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. 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 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) 

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  a work-in-progress

Welcome to this recently-opened construction project:  John 8:12-20.  Now that you know the location, you are welcome to join in on the work right along with me.  There’s always a need for more construction workers, and working in God’s Word is a labor of love.

 

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

Bible, Bible exposition, Bible sermons, Gospel of John, 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 offence 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 are 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 he 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 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

critical spirit, criticism, 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

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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, 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.

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

A THIRST-QUENCHING INVITATION — John 7:37-39

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INTRODUCTION:

Have you ever been thirsty?  We’ve all had that experience, haven’t we?  For some of us, it may occur on a daily basis, or even several times a day.  The feeling is not in your imagination.  God has given us a sense of physical thirst to let us know when our bodies need water because water is essential to human life.  Medical authorities tell us that an adult person needs about three quarts of water a day in order to operate efficiently.  Some of us need more than that amount because of strenuous work, hot climate, or other personal reasons.  Water breaks up and softens the food we eat.  Our blood, which is 90% water, carries the nutrients of that food to all the cells in our body.  Water regulates our body’s temperature through perspiration.  Without it’s lubricating qualities, our joints in our bodies would creak like an old, rusty gate.  Crrrreeeek!!!  I don’t like the sound of that! It probably feels worse than it sounds!

In this passage of Scripture, John 7:37-39, the Lord Jesus is going to be making it known to the crowd that, just as water is necessary for physical life, in the same way He and His words provide what is necessary for spiritual life.

I.  THE INVITATION (verse 37)

It’s the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or Booths), and verse 37 refers to it as the “great day of the feast.”  It was a very special and solemn day.  The priests would march around the altar chanting Psalm 118:25 which says, “O Lord, do save, we beseech Thee; O Lord, do send prosperity.”  This would be the last morning that the priests and the people would go in procession and draw water from the pool of Siloam and place it in a gold pitcher.  During the procession the people recited Isaiah 12:3, which says, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  When they returned, the priest would pour out the water at the side of the altar in the temple.  This act symbolized the event in Exodus 17 where God caused the water to gush forth from the rock when Moses struck it with his staff, and the people’s thirst was satisfied.

This ceremony was not given to Moses in the Law of the feasts.  It was not commanded by God, but was added later by the religious leaders, and drew the people’s attention away from the real meaning of the feast.  The drawing of the water could not satisfy the spiritual thirst of these people.  Only God could satisfy their deepest needs.

Thousands of worshipers were inside the temple at that moment.  Can I be more specific?  Historians tell us there were over one-hundred thousand men there in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles.  Of those, how many men could fit into the temple that Herod built?  I’ve read that ten thousand people could be in the temple at one time with a comfortable distance between one another, and the temple could easily hold twice that many people for a service such as this.  That’s a lot of people, with thousands more outside watching the procession and listening to the ceremony!

It may have been right after this ceremony was over that Jesus shouts, as loudly as He can, to everyone within ear-shot of His words.  He begins by shouting an invitation:  “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”  That action on His part must have startled many people, especially the ones closest to Him.  Many must have considered those words, spoken in that manner, to be a rude interruption.  But Jesus secured their attention and thousands of people in that temple who were within “shouting distance” heard the words He uttered.

IS LOUDNESS AN ATTENTION–GETTER?

Did I get your attention?  That’s about as close as I can get to being LOUD on this page without taking up too much space.  Loudness of voice is a way of gaining attention, isn’t it?  But now you have to keep the attention of your audience once you’ve gained it.  Jesus does so by relating His words closely to the ceremony that has just been enacted before their eyes, and to the words that were said by the priests and by the people. He said, “If any man is thirsty”.  The Greek word, dipsos, expresses a passionate longing for something without which one cannot live.  In the hot, arid region of Palestine, the people knew the full meaning of physical thirst  Jesus is speaking here of a spiritual thirst, not a physical thirst for water; and His invitation is offered to all who sense their need for salvation.  He’s reminding them of the Father’s promise in Isaiah 55:1, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters.” There is also the prayer of King David:  “O God, you are my God; my soul thirsts for you, my body yearns for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).  Jesus is holding their attention by bringing familiar Scriptures to their minds, and applying those Scriptures to Himself.

If you look at the two Scripture passages I mentioned earlier [Psalm 118:25 and Isaiah 12:3], you will observe that they both speak about spiritual salvation, yet the priests and the people have been applying those Scriptures to the provision of physical water.  The Lord Jesus extends the invitation when He says, “let him come to me and drink.”  He’s inviting each one of them to personally come to Him, their Messiah, and He will satisfy the spiritual needs of their thirsty souls.  He is the only One who can satisfy that thirst, and His supply is never-ending.  Why would anyone want to refuse such an invitation?  Can you think of some reasons?  Maybe you’ve used some of them yourself in the past.

Those words of Jesus were also a partial-fulfillment, or reminder of the words of the prophet Haggai, spoken over 500 years earlier (Haggai 2:1-7).  On the very same day  [the twenty-first day of the seventh month, which is the seventh day of the feast of Tabernacles], God spoke these words of encouragement to the remnant of His people as they began the work of rebuilding the temple:

“. . . ‘And I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations
         and I will fill this house with glory’, says the Lord of Hosts.”  (Haggai 2:7)             

God is referring to a different temple that will be built on the very same spot where Solomon built the temple in I Kings 6.  The author of Hebrews records those same words spoken by Haggai, and applies them to Jesus Christ when He returns to reign as King (Hebrews 12:26-29).  The Jews listening to Jesus, here in verse 37, were looking forward to the fulfillment of that prophesy, and Jesus is giving them a “sneak preview” of what’s to come.  The day is coming when He will be in that temple in all His glory, and will be surrounded by people from all nations of the world who have come, not just to listen to Him, but to worship Him.

II.  THE PARTICIPATION (verse 38)

In verse 38, Jesus’ description gets even better and more amazing.  He says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture says, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  Jesus is describing to them the salvation experience:  “thirst” . . . “come to Me” . . . “believe” . . . and an “overflowing heart”.  What does He mean when He says, “come to Me” in verse 37?  It’s an act of the will, isn’t it?  It’s a recognition of one’s need and helplessness.  It’s an expression of trust.  It’s a change of direction.  The word “drink”, in verse 37, becomes the word “believe” here in verse 38.  We are coming in obedience to His calling, acknowledging our total dependence on Him, and yielding to His control over our lives.  It is a gift given from the only true source of supply.

