis mine). Jesus previously pointed out that these religious leaders were estranged to God; therefore, like anyone estranged from God, they cannot be with Him in the presence of God. Of course, they did not understand what He was saying as anyone in this same condition remains blind to the things of God.

Finally, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus offered the invitation to soften that hardened condition. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38, emphasis mine). The “belly” is a metaphor for ones innermost being. John further explains Jesus’ meaning. “But this spake he of the [Holy]Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39, emphasis). When one places his trust in Jesus for salvation, Jesus’ promises to come and reside within him.“…if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Of course, Jesus cannot do this physically (after all, He does have a physical body), so He accomplishes this through the Holy Spirit Who inhabits every believer.

The remedy for ignorance of God and His will, is the Living Water that Jesus freely offers. Jesus promises, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26, emphasis mine). “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26, emphasis mine). “And when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8, emphasis mine). “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13, emphasis mine). Ignorance of God and of the things of God dissipates by drinking in the Living Water that Jesus so freely offers.

Reader, are you thirsty to know God? If so, why not take Jesus up on His invitation. Come and drink of the Living Water He offers. It is free for the asking.

Notes:


[1]Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (3), https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/06/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-3/.

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (4)

Bread

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. (John 6:27)

The Apostle John penned his Gospel with the purpose of demonstrating the deity of Jesus Christ through the “signs” He performed and His teachings. “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31, emphasis mine). In the section I am covering today, John presents two “signs”: Jesus feeding the 5000,[1] Jesus walking on the water;[2] and Jesus’ first “I AM” statement, “I Am the bread of life” (John 6:35, emphasis mine).[3]

On the previous day, Jesus demonstrated His deity by feeding over 5000 people with only five loaves and two fish, and now those who were fed came looking for more. “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (John 6:26, emphasis mine). This launched Jesus’ fourth discourse as recorded by John to explain how Jesus is “the Bread of Life.”

Today, like then, we tend to focus on the material things of life. The poor worry about where the next meal will come from. The rich worry about accumulating more wealth and keeping the wealth they already possess. Solomon said, “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Proverbs 30:8-9). The trouble with Solomon’s Goldilocks system – not too hot, not too cold, but just right – is that the concept of rich or poor is subjective as defined by fallen individuals. Jesus was more succinct. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? … But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:25, 33-34, emphasis mine). This is true regardless of one’s perceived financial status.

“Meat” refers to food, and combined with clothing (“raiment”) implies the material necessities of life. Jesus said that life is more than the material stuff required to sustain it. Without food, our physical body will die of starvation. Without raiment, i.e. covering/shelter, we die of exposure. However, Jesus contends that life is more than our temporary physical existence. “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27).

“Meat” costs. One must work to earn the means to obtain it, so their question was understandable. “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (John 6:28, emphasis mine).  The Bible teaches that eternal life cannot be bought. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, emphasis mine). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, emphasis mine). However, Jesus concurs with them that work is required for eternal life. “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29, emphasis mine). “Belief” is the work! It is probably the fundamental element for salvation. The Greek word translated “believe” is pisteuō meaning to “have faith in” or “to trust in.” Without it, it is impossible to obtain eternal life. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, emphasis mine). Jesus makes no pretense that believing comes easily. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, emphasis mine). It takes a certain amount of effort to place your trust in “things not seen.” It is work; Jesus said so. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29, emphasis mine).

However, the work is not entirely that of the believer. Look again at what Jesus said. “This is the work of God.” “God” is in the genitive case, meaning that the “work” belongs to Him. Looking again at Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (emphasis mine). “Grace” is God’s unmerited favor obtained through the channel of “faith,” which “is the gift of God.” In other words, God gives the “faith” to believe. That is His work through the Holy Spirit working in the heart of the believer. Of the Holy Spirit Jesus said, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment … Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:8, 13, emphasis mine).

Having been fed and seen the miracles performed by Jesus, His hearers remained incredulous. “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (John 6:30-31, emphasis mine). It is sadly comical that they believed their history having only heard or read of it, and here they witnessed Jesus’ miracles, and still wanted more proof. Their minds remained bound to their bellies with thoughts of endless manna. “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:32-33, emphasis mine).

