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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 (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 Signs in John (6)

jesus-annoints-a-man-born-blind

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. (John 9:4)

Why does God allow suffering? That question usually comes from God deniers uninterested in finding truth, but more interested in challenging the faith of those who claim to know the truth. Of course, the fundamental answer to the question fails to satisfy the skeptic, that is, that the origin of human suffering, and all other forms of evil, is due to the fall of man (Genesis 3). However, regardless of that fact, the doubter thinks, “There has to be something more to it than that!”

The disciples were no different. Popular thought at the time said that human suffering, i.e. illness, poverty, calamity, etc., was the result of personal sin, while good health, wealth, good fortune, etc., were signs of God’s favor on a righteous individual.

Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), a 21-day long celebration which started on Tishri 1 with the Feast of Trumpets, included the Day of Atonement, and culminated Feast of Tabernacles. The latter lasted eight days. The timing of this event in the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel is not clear from John’s account, and the other Gospels are silent about this time – perhaps because Jesus went to Jerusalem alone (John 7:10) – but John records the events in Chapters 7 through 9 sequentially as if they all transpired during this feast time. How John came by these details is uncertain, but perhaps he accompanied Jesus alone.

Regardless, the events of Chapters 7 and 8 include several encounters with the Pharisees. In one very memorable event, the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught “in the very act” (John 8:4) of adultery so that He could pronounce judgement on her. After this, Jesus made His second I AM statement, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).[1] More emphatic than that was His outright proclamation: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58, emphasis mine). They clearly understood His point. “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).

Evidently, His disciples discovered that He was in Jerusalem and joined Him. “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2, emphasis mine). In their way of thinking, someone sinned resulting in total blindness for this man from birth. “There were grave difficulties in seeing how a man could have sinned before his birth. And it is not much easier to think that a man should bear such a terrible punishment for the sin of his parents. So the disciples put the matter to Jesus.”[2]

“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). Jesus made it clear that human suffering is not necessarily the result of sin. The account of Job exemplifies the opposite (Job 1-2). Job was righteous before God, yet God allowed Satan to bring calamity into his life. In the end, God restored to Job all that he had lost and more. However, that is not always the case. Sin does have consequences. Think of David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). Even though God forgave David, the baby that resulted from the affair died, and David’s house knew nothing but conflict the remainder of his life. Then there was the one Jesus healed at the Pool of Bethesda.[3] After he was healed, Jesus cautioned him, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14, emphasis mine). Apparently, his malady resulted from sin, but that was not the case with the blind man. “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.” (Only God could know that!) This blindness could not be explained other than the result of a fallen world, and “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

The day before, following the incident with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus made His second I AM statement: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). This day He encounters a man who has never experienced “the light of the world,” and He reiterates, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5, emphasis mine). John said as much at the beginning of his Gospel: “In him [Jesus] was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5, emphasis mine). Such an idea is rather abstract, but now Jesus would manifest it in a physical way.

“When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay” (John 9:6). Unlike other healings performed by Jesus where His word sufficed to accomplish the miracle, here the Creator actually did something. The act of making clay with His spittle reminds us of His initial creation of man where “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The man, having been “born blind,” possibly had no eyeballs. By forming clay to anoint the eyes, Jesus many have been going back to the original “specs” to create an entire new set for the man. The Bible does not say, but that is “my guess.”

This blind man had not asked for healing, as others had (e.g., Mark 10:46-52), and thus had not yet exhibited any kind of trust in Jesus. This is probably why Jesus used a process, rather than merely a word, to heal on this occasion. The man whose eyes had been anointed with the clay still had to exhibit faith by washing in the pool of Siloam before he could see.[4]

“And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:7, emphasis mine). Oh, did I mention? “And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes” (John 9:14, emphasis mine). The blind Pharisees concerned themselves more with a breach of their protocol than they did for the man’s suffering, and they completely missed the creation miracle by “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5).  Sometimes the answer to suffering is so that Jesus can be glorified.

Notes:


[1]  See https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/09/04/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-2/

[2]  Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1995), 425.

[3]  See https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/06/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-3/

[4]  Henry M. Morris, The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2012), 1591.

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Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (1)

jesus-turns-water-into-wine

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.  (John 2:11)

In the past few weeks, I highlighted the seven I AM statements spoken by Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of According to John.  These statements are significant because through them Jesus declared His divine nature. The reason John recorded seven (there may have been more, see John 20:30-31) was perhaps to show the completeness, or perfection of His deity. Seven is the biblical number for perfection or completeness.