As a result of that coming to Him by faith, Jesus says that “out of his mouth will flow rivers of living water.”  When the Spirit of God enters our lives, He changes our hearts.  That “living water” is described as a river of water being fed by an overflowing spring of clear, clean, cool, refreshing water.”  God saves us and fills us with His Spirit so that our lives might overflow as a witness to others of the saving power of Jesus Christ.

Henry G. Bosch shared a true story of an amputee soul-winner in Melbourne, Australia who has had a remarkable ministry.  A pastor who visited this woman writes,  “When this girl was 18, she was seized with a dreadful affliction and the doctor said that, to save her life, he must take off her foot.  Next the other foot was removed.  The disease continued to spread, and her legs had to be amputated at the hips.  Then the malady broke out in her hands.  And by the time I saw Miss Higgins, all that remained of her was the trunk of her body.  For 15 years now she has been in that condition.  I went to offer comfort, but I did not know how to speak to her or what to say.  I found the walls of her room covered with texts, all of them radiating joy, and peace, and power.  She explained that one day, while lying in bed, she inquired of the Lord what a total amputee could possibly do for Him.  Then an inspiration came to her.  Calling a friend of hers, who was a carpenter, she had him construct a device to fit her shoulder, and attach to it an extension holding a fountain pen.  Then she began to write letters witnessing to the grace of God.  She had to do it entirely with body movement, yet her penmanship was beautiful.  She has now received over 15 hundred replies from individuals who have been brought to Christ through the letters she produced in that way.”

The preacher asked her, “How do you do it?” and she replied, “You know Jesus said of His own that out of them ‘shall flow rivers of living water.’  I believe in Him, and He has helped me to overflow to others.”

Imagine in your mind a river that is flowing from a huge fountain of spring water.  What thoughts come to your mind when you think of such a river, or when you watch a river flowing?  In 1927, Jerome Kern wrote the music to a song, and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics.  It became one of the songs for the musical, “Showboat”.  The song is “Ol’ Man River”, and here are a few words from the chorus of that song:

 Ol’ man river
Dat ol’ man river
He mus’ know somepin’
But don’t say nuthin’,
He jes keeps rollin’
He keeps on rollin’ along.

As he describes the Mississippi River, he’s pointing out that it is constant.  It’s been around a long time and it has never stopped flowing.  The Lord Jesus is telling the people that those who believe in Him will become like “rivers of living water” spiritually, overflowing with the knowledge and the joy of their salvation, and spilling that crystal-clear, life-giving water onto others through their witness and testimonies.  The gospel will be a constant and abundant supply of blessing for them and for the world around them.

III.  THE EXPLANATION (verse 39)

In verse 39, the apostle John tells us how this amazing transformation is going to come about.  He uses the following words to tell us who is going to orchestrate this event:  “But this He spoke of the Spirit”.  It was the Holy Spirit of God who was going to empower and transform lives.  He would be the source of the “rivers of living water”.  The Holy Spirit is the One “whom those who believed in Him would receive.”  He’s explaining this to his readers because this concept was beyond the understanding of the disciples at that point in time.  Jesus’ disciples knew that the Spirit of God has been active in creation, speaking through the prophets, empowering His people, and coming upon certain individuals for a period of time.  But this was something new.  Each believer in Jesus Christ would receive the Holy Spirit when he believed.  The Lord Jesus will be saying this to them several times in the weeks ahead (Jn. 14:16-18; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15).  It’s not a concept that’s easy for them to grasp.  How is the Spirit of God going to accomplish this amazing feat in the lives of believers?  Evangelist D.L. Moody gave an illustration that may be helpful in answering that question.  Speaking to a large audience, Mr. Moody held up a glass and asked:  How can I get the air out of this glass?”  One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!”  Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and break the glass.”  After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass.  “There”, he said, “all the air is now removed.”  He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking the sins out of our lives” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

I’m sure His disciples were wondering when this transformation was going to occur, or whether it happened already.  Therefore John ends the verse by saying, “for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  As the apostle John writes this Gospel, he’s looking back about 50 years in the past, and now he understands those words of Jesus concerning His own glorification and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit had not yet been given to all believers because Christ had not yet been glorified.  When we think of the word “glorified”, we tend to think of something that happens in heaven, or that happened to Christ at His resurrection and ascension.  However, the Bible teaches that Jesus was also glorified in His death.  When He was arrested, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified” (John. 12:23; 13:31).  After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the Holy Spirit would be sent, and the lives of Jesus’ followers would be changed forever.

CONCLUSION:

Are you thirsting for meaning and purpose in life?  Are you sometimes frustrated because your life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and you don’t know how it’s going to end?  Have you found that trying to please yourself and draw attention to yourself didn’t really bring you self-satisfaction?  Even if you’re a very kind and generous person, there is still something that you can’t give because you’ve never received it.  Have you finally come to the conclusion that something is missing from your life and you don’t know for sure what it is?  I hope, for your sake, that you’ve come to that point because, until you do, your deepest need will remain unmet, and your greatest joy remains unfulfilled.

There is a physical abnormality or condition called “adipsia”.  The word means “without thirst”.  The portion of the brain that controls thirst is not functioning for one reason or another  If untreated, it can lead to dehydration and eventually to death.  There are many in this world who have chosen to suffer from spiritual adipsia by ignoring or refusing to acknowledge their inner-thirst for God.   Please don’t continue in your spiritually-dehydrated condition.  You’re heading down the road to the place where your condition will change drastically:  you will always be thirsty, and that thirst will never be quenched – forever.

Fellow Christians, do our lives cause others around us to thirst for what we have?   Are we controlled by the Spirit of God and manifesting the fruit of the Spirit of God [love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control]? Let’s thoroughly enjoy the spiritual oasis we possess in this dry and weary land, and extend the invitation to others!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

A PATH TO FRUSTRATION — John 7:31-36

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INTRODUCTION:

Two men were in a railroad station at midnight.  [Keep that time in mind].  The men were discussing the difference between irritation, aggravation, and frustration.  They couldn’t agree.  One of them finally said, “I’ll show you the difference.”  He went to the phone booth, circled a number in the phone book and called it.  After ringing and ringing, it was finally answered.  “Is Ned there?”  “NO!  There’s no Ned here,” and the phone was slammed down.  “That’s irritation,” he said to his friend.  After 20 minutes he called again.  The phone rang and rang.  Finally someone answered and the man asked again, “Is Ned there?”  The answer came back, “There is no Ned here!  I told you before!”  SLAM.  “That’s aggravation”, he said to his partner.  Another 20 minutes went by, and the man said, “Now I’ll show you frustration,” and he made another call.  Finally the phone was answered, “I told you before, there’s no Ned here!!!”  “But this is Ned — any messages for me?”