Obvious to us, but not to His listeners, Jesus spoke of Himself. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35, emphasis mine).[4] Just as physical bread contains properties to sustain physical life, the “spiritual” bread that is Jesus sustains life through eternity. Unlike the physical bread that is consumed continually through the mouth, the spirit through faith consumes the spiritual bread once. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18, emphasis mine). The method of consumption is through belief. “But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not” (John 6:36, emphasis mine).

As stated earlier, “belief” is work. It is the required work for obtaining eternal life. Jesus’ hearers had witnessed miracles of healing. They ate from the five loaves and two fish He multiplied by His creative power. They saw and yet did not believe. No work took place in their lives. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37, emphasis mine). We saw that salvation is the work of God. Obviously, God did not work in the lives of these people, or, according to Jesus, they would have come to Him. This raises the question of God’s election, something Jesus clearly teaches. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16, emphasis mine). Superficially, this teaching conflicts with concept of free will. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17, emphasis mine). A tense paradox exists between God’s sovereign will and man’s responsibility. Theologians have debated the question throughout church history without clear resolution to the puzzle. I believe the answer is somewhere in the middle,[5] and cannot be answered here in the short course of this writing. The point is that those who do come to Jesus are eternally secure. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37, emphasis mine).

John informs us at the beginning of his Gospel that Jesus, the Word, is the eternal Creator God (John 1:1-3), and that He came and put on human flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus affirms John’s claim. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38, emphasis mine). Jesus’ expression seems to indicate that He and the Father are two separate entities, as my father and I are two completely different people. That is not the case in the relationship within the Godhead. (See last week’s article for a little better explanation.)[6] In perhaps overly simplified terms, the Body does what the Head directs.

Here is the bottom line: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40, emphasis mine). Consuming, i.e. taking in or accepting, the Bread of Life assures the believer of eternal life that is sure and secure for eternity.

Reader, have you partaken of the Bread of Life?

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (4),” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/13/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-4/

[2]  “Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (5),” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/20/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-5/

[3]  “Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (1),” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/08/28/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-1/

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  “Somewhere in the Middle,” https://erniecarrasco.com/2013/10/20/somewhere-in-the-middle/

[6]  “Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (3),” https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/02/05/jesus-seven-discourses-in-john-3/

 

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (3)

john5_19-40-authority-of-jesus

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)

As Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the celebration of Purim,[1] Chapter Five opens with the account of the invalid by the Pool of Bethesda who Jesus healed. The healing once again stirred up the “Jews” who concerned themselves more with His breaking of the of the Sabbath than with the man’s welfare. The miraculous healing of the lifelong invalid demonstrated Jesus’ divine nature, and “Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day” (John 5:16). Unwilling to let an opportunity slip away, Jesus took time to instruct them on the source of His authority.

“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19, emphasis mine).Christians often get accused of believing in three gods because we hold a Trinitarian view of God stating that we believe in One God manifested in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God’s triune nature challenges the limits of our finite minds, and no definition devised by man can fully describe that nature. A weak comparison might be made from the nature of man considering that man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Like God, man possesses a triune nature composed of mind, body, spirit. The mind controls man’s activities. The body carries out the mind’s commands, and the spirit energizes and motivates man’s activities. Although often thought of as separate entities, the mind, body, and spirit must exist in unison for man to exist.

Knowing that Jesus, the Son, is fully God in every way, His statement sounds strange to our ears. He seems to say that the Father is a different person, separate and apart from Him. After all, when describing our own actions, we would not say something like, “the body can do nothing of itself but what it sees the mind do,” even though, in a certain sense, that is an accurate description of all our actions (unless we have some sort of neurological disorder that causes our body to act contrary to the mind’s control).

