ANSWERS TO INSULTS — John 8:48-59

insults, John 8:48-59, name-calling, Uncategorized

Two little boys got into an argument and started hurling insults at one another.  The insults kept getting longer and longer.  These two children were new at this sort of thing.  Usually, this name-calling ended up in a fist fight, but one of the boys came up with an insult that was so long and so ridiculous that there was a moment of silence.  The boys looked at each other, started laughing, and then went back to playing with each other again.  I guess he won by an insult and the other boy conceded!  It’s too bad that many little children continue to practice insulting one another and become very good at it by the time they’ve grown to adulthood.

Have you ever been insulted?  Can you remember what it was like and the way you responded to it?  Can you remember hearing a person say something sarcastic and then realized that it was directed at you?  How did you react?  The children’s saying:  “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” isn’t really true, is it?  I recently overheard someone make an insulting remark in the hearing of that person and in the hearing of those around her.  Later, when he tried to apologize, she wouldn’t accept it.  The hurt and embarrassment were too deep and his apology was too shallow.

An insult is defined as an offensive remark meant to hurt the feelings of another person.  Sarcasm is a mocking remark using statements that are usually the opposite of what the person really means.  The word “insult” comes from two Latin words meaning “to leap on”.  “Sarcasm” is derived from two Greek words meaning “to tear flesh”.  Those are good descriptions of what it feels like inside when you’re on the receiving end of an insult or of sarcasm, aren’t they?

In this passage of Scripture, John 8:48-59, Jesus is under verbal attack because of His claims and the statements He made to the Jewish leaders.  Their attitude seems to be:  “If we can’t come up with any winning arguments, then let’s attack His character”.  As we take a look at the words that are said to Jesus by the Jewish leaders, let’s seek to understand His responses to them.  To prepare your mind for what is about to be said, think about and answer for yourself the following two questions.  “What is the worst insult you can ever remember hearing or reading?”  Secondly, what is the most painful insult you have ever personally received from someone else?”  Have you answered both of those questions in your mind?  If so, you are better prepared to understand and identify with the sequence of events in this passage of Scripture.

I.  THEIR INSULTS (verse 48)

The Jewish leaders find themselves on the losing end of their conversation with Jesus.  Their self-glorification, calling themselves “children of Abraham” and “children of God” got them nowhere because they didn’t fit the description.  There was no spiritual resemblance between them and Abraham or God.  They also could not find Jesus guilty of any sin.  In their frustration, they resort to name-calling, and they are very good at it.  In verse 48, the Jews say to Jesus, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon.”  That statement may not mean much in this day and age but in first-century Palestine, it was probably the worst thing a Jew could say to another Jew.  Either one of those descriptions is bad enough, but to put the two together is the ultimate slam.  This is the only place in all four of the Gospels where the words “a Samaritan and have a demon” are used together.

Why is that expression so demeaning?  They have already told Jesus that He had a demon in a previous conversation with Him in John 7.  True, but this time they are saying, “You are a demon-possessed Samaritan”.  The Samaritans were odious to the Jews, who considered them to be heretics because they were of mixed blood and worshipped at a different place and in different ways.  The Jews looked upon them as God’s “rejects” so they despised them and would have nothing to do with them.  To get the full picture, these Jews are saying to Jesus, “You’re not only rejected by God but you’re also controlled by demons!  Only a demon-possessed Samaritan would dare to question our relationship to Abraham and to God!”  After hurling this “mega-insult” at Jesus, I can envision the “victory-smiles” on their faces as they wait for Jesus to respond.

II.  JESUS’ RESPONSE (verses 49-51)

Once again their plan failed.  They expected to see Jesus lose His temper and lash out at them as they did to Him, but they were mistaken.  What Jesus doesn’t say in His response to them is as noteworthy as what He says.  Observe His opening words in verse 49:  “Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon’.”  He doesn’t say anything about the word “Samaritan”.  He ignores the word or intentionally overlooks it.  Why would He do such a thing?  Unlike His accusers, Jesus had no hatred toward the Samaritans.  He had no prejudices.

In the rest of verse 49, Jesus says, “but I honor My Father, but you dishonor Me.”  His purpose for coming to this earth was not self-promotion but the salvation of all who believed in Him.  Jesus was here to honor the Father, not Himself.  By trying to disgrace Him, these Jews were also dishonoring the Father whom they just claimed as their own.  He amplifies those words in verse 50 where He says, “But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges.”  The Father’s glory and approval meant everything to the Lord Jesus Christ.  What others thought of Him was immaterial.  His Father would take care of His reputation and execute judgment.  Based upon what we read in the rest of the New Testament, His Father certainly has and He certainly will take care of those concerns.

In verse 51, the Lord Jesus makes a confusing claim and promise.  He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he shall never see death.”  That statement must have raised some eyebrows on the faces of His listeners.  It opened some mouths also, as we’ll see in the next verse.  What does Jesus mean by that fantastic, illogical statement?  He’s not saying that those who keep His word won’t die physically.  He is saying what the apostle Paul later said in II Corinthians 5:8.  The person who follows the Lord and keeps His word, when he dies he is “absent from the body  . . . present with the Lord.”  He does not see the consequences of unbelief – a spiritual death described as a separation from God in Hell for eternity (John 5:24; Hebrews 9:27).  Rather, a believer closes his eyes for the last time on earth and opens them in the presence of the Lord in heaven.  He does not see death.  He sees the Lord Jesus and enjoys Him for eternity.  Isn’t that a wonderful thought!

III.  THEIR SARCASM (verses 52-53)

It wasn’t a wonderful thought in the minds of His listeners.  They are still interpreting His words from the wrong point of view.  However, those words became the fuel for more criticism on their parts.  This time it’s in the form of sarcasm.  They respond to Jesus by saying, “Now we know that you have a demon.”  He has removed all doubt in their minds.  They are saying, “Now we KNOOOOW that you are mentally deranged.”  That sort of thing was attributed to demons.  The sarcasm has begun!  Now they explain their reason for making that statement.  “Abraham died, and the prophets also; and yet You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he shall never taste of death.’ ”  They are rudely throwing Jesus’ words back in His face, loudly making fun of Him for making such a ridiculous statement.  “Abraham and the prophets died, and yet YOOOUUU say . . . “.  If someone has ever done that to you, then you know how it hurts inside!

In verse 53 we see that Jesus’ words have also triggered a defense mechanism among these Jews.  They say, “Surely You are not greater than our father, Abraham, who died?  The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”  Once again they are defending Abraham and the prophets.  Jesus can’t be better than them.   So in our vernacular, they are saying, “Who do You think You are, anyway!  How can You dare to make such statements!”

IV.  JESUS’ REBUTTAL (verses 54-55)

Once again Jesus is calm and clear in His response, saying, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing.  It is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our Father’.”  Once again He tells them that He is not seeking His own glory.  Whatever earthly glory He might have was a gift from His Father.  Did you catch the irony in the last half of his statement?  They claimed that God was their Father yet they display no knowledge of Him or commitment to Him.  The Father desires to glorify His Son, not them.  They seek only to glorify themselves.  In verse 55, Jesus continues to give them a taste of their own medicine.  He says, “and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word.”  The apostle, John, uses two different Greek words for the English word “know”, which means that Jesus must have used two different Aramaic words when speaking to them.  The word that Jesus applies to them means “to begin to know” or “to make progress in knowledge”, whereas the word He applies to Himself means “complete and intimate knowledge”.  He is saying to these leaders, “You haven’t even begun to know the Father, whereas I know Him personally and completely, and I obey His words.”  True knowledge of the Father cannot be separated from obedience.

Can you imagine the anger that’s building up inside these Jews as they listen to Him?  Jesus’ words were meant to be taken as an insult, and there is sarcasm in the wording, but every word of it is true.  They have been calling Him names and now Jesus is calling them by their true name.  They are liars and the Old Testament prophets would have called them by the same name.  Those prophets were used by God to point out the sinfulness of the people of Israel.  Here Jesus, in one of His roles as a Prophet, is being used by the Father to do the very same thing.  By confronting them with their evil desires and actions, Jesus is once again giving them an opportunity to acknowledge their sin, repent, and follow Him.

V.  COMPARISON WITH ABRAHAM (verses 56-58)

Now the Lord Jesus says something very mysterious in verse 56.  He says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”  When did Abraham see Jesus?  There are many possibilities.  Let me give you three of them.  The first time may have been when he met Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of God.  He gave Abram an offering of bread and wine, and Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all he had (Genesis 14:17-20).  Hebrews 5:6 speaks of Jesus as ” priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”  It must have been a very moving and joyous experience for Abram to respond with such generosity.  In Genesis 15 the Lord appeared to Abraham in a vision.  Later, in Genesis 18, three men came to Abraham to tell him that his wife, Sarah, will have a son by next year.  They also told him about what was going to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah.  But in chapter 19 only two angels came to Lot in Sodom.  That third person may have been Jesus.

Once again, the Jewish leaders are reasoning from a physical perspective only.  In verse 57 they ask, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  In their minds, they are thinking, “that’s impossible; You’re insane!”  Jesus immediately responds with an amazing proclamation.  In verse 58, “Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am’.”   He uses God’s covenant name:  Jehovah.  This was God’s great name, and it was treated with the utmost reverence by the Jews.  They would not speak it.  Historians tell that when a scribe was copying the Scriptures and came to that name for God, he would take a new pen just to write that name.  It is also said that when a public reader in the synagogue came to that name in the sacred text, he would not read it.  He would bow his head in worship and the congregation, knowing that he had come to God’s special name, would bow in worship also.  Jesus was saying in this verse that there had never been a time when He had not existed.  He was claiming to be God.

VI.  AN ATTEMPTED STONING (verse 49)

The Jews were so enraged by that statement that they ended the argument.  In their minds, there was only one thing to do.  They must stone Him to death.  Verse 59 says, “they picked up stones to stone Him.  The word “stones” means “heavy stones”.  (MORE TO FOLLOW SOON)

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  (A Work-In-Progress)

Welcome to this construction site:  John 8:48-59.  I’ve placed it on-site so that you can grab your gear and work alongside me if you would like to do so.  God wants all of us to be workmen who handle accurately the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15).  That involves a lot of hard work but it’s well worth the effort!

WHO’S YOUR DADDY? — John 8:37-47

Bible sermons, John 8:37-47, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION:

In 1976, a book written by Alex Haley was published and it became a best seller.  The book was 900 pages long and was entitled “Roots”.  The following year a mini-series based on the book was aired on TV to a huge viewing audience.  Did you read the book and see the films?

That was the beginning of a genealogy craze that swept our nation.  Over 40 years have passed since that book was written but the quest to find one’s ancestors goes on.  With the dawn of DNA testing and organizations such as Ancestry.com, millions of families and individuals are actively researching their family trees.  This preoccupation with who we are and where we came from has obsessed humanity since the dawn of creation.  The first-century Jews were no exception.  They prided themselves in their ancestry and often used it as a reason for boasting or as an excuse to justify their sinful actions.

