RESPONDING TO CRITICISM – John 6:41-47

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INTRODUCTION:

The first American steamboat took 32 hours to go from New York to Albany.  People laughed!  The horse and buggy passed an early motor car as if it were standing still.  People laughed!  The first electric light bulb was so dim that people had to use a lamp in order to see it.  People laughed!  The first airplane came down fifty-nine seconds after it left the ground.  People laughed!  But those inventors were committed to their work.  Rather than wasting a lot of time responding to the jokes and criticisms aimed at them, they devoted their time to perfecting their ideas, and we all know the results.  They are written in the history books.  Those inventors have been honored, their work has been carried on, and we are reaping the benefits of their labors.

The cause of Christ is also not without its critics.  When baseball player-turned- evangelist, Billy Sunday, first started holding crusades, he was criticized for many things, including his “coarse” language,  his use of slang terms, his “acrobatic preaching”, and his inclusive attitude toward Negroes.  Cartoons were drawn of him and put in the newspapers.  In spite of all this criticism, Billy Sunday continued to do what God called him to do.  He won the hearts of the working-class population and God changed the hearts of many of his accusers.  By 1920 he was considered to be the greatest evangelist in America at that time.

In the 1940’s another evangelist began to become visible to the American nation, and he started drawing criticism from fundamentalists because of his cooperation with the National Counsel of Churches, and from others because of his identification with the civil rights movement.  Rather than become discouraged, he announced, “I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the gospel of Christ, if there are no strings attached to my message.”  That evangelist is Billy Graham, and look how God has blessed his commitment to the Person and work of Jesus Christ!

In the passage of Scripture we are studying, John 6:41-47, we will find that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not excluded from criticism.  In fact, He was, and still is, one of the most criticized people of all time.  Let’s take a look at the criticisms that were leveled at Him in these verses of Scripture, and observe how He responded to them, and to the critics who expressed them.

I.  MUMBLING AND GRUMBLING (verse 41)

Verse 11 says, “The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven’.”  The Greek word (“ouranos”) is often used to describe the place where God dwells, so the crowd knows He is claiming to be God.  This is the third time Jesus has used the phrase, “came down from heaven”, in HIs conversation with this crowd, and He is going to say that phrase three more times before the conversation is over.  Jesus keeps saying it again and again!

When a person keeps saying something to you that you don’t believe and don’t want to hear, do you become angry inside?  Do you feel your body tensing up?  Are you thinking to yourself, “If he (or she) says it one more time, I’m going to explode”?  Have you ever had one of those moments?  Sure you have!

Try to visualize the thoughts in the minds of this crowd as the water in a large kettle  that’s hanging over a fire.  In verse 41 you can begin to see the steam rising from that kettle, and you can hear the water churning and the sound of bubbles coming to the surface and popping.  That’s a picture that comes to my mind when I think of the words “murmuring” and “grumbling”.  The words indicate discontent and anger.  These Jews are acting just like their ancestors who “murmured” against Moses (Exodus 15:24; 17:3; Numbers 14:2).

II.  THE REASON FOR THEIR GRUMBLING (verse 42)

The apostle John gives us the reason for their grumbling when he tells us the words they were mumbling to themselves and to one another.  “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  John must have been next to Jesus, and both of them could overhear their words and the scoffing and sarcastic manner in which they were said.  I’m sure they said worse things than that as they responded to each others’ words. The Greek word which is translated “grumbling” (or “murmuring“, or “muttering“, depending on your translation) is found eight times in the New Testament, and in every case it’s used in a negative sense.  The Greek word is pronounced “gong-good’-zo”).  Their grumbling sounded like a “a noisy gong“, but it was not “good“, but “bad” in each of those cases!  I like the following definition:  “smoldering discontent”.  The embers keep burning and the smoke keeps rising, waiting for more wood to set it aflame!

Many psychological studies have been done on crowd behavior.  This particular situation sounds a lot like the “emergent norm theory” of crowd behavior.  I imagine that there were some of Jesus’ enemies in this crowd, such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes.  Because these groups were esteemed by the people, negative comments made by them would influence the others in the crowd to follow their example over the period of time they were around each other.  Thus the behavior of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes became the new normative behavior of the rest of the crowd, which initially was just curious and desirous of this “bread of life”.  We will see a similar effect occur in the crowd that is present at Jesus’ trial after His arrest.