However, Jesus’ explanation required a third person description because to the Jews, God was wholly spirit and transcendent. They could not conceive of God in human form or that God could have a human “son” – a confusion that continues on to this day. “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18, emphasis mine). The Father, like our mind, determines what actions He wants to carry out, and the Son, like our body, carries out the will of the Father.“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30, emphasis mine).“The conclusion from our Lord’s argument is: If I have broken the Sabbath, so has God also; for I can do nothing but what I see him doing. He is ever governing and preserving; I am ever employed in saving.”[2]

Additionally, life comes from God. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will” (John 5:21). The word “quicken” is an archaic English word meaning, “to make alive.” The O.T. records at least two instances in which the Father raised the dead: the widow’s son through Elijah (1 Kings 22:17) and the Shunamite’s son through Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-35). The Son also raised the dead: the ruler’s daughter (Mark 5:35-42), the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-15), and Lazarus, at Bethany (John 11:14-44).“Here our Lord points out his sovereign power and independence; he gives life according to his own will – not being obliged to supplicate for the power by which it was done, as the prophets did; his own will being absolute and sufficient in every case.”[3] Jesus maintains this authority for all time. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29, emphasis mine). Jesus’ promise was meant for the near and distant future. “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53, emphasis mine). There is still a time yet to come. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, emphasis mine).

There is yet one final resurrection. You do not want to be part of that resurrection. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [i.e. the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:12-13, emphasis mine). Jesus, as God, has the power to give eternal life, but you obtain it in this life.

Jesus judges based on how man treats Him. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:22-23, emphasis mine). What we do with Jesus in this life determines the outcome of our eternal life. “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man” (John 5:26-27, emphasis mine). God put on human flesh (John 1:14) so that man could relate to Him. “He is the Son of man.” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [i.e. explained, demonstrated, exegeted]him” to us (John 1:18, emphasis mine). We cannot know God the Father better than how we know God the Son. Therefore, when we reject the Son, we reject the Father; consequently, we reject eternal life.

Jesus now gets to the heart of the matter. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live”  (John 5:24-25, emphasis mine). The “dead” Jesus refers to here are those who are “dead in their sins.” “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened [i.e. made alive] us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:5)

The Jews needed proof.“By what authority doest thou these things?and who gave thee this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).  They may not have verbalized those sentiments at this time, but they must have been thinking them. “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true” (John 5:31-32,). The law required the testimony of at least two witnesses to prove a matter (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15).  Jesus offered up John the Baptist as a witness, but the Jews rejected John’s message (John 5:33-35). Even so, Jesus offered a greater witness – His own works. “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (John 5:36, emphasis mine). In addition, the Father bore witness of Him through the works that He performed (John 5:37-38). Nicodemus attested to this: “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2, emphasis mine). Furthermore, the Scriptures testified concerning Him. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39, emphasis mine).

What more proof is needed? Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord over Creation. He is the Lord and giver of life. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20, emphasis mine). Creation itself gives sufficient testimony to remove any excuse not to believe; but God provided a greater witness through the Son of God, Son of Man Who, if rejected,will judge the unbeliever guilty without excuse.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus Seven Signs in John (3)” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/06/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-3/

[2]Adam Clark’s Commentary on the Bible Note on John 5:19.

[3]Ibid, on John 5:21.

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (2)

john4_13_jesusandwomanofsamaria

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14)

The time Jesus spent in Jerusalem to celebrate the spring feasts (John 2:13-22) increased Jesus’ notoriety among the common people, but negatively drew the attention of the Jewish religious leaders. “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John … He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee” (John 4:1, 3). Obviously, Jesus threatened the status quo, but now was not the time for confrontation.

Jesus took the most direct route to Galilee – directly north through Samaria. Samaritans and Jews shared a mutual animosity toward one another. The Jews considered the Samaritans illegitimate inhabitants of the land. “The term ‘Kuthim’ applied by Jews to the Samaritans had clear pejorative connotations, implying that they were interlopers brought in from Kutha in Mesopotamia and rejecting their claim of descent from the ancient Tribes of Israel.”[1] However, “The Samaritans called themselves – ‘the sons of Israel’ and ‘the keepers’ (shomrim) … The Samaritan Israelites were the faithful remnant of the Northern tribes – the keepers of the ancient faith.”[2] The hatred between the two groups was so great that Jews preferred to take the long way around when traveling north to Galilee. “Strict Jews, like the Pharisees, disliked the Samaritans so intensely that they avoided the territory as much as possible. Their route from Jerusalem to Galilee lay through the region beyond the Jordan.”[3] The route forced them to cross the River Jordan to the east bank, and take a northerly route to circumvent Samaria. Once past the northern boundary of Samaria, they would then cross back over to the west bank of the Jordan.