In the previous passage of Scripture, John 8:31-36, Jesus told the Jews that a true disciple of His was a person who believed in Him and obeyed His words, resulting in freedom.  He stated that only He could give them true freedom.  They responded by saying, “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never been enslaved to anyone.”  Then they challenged Jesus to prove His point.  The Lord Jesus made it clear to them again, in verse 34, that He was talking about spiritual slavery to sin and, once again, offered them freedom from that slavery.

Jesus hasn’t finished His conversation with them yet.  Let’s see what else He has to say and observe their responses.

I.  A CONTRADICTION IS EXPRESSED (verses 37-38)

I continue to be amazed at the patience of Jesus toward those who are intentionally slow to learn, or who refuse to learn.  He begins by admitting that they are the physical descendants of Abraham, but they bear no spiritual resemblance to Abraham.  Verse 37 says, “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.”  Abraham wouldn’t try to kill Him.  On the contrary, Abraham welcomed the messengers that God sent to him in Genesis 18, showing them respect and hospitality.  He also gave a tenth of his possessions to Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of God, after receiving a blessing from him (Genesis 14:18-21; Hebrews 7:1-3).  The Jews standing before Jesus bear no spiritual resemblance to that description of Abraham.  Instead of welcoming the One whom God has sent, they are trying to kill Him.  Several attempts have already been made to arrest Him (John 7:30, 32, 44).  Abraham was also called “a friend of God” (2 Chronicles 20:7).  Friends don’t murder one another.  That’s the work of enemies.

At the end of verse 37, Jesus states the underlying cause of their actions when He says, “My word has no place in you.” The Greek words might be more clearly translated as, “You have no room for My word” or “My word isn’t making any headway” in your minds and hearts.  To put it into modern-day English, they were “tuning Him out”.  They were unreceptive to Jesus and to His words to them.

Once again Jesus states His source of authority, in verse 38, when He says, “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father”.  Now Jesus is claiming to be with the Father from all eternity.  He was there with the Father when Abraham walked this earth.  His knowledge of Abraham is firsthand.  With that said, Jesus gives them some food for thought.  He makes an incomplete statement, leaving them with the opportunity to think it over and fill in the blank.  Here are His words:  “therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”  Notice what Jesus didn’t say.  He didn’t say “fathers”.  Jesus said “father”,  They are all children of the same father.  Who is their father?  That’s the question Jesus wants them to answer for themselves by process of elimination.  They’ve heard the answer to that question before.  They heard it from John the Baptist.  Let’s see if they remember it and apply it to themselves.

II.  THEIR EXCUSE IS REPEATED (verse 39a)

What do you say when you don’t know what to say?  One option is to say the same thing over again and hold your ground, right?  Have you ever done that?  You may have done so to give yourself some time to collect your thoughts and come up with a better answer.  Jesus just took the wind out of their sails with His reply so “They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father’.”  They must have said it loudly and in anger in order to maintain their sense of control over the conversation.  It’s been said that a person who has nothing to brag about but his ancestors is like a potato plant.  The best part of him is underground (buried, like the potatoes).  After the reminders they were given by Jesus, I’m convinced that His listeners knew what He was talking about, and what He was implying concerning their spiritual parentage.  With some honest reflection on their part, the “mystery” father would no longer be a mystery to them.

III.  JESUS REPEATS HIMSELF (verses 39b-41a)

Jesus responds to their short answer by saying, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.  But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.  You are doing the deeds of your father.”  Jesus made that statement earlier, in verses 37 and 38.  Why is He repeating Himself?  Is this a teaching technique?  It may be much more than that.  For example, the repeating of a person’s name is a Hebrew expression of intimacy.  We find that occurring many times in the Scriptures.  God said, “Abraham, Abraham” (Genesis 22:11), “Jacob, Jacob” (Genesis 46:2); “Moses, Moses” (Exodus 3:4).  David cried out in agony saying, “Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Samuel 18:33).  Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” as He wept over the city and those living in it.  There are many other instances where names are repeated.  I suggest that Jesus is repeating Himself here and elsewhere out of love for them.  He’s been giving them opportunity after opportunity to repent of their sins and acknowledge Him as their Messiah, in spite of their continuing hostility and rejection.  He yearns to draw close to them and keeps giving them reasons to respond to Him the way Abraham responded.

IV.  A SARCASTIC REACTION (verse 41)

The Jews react by saying, “We were not born of fornication”.  There are two possible meanings to that statement and both possibilities might be implied.  First, they may have been saying, “Our parents were not idolaters, worshipping other gods.  Secondly, they may have been saying, “we are pure in our lineage, but  we’re not so sure about you.”  This meaning would imply that they were calling Jesus an illegitimate son of Mary and Joseph, born outside of wedlock.  It’s also possible that both of those meanings were intended by their statement.  In any case, their words were intended to be derogatory and offensive.

I think these leaders are beginning to realize that calling Abraham their father wasn’t getting them anywhere.  What do they do now?  The words of the prophet Malachi must have come to their minds.  Malachi asked the question, “Have we not all one Father?  Did not one God create us?” (Malachi 2:10). The Jews may have thought to themselves, “That’s a good idea!  Let’s take our paternity case all the way to the top!”  So they say to Jesus, “We have one Father, even God.”  They thought that, by saying those words, they would get themselves off the hook, and avoid further embarrassment.  However, they are not out of trouble yet!  Further embarrassment is on the way!

V.  WORDS OF CORRECTION (verse 42-45)

The Lord Jesus looks around at them and says, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and now am here.  I have not come on My own; but He sent Me.”  Once again, the Jews are mistaken.  The practice of their religious observances doesn’t make them children of the Father.  If they truly loved the Father, they would love His Son whom He sent, and who was standing before them at that moment.  The Lord Jesus has proven Himself to be the Son of God by His miracles and they have not been able to refute His claims.  In verse 43, Jesus asks them a question and immediately gives them the answer.  He says, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?  It is because you cannot hear My word.”  I think Jesus asked His question in the form of a plea.  When He looks around at each of them after making that plea, He sees the reason by the expressions on their faces and makes it known to them saying, “you cannot hear My word”.  He’s not implying that they are deaf, hard of hearing or stupid.  On the contrary, they have chosen to ignore His words, refusing to listen to Him or to seek to understand what He is saying. 

The Jews still haven’t asked the question that Jesus prodded them to ask in verse 38 – “Who is our father?”  Since they didn’t ask, Jesus gives them a detailed answer in verse 44, where He says, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  That rebuke by Jesus should have reminded them of the words of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:7, where he said, “You brood of vipers”,  implying that they possessed character qualities similar to the devil.  The words of Jesus in verse 44 are the clearest statement that Jesus makes about the existence and the personality of Satan.  His listeners don’t resemble Abraham, and they don’t resemble God, but they do resemble the devil like a child resembles his father.  Satan lied to Eve in the Garden of Eden, convincing her to disobey God and entice Adam to do the same.  He tempted Cain to murder his brother Abel.  Those standing before Jesus have chosen to believe Satan’s lies about Him and are intent on murdering Him.  The truth can be embarrassing, especially when it is said publicly in the Temple for all to hear!

VI.  A CHALLENGE TO THEM (verses 46-47)

After giving that stinging rebuke to His critics, Jesus establishes His authority by giving them a challenge.  In verse 46, Jesus says, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?  If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe Me?”  His enemies are given an opportunity to find errors in what He just said but He doesn’t get an answer from any of them.  None of His enemies could prove Him wrong.  Everything Jesus said to them was absolutely true.  That question must have really frustrated and angered them.

Jesus concludes in verse 47 by reviewing their spiritual parentage and summarizing it.  He says, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” The way they act is going to determine their destiny.

CONCLUSION:

Here are several principles I’ve gained from my study of John 8:37-47:

  1.  Spiritually, all people are children of one of two fathers:  either God or the Devil.  Which one is yours?  If in doubt, your spiritual father is the one you obey.
  2. There are only two groups of people on earth:  the children of wrath and the children of God.  If your actions indicate that you are a child of wrath, please reconsider before it’s too late.
  3. There may come a time when you may need to be brutally honest with someone.  Let’s follow Jesus’ example and make sure that it’s our last resort.

The following illustration is an appropriate conclusion to this passage of Scripture.  A preacher had delivered a powerful sermon about the Devil, warning his listeners about his wiles.  Two rude, young ruffians heckled the preacher, shouting, “Don’t you know, Mr. Preacher, that the Devil died last night?”  The old preacher came down and, putting his arms on their shoulders said, “You poor fatherless orphans!  What will become of you?”  And then he said, “Let me introduce you to my Father who has promised, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ ”

CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED

THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN – Mark 14:26-42

Mark 14:26-42, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Uncategorized

Does the word “Gethsemane” bring any thoughts or images to your mind?  One Bible scholar made this statement: “In a very real sense, Calvary began in the Garden of Gethsemane.”  We will find that statement to be true as we look at what the Bible says.

THE AGONY:

Verse 26 says, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”   They were heading for the Garden of Gethsemane, which was called the “place of the olive press”.  The symbolism is pretty gruesome. In Isaiah 53, the prophet Isaiah prophecies about Christ’s death and in verse five he says, “He was crushed for our iniquities”, just as the olives were crushed in the olive press each year.  The olive oil was used both for food and for medicine. Jesus was about to have His life crushed out of Him so that he might be food and medicine for our souls.

Verses 33-35 describe Jesus’ emotional condition.  He was “troubled and distressed”, and described Himself as “exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death”.  Luke 22:43-44 gives some extra details concerning Christ’s agony.  It says, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”  This phenomenon has only been documented a few times.  The person was undergoing extreme mental, emotional and spiritual trauma.  Small blood vessels underneath the skin of Jesus were breaking. That blood came through the pores of His skin along with His sweat.  The sweating and the bleeding must have been profusely as it fell to the ground in large, red drops.

By sending that angel, I believe the Father was saying to His Son, “There is no other way to be the Savior of the world except the path of suffering and death.” Jesus would have to bear the sins of the world upon Himself and accept the cup of the Father’s wrath for sin.

THE SUBMISSION:

In verse 36 Jesus said, “Not my will but Thine be done,”  Once Jesus understood the Father’s will, He submitted Himself to it and His attitude changed.  He was ready to pay the price.

LESSONS:

There are many lessons that can be learned from this experience in the life of Jesus.  The following are a few of them for our consideration and instruction.

First, as we experience the trials, struggles, and temptations of life, remember that we are not alone.   In Isaiah 41:10, God says, “Fear not, for I am with you; do not be anxious for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.”

Secondly, God is all-powerful, but He is also sovereign.  Jesus said to His Father, “All things are possible with You”, but He also said, “Not what I will but what You will.”

Thirdly, trials come that we might learn obedience and gain victory over them by God’s power.    Hebrews 5:8 says,  “Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered.”  Therefore He is qualified to be our High Priest.  Hebrews 2:18 says, “For because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.  

Let’s follow the example of our Lord, Jesus Christ, experience the joy and victory that only He can give, and be used by Him to help and encourage others.  