Jesus not only proclaimed His deity verbally, He also demonstrated His deity by His “works.” “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:37-38). As in the seven I AM statements, John records seven major “signs” demonstrating Jesus’ deity. In truth, Jesus performed many miracles, so many, in fact, that John says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25, emphasis mine). These “works” or “signs” defy natural explanation and are “creative” in nature.

Dictionary.com defines a miracle as “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause” (emphasis mine). Those who choose to reject God attempt to explain away miraculous events by natural means. When natural means fail to explain the miracle, they simply relegate it to myth. “Pretend it is not real, and maybe it will go away,” they think. Creation is a miracle. John tells us that “All things were made [created] by him [Jesus, the Word]; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Arguably, this was the greatest of all miracles, but it is not included in the Seven Signs. Most likely this is due to the fact that no one witnessed this event. The Seven Signs recorded by John specifically testified to Jesus’ deity to those who witnessed Him during His earthly ministry. “Every one of the miracles shows how the created order submitted itself to Jesus’ authority.”[1]

According to John, the first sign Jesus performed was to turn ordinary drinking water into very fine wine (John 2:11). By this time in His ministry, Jesus had overcome Satan’s temptation in the wilderness recorded in the Synoptic Gospels and chosen His twelve apostles. He traveled up to Galilee to begin His mission. There in Cana of Galilee (distinct from Cana of Ephraim), Jesus attended a wedding probably by invitation of His mother who helped host the party (John 2:1-5). Jewish wedding feasts lasted seven days, and this one was now into its third day (John 2:1). Either due to poor planning or over indulgence of the wine, a terrible faux pas took place; the wine ran out. “The lack of wine involved another embarrassment, in that it rendered the bridegroom’s family liable to a lawsuit. They were legally required to provide a feast of a certain standard.”[2]

Jesus’ mother jumped into action. She knew Jesus could take care of the situation, “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus’ response at first seems terse and somewhat lacking in the normal affection between a mother and son. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4, emphasis mine). While He did not call her “Mom,” the term “woman” was one of respect in the same way that we might say “Madam” or “Ma’am.” Jesus used same term when addressing other women like Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, and others. However, it is noteworthy that He did not address her as “Mētēr” (Mother). As Son of God and Son of Man, and as her Creator and Savior, her place was now subordinate to Him.

Recognizing her proper place, “His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it” (John 2:5). Jesus instructed the servants to fill six stone water pots with water. Each water pot held two or three firkins apiece (John 2:6).  A firkin equals to about seven and a half gallons, therefore, each water pot contained between 15 and 22 ½ gallons each. If we assume three of each size (two and three firkins), the total capacity would be around 113 gallons. That’s a lot of hooch!

“Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it” (John 2:7-8). One must note that Jesus said no “magic words.” He did not get up and walk over to the water pots or come anywhere near their vicinity. He made no special gestures. Once the pots were full, He merely instructed the servants to draw some out and take it to the host. Only by His thought was the water transformed into wine. For God, this is no feat. On the first day of creation, He called all things into existence only by speaking the words, “Let there be,” and it was so.

Jesus demonstrates His deity by creating something new. Water is a simple compound composed of two Hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom. Wine, on the other hand, contains over 1000 different compounds as demonstrated in the image below.[3] the-chemistry-of-wine-2015 Where did all those different compounds come from? They do not occur naturally in fresh water. Even if that water had a high mineral content, those minerals would not exist in the proper proportions to combine into wine. No, this was an entirely new creation by the One who created it all in the first place (John 1:3).

The skeptic cannot explain this away. He might say that after three days of celebration, the host and guests were too drunk to tell the difference. If that is so, how can he explain the host’s reaction? “… the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now” (John 2:9-10). No, this wine was better than the “good wine” served at the beginning of the festivities. Whatever God does always exceeds what man can do.

John reports, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (John 2:11).  This first of Seven Signs recorded by John exclude some of Jesus’ greatest miracles: Creation, His incarnation, His own resurrection, but perhaps the greatest of all, He creates a new life in the heart of every believer. “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).

Notes:


[1]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of Israel, (Jewish Studies for Christians, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2015), 25.

[2]  Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1995), 158.