John indicates some sense of urgency in Jesus’ choice of this route. “And he must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4, emphasis mine). Jesus never did anything without reason and without purpose. So, it seems that this shortcut was planned with this encounter in mind. He had a “divine appointment,” and He planned to keep it. Upon arriving at the city of Sychar, formerly known as Shechem, John provides for us a glimpse of Jesus’ humanity. “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour” (John 4:6, emphasis mine). If Jesus were only God, He would not have tired, but being fully man also, He grew tired of the long walk and needed to stop and rest, but more than that, He had an appointment to keep.

John records the time of day as noon: “it was about the sixth hour,” and “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water” (John 4:7). Many point to the noon hour as evidence that the woman was one of ill repute, and came at that hour to avoid the scorn of the “decent” ladies that came for water in the early hours. However, Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbert suggests that may be an incorrect assumption.[4] Eyzenbert points to the fact that we often do “regular things during unusual hours,” so the fact that she came at this hour proves nothing. He also points out that the noon hour was not necessarily the hottest time of the day. Recall that Jesus departed Jerusalem immediately following the Passover. It was still early spring at this time; noon would not have been the hottest time of the day. Eyzenbert also questions how a woman of such ill repute could cause an entire village of conservative Samaritans to drop whatever they were doing to go investigate her claim. Perhaps her five former husbands all died. It happens.

Jesus’ approach was direct. “Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink: (John 4:7, emphasis mine). “That he [sic] should ask a woman for water is perhaps not so surprising, since it was women who generally drew water.”[5] There was also the fact that women at that time accepted their role as subservient to men. The request did not surprise her; it was the requester that gave her pause. “Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9, emphasis mine).

As usual, Jesus got right to the heart of the matter. “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” (John 4:10). At Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, John records “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). Of course, she did not recognize the “gift of God” sitting before her. To her, He was simply a thirsty Jew needing a drink of water with no way of getting water for Himself, much less getting water for her.

Like Nicodemus, her mind focused on earthly, material things, while Jesus spoke of otherworldly, heavenly things. “The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?” (John 4:11-12, emphasis mine). However, Jesus’ statement was meant to draw her attention heavenward, and away from the earthly.

With her curiosity piqued, Jesus pressed ahead. “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14, emphasis mine). Experientially, she could attest to the recurring need for water. After all, that was the purpose of her daily trek to the water well. But what was this perpetual source of water offering everlasting life? Still thinking in earthly terms, “The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:15).

Jesus accomplished His goal of capturing her attention, but He needed to narrow her focus. Rather than answer her directly, “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither” (John 4:16). As God in the flesh, He knew this woman intimately, so her answer did not surprise Him. “The woman answered and said, I have no husband” (John 4:17). Jesus knew that.  “Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (John 4:17b-18). Note that Jesus did not chide her for her immoral lifestyle. Unlike the woman caught in adultery to whom Jesus admonished, “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11), Jesus offered no words of reprimand to the Samaritan woman. As I suggested earlier, perhaps her first five husbands died, and the man with whom she lived was just a gracious benefactor. We do not know. Perhaps her promiscuousness is only a product of our sullied minds. At any rate, Jesus exposed a truth about her life that no stranger could have known.

The woman became uneasy and wished to change the subject. Surmising that Jesus was “a prophet,” a reasonable diversion would be change the topic to religion. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). Jesus, not prone to political correctness, shocked her with His response. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24, emphasis mine).

‘Ye’ (plural), Samaritans do not know what you worship” Jesus told her flatly. The Jews had the correct understanding of the Torah even though they failed in its application. By stating that “salvation is of the Jews,” Jesus did not mean that only Jews could be saved, but rather that they were the source through which salvation should come. Jesus’ genealogies recorded by Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38) show the O.T. lineage of the promised Messiah from the tribe of Judah (the Jews) and the kingly line of David. “Salvation is of the Jews.” Furthermore, the worship of God cannot be confined to any one place. “God is Spirit.” God is “omnipresent.” Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer, so that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), and the location is irrelevant.  Therein is the “fountain of living water” for which the woman longed.