BELIEF THAT FAILED THE TEST – John 8:31-36

John 8:31-36, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION:

Towering above the New York harbor is the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of hope for the oppressed people around the world.  Inscribed on the pedestal of this monument are these words by Emma Lazarus:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  This monument is a symbol of freedom, but it is a freedom that has come at a great price.  Thousands of people were killed during the Revolutionary War to obtain that freedom.  Thousands more have given their lives to protect and maintain that freedom in the wars that have followed.

In the passage of Scripture we just studied [John 8:21-30], Jesus issued warnings to the Jews in Jerusalem, and they refused to heed those warnings.  They wanted to be free to do what they pleased, and He wasn’t going to tell them what to do.  In verse 30, the apostle John makes a surprising statement.  After their bitter refusal to heed Jesus’ words, how could John conclude by saying, in verse 30, “As He spoke those words, many believed in Him.”  That sounds like a contradiction to me.  There’s more to the story and we’re going to examine whether or not their belief is real.

Here in John 8:31-36, Jesus is giving instructions to those Jewish leaders who believed the things He was sharing.  In this case, Jesus is talking about another kind of freedom – spiritual freedom.

I.  HIS INSTRUCTION (verse 31)

Verse 31 says, Jesus was, therefore, saying to these Jews who believed in Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine’.”  Jesus addresses Himself to their belief, correcting any misunderstandings on their parts through the use of an “If . . . then” clause. “If you abide in My word”.  If you are continuing in My teachings and obeying them, “then” [and not until then] are you really and truly My disciples.  Abiding in His word is a continuing process.  It is a way of life.  Apparently, these Jews were inclined toward Jesus’ teachings but weren’t ready or willing to put their trust in Him and give Him their full allegiance.  The desire to know and obey God’s truth is one of the marks of genuine belief in Him.  Jesus is challenging them to take that next step as a demonstration that they are true disciples of Him (John 14:21; I John 2:24).

A man by the name of Roger Staubach faced a similar challenge.  Roger was the quarterback who led the Dallas Cowboys to the World Championship in 1971.  He admitted that his position as a quarterback who didn’t call his own signals was a source of irritation to him.  Coach Landry sent in every play.  He told Roger when to pass and when to run, and only in emergency situations could he change the play (and he had better be right!).  Even though Roger considered Landry to have a “genius mind” when it came to football strategy, pride said that he should be able to run his own team.  Roger later said, “I faced up to the issue of obedience.  Once I learned to obey, there was harmony, fulfillment, and victory.”

That is the lesson that Jesus wants these Jews to learn.  Will they be willing to acknowledge His authority and submit to His will?

II.  A PROMISE GIVEN (verse 32)

In verse 32, Jesus makes them a promise if they will respond to His challenge.  He says, “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  That’s quite a promise!  It brings to mind the words Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, asked Jesus in John 18:38.  He said, “What is truth?”  It’s a question that many people have been asking over the centuries.  Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  The apostle Paul adds to that description when he says of Jesus:  “In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and insight” (Colossians 2:3).  If Jesus Christ is the source of all truth and life, and is the only way to the Father, wouldn’t it be foolish not to follow Him?  It would be the biggest mistake of our lives!

That’s only half the promise.  The second half of Jesus’ promise makes it even more inviting.  If they commit themselves to Him, not only will they come into a personal relationship with Him, the source of all truth, but the truth will also make them free.  The first sense of freedom usually comes at the moment a person chooses to repent of his sins and follow Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  It is the freedom from the penalty of sin.  In John 5:24, Jesus described the experience clearly when He said:  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my voice and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.”  It’s a spiritual event that effects our whole being.

On the night I became a Christian, I experienced an immediate sense of freedom from the penalty of my sins.  I was instantly released from the fear of death and hell.  For three years I was a prisoner to those fears, seeking a way of escape in every religion I looked into.  On Christmas Eve, 1970, when I responded to the Gospel message, God instantly opened my prison doors and set me free with a full pardon in writing.  That was the most amazing experience in my life.  The change was immediate and the effects have been continuous.  God has created in me a desire to know Him and please Him as my Lord and Redeemer.  He has also been delivering me from the power of sin each day through dependence on Him.  What a difference He makes in our lives when He sets us free!

III.  THEIR BOAST (verse 33)

That was my experience.  How did Jesus’ listeners respond after His invitation to them?  They made this ridiculous boast in verse 33, saying, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.”  What an exaggeration!  Their whole history has been one of bondage.  They’ve been in bondage to Egypt, the Philistines, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and now Rome.  Rather than believe Jesus’ words and commit themselves to him, they draw back in their pride and boast about themselves.  By boasting about their political freedom, they are denouncing Jesus’ offer of spiritual freedom.  They are lying to themselves and to Jesus, ending their boast with a question to Jesus:  “How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?”  I get the impression that they mean, “How dare you make such a statement!  You don’t know what you’re talking about!  We don’t need your freedom because we’ve always been free!”  The greatest offer ever made and the greatest promise ever given is met with complete rejection and scorn.

IV.  JESUS’ RESPONSE (verses 34-36)

The Lord Jesus reminds them, in verse 34, that He has been talking about spiritual freedom, not political freedom.  They want to distract Jesus and get Him involved in a political argument but He stays on topic.  The issue is spiritual freedom, and He makes that clear in verse 34 where He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Jesus is not talking about a simple act of sin but habitual sin, a lifestyle of practicing sin.  Such people are  slaves, whether they care to admit it or not.

Leon Morris describes how a sin can become an enslavement.  He says, “The first time anyone commits a particular sin there may have been a terrible struggle with temptation.  But if the person gives way, then the next time there is not such a hard struggle.  And if he continues in that path, there comes a time when there is scarcely a ripple of temptation.  The person has become the slave of the sin that once was so strongly resisted.”

Commentator, William Barclay, describes the effects of becoming enslaved with sin.  Here are his words:

“But the point is that a man who sins does not do what he likes.
he does what sin likes.  A man can let a habit get such a grip

of him that he cannot break it.  He can allow a pleasure to
master him so completely that he cannot do without it.
He can let some self-indulgence so dominate him that he is
powerless to break away from it.  So far from doing what he likes,
the sinner has lost the power to do what he likes.  He is a slave to
the habits, the self-indulgences, the wrong pleasures which have
mastered him.  This is precisely Jesus’ point.  No man who sins
can ever be said to be free.”

In verse 35, Jesus gives them a warning.  He says, “And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.”  How is that a warning?  Jesus is saying that the slave has no rights in the household.  At any time a slave could be sold and hauled away to enslavement to someone else because he had no rights of his own.  This was the fear and horror of every slave in the South prior to the end of the Civil War.  A decline in his master’s income, a dislike for a particular slave, or an attractive offer from another slave owner could lead to the slave’s sale.  His wife and family usually didn’t go with him because a slave had no rights, no say in his own fate.  Those who are slaves of sin are in a similar predicament.  Jesus is saying, “Be careful.  You think you are sons of God because of your Jewish heritage, but your actions demonstrate that you are becoming slaves to your own pride and lusts.  That slavery to sin could have disastrous consequences.”

His warning is followed by an invitation:  “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (verse 36).  The Lord Jesus has the power to do so, at the cost of His own life, and the acceptance of His invitation has everlasting results.  In Romans 8:1-2, the apostle Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

CONCLUSION:

Will you heed the warning and accept the invitation?  What are you waiting for?  Don’t try to come up with some ridiculous excuse such as the one that these Jews gave Jesus.  Even though you may be tempted to do so, resist that temptation by the grace of God.

Beginning a relationship with Jesus Christ is somewhat like a gift exchange.  Have you ever had a gift exchange at Christmas?  Let’s say you really wanted to give a wonderful gift for someone in the gift exhange this year.  You spent a lot of time thinking about the perfect gift and you even went over the maximum amount for the gift exchange.  When you open up the gift that was presented to you, you find an old, dingy shirt or blouse inside.  It was purchased at a thrift store and has holes in it, stains on it, and it even has a bad odor to it.  It’s useless to you.  Would you be upset?  I would!  That’s not fair!

Now let’s compare Jesus’ invitation to His gift exchange.  He has purchased for you the most wonderful gift that you can imagine at the infinite price of His own blood.  That gift is Himself and He comes wrapped in a package of love, forgiveness, salvation, and freedom from sin forever.  All He wants in exchange is yourself, just as you are, wrapped in a package of repentance and sincere faith.  You don’t have to wait until Christmas.  He wants to make that gift exchange right now if you haven’t made it already.

For those of us who are Christians, let’s make it a practice to thank God every day for the gift of Himself, and for the release from the bondage to sin forever.  I also encourage you to memorize the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, where He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you restTake my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this construction site, John 8:31-36. If you found helpful instruction and encouragement, please visit some of the other completed sites as well.

WARNINGS GIVEN, BUT UNHEEDED – John 8:21-30

Bible sermons, John 8:21-30, Uncategorized, warnings

INTRODUCTION:

In 1969, in Pass Christian, Mississippi, a group of people was preparing to have a “hurricane party” in the face of a storm named Camille.  The wind was howling outside the posh Richelieu Apartments when Police Chief Jerry Peralta pulled up sometime after dark.  Facing the beach, less than 250 feet from the surf, the apartments were directly in the line of danger.  A man with a drink in his hand came out to the second-floor balcony and waved.  Peralta yelled, “You all need to clear out of here as quickly as you can.  The storm’s getting worse.”  But as others joined the man on the balcony, they just laughed at Peralta’s order to leave.  “This is my land,” one of them yelled back.  “If you want me off, you’ll have to arrest me.”

Peralta didn’t arrest anyone, but he wasn’t able to persuade them to leave either.  He wrote down the names of the next of kin of the twenty or so people who gathered to party through the storm.  They laughed as he took their names.  They had been warned, but they had no intention of leaving.

It was 10:15 p.m. when the front wall of the storm came ashore.  Scientists clocked Camille’s wind-speed at more than 205 miles-per-hour, the strongest on record.  Raindrops hit with the force of bullets, and waves off the Gulf Coast crested between twenty-two and twenty-eight feet high.

News reports later showed that the worst damage came at the little settlement of motels, go-go bars, and gambling houses known at Pass Christian, Mississippi, where some twenty people were killed at a hurricane party in the Richelieu Apartments.  Nothing was left of the three-story structure but the foundation; the only survivor was a five-year-old boy found clinging to a mattress the following day.  What a terrible price to pay for their failure to heed those warnings!