[3]  A common distraction arises around this miracle over the alcohol content of the wine. Was the wine simple grape juice, did it contain a low level of alcohol, or was it fully fermented with heavy alcohol content? The question is irrelevant for two reasons. First, the host – the “governor of the feast” – proclaimed that it was better than what had been served at the beginning of the feast. Second, regardless of the inclusion or exclusion of alcohol, the end product was a thousand times more complex than the initial water, and that is precisely the point that should not be overlooked.

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Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (7)

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

A large sycamore tree grows in my front yard. Its large palmate leaves provide ample shade from the hot Texas sun, but that same Texas heat stresses the tree so that it drops many of its leaves in mid-summer, long before autumn when trees normally defoliate. It also drops limbs constantly making it a self-pruning tree that creates a lot of extra work for me. One thing I have noticed is that the leaves and branches that detach from the tree die. Even though they fall on fertile ground, they do not rejuvenate. Even if I “plant” them in the ground, feed, and water them, they will not take root. They remain dead. They only remain alive while attached to the tree.

Jesus had this image in mind in this seventh and final I AM statement recorded by John. He said, “I AM the vine.” When we think of a vine, we picture the entire plant: trunk or main stalk, limbs, branches, leaves, and (eventually) fruit. However, here Jesus refers to Himself as the trunk or main stalk of the plant. We do not need an advanced horticultural degree to know that the main stalk supports and provides nourishment for the entire plant. Part of the trunk is the taproot that reaches deep into the earth to draw nourishment for distribution to other parts of the plant. Jesus compares Himself to this vital part of the plant.

Next, He says, “ye are the branches.” I like the KJV use of “ye” that distinguishes the second person pronoun as plural as it appears in the Greek. Therefore, in speaking to His disciples, Jesus includes all believers. “You ALL are the branches.” He establishes a vital relationship here. The branches receive their sustenance from the trunk, i.e., “the vine.” The branches cannot live apart from the vine; detached from the vine, they die. Furthermore, the branch attached to the vine has the vine attached to it: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (emphasis mine). In a plant, it is easy to see a branch abiding on a vine, but a vine abiding in the branch is not so obvious. Vein-like vessels made up of xylem cells in the vine grow into the branch from the vine carrying the essential nutrients to maintain the branch alive, so in effect, the vine abides in the branches. Through this mutual attachment, the branches produce “much fruit.” I might be wrong, but only branches produced fruit, never the trunk of the plant; but without the trunk, the branches cannot live to produce fruit: “for without me ye can do nothing.”

Thus, Jesus invites us, the branches, to attach ourselves to Him, The Vine. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4, emphasis mine). What kind of fruit should a branch of The Vine produce? The Apostle Paul lists several. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance …” (Galatians 5:22-23), and add to that “righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9, emphasis mine). “Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:23). We cannot produce such fruit unless we are firmly abiding in and drawing nourishment from The Vine.

As I walk around my front yard picking up dead branches from my living sycamore tree, I gather those branches up and throw into the trash. If I lived outside of the city, I would throw them into the fire. In the same way, Jesus said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6, emphasis mine). Here Jesus refers to the final judgment where those who reject Him will be cast into hell for eternity (Revelation 20:14-15). In His sixth I AM statement, Jesus said He was The Life. By this, He meant “eternal life.” Apart from The Vine, there is no life, and Jesus said, “I AM The Vine.”

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Killing Jesus: A Review

V06N25 Killing Jesus Cover

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Since Bill O’Reilly, commentator and host of the O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel, came out with his latest book, Killing Jesus: A History, Christian “Evangelicals” have turned out to opine on the work. Some, like the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas have given the book rave reviews and even encouraged Christians to buy and read the book. Others have not been so kind. Since the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas happens to be my pastor, I thought I would take him up on his recommendation. Having done so, I will now attempt to offer my hopefully “fair and balanced” review of the book.

First of all, I will say that Mr. O’Reilly and co-author Martin Dugard make an excellent writing team. I first experienced their work in Killing Lincoln, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Killing Jesus is no exception. The text flows very smoothly, and it entices the reader to continue non-stop. Had I the luxury of uninterrupted time to sit with a book, I might have been tempted, but alas, I had to consume it in short bursts. That gave me the advantage of time to ruminate on the content so that I am less likely to give a knee-jerk assessment of the work.