If I was the man who was receiving those phone calls, I’d unplug or turn off my phone for the rest of the night, and then I would probably have a hard time getting back to sleep again.  How about you?

You may have heard that story before, but I think it describes the situation in the passage of Scripture we are now studying:  John 7:31-36.  The leaders of the Jews are already irritated and aggravated by the words and actions of the Lord Jesus, and they are soon going to become frustrated as well.  Let’s see what happens next.

I.  RESPONSE FROM THE CROWD (verse 31)

Verse 31 begins with the words, “But many of the multitude believed in Him;”.  Who would the “many” consist of?  It wasn’t the people of Jerusalem.  They had already expressed their feelings about Him, and they ignored the evidence and sided with the Pharisees and the rulers who were against Him.  The apostle John must be referring to the pilgrims — the Jews who lived outside the nation of Israel and who had traveled a great distance to attend the feast.  What would cause them to believe in Jesus when they hardly knew Him?  This festival may have been their first opportunity to come in contact with Him.  The rest of verse 31 gives the answer:  “and they were saying, ‘When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He’?”  They are saying that they believed because of the miracles He performed.  But Jesus didn’t perform any miracles during the feast, did He?  No, John doesn’t record any miracles during the feast.  But don’t forget that many of these pilgrims have been in town for several weeks, living in their own “tent city” on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  They composed most of the crowd that followed Jesus, watched Him heal the lame and the sick (John 6:1-2), and ate the loaves and fish that fed 5000 people (John 6:9-11).  They are saying to each other — “after all the miracles we’ve seen, how can He not be the Messiah?”  Jesus’ miracles may not seem like the best and strongest basis for one’s faith, but miracle-faith is good enough.  Remember when John the Baptist had his doubts about whether Jesus was the Messiah?  He sent messengers to Jesus to find out if He was the One.  In Matthew 11:4-6, Jesus said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see; the blind receive sight, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.”  He chose to describe His miracles to them as part of the proof that He was indeed the Messiah.  By saying those words, the Lord Jesus was also fulfilling prophecy.

The Jews knew the Messianic texts in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  They were eagerly awaiting their Messiah.  One of those texts is Isaiah 35:4-6, which says,
“Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not.  Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, but He will save you.’  Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.  Then the lame will leap like a deer,  And the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy.”  This prophecy had been fulfilled before their eyes, and many realized it’s fulfillment.  Rather than conform to the leaders and the Jews living in Jerusalem, and believe what they were told to believe, many of the Jews living outside of the nation of Israel decided to believe what they saw and heard, and the words of the prophet Isaiah.

II.  A TIME OF DISCUSSION (verse 32)

There’s muttering or murmuring going on again, similar to what happened among the Jerusalem Jews in verse 12, but this time it’s different.  Verse 32 reads, “The Pharisees heard the multitude muttering these things about Him; and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.”  These Jews weren’t speaking against Jesus, but were agreeing with one another concerning Jesus’ qualifications.  They were supporting one another’s conclusions based upon the evidence.  Verse 31 has already told us that many of these Jews believed in Jesus, and the number was growing as they discussed Him among themselves.

The Pharisees knew that these Jews were becoming convinced of the claims of Jesus so they made haste to send for the officers.  They wanted to remove Jesus from the scene and disperse the people.  In their frustration, they didn’t know what else to do, so they decided to join forces with the chief priests because they are the ones in the positions of power.

III.  A WORD OF WARNING (verses 33-34)

When the officers of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews, arrive on the scene, the Lord Jesus has some words of warning for them and for the crowd around Him.  In verse 33, Jesus says, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent me.”  Notice that Jesus has now changed the topic of His conversation from where He came from to where He is going.  He’s continuing the conversation where He left off in verses 28-29, where He told them that He was sent on a mission.  Now He’s telling them that His mission will be accomplished soon and He’ll be going back to the One who sent Him.  The completion of His mission is only about six months away.  His mission is not impossible, but it is unfathomable — too amazing and wonderful for mankind to completely comprehend.

What Jesus says to them next, requires some explanation so that it is not misunderstood.  Jesus continues by saying, in verse 34, “You shall seek Me, and shall not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.”  He is not rebuking nor condemning them by the use of those words.  If you combine verses 33 and 34, you will find that Jesus is giving them a deadline and urging them to respond to Him by acknowledging Him as their Messiah and following Him before He returns to His Heavenly Father.  I’m reminded of some of the end-of-summer sales that appear in the newspapers and in the mail in September and October.  They say something like this:  “Now is your last chance to take advantage of these end-of-summer deals.  Soon this merchandise will be taken off the shelves to make way for winter fashions, and you won’t see these items again until next summer.”  These stores are doing their customers a favor by letting them know this information and giving them one last chance to purchase the things they like.

The Lord Jesus is also doing His listeners a favor.  His motivation is that of loving concern for them.  Psalm 55 is one of the Messianic psalms, so everyone within the sound of Jesus’ voice is familiar with it.  Verse 6 of Psalm 55 says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.”  That was their first warning, so you might say that Jesus is giving them a second warning.  At that moment in history, Jesus had been found by them, and He was standing in their presence.  How much nearer can you get?

With that information in mind, let’s take another look at verse 34. But first, let’s look at Matthew 23:37-39 because I think it’s the key to unlocking our understanding of John 7:34.  Jesus laments [expresses His sorrow] over Jerusalem, saying, “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.  Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!  For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ” Jesus is telling them, “When you say those words, you’ll be saying them to Me upon My return, because I am the Messiah.  He and I are the same Person.”  With those words, and the previous information in mind, let’s examine Jesus’ words in verse 34.

Jesus is speaking about the future when He says, “You will seek Me and not find Me”.  He’s saying, “After I go back to the One who sent Me, you are going to continue to  seek after the Messiah and you are not going to find your Messiah because He and I are the same Person.  He finishes His conversation by saying, “and where I am you cannot come”.  Since they have rejected their Messiah, they can’t go where He is going.  I believe that Jesus deliberately chose those words in order to cause anger, confusion and frustration to fill their minds because of their unbelief.