I.  SETTING AND FIRST WARNING (verse 21)

The passage of Scripture that we are now studying is John 8:21-30.  Jesus has been defending Himself in the previous Scriptures by answering their questions, giving instruction, and describing His relationship with the Father.  Now He is going to take control of the conversation and issue some warnings to His listeners.  Verse 21 says, “He [Jesus] said to them, ‘I go away, and you shall seek Me, and shall die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come’,”  Didn’t He just say those words in John 7:33?  Yes, but this time He inserts a warning:  “you shall die in your sin.”  In chapter 7, His listeners were composed mainly of the pilgrim Jews who had traveled a great distance to attend the feast.  They were open to His teaching and many of them were placing their faith in Him (John 7:31).  Here in chapter 8, Jesus is back in the temple on the following day and He is interacting with the Pharisees and the Jerusalem Jews.  They have been opposing Him since the beginning of His ministry, and now it’s time for them to face the music.  There are going to be dire consequences to their actions if they don’t heed His warnings.  When Jesus uses the words “die in your sin”, He is warning that they will die unpardoned.  Only the Messiah can pardon their sins and only He is the Messiah (Acts 4:12).  I don’t believe that Jesus was saying those words and the words that follow, in anger.  He was saying them with sadness and urgency in His voice, pleading with them to heed His warnings.  Before His death, Jesus expressed in words His attitude toward the Jews in Jerusalem.  In Matthew 23:37, He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

The word “sin”, here in verse 21, is in the singular and has the same meaning that it does in John 16:8-9, where Jesus says, “And He (speaking of the Holy Spirit) when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin because they do not believe in Me . . . “.  Their sin is that of unbelief.  It is the greatest sin:  the sin of rejecting Christ.

II.  A SARCASTIC RESPONSE (verse 22)

The response of these Jews was not what Jesus wanted to hear.  Instead of heeding His warning of impending danger, we find these words in verse 22:  “Therefore the Jews were saying, ‘Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”  They say those words sarcastically, and loud enough for Jesus to hear them.  I imagine they were probably laughing as they said them.  In their minds, they are adding up the things they have already said and thought about Jesus and are drawing their own conclusion.  “He’s a deceiver, He’s broken the law of Moses, and He’s crazy, so He must be suicidal also.  That explains why we can’t come where He is going.   He’s going to hell after He commits suicide, and we certainly aren’t going there!”  I must say, they are really stretching their imaginations to come up with that reply!  Ironically, they are the ones in danger of committing suicide spiritually and eternally by rejecting Him.

III.  EXPLANATION AND SECOND WARNING (verses 23-24)

I’m amazed at the patience and mercy of Jesus.  Instead of reacting to their insinuation about suicide, He ignores or overlooks it, gives a more detailed explanation of His first warning and then warns them again.  In verse 23, Jesus says, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.”  There is a major difference between them and Himself:  their point of origin.  He’s from heaven and there is no one else like Him.  No one else can make that statement truthfully.  They, on the other hand, originated on earth.  They are not only in the world but they are also “of” the world.  Their attitude and their words and actions demonstrate their worldliness and their sinful resistance to the truth.

In verse 24, the Lord Jesus gives them a second warning:  “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.”  He warned them of the consequences of their actions and gave them the only way out of their predicament.  In HIs warning, Jesus is once again claiming to be God.  The Greek text does not have the word “He”Jesus is speaking to them in Aramaic and is saying, “unless you believe that I am, you shall die in your sins.”  He is using God’s covenant name which He gave to Moses in Exodus 3:14.  It was the name the Jews would not pronounce.  When the Scribes copied the Old Testament Scriptures, they would use a new pen to write that name, and then set that pen aside.  Those listening to Jesus knew who He was claiming to be, as well as His authority to give those warnings.  Jesus has warned them again that an eternal disaster awaits them if they do not heed His warnings.  How are they going to respond to His words?

IV.  ANOTHER SARCASTIC RESPONSE (verse 25a)

Verse 25 begins with these words: “And so they were saying to Him, ‘Who are You?’ Those three words may sound innocent and inquisitive, but they are not.  Let me translate those words into a familiar expression:  “Who do you think you are to tell us what to do?”  Have you heard that expression or used that expression before?  It’s certainly not the kind of response you would like to receive after doing somebody a favor!  I think they are acting like bullies, making fun of Jesus and trying to badger Him to the point where He might lose His temper and explode in anger at them.  Do you have that impression also?

Sin’s effects in a person’s life are much like the answer to the following question:  “How does a worm get inside an apple?”  Perhaps you think the worm burrows in from outside.  Actually, the answer is “no”.  Scientists have discovered that the worm comes from inside.  But how does it get inside?  Simple!  An insect lays an egg in the apple blossom.  Sometime later, the worm hatches in the heart of the apple, then eats its way out.  Sin, like the worm, begins in the heart and works its way out through our thoughts, words, and actions.  That principle certainly holds true for these Jews as they interact with Jesus and make jokes about His warnings and His identity.  To them, Jesus was just a poor, uneducated carpenter from Galilee, whose warnings they considered to be ridiculous and unfounded.

V.  A REBUKE (verses 25b-26)

Jesus responds to their question by asking them a question as a form of rebuke.  He says, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning?”.  Jesus has been making those statements since the beginning of HIs ministry.  If we look at John 3:31-34, we find that John the Baptist said similar words about Jesus.  So the issue, here in verses 25 to 26, isn’t lack of information, nor the clarity of that information.  The problem on their parts is a stubborn unwillingness to respond in spite of the information given to them.  Have you ever observed a situation where a person knew that something was true; the explanation was clear and irrefutable but the person refused to believe it.  This is another one of those cases.

Jesus continues in verse 26 by telling them that He has many more things that He could say to judge and condemn them, but He speaks only the things that the Father wants Him to say.  God the Father is making the judgments and Jesus is passing those words on to them saying, “the Father who sent is true; and the things I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.”  He’s pointing out that the remarks they have been making were not only directed at Him but also at God the Father.

VI.  TWO MORE CLAIMS SILENCE HIS LISTENERS (verses 27-30)

In verse 27, the apostle John makes this comment:  “They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father.”  John may be writing those words as one who was there, giving a possible reason for their sudden silence.  Personally, I think they knew what He was saying but couldn’t understand how it could be true.  Therefore, they refused to believe it but didn’t know what to say to Him.  There were no sarcastic remarks this time, but they still refused to acknowledge who He is.  In verse 28, Jesus goes on to say, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”   Jesus is talking about His crucifixion, and they are the ones who will be crucifying Him.  They will be handing Him over to the Roman authorities and demanding His crucifixion.  How will His death be proof that He is the Messiah?  There will be the miracles that accompany His death and follow His death.  For example, the three hours of darkness in the middle of the day, the earthquake, the words He said while on the cross, and the unusual way that Jesus gave up His spirit.  Add to that His burial, resurrection, appearances, and ascension into heaven.  There is another unmentioned proof that Jesus is truly the Messiah – the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52-53, Psalm 22, and many other Scripture passages in the Old Testament).  They were fulfilled completely, in every detail.  It was now obvious that these Scripture passages didn’t apply figuratively to the nation of Israel, but literally to Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ second claim, in the remainder of verse 28 as well as verse 29, was His perfect obedience and fellowship with His heavenly Father.  Here are Jesus’ words:  “I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.  And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”  Jesus’ life was consistent with His message.  They would not be able to deny that Jesus’ obedience to the Father was perfect, even to the point of death.

Verse 30 tells us, “many came to believe in Him”.  As we progress through the rest of chapter 8, we’ll learn whether or not this belief was real.

CONCLUSION:

If you are not a true follower of Jesus Christ; if you haven’t experienced a changed life as the result of making Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, please give that decision some serious thought.  Please heed the warnings before an eternal disaster strikes you.  If it happens, it will be no laughing matter!  It’s a matter or eternal life in heaven or eternal suffering in hell.  Please don’t put it off.  There will be no excuses.

If you are a Christian, God has called you to be His ambassador.  As ambassadors of Christ, believers have a responsibility to warn people of the consequences of their unbelief and rebellion against God.

Here’s an example from American history.  “Late one night a salesman drove into a strange city and tried to get a room in a hotel.  The clerk informed him that there was no vacancy.  Disappointed, he started to leave the lobby when a dignified gentleman offered to share his room with him.  Gratefully, the traveler accepted his kindness.

Just before retiring, the man who had shown such hospitality knelt and prayed aloud.  In his petition, he referred to the stranger by name and asked the Lord to bless him.  Upon awakening the next morning, he told his guest it was his habit to read the Bible and commune with God at the beginning of each day, and asked if he would like to join him.  The Holy Spirit had been speaking to the heart of this salesman, and when the host tactfully confronted him with the claims of Christ, he gladly received the Savior.

As the two were ready to part, they exchanged business cards.  The new believer was amazed to read, “William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State.”  You see, William Jennings Bryan was not only the Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, but more importantly, he was an ambassador for Christ.

May you consider that role to be both a privilege and a responsibility, and decide to pursue it wholeheartedly.  Let’s be ready, willing, and able!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Welcome to this completed project:  John 8:21-30.  I hope you will come back again soon when you’re in the neighborhood.  There are many completed projects on this site.

 

 

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD – John 8:12-20

John 8:12-20, Uncategorized

I imagine that most, if not all of us, have been in a tunnel. What’s the best thing about a tunnel? It’s the light at the end of it, right? And the best thing about a cloudy day is when the sun peeks through those clouds and often spreads a rainbow across the sky. Most of us enjoy the light and prefer it over the darkness. This earth would be a cold, dark, lifeless planet if there were no sun in the sky to give it light and warmth. In John 8:12, Jesus makes a statement about Himself, and He couldn’t have picked a more appropriate setting to make His announcement.

I.  THE SETTING (verse 20)

Before we examine His announcement, let’s first skip down to verse 20 for a moment in order to learn the location of Jesus and to find out what is happening around Him.  The apostle John writes, “These words He [Jesus] spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple.” This treasury was located in the Court of the Women.  Thirteen treasure chests were there for the various kinds of offerings.  This was a very busy place, with a constant flow of worshippers coming in and going out.  The Mishnah, which is a lengthy Jewish commentary on the Law of Moses, states that, on every night of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Court of the Women was to be brilliantly lit up.  Historians tell us that four large candelabra burned brightly in the temple area to commemorate the pillar of fire which led the Israelites through the wilderness. 

II.  JESUS’ DECLARATION (verse 12)

It’s in this setting that Jesus declares loudly, “I am the light of the world.”  Another event may have been happening outside the temple at that very same moment.  John 8:2 says that it was early in the morning when Christ came to the temple.  He may have made that claim just as the sun was rising that morning.  The Courtyard of the Women was an open courtyard so the brightness of the sun, dispelling the darkness, would have been observed and welcomed by all who were there.  When Jesus shouted out His claim at that moment, He was comparing Himself to the rising sun.  This would have caused the people to think that Jesus was once again claiming to be God.  For the Jew, the sun was the symbol of Jehovah God.  Psalm 84:11 says, “For the Lord our God is a sun and shield.”  This planet of ours has only one sun and it is the source of our light.  The word “light” is an Old Testament image for the Messiah.  Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in the dark land, the light will shine on them.”

The Lord Jesus not only said that He was the light but “the light of the world.”  He and His light were not just for the Jews only.  It’s interesting that the Court of the Women, where Jesus is speaking, is the only court in the temple that was designed with large openings or windows so that the light could be seen outside by people in many parts of the city of Jerusalem,  I wonder if that thought came to the minds of some of the people who were there and heard Jesus make that claim.