The light started to come on. “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things” (John 4:25). She knew of the coming Messiah, the Christ, and apparently she accepted that He was of the Jews. “Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:26, emphasis mine). She found for what she thirsted and believed. The news was too good to keep to herself. “The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:28-29). John points out that she ran off without her water pot. She came to get water that quenches thirst temporarily and left with the water of everlasting life.

“Then they went out of the city, and came unto him” (John 4:30).  It is worth noting that the men responded immediately. Had the woman been of immoral character, it is doubtful they would have heeded her invitation. They came because of her witness, but then believed because they heard for themselves. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:39-42, emphasis mine).

Oh, that our witness could bring others to the feet of Jesus that they might say, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, but because we have heard Him ourselves.”

Notes:


[1]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans, accessed January 25, 2017.

[2]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbert, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Tel Aviv, Israel, Jewish Studies for Christians, 2015), 46.

[3]  Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 226.

[4]  Eyzenbert, 48-49.

[5]  Morris, 229.

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (1)

john3_1_jesusandnicodemus

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.(John 3:3)

                   This passage, recorded in John 3:1-21, is the first of seven discourses spoken by Jesus and recorded by John. Certainly Jesus preached many more sermons than the seven recorded by John, but these seven, as least for John, uniquely demonstrated the deity of Jesus. Indeed, John records, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31, emphasis mine).

                   The passage opens with the introduction to the audience – one man, Nicodemus, “a man of the Pharisees … a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). His name means “conqueror of the people”[1] or “victorious among his people.”[2] Given the strength of his name, it seems strange that “The same came to Jesus by night” (John 3:2). At a glance, it seems as though Nicodemus came by stealth to avoid detection by those more adamantly opposed to Jesus, but that is not the case. “The Pharisee may have chosen this time in order to be sure of an uninterrupted and leisurely interview. During the day, Jesus would be busy and there would be crowds (crowds of common people!). Not so at night. Then there could be a long, private discussion.”[3]

                   At this point in his Gospel, John had not detailed many of Jesus’ miracles or any of His teachings. Certainly, turning water into wine (John 2:1-12) rates highly as the first of His seven signs. From there, Jesus celebrated the first Passover of His ministry by turning over the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple (John 2:13-22). His action drew fire from the “Jews” who challenged Him: “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (John 2:18). Apparently, Jesus made Himself known during this time, although John provides little detail. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did” (John 2:23).

                   So, it seems that Nicodemus had at least heard of Jesus. Perhaps he witnessed the miracles of Jesus, and heard Him teach. Now he comes to Jesus by night for a private meeting. “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). Nicodemus addresses Jesus with the sincere title of respect. “Rabbi” acknowledged Jesus as “Master,” that is to say, “Master Teacher.” What little he knew of Jesus instructed him that He was more than an ordinary man. Jesus, he concluded, came “from God” because “no man can do these miracles … except God be with him.”

                   Nicodemus assessed correctly, but Jesus was not interested confirming what He knew to be fact. Nicodemus was not unlike the other “Jews” in many respects. “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25, emphasis mine). Instead, He went right to the heart of the matter. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, emphasis mine). “Again” is a poor translation of the Greek anōthen, which means “from above.” Being “born from above” is in keeping with what John penned in the prologue to his Gospel. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13, emphasis mine). Nicodemus clearly understood the term “born,” genneithei, in the normal sense of procreation (John 3:4), but he missed the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ message.

                   To clear up the confusion, Jesus affirms John’s statement in the opening chapter. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Jesus prefaces His statement with “verily, verily,” i.e. “truly, truly.” Coming from God incarnate, this makes the statement immutable – it is unchangeable. Rebirth is not a matter of external changes, but rather it is a transformation from within, and accomplished “from above” through the saturation of the Holy Spirit. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). We are all born of flesh. That is by design. The spirit of man died at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and thus we are excluded from “the kingdom of God.” Only the rebirth of our spirit can fit us for heaven.

                   The “teacher of Israel” failed to grasp the lesson the Master taught. This called for further instruction. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:11-12, emphasis mine). Jesus addresses Nicodemus (thee). “We speak that we do know.” Some commentators suggest that Jesus refers to Himself and His disciples. However, at this point in His ministry, His disciples were novices; there was little that they “did know.” Indeed, His disciples did not receive “full knowledge” until after His resurrection, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Therefore, I believe the “we” Jesus refers to is the Trinity. I conclude that from His statement in the next verse: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). He, the Son of Man, has direct knowledge “from heaven,” from the Creator Himself (John 1:1-3). When Jesus said, “ye receive not our witness,” the “ye” in the KJV indicates that the Greek, second person personal pronoun is plural. Jesus did not single out Nicodemus; He referred to all the “Jews,” i.e., the religious establishment to whom Jesus later referred to as “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24).

                   The rebirth is simple; Jesus explained. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Jesus referred to Jewish history recorded in Scripture, the Torah to be precise. Numbers 21:4-9 records the time when the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness complained against God and Moses for the free food God provided daily. “And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:6). The Hebrew word translated as “fiery” is śârâph, which means, “burning.” The same Hebrew word (seraphim) is applied to the angelic creatures witnessed by Isaiah in his vision of God on His throne (Isaiah 6:2, 6). In the case of the Hebrew Children, it referred to the burning bite inflicted by the venomous snakes. It may also imply the copper color of the serpents. We derive this from the instructions given to Moses. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated as “brass” is nechôsheth, which means “copper.”

                   The act of looking upon the bronze snake on the pole when bitten included recognition of the sin that brought about the snake bite, and the faith to believe that simply looking upon the likeness of the serpent on the pole would result in healing and preservation of life. In the same way, Jesus compared the simplicity of the rebirth. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15, emphasis mine). Once again, this reaffirms John’s assertion, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine).

                   If one has a red-letter edition Bible, verses 16-21 are attributed to Jesus. However, man, not God, inspires red letters. While many Bible scholars agree that Jesus spoke these words, to me this seems that John added his commentary to expand on what Jesus said. It seems redundant that Jesus would say, “That whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life (v. 15), and then repeat “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (v. 16) in the next sentence. Regardless, the Holy Spirit, inspired these words through John’s pen, so they remain God’s Word whether they were spoken directly by Jesus, or whether John, through the Holy Spirit, expounded on Jesus’ words.

                   The teaching is clear. “That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan” (Revelation 12:9) inflicted a deadly bite on mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) from which there is no cure.  “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Death is antithetical to God who is life (John 1:4; 14:6). Simultaneously, God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Yet, He loves His creation too much to allow it to “perish,” i.e., die, with no hope for reconciliation.  So, “He gave.” His gift stemmed not from man’s merit, but from His love. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis mine). “He gave His only begotten Son.” The burden of sin was too great for any man to bear, so God Himself took on the insurmountable debt of man’s sin. “And the Word [who was God] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God became man so “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Greek word translated “perish” is apótai meaning “to destroy fully.”  The verb is in the aorist tense indicating that it occurred in the past and its effects continue into the present. It is in the middle voice indicating that the subject is acting on itself, and it is in the subjunctive mood meaning that the action is contingent, probable and eventual. That all means that man in the past brought eventual death and destruction upon himself contingent on what he does with the gift God offers.

                   As in the beginning, it comes down to two choices: the tree of life or the tree of death, aka the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For the children of Israel in the wilderness it was to look upon the bronze serpent and live, or doubt and die. We all have the curse of death upon us. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We also have a choice. “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The other choice is unbelief. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18, emphasis mine). We are “condemned already” because, to begin with, we are all born of the flesh, but not of the Spirit. Then, we are “condemned already” when we reject the gift of salvation God freely offers.

                   “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).  The condemnation was accomplished at the Fall. God’s solution was to take on human flesh to pay the “wages of sin.”  He paid the debt with His own innocent blood. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats … sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14, emphasis mine). He did all the work. The choice to believe  or not believe is ours.

                   Nicodemus took Jesus’ words to heart. In the end, he came to His defense. At the Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews wanted to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus spoke up for him. “Nicodemus saith unto them, … Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:50-51). After they crucified Him, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathaea in the burial of Jesus, without regard to his Pharisaical reputation (John 19:38-40). He made the choice to believe. We have the same choice.

Notes:


[1]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbert, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Tel Aviv, Israel, Jewish Studies for Christians, 2015), 32-33.

[2]  Definition from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.

[3]  Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 187.

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