Have you ever heard someone make fun of, or bad-mouth your parents?  Did you get mad and say or do something about it?  For many of us, negative remarks made about our parents can be more offensive and disturbing than similar statements made about ourselves.  It’s as if God has given us a “protective instinct” when it comes to our families.  As an old expression puts it:  “Them’s fightin’ words!”

These Jews had come to the conclusion that Jesus was born in Nazareth and that Joseph was his real father.  They were jumping to false conclusions without any evidence to prove them.  Obviously, they had not done their homework!  If they had done some investigation they would have, at least, found that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, where the Messiah was prophesied to be born, as recorded in Micah 5:2.  “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.”

III.  JESUS’ RESPONSE (verse 43)

We see, in verse 43, Jesus’ initial response to their grumbling.  “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves’.”  That sounds like a very short and incomplete response to me.  Does it seem that way to you also?  Those few words certainly demonstrate Jesus’ patience and wisdom in this particular situation.  Defending his parents and trying to explain HIs virgin-birth would only add fuel to their smoldering fire.  And those few words, “Do not grumble among yourselves”, silenced the crowd so that He could continue His conversation where He left off.  How can that be?  As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish leaders had a deep respect for Moses the Law-giver, almost a sense of worship of him.  Many of the Jewish leaders were familiar with every word that Moses spoke.  When Jesus said, “Do not grumble among yourselves”, those who knew the words of Moses were reminded of what Moses said to their ancestors when they grumbled against him.  In Exodus 16, when the people grumbled against Moses because of the lack of food, Moses said, ” . . . in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord, and what are we that you grumble against us? . . . Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.” (Exodus 16:7-8).   Jesus is calling upon this crowd to reconsider their grumbling against Him because of who He claims to be.  In Numbers 14, after hearing the report of the spies concerning the land of Canaan, the people grumbled against Moses again and threatened to kill him.  As a consequence of those actions, God told the people of Israel that, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, everyone twenty years and over would not enter the promised land but would die in wilderness over a period of 40 years of wanderings.  That’s a big price to pay for their grumblings.  Jesus may be calling upon this crowd to also consider the possible consequences of their grumbling.  The crowd quieted down and Jesus was able to continue His conversation.  It’s as if Jesus had set out two warning flags before this crowd, and they heeded the warnings.  They went from mumbling aloud, to mulling it over in their minds:  “Hmmm . . . maybe we should think this over for a while!”

IV.  THE PROCESS OF COMING TO GOD (verses 44-47)

A.  BEING DRAWN, AND COMING (verse 44)

Jesus resumes His conversation with the crowd in verse 44, saying, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”  The Jews believed that they were chosen by God when they were born.  They concluded that, since each of them was of Jewish parents, they were automatically God’s people, with all the eternal benefits included.  Jesus is now going to correct their misconceptions.  He tells them that, without the help of God, no one is able to respond to His invitation and come to Him.  God the Father “draws” a person to His Son, and that person comes to believe in the Lord Jesus as a result.  Without the drawing power of God the Father, no one can come to Christ.  The Greek word that John uses is “helkuo”.  It is found eight times in the New Testament.  The majority of those instances speak of drawing in, or dragging a net full of fish (Jn. 21:6), dragging a person (Acts 16:19), or drawing a sword from its sheath (Jn. 18:10).  It is also used of being drawn by an inward power (Jn. 12:32).  We find this same concept in the Old Testament scriptures.  God says, in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”  

In my own conversation experience, God dragged me away from my former beliefs before He drew me to Himself, revealing the truth about Himself to me so that I believed.  He changed the circumstances of my life to the point where I felt hopeless and helpless to save myself, and was gripped with a fear of death and the eternal suffering that would follow because of my sins.  There was a “drawing away” and a “drawing to” in my case.  That may be true in your case as well.  The word “draw” indicates that there is some resistance, but the power and calling of God overcomes that resistance.

Once again Jesus says what He said to them in verse 39:  “and I will raise them up on the last day.”  I wonder whether those words brought to the minds of these Jews one of the most exciting promises in the Old Testament for the nation of Israel — the vision of the valley of the dry bones.  God tells Ezekiel. “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come out of your graves, My  people. . . I will put My Spirit within you and you will come back to life . . . place you on your own land . . . ” (Ezekiel 37)  By saying the words, “I will raise them up”, Jesus is once again claiming to be God, and the One who will raise and rule over the people of Israel.  For the true believer in Jesus Christ, verses 39 and 44 are powerful verses on assurance of salvation.