Jesus goes on to say, “he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”  He’s drawing the attention of the people back to the image of the pillar of fire.  In the exodus from Egypt, God didn’t put the pillar of fire in the sky as something for the people of Israel to look at and admire.  It was a light to lead them through the wilderness to the promised land.  Jesus is saying that He is the light who leads them out of the darkness of sin to a relationship with Himself.

In Benjamin Franklin’s day, the streets of Philadelphia were dark after sunset.  Night time pedestrians had to walk cautiously to avoid rocks and holes.  Franklin decided to set a good example for his fellow citizens by placing a lantern outside his home.  As people stumbled down his street at night, they would come to that oasis of light and realize what a blessing it was.  Soon other Philadelphians were setting out their own lanterns.  After sunset,  the whole village became a place of illumined safety.  In a spiritual sense, this world of ours can also be a very dark place.  Have you found that to be true at times?  There is a need for the Light to guide our way. 

III.  THE RESPONSE (verse 13)

As expected, the Pharisees make their reply and give their judgment.  Verse 13 says, “The Pharisees therefore said to Him, ‘You are bearing witness to yourself.  Your witness is not true’.”  Their reference is to Deuteronomy 19:15 and they are using it out of context.  That verse says, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.”  The rest of that chapter refers to witnesses in a criminal case.  Two or three witnesses are required in court to settle a dispute or pass judgment on a crime.  That command was expressed earlier by God in Deuteronomy 17:6, which says, “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.”  That law didn’t apply in this situation.  The Pharisees were either unfamiliar with that law or were purposely making up their own rules of evidence in order to gain the approval of the crowd in the temple.    

IV.  JESUS’ FIRST REPLY — I AM MY OWN WITNESS  (verses 14-15)

Rather than point out their mistake, the Lord Jesus responds to their objection.  He begins by saying, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true; for I know where I came  from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from, or where I am going.”  He’s telling them that He has the authority and qualifications to talk about Himself whereas they do not.  If they had recognized the true identity of Jesus, they wouldn’t have made that statement.  They asked the question because they refused to acknowledge His true identity.  Did the Old Testament prophets need witnesses to confirm that they were prophets?  No.  Their words and their actions were proof enough.  Does light need a witness that it exists?  No.  Light provides its own witness as we see it and feel the warmth of it.  In this verse, Jesus has stated His credentials.  A famous surgeon doesn’t need witnesses to testify to his competence every time he performs a surgery.  A well-known and respected judge doesn’t need witnesses to affirm his ability to judge a case in court.  The skills of these two professionals speak for themselves; they are a matter of public record.  Jesus is telling these Pharisees to come out of the darkness of their unbelief and into the light of reality, and then examine His credentials clearly and thoroughly.

In verse 15, the Lord Jesus makes a charge against them when He says, “You people judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.”  He’s comparing their attitude and their perspective to His own.  They make their judgments based upon externals, relying upon their own human knowledge and personal biases.  Rather than judging on the basis of God’s Word, which reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart, they want to make their own rules and exalt themselves in the process of enforcing them.  Jesus, on the other hand, is not judging anyone.  His purpose for coming to this earth was not judgment but salvation (John 3:17-17; 12:47).  We have already seen that purpose exemplified in Jesus’ response to the woman in John 8:1-12.  He said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way.  From now on sin no more.” 

V.  JESUS’ SECOND REPLY — THE FATHER IS ALSO MY WITNESS (verses 16-18)

In verse 16 Jesus qualifies His previous statement by saying, “But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and He who sent Me.” He is saying, “If My own words and My own works are not enough to convince you, I have a second witness.  That witness is the one who sent Me.”  Jesus is humbly describing Himself as the ambassador of His heavenly Father.  An ambassador is an official representative from one country to another.  In this case, Jesus was sent from heaven to earth with an important message and mission.  An ambassador speaks the message of the one who sent him, with the authority of the one who sent him.  Therefore Jesus says, in verse 16, “My decisions are right.”

Over the centuries, ambassadors have been highly regarded and shown the utmost respect because of the countries and leaders they have represented.  Here is one case in point.  W.D. Dunn, the evangelist, was holding a campaign of gospel meetings in a large hall in the town of Motherwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland, an industrial town about 10 miles from Glasgow.  Having attended the funeral of a friend, Dunn arrived at the Carlisle station just after his train left.  His only hope of making it to his appointment on time was an express train that did not stop in Motherwell.

Approaching the Stationmaster, he asked if the express train to Glasgow could be stopped for a minute or two at Motherwell to enable him to alight and be in time for a very important meeting there.  The Stationmaster said it could not be done.  Lifting up his heart in prayer, the evangelist was turning away when the Stationmaster added:  “But are you a Member of Parliament?  I have authority to have the train stopped for a M.P.”  “No,” replied Dunn, “I am not an M.P.; but I hold a much higher rank.  I am an ambassador.”  “An ambassador,” said the Stationmaster.  “All right, I shall have the train stopped at Motherwell for you.”  Mr. Dunn walked off, thanking him, but on further consideration, he felt he ought to clarify his position to the Stationmaster.  Going back to him again, he said, “I told you I was an ambassador, and that is true.  But I am not an ambassador of an earthly king.  I am an ambassador of the King of kings, and have a message from Him for over 1000 people who will gather at Motherwell to hear it.  Now I have told you frankly my position.  Will the train still stop at Motherwell?”  “Yes”, replied the Stationmaster, “I have arranged that it shall stop and it will stop without fail.”  This ambassador for Christ received the respect and treatment worthy of the One who sent him.

The Lord Jesus has also declared that He is the ambassador of His heavenly Father, and in verses 17 and 18 He continues to use the Scriptures to prove His authority.  These are His words:  Even in your law it has been written, that the testimony of two witnesses is true.  I am He who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”  Jesus might be called the “Expert Witness” demonstrated by His life, His words, and His miracles.  His Father might be called the “Source Witness” – the One who authorized, sent, and empowered His “Expert Witness”.  According to the Law, this is more than sufficient proof.  The burden is now on His listeners to try to disprove it.

VI.  RESPONSE AND REBUTTAL (verse 19)

What do you say when your accusation has been disproven and there’s really nothing more to say?  How do you keep yourself from saying anything at all?  Have you ever been in that situation?  What was your response (if any)?

In this case, the Pharisees asked for more physical evidence. “Where is your Father”, they ask.  I visualize them looking around as they said those words, seeking an older man with His family resemblance  They wanted Jesus to point him out so that they could interrogate him.

Once again, the Pharisees fail to realize that when Jesus talks about the Father, He’s referring to God.  How many times do they have to hear those words from Him?  They have already tried to stone Him to death for saying those words because He was making Himself equal with God by calling God His Father (John 5:18).  Jesus replies to them, making His point very clear:  “You know neither Me, nor My Father; if you had known Me, you would know My Father also.”  That was a well-deserved, stinging rebuke!

The Pharisees were still in the tunnel spiritually.  They preferred darkness to the light of truth because the truth didn’t agree with their own belief system.  The witness of the Father was not only through Jesus Christ, the living Word, but also through the written word of God, and they rejected both.

VII.  NO ARREST (verse 20)

In verse 20 we are once again informed of the practices of the Pharisees and other leaders of the Jews.  When they can’t disprove or deny the evidence, they seek to destroy it.  In this case, the evidence is Jesus Christ.  Verse 20 ends with the words, “And no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.”  They wanted to seize him alright, but God restrained them.  The hour when Jesus would be arrested was in the Father’s timing, not theirs.

CONCLUSION:

Are you personally in a “spiritual tunnel” at this moment in your life?  Are you seeking the light at the end of it, or are you content to be in spiritual darkness?  The only light at the end of that tunnel is Jesus Christ.  There is no way to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6; I Timothy 2:5).  You can’t know God except through Jesus Christ.  That is the very core of the Gospel message.  If you choose to believe in Him and follow Him, the Lord Jesus will dispel the darkness and fill your life with the light of His presence (John 1:4-5; II Corinthians 5:17).  I hope that today will be that day, as you let the Son shine in your life.

If you are a committed follower of Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus wants the light of His presence to shine brightly in the midst of the world of spiritual darkness around you.  As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  We are ambassadors for the King of kings.  God wants to use us to bring others to Himself (II Corinthians 5:20).  May our words and our lives be used by God to bring many out of their darkness and into His glorious light!  

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this completed project:  John 8:12-20.  Now that you know the location, I hope you will drop by for a visit again soon.  There are almost 150 other messages on this site.

 

THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY – John 8:1-11

Bible sermons, dilemma, Gospel of John, John 8:1-12, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION:

Daniel Webster served our country as a congressman and as the Secretary of State under three presidents in the mid-1800’s.  Before going into politics he was a well-known and very successful lawyer and public speaker.  Dwight L. Moody shared the following illustration about him:

Daniel Webster was such an imposing figure in court that he once stared a witness out of the courtroom.  Apparently, Webster knew that the man was there to deliver false testimony, so he fixed his “dark, beetle-browed” eyes on the man and searched him.  According to the story, later in the trial, Webster looked around again to see if [the witness] was ready for the inquisition.  The witness felt for his hat and edged toward the door.  A third time Webster looked on him, and the witness could sit no longer.  He seized his chance and fled from the court and was nowhere to be found.  It was as if Webster could see right through the man,  and knew what this witness had been told to do, and what he was to say.  With his penetrating gaze, Webster gave this man the opportunity to examine himself, reconsider his mission, and make his getaway.  We find a similar action and reaction in this passage of scripture, John 8:1-11.

I.  THE SETTING (verses 1-2)

Verse one of John 8 tells us that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives the night before, and probably stayed at the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany.  They lived about a mile from Jerusalem, and Jesus often stayed with them when He was attending one of the feasts in Jerusalem.  The next morning we find Him back in the temple.  Verse 2 says, “And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.”  A crowd was gathering around Jesus, so He sat down to teach.  This was the usual practice of the rabbis.  They taught from a sitting position.  Often a little stool was provided for them to sit on.

II.  THE CONFRONTATION (verses 3-6a)

The Lord Jesus is just beginning to teach the people when He is rudely interrupted.  Verse 3 reads, “And the Scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery and having set her in the midst,”.  Now what are they up to?  Whatever it is, they want the whole crowd to watch and listen to what happens next.  On the previous day the multitude was debating whether Jesus was the Prophet or the Messiah, and the temple police officers were so amazed at Jesus’ teaching that they didn’t arrest Him.  All the sarcastic remarks directed at the multitude by the leaders accomplished nothing.  The people are all assembled again, eager to hear Jesus teach.  Have the scribes and Pharisees now come up with a better idea?  Let’s see what they have to say.  Verses 4 and 5 read:  “They said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?’  By asking that question, the scribes and Pharisees have just broken their own law which stated that such cases were to be handled by their own court.  They are also lying to the crowd by giving them the impression that they have come to seek His “expert opinion” on this matter.

Does their statement sound suspicious to you?  Wouldn’t you say that it’s unusual to stumble across adultery taking place?  This is not the kind of offense that can be committed by one person alone.  Where is the man?  Was no attempt made to arrest him?  He was just as guilty under the Law as the woman.  Did they let him go?  Is he one of the men who is now standing before Jesus?