For what it is, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical or biographical genres. It is not a spiritual book or a book that it is written in a way that honors or glorifies Jesus of Nazareth for Who He is – the Creator, Savior, and King of kings and Lord of lords – nor is it blasphemous in any way. It is just matter-of-fact. The authors present Jesus as an actual historical personage who impacted the world in a significant way. “To say that Jesus of Nazareth was the most influential man who ever lived is almost trite. Nearly two thousand years after he was brutally executed by Roman soldiers, more than 2.2 billion human beings attempt to follow his teachings and believe he is God” (p. 1).[1] The authors admit: “We do not address Jesus as the Messiah, only as a man who galvanized a remote area of the Roman Empire and made very powerful enemies while preaching a philosophy of peace and love” (p. 2). This approach should not come as a surprise since O’Reilly has often expressed and asserted his conviction that Scripture is allegorical and not to be taken literally. That brings into question his use of the Gospels as a historical resource. Indeed, he admits, “Of course we have the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but they sometimes appear contradictory and were written from a spiritual point of view rather than as a historical chronicling of Jesus’s [sic] life” (p. 1) If the Gospels are allegorical, as O’Reilly claims, then this book, as a history, is not worth the paper it is written on. Would a true historian rely on allegory to construct a factual account? To be fair, the authors also rely on extra-biblical sources to compose their story. It seems, however, that the Bible is only used to “fill in” where secular historians are silent. But, let us set that aside for the moment.

Evidently, the Gospel account failed to provide sufficient content to accomplish the purpose of this book, so the authors devoted the first third of the book to early Roman history to help set the stage for the main course and perhaps to add a little spice with the depravity of the Roman emperors. I am not a historian, so I will defer to Mr. O’Reilly on the accuracy of these accounts. My strength is in Scripture, and in that regard I can give an honest assessment.

The authors get the Gospel account right for the most part. I was especially surprised by a footnote that informs us that “The Gospels clearly state that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. They also mention that he had sisters, but the number is not specified” (p. 79). O’Reilly and Dugard are both practicing Roman Catholics and for that reason the admission is remarkable. The footnote continues: “The Roman Catholic Church believes Mary remained a virgin throughout her entire life. This doctrine was first put forth four centuries after Jesus lived by an early leader in the Church named Simon. The Church considers the siblings mentioned by the Gospels to be Jesus’s [sic] cousins” (p. 79).

The authors also get it right when they describe two separate temple cleansings by Jesus, one at the beginning of His ministry and one at the end (pp. 126, 192-193). Many Bible scholars miss this point, but sadly, the authors attribute this to error rather than accept it as fact. “Before being written down, the Gospels were oral histories. This might explain some discrepancies among them. The story of Jesus and the money changers is placed at the beginning of Jesus’s [sic] ministry in John (2:14-22), while [the other Gospel writers] all place it at the end. This has led some to speculate (emphasis added) that Jesus performed this cleansing twice, as specific details of the various Gospels account differ” (p. 126). Had the authors taken the time to seek a resolution to the “discrepancy,” as any good historian should do, they may have discovered that John was with Jesus from the very beginning. Matthew came along after the fact, and Mark and Luke were not a part of the original group of disciples. To these men, the last cleansing was most significant because it occurred in Jesus’ final week. All the Gospel writers had differing objectives in relaying their message, and so they tell the story from their individual perspectives. John’s purpose for his Gospel was to present Jesus as God. For him, the first cleansing establishes Christ’s divinity from the very beginning. You will recall John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” There is no discrepancy here, except in the minds of these authors. But they should at least get credit for recording two separate events (pp. 192-193). Since John wrote his Gospel last, surely he had access to those written previously, so his placement of the temple cleansing was not by mistake. John had a point to make as did the other Gospel writers, and all were accurate in their record.

Another point missed by many Bible scholars is in trying to synthesize the different accounts of Jesus’ anointing into one event. O’Reilly and Dugard at least distinguished two different accounts: the anointing at the house of Simon the Pharisee in Galilee before the Transfiguration (Luke 7:36-50, p. 144) and the anointing at the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany following Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, p 209). It is easy to see how these two separate events could be confused since both hosts are named Simon, but O’Reilly and Dugard correctly identified the two as separate events. However, they failed to include a third anointing which took place in (supposedly) the house of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. This account is found in John 12:1-7 and precedes the Triumphal Entry. Martha, as usual, is serving and Mary, her sister, performs the anointing. I cannot be too critical of the oversight, since many Bible scholars make a worse mistake by trying to reconcile the three separate events as one.

The authors accurately record the Gospel accounts for the most part, but given O’Reilly’s presuppositional conviction on the allegorical nature of Scripture, several errors creep into this work. Take for example the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist (p.103). The Gospel of John 1:29-40 records the baptism, but does not record the interchange between The Baptist and Jesus. As stated earlier, John’s purpose in writing his Gospel was to demonstrate the deity of Christ, and so minor details are unimportant to his account. Instead, John focuses on the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove. The other Gospel writers also record a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). But instead, John focuses on the words of John the Baptist: “And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34, emphasis added). In this passage, we learn that John, the writer of this Gospel, was a firsthand witness from the very beginning. “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother” (John 1:40). The “one” not mentioned is John who never mentions himself by name throughout his Gospel.

Because of their myopia to the literal accuracy of the Gospel text, the writers of Killing Jesus appear somewhat incredulous that a dove coming out of nowhere should light upon Jesus and remain on him. “Suddenly a dove lands on Jesus’s [sic] shoulder. When Jesus makes no move to shoo it away, the bird is quite content to remain there” (p. 103). Looking at it that way, I believe I would be a little incredulous myself. These kinds of errors are systemic throughout the book. 

Another kind of error in this book is that of adding to Scripture. For example, on the account of the baptism of Jesus as He comes out of the water, the writers say, “The believers drop to their knees and press their faces into the earth. Jesus does not react to this sign of worship. He does nothing to discourage it either.” (p. 104). That is nowhere to be found in Scripture, certainly not in any of the Gospels, but the authors cite no references to substantiate that detail. The writers quote John 1:34 (quoted above) and then add, “The crowd remains on its knees as Jesus steps onto the shore and keeps on walking” (p. 105). This must be something the authors learned in catechism, which perhaps explains why no reference is cited, but it has no basis in Scripture.

I understand that the authors are attempting to keep a detached and “objective” perspective, but I found one statement to be rather insulting to our Lord. In telling about the calling of Peter and Andrew (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-18; Luke 5:4-10) They recount that Jesus got into Peter’s boat and asked him to push away from the shore so that He could speak to the crowd that had assembled, “Though he [sic] knows next to nothing about fishing” (p. 136). In the first place, Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which is not that far from the Sea of Galilee; I am sure He would have known something about fishing. Furthermore, this is God who created fish and fishermen. That He knows something about fishing is demonstrated in that He gave instructions to lower the nets after the men had fished all night and came up empty, and the catch was more than they could handle. So, I find the assessment that Jesus “knows next to nothing about fishing” a little demeaning. In the same account, the authors claim that Peter was “A fisherman in his early twenties” (p. 137). Most scholars believe that Peter was probably around Jesus’ age or perhaps a little older. Again, the authors cite no references for this claim.

Other errors include the claim that the raising of Lazarus from the dead is a “legend” (p. 199 footnote). They mistake Jesus’ assessment of the Greatest Commandment as a “new” law, but oddly, in the footnote they cite Deuteronomy 6:5 (p. 205). This Greatest Commandment was nothing new; the Deuteronomy reference harkens back to the First and Second Commandments (Exodus 20:3-4). They also confuse Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as “panic” (p. 212). Jesus knew His mission from the very beginning. Luke records: “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis added) indicating that Jesus was determined to go through with His sacrifice. There was no “panic” in Him. Finally, in the “Afterword,” the writers wrongly attribute the description of “a woman clothed with the sun” in Revelation 12:1 to Mary, the mother of Jesus. This obviously comes from the authors’ Roman Catholic doctrine. More than 1920 years after the time of Christ, “On November 1, 1950 the Roman Catholic Church decreed that [Mary’s] body had been ‘assumed into heaven’” (p. 265). If the authors had bothered to research this in greater depth, they may have learned that the “woman” described in Revelation is Israel, not Mary, and the child she bore is Jesus. The reason nothing more is heard of the woman, is because she, Israel, has not, and will not be destroyed as a nation. However, I would not expect Mr. O’Reilly to accept that explanation.

My final assessment of Killing Jesus: A History is that it is a well written book, easy to read and entertaining. I would not take it seriously as a “history” given that the authors view the Bible as allegory, and allegory is a highly questionable resource when trying to document real history. Admittedly, the authors assert that this is not a spiritual book, and because of that this book has little value from a spiritual perspective. Some supposed Christians claim that the book has strengthened or renewed their faith. That may be true if the “Christian” doubted the historicity of Jesus in the first place. This book might have some value in that regard. I would not recommend this book as a “witnessing” tool as it gives a very poor witness. As I stated at the beginning, the authors are not blasphemous in any way, but at the same time, they do not give Jesus His proper due. He is presented as a mere man on a mission who got on the wrong side of the governing and religious authorities. There is more to Jesus than these authors portray. The book presents Him as a victim ignoring His very words, “I lay down my life for the sheep … No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:15, 18).  Jesus is God, whether “some” believe it or not, and the Bible is not allegory. Killing Jesus might have been a better book, if the authors had taken the Gospel account seriously and literally. That said, I would not discourage anyone from reading it, but I would caution against taking it seriously.


[1] Direct quotes are denoted with the page number on which they are found in the book.

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The Rising Debt

US Debt Clock as of 5:15 PM, EST, October 6, 2013

US Debt Clock as of 5:15 PM, EST, October 6, 2013

… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Our national debt is currently at $16.9 Trillion, and rising at the rate of approximately $21,412 per second. This is an incomprehensible figure, especially considering that the median household income is about $50,000 per year. That is equal to about 2.5 seconds on the national debt clock. We hear those trillion dollar figures being thrown around as if nothing by the liberal media and left-wing politicians on a daily basis, and most listeners (if they are even listening) have no concept of the implications of such a horrific burden on our people and future generations. Those who are paying attention are screaming, “Stop! You’re going the wrong way! Stop!” But no one seems to be listening. It would be nice if someone with a heavily reinforced check book would come along and say, “Here, let me take care of that for you.”

As great as the national debt is, there is a debt that we owe that is far greater than that. It is the debt of sin that every individual owes for offending Holy God. Indeed, if we could imagine the most righteous person imaginable, if that person had told the smallest “white lie,” that sin alone would far exceed the level of the national debt. In fact, as one 19th Century pastor, William Elbert Munsey, put it, when we offend an infinitely Holy God, we have offended Him infinitely, so that our debt is equally infinite.

Many ignorantly justify their own righteousness by comparing themselves to someone who is more sinful. For instance, a mass murderer might say, “Yes, I killed six people, but I’m not as bad as Hitler; he killed over six million!” That is an extreme example, I know, but it makes the point. Those who judge themselves by those who are greater sinners than themselves hold a false sense of security that when they stand before God, their good will outweigh the bad, and they will qualify for entry into heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. John says of the end of the age, at the great white throne judgment, “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 delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their worksAnd whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-13, 15). Very simply, if your name is not written in the book of life, then you will be judged “according to your works” as recorded in the “books.” One of those “books,” I believe, is the Bible, the Word of God, which is the standard by which we are all measured. According to this passage, those whose names are not written in the book of life have the record of their works measured by the standard of God’s Word, and apparently, no one meets the Standard. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23).

The good news is that someone with unlimited resources has stepped up and said, “Here, let me take care of that for you.” His name is Jesus Christ. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6). This offer comes to us at no cost to us. It is a free gift that cannot be earned, bought or repaid (Ephesians 2:8-9). As with any gift, it must be accepted, and no one is under any obligation to take it. Why would anyone reject such a gift? “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).

If you cannot pay off the national debt, what makes you think you can pay off your personal sin debt to God? He will pay it off for you, if you will let Him. If your name is not written in the book of life, or if you are unsure of where you stand, you need to:

  1. Repent of your sins (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22)
  2. Believe, i.e., put your faith and trust, in Him (John 3:16-18; John 3:36; John 8:24; John 20:30-31; Romans 10:9; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:13)
  3. Ask forgiveness for your sin and receive His salvation (Matthew 7:7; Matthew 21:22; Romans 5:17; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 9:15; 1 John 1:9)
  4. Baptism should follow as it is an outward and visible profession of faith in, obedience to, and identification with Christ as Lord (Acts 2:38)
  5. Join the fellowship of a Bible believing church (Hebrews 10:23-25)

The debt is paid in full. All that remains is for you to accept the free gift that is offered by the One to whom the debt is owed and the only One that has the authority to cancel the debt. The choice is yours.

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