B.  TROUGH THE WORD OF GOD (verse 45)

In verse 45, Jesus tells us the means that the Father uses in the drawing process when He says, “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”  He’s quoting from Isaiah 54:13, letting the crowd know that the Father uses the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, to draw people to Himself.  Jesus is telling them that, if they refuse to believe His words and come to Him as their Messiah, it is proof that the Father is not drawing them, at least not at this time.

Those who will believe are drawn by the Father through the Word as He empowers them to listen to it and learn from it.  In this particular case, Jesus is the Teacher and His words are the Word of God to them.  The drawing of the Father consists of hearing, learning, and believing.  Those who listen and learn, come to Jesus.  They are the ones whom the Father has chosen and drawn to His Son.

I found the following illustration to be helpful to me.  You may find it helpful to you also.

The mere preaching of the gospel does not save an individual.  The gospel message must be activated by the election and calling of God for an individual to be drawn to Him.  It would be as if one had thrown a rope to a drowning man.  The throwing of the rope could not save the man unless someone was at the other end of the rope, drawing him into shore.

This is what God has done.  By His election, God draws to Himself the one who has heard the message.  The person may have the rope, but he still needs the effective force of God drawing him in.  Who, therefore, deserves the praise for salvation?  Is it the man who tossed the rope?  The man who grabbed the rope?  No – the God who draws him in!  Pastor and author, Warren Wiersbe, describes the process with these words:  “It is through the teaching of the Word that God draws people to the Savior.  The sinner hears, learns, and comes as the Father draws him.  A mystery?  Yes!  A blessed reality?  Yes!”

C.  EVIDENCED BY BELIEF IN HIM (verses 46-47)

In verse 46, the Lord Jesus qualifies His previous statement so that the crowd would not misunderstand His words and come to a false conclusion that is contrary to the Old Testament scriptures.  Therefore Jesus gives the following words of explanation:  “Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.”  In Exodus 33:18-20, God said to Moses, “No one can see my face and live.”  No man can see God in all his glory and live.  By His words in verse 46. Jesus is claiming to be more than a man because He has seen the Father and has been sent by the Father.  Once again Jesus is claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah.  Only He has the full knowledge of the nature, the character, and plans of God the Father.

Now that He has made that clear to them, the Lord Jesus tells them to listen carefully as He gives them the third ingredient in the salvation process.  He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

A missionary to Africa experienced great difficulty while trying to translate the Gospel of John into a particular native dialect.  The problem he faced was to find a word for “believe”, because faith was something that wasn’t shown at all by this particular tribe.  He continued to do the best he could, but always had to leave a blank space when he came to the word “believe”.  One day, however, a runner came panting into the camp, having travelled a great distance with a very important message.  After blurting out his story, he fell completely exhausted into a nearby hammock, muttering a brief phrase as he did so.  The missionary had never heard those words before, so he asked a native what the runner had said.  “Good massa, he is only saying, ‘I’m at the end of myself.  Therefore I’m resting all my weight here’.”  Delighted, the missionary exclaimed, “Praise God, that is the very expression I need for ‘believe’!”  And so he was able to complete his translation of John’s Gospel into their native language..

The Lord Jesus is giving an invitation in verse 46 when He says, “he who believes has eternal life”.  It is similar to the invitation Jesus gives in Matthew 11:28, where He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Let’s examine this verse in the context of the preceding verse, Matthew 11:27, which says, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  A person can only come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will reveal the Father only to those who are “weary and heavy-laden”. They feel weak and helpless under the heavy burden of their sin and guilt.  Only God can bring you under that conviction of sin.  Only God can draw you to Himself.  Only God can give you rest and inner peace as you entrust your life to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and rely completely on Him to hold you up and sustain you by His grace. 

Are you feeling weak and helpless under the weight of your own sin and guilt?  Do you feel like you’re drowning spiritually?  Is there a fear of death and of reaping the consequences of your thoughts, words, and actions?  Is there an emptiness inside that nothing in this life has been able to fill; a lack of meaning and purpose to your life?  The author of Hebrews, when describing Moses, says, ” . . . choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:27).  Since there is pleasure in sin, the guilt and weight of conviction must be from God.  He is drawing you to Himself.  The choice is up to you to respond to the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit by putting your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, repenting of your sins and asking Jesus Christ to take control of your life and change your life.  He will keep His promises to you if you sincerely believe.

If Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives, one lesson we can learn from this passage is how Jesus responded to criticism, and how we can follow His example.  The Lord Jesus Christ was a man of conviction.  He didn’t follow the crowds; the crowds followed Him!  He would not compromise His Father’s will or the teachings of the Scriptures, and yet, at the same time, was compassionate toward people.  Billy Graham beautifully described Jesus’ character and convictions when he said these words:

“His own inner conviction was so strong, so firm, so unswerving
that He could afford to mingle with any group secure in the knowledge
that He would not be contaminated.  It is fear that makes us unwilling to
listen to another’s point of view, fear that our own ideas may be attacked.
Jesus had no such fear, no such pettiness of viewpoint, no need to
fence Himself off for His own protection.  He knew the difference between
graciousness and compromise and we would do well to learn from Him.
He set for us the most magnificent and glowing example of truth combined with
mercy of all time. and in departing He said:  “Go ye and do likewise.”  (Lk. 10:37)

This lesson is exemplified in a phenomenon of nature.  Sailors in the northern oceans have frequently observed icebergs travelling in one direction in spite of strong winds blowing in the opposite direction.  How can this be?  The explanation is that the icebergs, with eight-ninths of their bulk under the water’s surface, were caught in the grip of strong currents that moved them in a certain direction, no matter which way the winds blew and no matter how fiercely they raged.  In the Christian life, no matter how strongly the winds of passing opinion blow in opposition, the believer who has a close relationship to God, and a depth of living in the currents of God’s grace will be moved in the direction of following Jesus’ example.  The criticism that’s bound to come won’t blow us away.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED on 2/8/18

JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE – John 2:12-17

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I.  INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND (verses 12-13)

Have you ever been ripped off?  Did you ever pay for goods or services that fell far short of their claims and advertising, or that weren’t worth what you paid for them?  Have you ever been exploited by others so that they could make a profit at your expense?  In our culture this injustice is called by many names, such as “cheated”, “bamboozled”, “shanghaied”, “fleeced”, and so on.  Some of these injustices are performed by people who claim that they know God and are acting on His behalf.  I imagine that most of us can think of a person, organization, product, or service that has left a bad impression in our minds.  These rip-offs aren’t just common to our day.  You might say that the first rip-off occurred in the Garden of Eden.  Satan told Adam and Eve a half-truth.  He told them that if they ate the forbidden fruit, they would “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).  They fell for his lie, and as a result they did not become like God, but they certainly learned about good and evil, and experienced the consequences of their disobedience to God.

We humans aren’t the only ones who get ripped off.  God gets ripped off sometimes too.  This passage of Scripture, John 2:12-17, shows some ways that God can be ripped off by people.  Verses 12 and 13 are a transition to Jesus’ appearance at the temple in Jerusalem.  Verse 12 says, “After this (the wedding feat at Cana), He went to Capernaum, He and His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples, and there they stayed a few days.”  A figure of speech called a “polysyndeton” is found here in this verse.  The deliberate and repeated use of the word “and” is intended to draw our attention to each member of the group.  From this passage of Scripture, as well as from the rest of the New Testament, we learn that Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, died at some time prior to Jesus’ public ministry, and that after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had other children.

The city of Capernaum was to become the headquarters for His ministry in the region of Galilee.  In this case they were there only a few days because “the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”  The Passover was an annual feast in memory of the time when the people of Israel were delivered from the slavery of Egypt, and were led through the Red Sea and to the promised land.  In Exodus 12, before His last plague on Egypt, God said that each family was to kill an unblemished lamb and put some of its blood on the outside door posts and lintel so that the death angel would pass over their houses and not kill their first-born children.  They were to roast the lamb and eat it with unleavened bread before fleeing from Egypt.

II.  CORRUPTION IN THE TEMPLE (verse 14)

In verse 14 Jesus entered the temple, and we are told what He observes.  “And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated.”  In order to get to the sanctuary, a person must pass through four courts or courtyards.  First, there is the Court of the Gentiles, then the Court of the Women, then the Court of Israel, and finally the Court of the Priests.  Jesus had just entered the temple so He was in the Court of the Gentiles in verse 14.

God had called the nation of Israel to be a light to the nations.  The Court of the Gentiles was meant to be a place where gentiles were to be welcomed, assisted, and instructed in the ways of the true God.  However, because of their contempt for all things gentile, the religious authorities had decided to set up their animal market and the tables for the moneychangers in the Court of the Gentiles.  Who knows how many interested, seeking gentiles came into their court, then left in anger, never to return.

Those animals were not supposed to be inside the temple, nor were the moneychangers to be conducting their business inside the temple.  According to the instructions given to Moses in Leviticus and Numbers, the sacrificial animals were to be brought into the temple by the priests.  These priests were to bind the animals, place them on the altar, slay them, catch the blood in basins and sprinkle it on the altar in the holy place.  The body of the animal was burned and then taken out of the temple.  The traffic jam in the Court of the Gentiles was impeding the procession of the priests in and out of the temple with the sacrificial animals, as well as keeping them from fulfilling their responsibilities according to the Law.

It had become a very corrupt system.  For a few of the worshippers who travelled a great distance to participate in the Passover Feast, it was a convenience to purchase an animal there at the temple.  But there were many cases where the priest in the person’s hometown would approve of an animal, but when the person brought it to the temple, the officials would say that it was unacceptable.  So the person would be forced to buy one of the temple animals.  Alfred Edersheim, in his book, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, talks about the enormous overcharges for temple animals.  On one occasion Simeon, the grandson of Hilell the High Priest, interfered and brought down the price of a pair of doves from one gold denar to half a silver denar.  That’s quite a reduction in price!

This monopoly on the sacrificial animals and the outrageous charges tended to make the temple worship loathsome to the people.  The sacrificial system was originally set up by God in the book of Exodus to allow the worshipper to bring one of his own animals that the person cared for since its birth and cherished.  By giving this animal to be sacrificed, the worshipper was giving a part of himself and his work to God.

This was also the time of the year for the annual temple-tax to cover the cost of repairs to the temple.  The temple officials would only accept payment with the sacred half-schekel of the temple, so all the local and foreign money had to be exchanged and, of course, there was a substantial service charge!  The temple had become like a circus!  The sounds of the animal auction, the noise of the moneychangers, and the offensive smell of a barnyard distracted the people from worship.  That’s what the Lord Jesus and His disciples experienced when they walked into the temple that day.

III.  THE CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE (verses 15-16)

In Exodus 12:15 God tells his people, “on the first day (of the Passover celebration) you shall remove leaven from your houses”.  Leaven, and everything with leaven in it, must be removed from the house in preparation for the Passover meal.  Leaven was a symbol of sin and corruption.   The Lord Jesus was about to rid His Father’s house of the sin and corruption that was in it.

Verse 15 says that Jesus “made a scourge out of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen”.  I believe that the scourge was intended for the oxen.  One dictionary defined an ox as a “lazy, reluctant creature” that needed to be goaded often to keep it going, and going in the right direction!  Once Jesus got the oxen and sheep moving, the people would be moving out the door also to keep from being trampled by them.  Either there wasn’t an ox goad handy or the throw-together scourge of cords was a better tool for the job.  He also “poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables”.  You can imagine the scramble for all the rolling coins!  In verse 16 we see the Lord’s restraint as He said to those who were selling the doves, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.”  He wanted the doves left in their cages, and the cages removed from the courtyard of the temple.  There was no desire on Jesus’ part to do any physical harm to the animals or the people.

Jesus’ warning to them in verse 16 also includes His motivation, as well as a brief description of Himself.  He says, “Stop making my Father’s house a house of merchandise.”  He is proclaiming to them that He is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Within minutes the Courtyard of the Gentiles was cleared.  They just needed to pick up the litter, move the tables, and clean the floor!  As several commentators have remarked:  “Jesus ‘cleaned house’ that day!”

Did the religious leaders learn anything from this incident?  Was there any conviction of sin, change of attitude, or change in behavior?  No.  After Jesus left the temple, they set up their tables, brought back the animals, divided up the coins, and were back in business again.  The apostle John does not record a second cleansing of the temple by Jesus, but the other Gospel writers record a cleansing of the temple near the end of Jesus’ life (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark. 11:15-17; and Luke 19:45-46).  I personally believe this was a second cleansing for at least two reasons.  First, it avoids the hassle of trying to excuse John for putting this event in the “wrong place” in his Gospel.  After all, he is outnumbered three-to-one!  Secondly, Jesus has something different to communicate to the Jewish leaders by His second cleansing of the temple.  Here in John 2:16 Jesus describes the temple as being “My Father’s house”.  After His second cleansing of the temple, Jesus referred to the temple as “your house” (Matthew 23:38).  God the Father had removed His abiding presence and His protection from “their temple”.  Did this second cleansing get the point across to the Jewish leaders?  Was a double-dose of reproof sufficient to turn their hearts back to the Lord, and their worship back to His guidelines?  No.  They ignored the words of the Lord and continued those same practices for almost forty more years.  Jesus handed “their temple” over to destruction.  That temple was destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D. and, after almost two thousand years, it has not yet been rebuilt.  It was a high price to pay for their stubborn disobedience to God, and to the words of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

IV.  LESSONS FOR HIS DISCIPLES AND FOR US TODAY(verse 17)

This incident in Jesus’ life made a definite impression on His disciples.  It caused them to bring Psalm 69:9 to their minds:  a verse from a Messianic psalm, which says, “For zeal for Thy house has consumed me”.  In this passage of Scripture it was predicted that, when the Messiah came, He would be utterly consumed with a passion for God.  They had just seen Jesus manifesting an intense determination that the worship of God should be kept pure.  Purity of thought, attitude and action is given a high priority in the New Testament.  One of the beatitudes given by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount was “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).  The first characteristic of godly wisdom given by James is: “wisdom from above is first pure” (James 3:17).

Let us remember that as Christians, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  Just as the Lord Jesus was anxious that the temple at Jerusalem should be kept pure, so we should be careful that our bodies are turned over to the Lord for continual cleansing by confessing our sins to Him and turning away from them.  Let us also remind ourselves that true worship is voluntary.  It involves the consecration of ourselves, and all we possess, to Him.  Have we given the Lord Jesus the place of ownership in our own individual lives?  Are we being good stewards of all He has given us, using it for His glory as an act of adoration to Him.  If so, it will be obvious to those around us.  Are we consumed with a passion for God and a zeal for God?  If so, we will reap an eternal inheritance, and receive His praise and rewards when we stand before Him in heaven some day.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for coming to this construction site:  John 2:12-17  Please visit some of the other completed sermons when you have the time and the interest.  May your worship of God be pure and free from unnecessary distractions.

OVERCOMING PREJUDICE – James 2:1-13

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INTRODUCTION:

It is impossible to judge another person’s motives.  And yet we have a tendency to do just that.  We also cannot determine the heart of a person in a first-time encounter.  Initial impressions may not always be right because we all have some built-in prejudices.

I.  THE PRINCIPLE (Verse 1)

In James 2:1,  James is saying, “Faith in God and partiality are incompatible.”  They don”t go together.  The term “favoritism”‘ in verse 1 comes from two Greek words, combined to mean “to receive by face”, and has the thought of accepting or welcoming someone by face value alone.  The term, “favoritism”, is found in only three other New Testament passages, and in each instance it is made clear that God does not respect faces.  He judges by the heart. The Lord Jesus wasn’t prejudiced.  In Luke 14:12 it says of Jesus, “And He went on to say to the one who had invited Him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you.  But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you;  for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ ”  Even Jesus’ enemies knew that Jesus was not prejudiced.  In Matthew 22:16 the Herodians said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one, for you are not partial to any.” Prejudice can run so deep that it sometimes takes a tragedy to make one see how wrong it is to discriminate on the basis of physical differences.  An article in the newspaper several years ago told of a truck driver who learned the hard way how bigoted he was.  He had no use for blacks – until one saved his life.  It was shortly after l a.m. when his tanker truck flipped over and burst into flames.  A week later he lay in his hospital bed crying openly, for he was looking into the face of a black man who had used his own coat and his bare hands to smother the flames of what had been a human torch.  Needless to say, this was one white man who, with tears of appreciation, learned to see through skin color.

II.  THE PRINCIPLE ILLUSTRATED (verses 2-4)

In verse 2, James is talking about two people:  one rich and the other poor.  The words “gold ring” literally mean “gold-fingered”, suggesting that this man was wearing many gold rings.  Also his clothes were made of the finest materials.  The usher was faced with a choice:  where should he seat these two people.  Matthew 23:6 helps us better understand this situation by telling us that there were “chief seats” in the synagogues,  The Pharisees loved these chief seats which must have been located down in front because they  could enter the synagogue in their elegant robes and march toward the front, calling attention to themselves.  Faced with this decision, the usher based his decision on externals only. James says in verse 4 that this is discrimination, and their motives are evil.  If there is one place where class distinctions should break down, it is in a place of worship.  Distinctions such as age, color, money, status, rank, size, and clothing should mean nothing.  Jesus said to the multitude in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

III.  THE PRINCIPLE EXPLAINED (verses 5-11)

In verses 5-11, James gives three arguments why prejudice is wrong.  First, prejudice is not true of God.  He says in verse 5, “Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?”  Whether we are physically rich or poor, unless we recognize our spiritual poverty and our need for a Savior, we will never experience the riches of faith in Christ, and receive an eternal inheritance from God.  Secondly, God isn’t concerned about wealth or poverty, but about the condition of a person’s soul.  The people James is writing to were exalting the rich, and yet it was these rich people who were the very ones who were causing their pain and injury.  Thirdly, in verses 8-11, James is saying that prejudice is sinful because it is against the Scriptures.  One of the laws God gave to Moses was, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Showing partiality is a violation of that law.

Children in England used to play a game called “Saints and Sinners”.  A hoop was set up at a certain distance, and the children were given ten arrows each.  The object of the game was to aim them at the hoop.  If anyone shot ALL of the arrows through  the hoop, he was proclaimed a “saint”.  If he missed just once, he was called a “sinner”.  If he missed with all ten arrows, he was no greater sinner than if he missed with only one!  One error was as bad as ten!  That was the rule of the game.  The same is true spiritually.  The Lord Jesus never “missed the mark”, but kept God’s law perfectly.  All others have sinned and come short of God’s standard.  Therefore there is no excuse for prejudice because we are all equally sinners.

Let me share with you two stories about what has happened in the lives of two people as a result of the prejudice they experienced from Christians.  A little boy named Joseph had polio.  Someone finally took him to Sunday school, but the teacher neglected him.  Later the young people ridiculed him and then avoided him because of his crippled condition.  As a result, he dropped out of the class with a hatred for the church and the Lord Jesus Christ.  He did, however, continue his studies in school.  When he finally earned his doctorate from Heidelberg University, a man slipped his arm around him, saying, “Joseph, I think a lot of you;  you and I could do much together.  The young man responded warmly to this attention and encouragement, and in time Joseph Goebbels became the propaganda minister for that man:  Adolf Hitler!  Many wondered afterward what would have happened if that Sunday school teacher had shown love to this apparently unwanted individual, and had led him to the Lord.  If the young people had befriended this needy person instead of ridiculing him, he might have become a minister for Christ instead of the Nazis.

Another case is a terrible incident that occurred in the life of Mahatma Gandhi.  This man, who later gained world attention, says in is autobiography that in his student days he was truly interested in the Bible.  Deeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert.  Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.  One Sunday he went to a nearby church to attend services.  He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation, and enlightenment on other doctrines.  But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people.  He left and never came back.  “If Christians have cast differences also”, he said to himself, “I might as well remain a Hindu”.  He became one of the most famous people in the history of India and was a champion for the civil rights movement there, but he was never given  the opportunity to experience the freedom of becoming a child of God because of the prejudice of a man who claimed to be a minister of Christ.

IV.  THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED (verses 12-13)

One of the tests of the genuineness of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is how we treat other people.  Can we pass the test?  We all show prejudice at times, don’t we?  Are there people you won’t talk to, or even acknowledge their presence, because of racial, social, economic, or educational factors?  Are there others who treat you that way, and you are following their example?

Are we obeying the Scriptures and following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ in our treatment of others?  I’m closing with a short prayer that Billy Graham offers in one of his devotionals:  “Heavenly Father, fill me with that supernatural love of Jesus that enables me to reach out to the myriads of people who, in and of myself, would be impossible to love.”