By their statement and their question, they have purposely placed Jesus in a dilemma.  A dilemma is defined as a choice between two equal alternatives.  In this case, both of His options seem to be equally dangerous.  If Jesus agreed with the law and told them to stone her, He would be disobeying the Roman government which had jurisdiction over such cases, and He would be taken to a Roman court.  The Jews could then distort His claims of kingship and possibly have Him executed as an insurrectionist.  On the other hand, if Jesus refused to allow the woman to be stoned, He would be disobeying the Law of Moses, thus contradicting His claims to be the Messiah.  The crowd around Jesus would be witnesses to His disobedience and the word would spread fast.  That would soon be the end of His popularity and His authority as a teacher.  The beginning of verse six tells us their motive when it says, “And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him.”  It was a well-laid trap.  I can picture the smiles on their faces and the glint in their eyes as they waited for Jesus to fall into their snare.  They were hoping to bring Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor, that very day.

III.  JESUS’ RESPONSE TO HIS QUESTIONERS (verses 6b-8)

What happens next must have startled and confused them.  At the end of verse 6, it says:  “But Jesus stooped down, and wrote on the ground.”  Try to put yourself in this scene.  Jesus is sitting on the steps or on a stool.  The scribes and Pharisees have just asked Him a difficult question and immediately Jesus takes His eyes off them, bends all the way forward and starts writing with His finger in the dust on the ground.  Do you have a picture of that scene in your mind?  Can you imagine what the scribes and Pharisees must have been thinking and saying to one another as they watched this phenomenon?  “Is He crazy?”  “Is He stalling, trying to come up with an answer?”

Verse 7 begins with the words, “When they persisted in asking Him”.  Jesus wasn’t responding to them.  He hasn’t stopped what He was doing and looked at them yet, in spite of their repeated requests.  The scribes and Pharisees are getting angrier and louder as they demand an answer.  Meanwhile, the woman and the crowd are watching and listening in silence.  When is this “intermission” going to end?

Finally, in the midst of all the noise and confusion, “He [Jesus] straightened up”, and like Daniel Webster in my introduction, He looked at each one of them with His penetrating gaze, searching their souls.  There was silence once again, and then He said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  As He said those words, I believe Jesus looked around at each one of them again, and that the eyes of some of them may already have been lowered.  They didn’t want to look at Him eye-to-eye again because of the guilt they were experiencing.

By His words, did Jesus mean “Let him who is perfect cast the first stone?”  No.  He was referring to the sin of adultery.  In Matthew 5:27-28, during His sermon on the mount, Jesus defined adultery in accordance with God’s perfect standard.  So Jesus was saying, “Anyone who has not committed this sin of adultery at some time himself, or who has not desired to do so, and would have done so if he could have gotten away with it, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The age-old debate is:  “What was the Lord Jesus writing?”  Was He writing the commandments, or was He writing down the sins of His accusers?  There are many possibilities, but we don’t know for sure.  That information wasn’t given to us by the apostle John.  Maybe it’s because the Lord Jesus’ lesson comes, not from what He wrote, but from the act of writing with His finger.  Can you think of an occasion in the Old Testament when God wrote with His finger?  Exodus 31:18 says, “And when He [God] had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.”  If this was Jesus intent, to focus their attention on the act of writing, then Jesus was once again claiming to be God, the One who wrote the commandments on the tablets of stone with His own finger for Moses and the people of Israel.  That is my thinking, and the reasons are given in the rest of this passage of Scripture, especially the following verse.  After saying those words to the scribes and Pharisees, verse 8 says, “And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.”  Jesus is doing it again!  What’s the significance of that?  If His adversaries didn’t get it the first time, they caught on the second time, based on their response. I don’t think Jesus is repeating His actions for the sake of repetition.  He’s reminding His audience of the events that happened after God gave the commandments to Moses.  There’s more to the story, and as Jesus writes with His finger again, the rest of the story is unfolding in their minds.  Let’s take a look at what His accusers are remembering.

When Moses came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the law in his hands, he saw the people of Israel worshiping a golden calf and engaging in sexual immorality.  Exodus 32:6 says, “the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”  In anger, Moses “threw the tablets of stone from his hands and shattered them.”  As the woman’s accusers watch Jesus write on the ground this second time, they are also reminded that God showed mercy on His people, forgave their sin and wrote the law on the tablets of stone with His finger a second time.

IV.  THE WALK OF SHAME (verse 9)

A movement is taking place among the woman’s accusers.  Verse 9 says, “And when they [her accusers] heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she had been, in the midst.” Those who accused the woman became convicted of their own sinfulness and began to go away one by one.  The older men probably had the guilt of their sin gnawing at them the longest and were the first to leave.  It was a long walk of shame through the temple and to their homes.  I can imagine that they didn’t want to be seen in public for the rest of that day.  Their “perfect plan” backfired and they were caught in the recollection of their own sins.

The story is told of a time when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous writer, decided to play a practical joke on twelve of his friends.  He sent them each a telegram that read, “Flee at once. . . . all is discovered.”  Within twenty-four hours, all twelve had left the country.  Their private lives were quite different from their public lives!

As we study verse 9, it’s important to know that there is a difference between guilt and shame.  In this particular case, the scribes and Pharisees were experiencing both of these emotions.  They felt guilt inside because of the things they had done and shame because of all the people who were watching them.  Their guilt made them speechless, and in their shame, they wanted to get away from the crowd and be alone.

V.  WORDS TO THE WOMAN (verses 10-11)

The accusers have gone and Jesus is looking at the woman.  Meanwhile, the crowd is standing there quietly, anxious to see and hear what Jesus is going to say and do next.  Verse 10 reads, “And straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they?  Did no one condemn you?’ ”  The word “condemn” refers to outward punishment, not inward guilt.  He’s saying to her, “Has no one shown himself qualified or ready to begin the stoning?”  Jesus is asking her questions in order to focus her thoughts upon what just happened, as well as elicit a response from her as she stands before Him in awe and wide-eyed amazement.  Her response to Him is:  “no one, Lord.”  There is no clear indication that the woman was a follower of His, or that she became one at that moment, but I’m sure she was very grateful to Him for what He had done.for her, and she made no excuse for her conduct.

Jesus ends the conversation with these words:  “Neither do I condemn you; go your way.  From now on sin no more.”  Jesus forgave her but He didn’t condone her sin.  He didn’t say, “sin as little as possible”, but “sin no more”.  Pastor Warren Wiersbe makes the following comment about this verse of Scripture:

We must not misinterpret this event to mean that Jesus was
“easy on sin” or that He contradicted the Law.
For Jesus to forgive this woman meant that He had to
one day die for her sins.  Forgiveness is free,
but it is not cheap

The woman left this assembly with forgiveness, release from the conviction and guilt of her past sins and a desire to live according to God’s laws.  She also left with a clearer understanding of Jesus Christ and the choice of following Him.

CONCLUSION:

There are several things we can learn and apply to our own lives from this passage of Scripture.  First, we are guilty of sin whether we’ve been caught or not.  Secondly, we learn that Jesus hates and condemns the sin but He loves the sinner and forgives and accepts all who come to Him in faith and with repentant hearts.

There are also principles to guide us when dealing with sin in the life of another believer.

  1.  It is wrong to approach another believer concerning a particular sin in his or her life if that same sin has not been dealt with in our own lives.
  2. Confronting wrong calls for humility, not pride.  Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”  As the saying goes: “There but for the grace of God go you and I.”
  3. Correcting wrong in another’s life begins with forgiveness.  Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you”  before saying “Sin no more”.

Let’s look upon others, not on the basis of their past, but on the basis of their future.  Let’s also look upon ourselves the way God sees us.

 

CONSTRUCTION SITE:   COMPLETED

DEFENSE WITNESSES ARE SCORNED – John 7:45-53

Bible sermons, critical spirit, criticism, John 7:45-53, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION:

Can you remember saying something and then you wished you had never said it?  Was it because of the negative response you received afterward?  Have you ever heard or used the phrase, “You’re gonna eat those words!”?  The intent was that you were going to have to admit that what you said was wrong, and suffer humiliation because of it.  There’s a saying that goes like this:  “Keep your words sweet.  You never know when you might have to eat them.”

In this passage of Scripture, John 7:45-53, Jesus is not present.  We are going to examine two incidents that occur in the meeting room of the Sanhedrin and consider the responses that follow and the reasons for those responses.

I.  INCIDENT #1:  THE TEMPLE GUARD RETURNS (verses 45-46)

Earlier, in verse 32, an order was given:  “the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.”  Those officers were under orders to arrest Jesus, take Him prisoner, and bring Him to them so that they could pass judgment on Him and have Him killed.  The leaders must have been in their courtroom, seated and ready to pass judgment, and wondering why it was taking those officers so long to accomplish their mission.  Finally the posse arrives, but they are empty-handed.  What’s going on?  Verse 45 describes the scene.  “The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees and these said to them, ‘Why didn’t you bring Him?’ ”  The leaders were angry and probably shouted at them, demanding an explanation.  What they heard in reply must have startled them.  Verse 46 says, “The officers answered, ‘Never did a man speak the way this man speaks.”  They were saying that Jesus was more than a man, otherwise they would have said, “No OTHER man speaks the way this man speaks.”

I don’t detect any fear on the part of these officers.  They could have come up with excuses but they chose to tell the truth.  Their sense of awe, amazement and bewilderment was so strong that there was no room for any fear of punishment.  Can you imagine what it would have been like to listen to Jesus face-to-face?  What words did they hear from Jesus’ lips that would have evoked such a response?  Among other things, they heard Jesus say, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).  It was the Word of God spoken by the Son of God.

II.  THE RESPONSE (verses 47-49)

The leaders and Pharisees respond to these remarks with anger and sarcasm.  We find their initial words in verse 47 where the Pharisees say to them, “You have not also been led astray, have you?”  Can you feel the sting in those words?  They are telling the officers that they are no better than the common people – the uneducated “nobodies” who were following Jesus.  Once again, the leaders refused to face the facts.  Instead, they directed their criticism at the officers and the crowd.

Sarcastic remarks tell us something about the person or people who made them.  Such remarks are often made by egotistical people who put others down in order to exalt themselves.  The following story is a case where sarcastic remarks cost a person his life.  Kondraty Ryleyev was sentenced to be hanged for his part in an unsuccessful uprising against the Russian Czar Nicolas I in December 1825.  But the rope broke and Ryleyev, bruised and battered, fell to the ground, got up and said, “In Russia, they don’t know how to do anything properly, and even how to make a rope.”  An accident of this sort usually resulted in a pardon, so a messenger was sent to the czar to know his pleasure.  Nicolas asked, “What did he say?”  “Sire, he said that in Russia they don’t even know how to make a rope properly.”  “Well, let the contrary be proven,” said the czar.  That broken rope might have won him a pardon, but his remark cost him his life.  It was the last sarcastic remark he ever made!  Here in verse 47, they are criticizing the King of heaven and earth.  That could have everlasting consequences!