Jennice Vilhauer wrote an article in Psychology Today magazine and shared some observations about anger and frustration.  She said, “The majority of the anger and frustration we experience in life occurs when we encounter someone who is not playing by our rules. . . . When things aren’t going our way, we can start to feel that we are losing our sense of control.”  That’s a good description of what is happening in this encounter between Jesus and the leaders of the Jews.  In verses 35 and 36 we’ll see what happens next.

IV.  THEIR RESPONSE (verses 35-36)

Verse 35 reveals the following reaction on the part of the Jews:  “Then the Jews said among themselves, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find Him?  He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks, is He?’ ”  Why didn’t they ask Jesus those questions?  He would have given them clear and honest answers.   How can they call themselves “teachers” and yet not be “learners”?  You might think that they were too proud to ask, and there is certainly truth in that thought.  But the real reason is their stubborn refusal to believe that Jesus is who He claims to be, in spite of everything they have seen and heard.  As they talked among one another, the best excuse they could come up with was that Jesus was going to go on a missionary journey to all the countries where the Jews had been scattered throughout the Roman empire, where the Greek language was spoken, and that He was never coming back.  It’s such a poor excuse in their own minds that they ask themselves the question again in verse 36 to see if they can come with a better one!  The Jews are completely frustrated as their conversation ends.  Jesus says nothing because their questions weren’t directed toward Him.  In fact, He may not have even heard their words clearly.  I presume that they didn’t even want Jesus to hear what they were saying.

The question is still in their minds and on their lips:  “How could He go somewhere they could not go.”  It didn’t fit within their own personal rule books of the way things should happen, and how they themselves should be treated.  The conversation abruptly ends there, and the next verse begins on the following day and in a different situation.  The leaders are left with some time to cool down their emotions, collect their thoughts, and get a restless night’s sleep before the next confrontation.

CONCLUSION:

These Jews seem to have forgotten, or ignored the words of the prophet Isaiah, who said, “Seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6).  In contrast to His words to the Jews, Jesus later says to His disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also”  (John 14:3).  Jesus will make that possible through His own death and resurrection, and available to all who believe in Him and follow Him.

John 7:31-36 has been another study in contrasts.  On the one hand we have the pilgrim Jews, many of whom have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, refusing to conform to the Jewish leaders and the Jerusalem Jews, and now their lives are filled with joy because they have found their Messiah.  On the other hand we have the local Jews who are unwilling to believe, and are struggling to find more excuses.  Augustine of Hippo, one of the early-church fathers, made this statement:  “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”

The Lord Jesus is asking each of us today, “Are you with Me?”  If you’ve chosen to believe in Him and follow Him, you’ll be with Him forever.  The joy will never end, and you have the privilege of sharing that good news with others  If you’re not with Him, is it worth the frustration and all the excuses?  Don’t put it off until you “cannot come” — forever.  That is the ultimate in frustration!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

While you’re here, you’re welcome to visit other sermons on this blog site.  I’ll be starting another construction site next door as soon as I put together an introduction. 

DO YOU REALLY KNOW ME? – John 7:25-30

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INTRODUCTION:

The agony of defeat!  Do those words bring back memories from the past?  Has a personal defeat or the defeat of your favorite team ever left you speechless for a few moments?  Did you feel shocked, drained emotionally, and at a loss for words?  We’ve all experienced times like that, haven’t we?  You don’t feel like saying anything, and even if you did, you don’t know what you would say.  You’re still trying to process it through your brain so that you can decide what to say and do next.  Recently, on June 22nd of this year, one of Argentina’s leading sportscasters, held a minute of silence after their national soccer team was defeated decisively by Croatia, with a final score of 3-0.  It was one of those occasions!

The passage of Scripture we are now studying, John 7:25-30, begins on a similar note.  After being defeated by Jesus’ arguments in verses 19-24, all is quiet on the Jerusalem front . . . too quiet!  Jesus continues to teach in the temple and the rulers of the Jews are doing nothing to stop Him.  These rulers who have been trying to kill Him, are now standing there quietly, taking it all in.  What’s going on?  The people of Jerusalem are trying to come up with an explanation for this phenomenon.  That’s the scene as we begin our study of John 7:25-30.

I.  THE PEOPLE EXPRESS THEIR THOUGHTS (verses 25-26)

In their amazement and confusion, the people of Jerusalem look at each other and ask themselves, “Could it be?”, or more accurately, “It couldn’t be, could it?”  Here are their words in verses 25-26: ” . . . Is this not the man whom they were seeking to kill?  And look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him.  The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they?”  In their confusion, they are beginning to ask each other, “Is there something the rulers know that we don’t know?”  “Is there something they haven’t told us?”  “They’ve been seeking to kill Him as an impostor; do they now have evidence that proves that He’s really the Messiah?”  They are beginning to come to a conclusion based upon what they see and hear.  But that line of reasoning was very short-lived.  They dismissed that idea in a hurry.  It was an opportunity to reconsider their persuasion about Jesus, and they turned it down.  In verse 27 we learn why they quickly answered their own questions and changed their minds.

II.  THE PEOPLE CHANGE THEIR MINDS (verse 27)

Verse 27 reads, “However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.”  In their minds, Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because they knew where He was from – at least, they thought they knew.  The rulers surmised that Jesus was born in Nazareth because that’s where He grew up.  They didn’t realize, nor did they care to know, that He was actually born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of Micah’s prophesy concerning the birthplace of the Messiah.(Micah 5:2).  Little did they know that, by saying those words about Jesus in verse 27, they were fulfilling prophesy.  The prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and forsaken of men . . . He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”  That’s no way to treat your long-awaited Messiah!

The rest of verse 27 tells us what caused them to change their minds in such a hurry.  They reverted back to what they had been taught.  But there is much more to their comment than just the physical birthplace of Jesus.  They are also referring to the way in which the Messiah is supposed to appear on the scene.  The rabbis taught that the Messiah would make Himself known suddenly and without warning.  A popular belief was that the immediate ancestry of the Messiah would not be known.  In fact, many of them believed that the Messiah Himself wouldn’t know who He was or where He was from.  According to the teaching of the rulers, the Messiah would have no identity nor power until the prophet Elijah suddenly appears and anoints Him as King.  Justin, a second-century writer, received that same response in a conversation with a Jew.  Suddenness was key to their beliefs concerning the coming of the Messiah.  Bible commentators, William Barclay and Leon Morris, both share a popular saying of the rabbis of that day:  “Three things come wholly unexpectedly:  the Messiah, a godsend (or windfall), and a scorpion.”  In spite of all the prophesies of Scripture that the Lord Jesus has already fulfilled by His birth, His life, His words, and His miracles, these inhabitants of Jerusalem would rather stick with sayings and speculations that aren’t even found in the Scriptures.  It almost makes me want to shout, “Surprise!  He’s already here in your presence, and He’s the topic of your conversations!”

III.  JESUS PROCLAIMS HIS TRUE IDENTITY (verses 28-29)

Obviously, Jesus knows what they have been saying to one another about Him because He cries out in a loud voice for everyone in the temple to hear.  We live in an age of microphones, amplifiers and speaker systems, but have you ever said, in a loud voice, “Your attention, please”, or a similar phrase to get everyone to focus their attention on you and what you have to say? That was Jesus’ purpose for raising His voice.  He wanted everyone to hear what He was about to say to them because it was important information.  The Lord Jesus taught in many different areas of the temple.  For example, He taught in the Court of the Gentiles (John 2:13-16 and Luke 19:45-48), Solomon’s Porch (John 10:23), and the Court of the Women (Mark 10:41).  In this case, He was in one of the courtyards of the temple, and the bigger the room and the noisier the crowd, the louder you have to shout, right?  This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last time that He shouts loud enough for all to hear.  In those days the rabbis would sit as they instructed the people, but Jesus stood, as the prophets of the Old Testament stood when they proclaimed what God had revealed to them.   We find an example of this in verse 37.  The Lord Jesus would also be able to project His voice farther from that standing position.

The following are the words spoken by Jesus in verse 28:  “You both know Me and know where I am from, and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent me is true, whom you do not know.”  I wonder whether the first words from His mouth startled the people even more than His loud voice.  He was agreeing with them!  At least, that’s the way it appears when He says, “You both know Me and know where I am from.”  Why would He say that?  Is there any truth to that statement?  Is He being sarcastic?  No, this is all part of His plan as He directs the conversation.  After all, He did grow up in Nazareth as the Son of Mary and Joseph.  That’s all these leaders know about Him, and that’s all they care to know.  Rather than argue with them about His human origin, Jesus reminds them of His heavenly mission.  There’s more to the story than just human geography.  Before He was born, He was sent.  That makes Him greater than the prophets, who were called by God at a specific time in their lives and sent out to proclaim His message, whereas Jesus was sent before He was born.

Once again, the Lord Jesus adjusts the focus of their attention, moving it away from Himself and placing it upon the Sender.  They know that He is talking about God because He has used those words before.  He describes His Heavenly Father with these words:  “He who sent Me is true.”  Wouldn’t that be obvious to His listeners?  The Scriptures describe God as being eternal and unchanging.  But the word “true”, in this instance, has a different meaning.  Jesus is saying that the One who sent Him is “real”. He’s “authentic” and “genuine”.  He’s “worthy of being believed”.  He can be known personally and intimately.  He is worthy of genuine worship and wholehearted obedience.

This revelation about God is followed by a rebuke, as Jesus reveals what’s true concerning His listeners.  After describing the Father who sent Him, Jesus looks around at them and says “whom you do not know”.  He has made that statement several times before and He’ll be saying it again.  They did not know God because they did not know Jesus nor recognize Him as their Messiah.  You can’t know one without the other.  They are inseparable.

In verse 29, Jesus summarizes what He has just said, giving the basis for His knowledge of God.  He says, “I know Him because I am from Him, and He sent me.”  His knowledge [“I know Him”], His origin [“I am from Him”], and His mission [“He sent me”] constitute a strong foundation for His identity as the Messiah, the Son of God.

IV.  THE INITIAL RESPONSE (verse 30)

End of discussion!  Since they couldn’t refute Him, and they refused to believe the words Jesus said about them, verse 30 tells us:  “They were seeking therefore to seize Him.”  The leaders wanted to apprehend Him and take Him into custody so that the people would no longer be able to listen to Him. 

However, there were two obstacles keeping them from accomplishing their desire.  First of all, the nation of Israel was under Roman law, and the only ones who had the authority to arrest someone were the Roman authorities and the Temple authorities.  The other reason why the Jews couldn’t take Jesus into custody at that time is given in the remainder of verse 30 – ” no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.”  The time of His betrayal and arrest was set by the Father, and until then, there was much work to be done.

Why is it so hard to resist revenge or retaliation, even when you’re the one in the wrong?  The problem still exists today.  Psychologists have given a name to this phenomenon.  They call it “cognitive immunization”  The term is used to explain how some people’s minds become immune to reality, and their mistaken beliefs become even stronger in the face of reality or truth.  The Bible speaks of such people as those who have “seared their own conscience as with a branding iron” (I Timothy 4:2).  It’s a matter of personal choice and responsibility.  The following true story teaches a lesson about revenge.

A successful young lawyer in Hungary during the 1950’s was a strong believer in freedom for his country.  When the uprising failed, he was forced to flee the country.  He arrived in the U.S. with no money, no job, and no friends.  He was, however, well-educated; he spoke and wrote several languages, including English.  For several months he tried to get a job in a law office, but because of his lack of familiarity with American law, he received only polite refusals.

Finally, it occurred to him that with his knowledge of language he might be able to get a job with an import-export company.  He selected one such company and wrote a letter to the owner.  Two weeks later he received an answer, but was hardly prepared for the vindictiveness of the man’s reply.  Among other things, it said that even if they did need someone, they wouldn’t hire him because he couldn’t even write good English.

Crushed, this young lawyer’s hurt quickly turned to anger.  What right did this rude, arrogant man have to tell him that he couldn’t write the language!  The man was obviously crude and uneducated — his letter was chock-full of grammatical errors!  So he sat down and, in the white heat of anger, wrote a scathing reply, calculated to rip the man to shreds.  When he’d finished, however, as he was reading it over, his anger began to drain away.  Then he remembered the Bible verse, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.”

No, he wouldn’t mail the letter.  Maybe the man was right.  English was not his native tongue.  Maybe he did need further study in it.  Possibly this man had done him a favor by making him realize he did need to work harder on perfecting his English.  He tore up the letter and wrote another.  This time he apologized for the previous letter, explained his situation, and thanked the man for pointing out his need for further study.

Two days later he received a phone call inviting him to New York for an interview.  A week later he went to work for them as a correspondent.  Later, he became vice president and executive officer of the company, destined to succeed the man he had hated and sought revenge against for a fleeting moment — and then resisted.

CONCLUSION:

Life is filled with choices, isn’t it?  Most of those choices have a reason and a motive behind them.  Some of our choices can have long-lasting effects, as that illustration pointed out.  The only choice in this life that will change the direction of our lives for eternity is the personal choice to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, and follow Him.   In verse 28, after describing His relationship to His heavenly Father, He looked around at His listeners and said “whom you do not know”.  Do you know God?  Do you have a personal and intimate relationship with Him?  That’s not possible without knowing and following the One whom He has sent.  This is an opportunity to reconsider your persuasion about Jesus Christ.  Please don’t turn it down.  Don’t respond to the truths of God’s Word with anger, hatred, or excuses.  Resist that urge.  Tear up those thoughts and feelings and start over again.   Let God give you a fresh perspective and a new life as a result of believing in Jesus Christ and following Him.  He will give you peace, joy, and purpose, with no regrets (II Corinthians 5:17).

If you have already made that decision and are now a follower of Christ, with a transformed life and a new purpose for living, share those riches in Christ with those around you.  There is more than enough, and the need is great.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

May God give you insight and draw you closer to Him as you study and apply His Word.

 

 

GOTCHA! – John 7:19-24

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INTRODUCTION:

“Gotcha” is an American slang term that literally means, “I’ve got you”.  It has been used in a number of ways.  Many of us have used that word in a conversation, and we had a specific purpose and meaning in mind.  It can mean “I understand what you are saying”, or “I’ll do what you’ve asked”.  The word is sometimes used in the sense of capturing or apprehending someone, taking someone by surprise, embarrassing or disgracing someone, exposing a person’s mistakes, or proving that the person is wrong.  That’s quite a range of meanings and uses for the word, and that’s not all of them.  Why would I be using the word “gotcha” to describe an event in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Does that choice seem strange to you?  As we study this passage of Scripture, I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not this title is appropriate.

TRANSITION:

As we begin our study of John 7:19-22, let’s imagine the scene at that moment in Jesus’ life.  It’s the week-long Feast of Booths [or Tabernacles].  Jesus arrived unnoticed, went into the temple and began to teach.  A crowd of people has formed around Jesus to listen to Him.  The Jewish religious authorities have arrived, have made their way to the front of the crowd, and are standing in front of Him, making accusations about Him; and Jesus is once again defending His authority.  Meanwhile, the crowd is standing there, watching and listening.

I.  THE ACCUSATION (verse 19a)

In verse 19, there is a change of direction.  Jesus takes the offensive position against them and assumes the control of the conversation.  “Turnabout is fair play”, as the saying goes.  It’s time for Him to examine their words and their actions, and offer His conclusions.  It’s time to bring them back to reality.  He begins His attack by saying, “Did not Moses give you the law”?  They are thinking in their minds, “Of course he did!”  They prided themselves on this, and believed that every violation of the law of Moses was deserving of death.  While they are gloating about their self-righteousness and their exalted position in the eyes of God, Jesus goes on to say yet not one of you carries out the law.” Those are stinging words to His questioners!  These leaders revere Moses and obey his every word – at least they try to give the impression that they do so!  Jesus is telling them, “You’re not carrying out the Law that God gave to Moses.  You’re carrying out your own version of it.  Those aren’t the Sabbath laws that God gave to Moses.  You’ve changed them and added to them to the point where they have become a despicable burden to the people.  It’s no surprise that you reject My teaching because you have rejected Moses’ teaching” (John 5:46-47).

At this point in Jesus’ discussion, it’s important to know the words that Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 31:10-13.  Here are those words:

Then Moses commanded them saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the
time of the year of the remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel
comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose,
you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.  Assemble the people,
the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that
they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe
all the words of this law.” 
[bold print added to emphasize key words]

We aren’t told whether or not this is the seventh year but, if not, Jesus may be alluding to that command to remind the Jewish leaders that, when the people hear the words of the Law being spoken, they will notice many of the differences between the Law of Moses and the teachings they have received from these rabbis.

II.  THE QUESTION (verse 19b)

As further proof of their disobedience to the law of Moses, Jesus asks them a question:  “Why do you seek to kill Me?”  He is saying, “Where does Moses say specifically that I should be killed for healing a person on the Sabbath day over a year ago?  What offenses deserve the death penalty in the law of Moses?  If My healing-miracle is not one of those offenses, then one of the commandments in the law of Moses says, ‘You shall not kill’.  So you’re the ones who are breaking the law of Moses by seeking to kill Me.”

III.  THE CROWD’S RESPONSE (verse 20)

I can imagine that the leaders of the Jews were standing there dumbfounded.  Jesus’ reasoning was too solid.  They weren’t prepared for this, and didn’t know what to say.  The crowd, most of whom were from outlying areas and weren’t familiar with Jesus or with the things He was saying, come to the defense of their leaders.  In verse 20 we read, The multitude answered, “You have a demon!  Who seeks to kill You?”  They weren’t telling Jesus that He was demon possessed.  During that period of time, many Jews believed that all unusual or uncalled for behavior was prompted by the devil.  In this day and age, we might use the words “you’re out of your mind”, “you’re crazy”, or “you’re paranoid”.  They misunderstood Jesus’ words because they didn’t know the history behind them.

IV.  THE QUESTION ANSWERED (verse 21)

I’m sure the leaders were relieved that the crowd directed the attention of Jesus away from them, but it didn’t last for long.  Rather than become distracted by the crowd and direct His conversation toward them in defense of His sanity, Jesus ignores their remark and continues His conversation with the leaders of the Jews, answering His own question.  In verse 21, He says,  “I did one deed and you all marvel.”  The religious authorities were amazed when they learned that Jesus healed, in an instant, a man who had been lame for 38 years, just by saying the words.  It was a miracle that only God could perform.  Yet they wanted to kill Jesus because He performed that miracle on the Sabbath Day.

V.  THE APPLICATION TO CIRCUMCISION (verses 22-23)

In verse 22, we find that the Lord Jesus isn’t finished with His argument.  He is still building His case against them.  This time He applies their Sabbath laws to the rite of circumcision when He says, “On this account Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man.”  First, He corrects their misunderstanding about circumcision.  Moses was not the originator of circumcision.  Before God told Moses to put the command of circumcision into written form in Leviticus 12:3, it had been practiced by “the fathers” (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) over 700 years earlier.  In Genesis 17:10-12, God said to Abraham,“This is the covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you; every male among you shall be circumcised. . . . every male among you who is eight days old.”  Therefore, in obedience to that law, every man-child (male baby) is circumcised on the eighth day, no “if’s”, “and’s”, or “but’s” about it.  There are no exceptions to the rule.  It’s the law, and this ceremonial law even takes precedence over the Sabbath laws.  That was the teaching of the Jewish religious authorities of that day.  However, there were exceptions to that rule.  In the Talmud (the collection of the teachings of the rabbis), it states that, should the baby suffer from an illness, the circumcision is postponed seven days for the sake of the well-being of the infant.  Therefore, the baby’s health is more important than this rite of purification, and this is one of several exceptions in the Talmud.

With that information in mind, Jesus presents His next argument in verse 23, saying, “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath.”  Jesus is saying, “You make exceptions to circumcision on the Sabbath because the health of the child is more important than the strict observance of the Law, so why are you upset because I healed this man completely on the Sabbath?”  He’s telling them that they are contradicting themselves because they say one thing but do another.

There is another argument that isn’t spoken by Jesus, but it’s implied, and all the rabbi’s standing around Him know what that argument is.  As they add this final argument to the ones already stated by Jesus, they realize that they have lost their case and there is nothing to refute.  Are you wondering what that final argument is?  It has to do with one of the teachings of their most famous rabbi, Hillel the Great.  Hillel’s first great law of interpretation was, “The Major may be inferred from the Minor”.  What does that mean?  In this case, circumcision, which was considered to be the ceremonial law of the purification of newborn males) overrides the Sabbath, and health overrides circumcision.  So the Sabbath and circumcision are ‘Minor’ when compared with health.  Thus Jesus’ case against them might be put into these words:  “I did what’s considered ‘Major’ according to your laws and the teachings of your most famous rabbi, when I healed that man completely on the Sabbath, so why are you majoring in the ‘Minors’?”

What excellent arguments!  Case dismissed!  As I review Jesus’ arguments, a word comes back to mind.  The word is GOTCHA!  Does that word seem appropriate to you also?

VI.  THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED (verse 24)

While those teachers of the Law are standing there, looking at Jesus in wide-eyed amazement, experiencing the shame and agony of defeat, the Lord Jesus uses that moment to teach them a lesson in verse 24.  Here are Jesus’ words of instruction to these rulers of the Jews.  He says to them, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  He’s telling them to repent of the way they have mistreated Him and do what’s right in the sight of God.  How easy and how tempting it is to make judgments about the actions and motives of others before all the facts are known, or in spite of the facts that are known.

A newspaper correspondent attended an auction where he saw, among other items, a pair of excellent crutches.  A poor, crippled boy was the first to bid on them.  A well-dressed elderly man was also interested in them and kept offering more money for them.  Some of the people frowned in disapproval, and one lady said, “Shame on you; let the boy have them!”  Whenever the boy called out a higher price, the man would always top it.  At last, the boy held up a five-dollar bill, all that he had, and made a final bid.  When more was offered, the young fellow turned away in tears.  The crowd muttered angrily.  Then, to everyone’s surprise, the gentleman presented the crutches to the boy, saying, “These are much too small for me, so I won’t have any use for them.  When I saw that you were crippled, my heart went out to you.  So I decided to buy the crutches and give them to you.”  The crowd began to applaud for they realized they had completely misjudged the man and the situation.  They looked at outward appearances only, and came to their own conclusions, when they should have given the situation time to allow the true motives to be revealed.  That same principle is reflected in our attitude toward God’s Word, the Bible.  Are we committed to what God’s Word actually says, or to what we want it to say?

One of the things that can cause us to make wrong judgments is peer pressure.  Em Griffin in his book, “The Mindchangers”, describes an experiment done by Solomon Asch with groups of 12 people.  They were brought into a room where four lines of unequal length were displayed.  They had to decide which two were the same length and publicly vote for their choice.  Person after person after person (11 in all) voted for the wrong line – because they had been told to do so ahead of time.  The one individual who was in the dark couldn’t imagine how in the world all these seemingly normal people could all choose the wrong line.  When it was his turn to vote, he had to decide, “Do I go with what I know my senses are telling me, or do I go with the crowd?”  One-third of those tested caved in to group pressure and changed their vote to agree with their peers.  Are you feeling the pull of peer pressure in your life?  Don’t let peer pressure keep you from repenting of your sin and following Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  He will give you a new life, a changed life manifested by a love for Him and desire to obey Him and depend upon Him for strength, guidance, and victory.

Fellow-believers, a decision needs to be made in our hearts to do what is right in God’s sight even when everyone around us, where we live or work or go to school, wants to go the wrong way.  Ask God for the desire and the strength to make the right choice and do the right thing, even if it means standing alone.  In actuality, we won’t be alone.  The Lord will be with us, and there are many Christians over the past 20 centuries who have chosen to live righteously.  Some of their testimonies are written down for us in the Scriptures and in the history books.  I’ll close by giving you one of those examples.  In the third century, Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, strongly opposed the teachings of Arius, who declared that Christ was not the eternal Son of God, but a subordinate being.  After being exiled five times for his beliefs, he was summoned before emperor Theodosius who demanded that he cease his opposition to Arius.  The emperor reproved him and asked, “Do you not realize that all the world is against you?”  Athanasius quickly answered, “Then I am against all the world.”

May we have that kind of tenacity in our obedience to the truths of God’s Word.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this site.  Please check out other completed sermons on this site while you’re in the neighborhood.  There are over 130 of them.  The Lord be with you!

LEARN BY DOING – John 7:17-18

Bible, Bible sermon, God, Gospel of John, Jesus Christ, john 7:17-18, sermon, wisdomfromabove

INTRODUCTION:

A man in northern Italy was urging the owner of an orchard to accept the truths of the Bible.  “You tell me it’s the Word of God”, said the owner, “but you can’t prove it.”  As they stood admiring the fruit trees, the visitor said, “What fine-looking trees you have.  Too bad they’re of such poor quality.”  “Of poor quality!”, exclaimed the owner.  “Obviously you haven’t tasted them.  Pick one and try it.”  The visitor accepted the invitation, picked a pear from the nearest tree and began to eat it.  “Yes, you’re right”, he said, smacking his lips, “these pears are excellent!”  Then he made his point.  “Sir, you must do the same thing with God’s Word as I have done with your fruit.  Taste and see that it holds the secret of the abundant life.”

I.  THE CHALLENGE (vs. 17)

Here in John 7:17, the Lord Jesus is in the temple.  It’s the Feast of Booths and He is challenging the people to put His teachings to the test.  He has already told them, in verse 16 and many other times in John’s Gospel, that His teachings are not His own, but came from the One who sent Him. Now He says, “If any man is willing to do His will, He shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.”

Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He said the following words in His sermon on the mount:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)  The one who hungers and thirsts after God will recognize God’s messenger.  In John 7:15, Jesus’ hearers had raised the question of His competence as a teacher.  Here in verse 17, Jesus raises the question of their competence as hearers.  It’s not as if the Lord Jesus is teaching them a new principle.  We find this principle stated, in one form or another, in many places in the Old Testament Scriptures.  Let me give you just a few of them.  Psalm 111:10 says, “A good understanding have all who keep thy commandments.”  Proverbs 1:7 states:  “The fear of the Lord is he beginning of knowledge.”  The word “fear” has the connotation of awe, worship, and obedience.  The apostle Paul found that attitude among the Jews in Berea when He arrived there in Acts 17 and began to teach in the synagogue of the Jews.  Acts 17:11 describes their response:  “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.”  A willing submission to God was the foundation for understanding the Source and the truth of his teachings.  The hymn writer, John Sammis, captures that thought with these words:  “When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!”  Oswald Chambers, in his book entitled “My Utmost For His Highest”, made this observation:  “Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance.  Spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey.”

All the Rabbi’s who were standing there listening to Jesus teach, could relate to what Jesus said in verse 17 from many years of their own personal experience.  What Jesus just said is a reflection on their own personal, life-stories.  Each one of them, at some point in his life, wanted to become a rabbi.  Each one completed his required schooling.  Then he chose a particular rabbi that he wanted to be like, went to that rabbi, and asked him if he could be one of his talmidim (disciples).  By making this request, he is telling the rabbi that he wants to be like him, and will gladly do everything the rabbi tells him to do without questioning it.  After a period of questioning and testing, if the rabbi becomes convinced that this young man has the potential of becoming like him, the rabbi will approach him and say to him, “Follow me”.  What he means by those words is:  “Come with me as my disciple and submit to my authority and my teachings.”

After several years of submitting to his rabbi and learning only his teachings, this young man will also become a rabbi who will think, act, and teach just like his teacher.  Therefore, his authority as a rabbi will not be his own, but the authority of the rabbi who discipled him.

Do you see the comparison?  The authority of these rabbis is not their own either.  They are emulating the rabbi who taught them, so their authority comes from their teacher, and these rabbis would be quick to admit it.  Not only that, but their willingness to submit to their rabbi opened the door of opportunity to learn from him.  The challenge that Jesus has just given the crowd in verse 17 runs parallel to the experiences of their religious leaders, and now these rabbis were training disciples of their own.  I believe that the Lord Jesus is not only challenging the crowd to learn by doing as they put His words into practice, but He’s also reminding the leaders that this is the way it has always been done.  Every one of those leaders is living proof of the validity of that principle.  American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, once said:  “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”

II.  THE PROPER MOTIVATION (verse 18)

Now that Jesus has given them the challenge to do what He suggests, and has told them what will happen if they accept the challenge, He now focuses His attention on motives.  Verse 18 begins with these words spoken by Jesus:  “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory.”  The Lord Jesus is telling them about two different kinds of teachers and this is the first kind and the worst kind.  The teacher who “speaks from himself” is one who speaks by his own authority.  He teaches his own ideas and opinions that are not based upon, nor consistent with the Word of God.  He does not represent God.  On the contrary, he represents himself and “seeks his own glory”.  To such a person, being a teacher is a popularity contest, and his reward is the recognition and praise of others.  His motivation is pride, not humility; and self, not God and God’s Word.  The attitude of these teachers was proof that their teachings were not from God.

Indira Gandhi, the former prime minister of India, once said, “My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people:  those who do the work and those who take the credit.  He told me to try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.”  Based on what we’ve learned so far in this passage of Scripture, that was good advice to his granddaughter!

By contrast to the teachers of the Law, Jesus uses Himself as an example of the second kind of teacher.  He says, “but He who is seeking the glory of the one who has sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”  For him, life is not a popularity contest.  It’s a quest to know and obey the truth.  Such a person is not an impostor.  There is no falsehood nor deception in him.  On the contrary, instead of deception there is transparency.  This is the description of the perfect teacher, the kind of teacher you would want to follow and learn from.  Jesus offered knowledge and a personal relationship in exchange for obedience.

A man named Adam Clarke was an assistant in a dry-goods store, selling silks and satins to a wealthy clientele.  One day his employer suggested to him that he try stretching the silk as he measured it out; this would increase sales and profits and also increase Adam’s value to the company.  Young Clarke straightened up from his work, faced his boss courageously, and said, “Sir, your silk may stretch, but my conscience won’t!”  God honored Adam Clarke by taking him from the dry-goods store and equipping him to write a famous commentary on the books of the Bible.  That commentary bears his name.  God gave Adam wisdom and understanding of the Scriptures in return for his obedience, and his life’s work continues to draw others to a deeper understanding of his Lord and Savior.

CONCLUSION:

Are you willing to do God’s will?  Maybe you’ve shut the door to Him in the past, but now you’re ready to open that door again, find out more about Him, and give Him His rightful place in your life.  If so, you may want to click the following link:
https://www.peacewithgod.net.  Clicking the arrow in each section will give you further information and short testimonials.

If you are a Christian, here’s a question for you to think about:  Would you be willing to live and work anonymously?  In other words, would you be willing to live your life and do your work in such a way that God always gets the glory; that the focus of attention is on Him, and your joy comes from serving Him and pleasing Him?  Would you be willing to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ in the same way that Jesus was an ambassador of His Father?  That’s a tall order, isn’t it?  It’s a major challenge; a tough assignment.  It’s certainly not an overnight experience!  Let’s ask our heavenly Father to provide us with the desire and the power to move one step closer to the image and example of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED  

Welcome to this completed construction site:  John 7:17-18!  God wants us to be fellow-workers, and the study and application of His Word is part of His life-long building project in our lives.  Let’s willingly and eagerly put our hands to the task!