Now the Pharisees draw attention to themselves when they say in verse 48, “No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?”  They have set themselves up as the standard for truth and are berating the officials for not following their example.  By their words, these leaders are denying the teachings and the authority of God’s Word and revealing the size of their egos.  It’s as if they are saying, “How dare you believe in Him in defiance of us and our superior authority and knowledge of God’s Word!”  The leaders couldn’t prove to these officers that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah.  The evidence was too strongly in His favor; so they used diversionary tactics in order to maintain their prejudice against Jesus.

In college, I took a course in Classical Greek and Roman Mythology.  One story that fascinated me was that of Narcissus.  This young man was so beautiful in appearance that many women were attracted to him but no woman was good enough for him.  One day he saw his own reflection in a pool of water and fell in love with himself.  Since he could not have himself as a partner, and no one else met his standards of beauty, he eventually killed himself.  Psychologists use the term “narcissistic” to describe someone who is extremely selfish with a grandiose view of one’s own appearance and talents, and a craving for the admiration of others.  Is that an accurate description of the religious leaders in this passage of Scripture?  I think so.

In verse 48, the leaders were implying that the officials were just like the crowd.  Now, in verse 49, they describe their own attitude toward the crowd by saying, “But this multitude which does not know the Law is accursed.”  This is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek word translated “accursed” is used.  By using that word to refer to the multitude, the Pharisees are once again demonstrating their ignorance of the law.  They are telling God to put a curse on the multitude, whereas in Matthew 25:41, Jesus says that He will be the King on the throne passing judgment.  He will be the one who says “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”  Their pride, critical spirit, and prejudice toward the common people will be their undoing.

III.  INCIDENT #2:  THE QUESTION RAISED BY NICODEMUS (verses 50-51)

In verses 50 and 51, Nicodemus, who secretly visited Jesus one night, asks them a question.  Verse 50 tells us that he was a member of the Sanhedrin also.  He said to the rest of the group, “Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?”  Nicodemus knew the answer to that question.  It’s found in Exodus 23:1-2; Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 19:15 and 19:18.  The Law of Moses states that every man is entitled to a fair trial, and is considered innocent until proven guilty.

I have heard this verse used as a negative example of sharing one’s faith in Jesus Christ.  The lesson was:  “Don’t be like Nicodemus”.  I disagree with that interpretation and conclusion.  Nicodemus was not a follower of Jesus Christ yet.  He knew that he was going to get a sharp negative reaction toward himself if he said anything in defense of God’s Law and in fairness toward Jesus, but he said it anyway!  He could have taken back those words and apologized, but he didn’t.  This was his first step toward publicly identifying himself with Jesus Christ.

IV.  THE RESPONSE (verse 52)

As expected, the leaders respond by ridiculing Nicodemus and belittling him.  Here are the words they shouted at him:  “You are not also from Galilee, are you?  Search and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.”  They treat him like they did the officers, and accuse him of not knowing the Scriptures.  In reality they were the ones who didn’t know the Scriptures.  They were wrong when they said, “No prophet arises out of Galilee,”  The prophet Jonah was from Gath Hepher, which is a village in Galilee.  Not only that, but the prophet Nahum was from Capernaum, a city in Galilee.  Capernaum means “Village of Nahum”.  The leaders were wrong on at least two counts. and yet they criticized the multitude as being ignorant of the Law!  They were bluffing in order to protect their huge egos and maintain their sense of authority.  These leaders may not have realized that by criticizing the multitude, they were also criticizing themselves because it was their responsibility to educate the people in the law, the prophets, and the writings.

Former British statesman,  Benjamin Disraeli said, “It is much easier to be critical than correct.”  The following poem, written by Charles Franklin Benvegar, depicts that statement clearly and accurately.  It is entitled:  THE WRECKER

I watched them tearing a building down
A gang of men in a busy town,
With a yo-heave-ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam, a side wall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled
As men you’d hire if you were to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No indeed!
Just common labor is all I need;
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken a year to do.”
And I thought to myself, as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my work to a well-laid plan
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

We are faced with that choice every day, aren’t we?  There is a question we need to continually ask ourselves in our relationships with others:  “Am I part of the building crew or am I part of the wrecking gang?”

V.  THE RESULT (verse 53)

Verse 53 tells us, “And everyone went to his home.”  All that time they spent criticizing didn’t accomplish anything.  The leaders went home satisfied that they were right, and that they had their say and had their way.  Even Nicodemus couldn’t stand in their way.  Nicodemus went home humiliated but one step closer to following Christ and publicly identifying himself with Him.  He knew he had done what was right in God’s sight.

CONCLUSION AND LESSONS:

There are many lessons to be learned from this passage of Scripture.  We’ve seen how easy it is, and how tempting it is to criticize others.  It’s been said that criticism is the one thing most of us think is more blessed to give than to receive.  But in reality, criticism is not necessarily a negative thing.  Constructive criticism can accomplish many positive things in a person’s life if it is coupled with love and encouragement.

Many years ago a boy complained to his father that most of the church hymns were boring to him because they were too far behind the times.  The tunes were tiresome and the words were meaningless.  The father saw his son’s earnestness and knew his son’s abilities, so he answered his 18-year-old son’s complaint by saying, “If you think you can write better hymns, then why don’t you?”  The boy went to his room and wrote his first hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”  The year was 1690 and the teenager’s name was Isaac Watts.  “Joy to the World” is also among the almost 350 hymns written by him.  His father’s encouragement ignited the fires of enthusiasm that helped launch his son’s career as a hymn writer.

In the passage of Scripture we have been studying, the leaders of the Jews were only interested in giving destructive criticism, and refused to accept any criticism of themselves.  They were proud enough to give criticism, but not humble enough to accept it.  Edward Wallis Hoch offers the following observation in his poem:

“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us,
To talk about the rest of us.” 

 

From this study of John 7:45-53, there are two questions that each of us needs to ask himself and answer for himself honestly:  “How well do I give criticism” and “How well do I take criticism?”  If you are a Christian, you can expect to receive criticism, but you ought to live in such a way that no one will believe your critics.

There is one more lesson and I’ve learned it from the temple guards who were sent to arrest Jesus.  Like them, may we be so filled with awe and worship of our Lord Jesus Christ as we behold Him in His Word and spend time with Him in prayer, that we are honest and straightforward about our beliefs, and unafraid of criticism.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this construction site:  John 7:45-53.  It’s time to gather the tools and begin the building project next door.  The new address is John 8:1-11.

A DIVIDED RESPONSE — John 7:40-44

arguing, Bible sermons, john 7:40-44

INTRODUCTION:

Arguments are started in a number of ways, as I’m sure you know.  Just think back upon your life and bring to mind some of the arguments you’ve participated in, or have observed.  Can you remember the last time you started an argument?  What was the topic of conversation?  If you can’t remember, there is a sure-fire way to start an argument:  pick a controversial topic and take a firm stand on one side of the issue while in the midst of a large group of people.  Then be prepared to defend yourself!

In the previous passage of Scripture, John 7:37-39, Jesus shouted in the temple, encouraging the people to come to Him and find new life through believing in Him.  Here in verses 40-44, we are going to take a look at the altercation that ensues after those words were spoken.

I.  THE INITIAL RESPONSE:  STATEMENT OF FACT? (verse 40)

Verse 40 reads:  “Some of the multitude therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, ‘This certainly is the Prophet’.”  They are very sure of themselves, aren’t they? Their conclusion is stated as a fact.  Do we have any idea who these people were who made that statement?  If appears to me that they must have been some of the pilgrim Jews who came a great distance to attend the feast of Tabernacles.  They didn’t know the negative attitude of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus or they wouldn’t have made that statement aloud with such conviction.  They’ve made that statement without bias, based upon what they have heard Jesus say and what they have watched Jesus do.  Nevertheless, they have jumped to that conclusion with very little evidence to support it.

Were they right?  What do they mean when they call Jesus the Prophet?  Which prophet are they referring to?  In Deuteronomy 18, Moses is telling the people of Israel not to listen to the spiritists, the diviners, and those who practice witchcraft among the people of the land they are about to enter.  Then, in verse 15, Moses spoke these words from God:  “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”  

The Jews here in verse 40 were stating that Jesus was definitely that Prophet.  Psychologists have names for the various kinds of statements used to start and continue an argument.  This first statement might be called the “expert witness”.  These Jews have stated their belief as a fact and are expecting everyone else to agree with them.

II.  THE IMMEDIATE REACTION – A “BETTER IDEA” (verse 41a)

Verse 40 tells us that those expectations weren’t met.  It begins with these words:  “Others were saying, ‘This is the Christ’.”  Once again, it was probably some of the pilgrim Jews who made that statement.  Obviously, the Jews at that time considered the Prophet and the Christ to be two different people.  About two years earlier, John the Baptist was asked to reveal his identity.  Let’s take a look at that conversation.  John 1:19-21 reads, “And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you’?  And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, ‘I am not the Christ’.  And they asked him, ‘What then?  Are you Elijah?’  And he answered, ‘I am not.’  Are you the Prophet?  And he answered, ‘No’.”  Did you notice the descending order – Christ … Elijah … the Prophet.  In their minds, Christ was the highest, Elijah was second, and the Prophet was third in their ranking.  Yet the Prophet was held in high regard and his appearance was awaited.

Speaking of ranking, there is a word used in the psychology of crowd behavior called “rankism”.  It’s not related to the slang word, “rank”, which means “foul smelling”.  This word is an assertion of superiority.  By saying the words, “This is the Christ”, the second group may be saying to the first group, “You have no idea what you are talking about.  This man is much greater than who you think He is.  He’s the Christ.”  By raising Jesus to a higher position, they may be rebuking the other group in the hope of making them feel ashamed for making their statement.  At the same time, they would also be asserting their own superior discernment.  We don’t know for sure, but the argument it is causing points to that motive.  Neither this group, nor the previous group, has the insight and personal commitment to Jesus Christ to make such authoritative statements about Him.  Proverbs 13:10 says, “By pride comes nothing but strife” (NKJV).

Have you ever argued with someone only to discover that you were actually in agreement?  Your use of terms and their meanings, your voice tones and your attitudes kept you from focusing on the content of your claims and working together to solve the disagreement.  There is a question I asked earlier in this sermon and I haven’t answered it yet.  That question is:  “Who is the Prophet?”  It is my conviction that the Prophet foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15, and the Christ are the same Person.  Jesus is described in the Scriptures as both prophet, priest, and king.  I guess the saying is true in the case of these Jews:  “Don’t confuse me with facts.  My mind is made up!”

Arguments occur, not only between people, but also between countries.  Years ago, a large statue of Christ was erected high in the Andes mountains between Argentina and Chile.  It was named “Christ of the Andes”, and it symbolized a pledge between those two countries.  For as long as the statue stands, there would be peace between Argentina and Chile, and there would be no more border disputes.  Shortly after the statue was erected, the Chileans began to protest that they had been slighted – the statue had its back turned to Chile.  Just when tempers were at their highest in Chile, a Chilean newspaperman saved the day.  In an editorial that not only satisfied the people but also made them laugh, he simply said, “The people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans.”  (Bits and Pieces, June 25, 1992)

III.  ANOTHER REACTION:  THE USE OF FALSE EVIDENCE (verses 41b-42)

A third group enters the argument using these words, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He?  Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”  The reference is probably to Micah’s prophesy in Micah 5:2.  This group may be composed mainly of local residents because they know where Jesus is presently living.  Their form of argument is sometimes called the “strawman” argument, and it is used often to try to convince people to take their side in an argument.    These Jews have directed the focus of the conversation away from the Person of Jesus Christ and are basing their argument on where He was born.  They have created a “straw man” because the details they are giving about Jesus are untrue since they are based on false assumptions.  Just because a person lives in a particular town as an adult doesn’t mean that he was born there.  If their claims about Jesus were investigated, they would fall to pieces like straw.  The purpose of such an argument is not to communicate truth but to win the argument by making the opposing arguments appear to be ridiculous in the light of their “evidence”.  Someone has said:  “You can come up with an excuse for anything you don’t want to believe.”  It’s like the story of the farmer who asked his neighbor if he could borrow a rope. 
“Sorry,” said the neighbor.  “I’m using my rope to tie up my milk.” 
“Rope can’t tie up milk.”
“I know,” replied the neighbor, “but when a man doesn’t want to do something,
one reason is as good as another.” 

This passage of Scripture gives us a picture of strife.  It is no longer a difference of opinion.  The dust is now flying.   Voices are getting louder.  Accusations and threats are being made.  Pointing of the finger has progressed to nudging or pushing one another.  The argument keeps on going because everyone wants the last word, the final say.  The focus of contention has now become directed inward – upon one another rather than Jesus.  Can you relate to this description?  Have you seen something like this happen from your own personal experience?  Have you read about it or watched it on the television?  It’s happening all the time, isn’t it?

IV.  THE AFTERMATH (verses 43-44)

Let’s see what happens next.  Verse 43 says, “So there arose a division in the multitude because of Him.”  The argument isn’t over yet.  The people are taking sides on the issue and the shouting contest must be getting louder.  The Greek word translated “division” carries the meaning of “dividing into parts” or “breaking into pieces”.  I personally think that the pilgrim Jews wouldn’t have turned this into such an argument.  They were questioning Christ’s identity out of ignorance and a desire to know the truth about Him.  I think they may have allowed the differences of opinion between them if it had not been for the negative response of the Jewish leaders, the scribes, and Pharisees in verse 42.  They have been trying to kill Jesus since the beginning of His public ministry, and they don’t want this crowd’s discussion to lead them to believe in Him and follow Him.  The Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews, is becoming more united in their opposition to Jesus with each new exposure to Him.  Verse 44 says, “Some wanted to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him.”  They wanted to take Him by force, arrest Him, and kill Him.  But it was not yet His appointed time to die, and God restrained them.  

CONCLUSION:

This passage of Scripture has been a true example from the life of Christ, showing how contention begins, and the ways in which it is handled.  As we’ve observed, some people choose not to disagree agreeably.  Proverbs 13:10, which I quoted earlier in this message says, “Only by pride comes contention.”  Pride is not the leading cause of contention.  It is the only cause of contention.  The second half of Proverbs 13:10 says, “but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”  To disagree well, we must first understand well.  This involves listening, seeking to understand, and reconsidering, in the hope of removing the source of contention and bringing new understanding and peace of mind and heart.  Listening and reconsidering are rare commodities in this world today.  Maybe it’s because they are the outward evidences of humility.   Solomon also adds another bit of advice in Ecclesiastes 7:9, saying, “Do not be eager to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.”  

Do you personally have disagreements about Jesus Christ – His identity, His teachings, His purposes and His accomplishments?  Unlike the people in that crowd, we have the whole story.  It’s written in the Bible.  Would you be willing to lay aside your views and seek to understand the Bible by reading it with an open mind and a desire to know the truth.  You will find, as I did, that your conceptions of Christ will change as your knowledge of the Bible increases.  The proper response to Jesus Christ is that of faith, worship, and joyful obedience.

 CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Welcome to another construction site:  John 7:40-44.  In this passage of Scripture we have put together the makings for an argument.  The building materials used are controversial, the builders are disagreeable, the blueprint is questionable, but the finished product will be predictable.  

Please come again, and invite your friends to take a walk around the block.

 

 

FANNY CROSBY — The Woman Behind the Hymns

blind hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby, hymn-writer, Uncategorized

Most of us are familiar with the name, Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn-writer who wrote over 8000 hymns.  What picture comes to your mind when you think of that name?  Do you see a quiet woman with a solemn look on her face, sitting in a chair and dictating the words to hymns to a staff member at the care facility?  If that’s the picture that comes to your mind, you’re looking at the wrong Fanny Crosby!  My eyes were opened as I studied about this woman that I admire so much for her songs.  Now I admire her even more as I see her life and her character more clearly.  So I’d like to share some of those findings with you.

Life didn’t get off to an easy start for Fanny and her family.  She lost the sight in both eyes at six weeks of age, and her father died that same year.  Her mother had to work as a maid in order to support the family, so Fanny’s grandmother, Eunice, took care of her during the day, and the bond between them became very close.  Eunice would take Fanny for walks and sit with her outside, describing to her in great detail all the things she saw.  She also read and explained the Bible to her.  Their landlady, Mrs. Hawley, helped Fanny memorize the Bible.  With their help she memorized whole books of the Bible!

Fanny never considered herself handicapped.  She played with the other kids and was able to do many of the things they did.  Her cheerful disposition won her many friends.  At the age of eight, she composed this short poem:

Oh, what a happy child I am, although i cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be!
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t!
So weep or sigh because I’m blind, I cannot – nor I won’t!

That has been the motto of her life, and she continued to maintain that positive attitude.  One of the blessings God gave to her was an amazing memory.  By the time she was twelve, she had memorized the first five books of the Old Testament, all four of the Gospels, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon, as well as many of the Psalms.  She was going to put that ability and that information to good use very soon.  Her prayers for a formal education were answered when she was accepted as a student at the New York Institute for the Blind, where her poetic abilities were eventually encouraged.

Let’s turn our focus away from biographical details and look at how God has used this lady, and the impact she has had on many lives.  Historians tell us that Fanny Crosby has written the words to over 8000 hymns in her lifetime, as well as many other secular songs of that time and several books of poetry.  How can you grasp the enormity of 8000 hymns?  How do you conceptualize 8000 hymns?  One writer gives the following illustration:  “Take 15 hymnals [or hardback books about 1″ thick] and stack them up.  Now visualize a hymn on both sides of every page in those 15 books.  That’s about 8000 songs!”  Isn’t that mind-boggling?  It’s even more amazing when you realize that she didn’t start writing hymns for publication until she was 44 years old!  She said, “I liked to write songs that made people want to ask Jesus into their hearts.”  Her hymns were aimed at bringing the message of the Gospel to people who would not listen to preaching.  Sometimes she would write as many as seven of them in a day.  Whenever she wrote a hymn, she prayed that God would use it to lead many souls to Himself.  Many of those hymns have some interesting stories behind them if you would care to look into them further.  One of the statements she made was, “It is not enough to have a song on your lips,  You must also have a song in your heart.”

But Fanny Crosby was much more than a hymn writer.  Her desire was to serve her Lord in every possible way that she could.  She not only believed the things she wrote; she also lived the things she wrote.  While a student, and later a teacher at the New York School for the Blind, she wrote poems for presidents, governors, and others in positions of authority in our country.  Friendships developed and at the age of 23, she was given the honor of being the first woman to speak in the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C.  She was there lobbying for the education of the blind.

Fanny Crosby and her husband, Alexander Van Alstyne, chose to live in a small apartment in Manhattan’s Lower Eastside so that they could give the rest of their money to benefit the poor and needy.  She also crocheted and knitted many clothing items for the rescue missions   Ladies, try doing that with your eyes closed, from start to finish!  After she resigned from her teaching position, Fanny loved to go to the nearby rescue missions and hold services.  She played the piano, organ, guitar, and harp.  She also had a beautiful soprano voice.  Many referred to her as “The Songbird in the Dark”, not only because of her blindness, but because she announced the light of Christ in the midst of their spiritual darkness and emptiness.

One night a week she would go to the New York City Bowery Mission to talk to “her boys”.  On a particular night, while speaking to them, she kept having the thought that there was a boy present who had wandered away from his mother and must be rescued that night, or he would be eternally lost.  She made a plea to each boy that was there that night.  At the end of the service, an 18-year-old boy came forward and said, “Do you mean me, Miss Crosby?  I promised my mother to meet her in Heaven, but as I am now living, that will be impossible.”  She prayed with him and led him to Christ.  As they finished, he said, “Now I am ready to meet my mother in Heaven, for now I have found God!”  Fanny went home that night and wrote the words to the hymn, “Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying.”

I like her philosophy of daily living — it’s very poetic and enthusiastic.  Here are her words:  “Live for the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”  Isn’t that a wonderful perspective and lesson for us all?  She followed her own advice!  On her 92nd birthday, she said cheerfully, “If in all the world you can find a happier person than I am, do bring him to me.  I would like to shake his hand.”

Fanny continued to be active with speaking engagements and ministry to the poor until her death in 1915.  Her hymns continue to draw unbelievers to Christ and provide comfort and encouragement to believers.  Evangelist Billy Graham said, “Fanny Crosby, her spirit aglow with faith in Christ, saw more with sightless eyes than most of us do with normal vision.  She could have spent her life in bitterness and defeat, but she chose to give her life to Christ to be used by Him. . . .  We may never have had the songs of Fanny Crosby if she had not been afflicted with blindness.”

All of us have, or have had circumstances in life that have dragged us down, or could have dragged us down, haven’t we?  It is when we are going through the trials and difficulties of life that we are drawn closer to the Lord and can have the most effective witness before the world.  Many people were drawn to Fanny Crosby because of the difference between her physical disability and her spiritual and social vibrancy and enthusiasm.  I’ve shared a quote in a previous sermon.  It has been stated in many different ways by many different people.  I’m sharing it again because Fanny Crosby is a prime example of it’s application to her life.  “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the ways you can, for as long as you can.”  That was her desire, her prayer, and her daily practice.  It can be ours also by the grace and power of God.

The first stanza and chorus of her hymn, “I Shall Know Him”, describes the longing in her heart and the bright future that awaited her.

When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see.
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand!
I shall know Him, I shall know Him 
By the print of the nails in His hand.

If you would like to hear the whole hymn, sung beautifully by Bernie and Carol Paulson, you can either type the words:  “my savior first of all – bernie and carol paulson” into your web browser and their youtube site should be at the top of the first page. Or you can simply click the following link and it will take you directly to the site:  https://youtube.com/watch?v=st1EOejvcb0

May God ignite our hearts and set our lives aglow as we seek to follow her example of love for God and for others.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED