SIBLING RIVALRY – John 7:1-9

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INTRODUCTION:

If you weren’t an only-child, or if you’re the mother or father of more than one child, you’ve probably experienced sibling rivalry, or watched it take place.  I was one of three boys, so when the three of us got into arguments or fights, it was usually two against one!  The rivalries don’t necessarily go away when children become adults, as you probably know.  The Old Testament Scriptures contain several rivalries between brothers, sisters, or both.  The first rivalry was between Cain and his brother Abel.  As we move through the Old Testament we also find the stories of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and her sister Leah, and Joseph and his brothers.  There were some serious, negative results in each case.  I’m reminded of a popular TV show in the 1960’s and 1970″s:  “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”.  As part of their comedy routine, Tommy Smothers would say angrily to his brother, Dick, “Mom always liked you best!”, and a funny argument would ensue.  It was funny because the people in the audience could relate to what they were saying to each other.  They may have used similar phrases and had the same arguments with their own brothers or sisters at some point in their lives.

Why do such rivalries exist among family members?  What are some of the causes?  From the research I’ve done so far, I’ve learned that children are sensitive to differences in parental treatment, as well as unequal amounts of attention and discipline.

The passage of Scripture we are studying, John 7:1-9, tells us that the Lord Jesus was not an only-child.  His mother Mary and His step-father Joseph had several children while Jesus was growing up.  This passage of Scripture will mention His brothers (step-brothers), but He had step-sisters as well, and we will be looking into those details as we study this text of Scripture.

TRANSITION:

Before we begin to study the text, I would like you to exercise your imaginations and recall some memories along with me.  Try to imagine yourself as the brother or sister of Jesus Christ, growing up with Him in the same household, interacting with Him and with your other brothers and sisters every day as children, then adolescents, and finally as adults.  What kinds of potential situations, issues, feelings and tensions come to your mind?  Bring back to mind your own childhood experiences and your experiences as an adolescent and as an adult.  Now keep those thoughts in your mind and continue to ponder them.  Those thoughts and memories are going to be useful to us as the scene changes here in chapter 7 of John’s Gospel.

I.  A CHANGE OF LOCATION (verse 1)

Verse one begins with the words “After these things” – the same words the apostle John used at the beginning of the previous chapter (6:1).  John is not only referring to the things Jesus said and did in chapter 6, but also to the response from the crowd, and especially from the rulers of the Jews.  Bible commentator William Barclay aptly described John 6 as the “beginning of the end”.  Chapter 7 of John’s Gospel begins the last six months of Jesus’ life.  The Lord Jesus had already “signed His own death warrant”, so to speak, by claiming to be God (5:18).  Now He has lost many of His potential defense-witnesses, in chapter 6, when He stated that belief in Him was the only way to eternal life.  Hundreds of “followers” walked away and may have become witnesses for the prosecution.  

The rest of verse 1 says, “Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.”  So Jesus was going around the region of Galilee preaching and teaching the Galileans about the kingdom of God.  He did not go from Judea to Galilee out of fear for His life, but because it wasn’t His Father’s timing for Him to be arrested yet.  His reason was not fear, but obedience to His heavenly Father.

II.  THE FEAST (verse 2)

Verse 2 says, “Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was at hand.”  The Feast of Booths is also called the Feast of Tabernacles.  Bible expositor Warren  Wiersbe gives a brief and concise description of it:

“The Feast of Tabernacles looked back on Israel’s journey through the wilderness,
and looked forward to the promised kingdom of Messiah.  The Jews
lived in booths made of branches to remind them of God’s provision for
nearly forty years (Leviticus 23:33-44). . . . Tabernacles was a festive time
for the people.  The temple area was illuminated by large candlesticks
that reminded the people of the guiding pillar of fire; and each day the priests
would carry water from the Pool of Siloam and pour it out from a golden vessel,
reminding the Jews of the miraculous provision of water from the rock.”

This was one of the three feasts that Jewish males were required to attend.  Great numbers of Jews arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast.  It was a time of joy and fellowship that lasted seven days, with a solemn feast on the eighth day.  Many animals were sacrificed to the Lord, and many free-will offerings were given during that period of time (Numbers 29:7-40; Deuteronomy 16:14-16).

III.  BROTHERLY ADVICE? (verses 3-5)

In verses 3 and 4, the apostle John writes down for us the only words spoken to Jesus by His brothers that are recorded in the Scriptures.  Let’s pay close attention to their words and see if we can gain any insights into their purpose for saying those words, and the manner in which they may have said them to Jesus.  Verse 3 says:

His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea,
that your disciples may behold Your works which You are doing.”

Since all of His brothers are saying these words to Jesus, they probably had been discussing the matter among themselves and had come to an agreement about what they wanted to say.to Him.  Matthew 13:55-56 gives us the names of four brothers:  “James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Jude)”.  The parentheses are mine.  Matthew also mentions that Jesus had sisters.  We find that same information in Mark 6:3.

Their words are not in the form of a suggestion or a request, but rather a command or a challenge.  The word “therefore” tells us that they must have known about all the followers who had turned away from Him in Capernaum, and assumed that this was the reason why He was now ministering in Galilee.  As you look at their words, do you detect a bit of sarcasm?  Are they making fun of Him and ridiculing Him?  We don’t know the inflection in their voices, but we do see the words “your disciples”.  His brothers are not His followers, at least not at this point in time.  They are excluding themselves by the use of those words.  To put it into today’s vernacular, they were saying to Jesus:  “Leave those lower-class Jews in Galilee and make your pitch before the ‘big wigs’ in Judea, where the action is.  Show your disciples your best miracles.  See if you can convince them, and us, that you’re really who you claim to be.  Give it your best shot!”  That paraphrase seems to fit what they say next in verse 4:

“For no one does anything in secret, when he himself seeks to be
known publicly.  If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”

Notice the little word,“if” in verse 4.  His brothers don’t believe His miracles.  They have probably not seen any of them, and are unwilling to believe the reports they have heard.  In an attempt to put their words into 21st century slang, His brothers are saying, “Come out of hiding; get the word out, and take a world tour.”  But Jesus wasn’t seeking to become a celebrity or a status symbol.  Their “marketing strategy” is similar to Satan’s temptation in Matthew 4:5-7, where Satan tried to make Jesus take action on His own, rather than submit to the will of His heavenly Father.

Even though His brothers don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, how could they treat their older brother in such a way.  What would motivate them to say the things they said to Him in such a cruel way?  Why are they “ganging up on Him” – four against one?

It’s time to bring back to your mind those rivalries between you and your own brothers and sisters, and rivalries between your own children.  Have the memories come back to mind?  Now ask yourself this question:  “What would it be like to grow up with a brother who never sinned; who never did anything wrong, and was never punished?”  Would you be looking for weak spots in his character?  Would you be trying to find a hole or a crack in his armor?  Would you be trying to make one?  Would you be doing everything in your power to get him into trouble just once, to make sure he was human like you?  Would there be times when you would like to get into an argument with him or pick a fight with him?  Would you be calling him names such as “Mr. goody two-sandals”?  You don’t have to answer those questions.  We both know the answers already, don’t we?

This poses another question.  As the children were growing up, did Mary and Joseph tell them about Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth, and all the details surrounding those events.  Did they tell their children that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of heaven and earth?  The Scriptures don’t give us that information, but apparently Mary and Joseph kept that information from them, and for good reasons.  You know how hard it is for little children to keep secrets, especially if they are speaking in a brother’s defense.  For example, if someone were to say to them, “My brother is better than your brother”, they might get the response, “No he’s not, my Brother is the Messiah, the Son of God.”  If that news spread, Jesus and His whole family might be in danger of death from the Romans and the Jews!

Even though Mary and Joseph probably didn’t communicate that information about Jesus, children can detect differences in the way their parents talk to each of them and respond to each of them.  Whether they consciously realized it or not, how could Mary and Joseph hide the sense of awe and wonder they felt inside every time they looked at Jesus, touched Him, and conversed with Him.  As adolescents, His brothers and sisters may have thought to themselves, and commented to one another about their parents:  “It’s almost as if they worshiped Him.”  Such thoughts and observations could easily provoke jealousy and anger among Jesus’ siblings.

John expresses his amazement, in verse 5, by saying, “not even His brothers believed in Him”.  After all they had seen, heard, and experienced, they still refused to acknowledge that their brother was the Messiah.  He’s confirming that their words to Jesus, here in verses 3-5, were not motivated by faith in Him. This is in fulfillment of  prophesy.  Psalm 69:8 says, “I have become estranged from my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s sons.”  Notice that it says “my mother’s sons”.  Jesus was not the natural son of Joseph.

IV.  JESUS’ RESPONSE TO HIS BROTHERS (verses 6-9)

Imagine yourself in this situation.  How would you feel if your four younger brothers, who showed no confidence or trust in you, were all standing around you, making fun of you, and trying to tell you what to do and how to do it?  Have you put yourself in this setting?  Can you feel the anger welling up inside?  Are you getting ready to put them in their place, teach them some manners and demand that they show some respect for their elder brother who had taken on the responsibilities of a father to them after Joseph died?

In verses 6-9, Jesus responds to their unkind and challenging remarks calmly, honestly, and graciously.  He begins, in verse 6, by saying:  “My time is not yet at hand, but your time is always opportune.”  The Greek language has several words for time.  The word “aion” refers to long periods of time.  It’s been going on for ages or eons.  I’ll call it “abstract time”.  It was considered to be “God’s time” (not “God’s timing”, but “God’s time”), and was used to describe a lifetime or an eternity.  It extends beyond a person’s life, and is not limited to it.  The second word, “chronos”is sequential time, measuring minutes and seconds.  Let’s call it “tic-toc (or tick-tock) time”.  When I was growing up, clocks and watches ticked.  You could put your ear against them and hear it.  My grandfather had a railroad watch in his pocket, attached to his belt by a chain.  When we visited our grandparents, my grandfather would get out his watch and my two brothers and I would take turns sitting in his lap and listening to it tick.  We thought that was a wonderful way to pass the time!

Getting back to verse 6, the Greek word translated “time” is neither of those two words.  Instead, it is the word “kairos”, which refers to a point in time.  It is used to describe the precise time, the right moment, the opportune time, the proper time, and timeliness.  Let’s call it “stop-watch time” and the stop-watch, or timer, is in the hand of Jesus’ Heavenly Father.  This is the only instance where Jesus used this particular word.  In other instances, Jesus said “My hour has not yet come.”  Why did Jesus use “kairos” here, when speaking to His brothers?  Is there a difference in meaning?  Yes, there is.  When Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come”, He’s referring to a specific time of a particular event in the future, that is, the hour of His betrayal and arrest.  This event has already been set and cannot be changed.  When Jesus told His brothers, “My time is not yet at hand”, He is saying something like “I hope (or plan) to come, but this is not the best time for me.”  It’s somewhat similar to the phrases, “I’ll take a rain check on that”, and “I’ll catch up with you later.”  His Heavenly Father would be clicking the stopwatch or setting the timer for that event very soon.

The rest of verse 6 reads, “but your time is always opportune”.  His brothers can come and go whenever they want.  Their words and actions have not aroused the hostility of the Jewish leaders.  Even though they are Jesus’ family, the Jews have nothing against them at this time.  Let’s combine those words of Jesus with the words that follow in verse 7:  “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify to it, that it’s deeds are evil.”  One could easily get the impression that Jesus is getting even with His brothers for what they were saying to Him earlier; that He is being sarcastic and rebuking them for their worldliness and lack of faith in Him.  I disagree with that conclusion.  That doesn’t align with Jesus’ character.  The Lord Jesus has been protecting His family from the hostility and persecution He is experiencing.  The very things that they have been telling Jesus to do would put their own lives in danger.  They didn’t realize it, but Jesus did.  I think Jesus is saying, “The world cannot hate you because I am protecting you from that hatred at this time.”  He is doing so by not involving them in His ministry, by not mentioning them in His conversations with the Jews, and by keeping the focus of attention and hostility on Himself alone.  He doesn’t want His brothers to be identified as His followers and persecuted by the Jewish authorities when they don’t believe in Him yet.  At this dangerous point in His ministry, if Jesus went with His brothers to the feast, they would be considered as identified with Him.  Whereas, if they went by themselves, they would be identified with the world around them.  Those words of Jesus to His brothers may well have been spoken as words of reassurance from a loving and protective older-brother.  We find no negative reaction on their part.

Verse 9 concludes this interaction with the words, And having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.”  His brothers were satisfied with His response to them, and verse 10 tells us that His brothers went to the feast without Him.  I believe that part of the Father’s will for Jesus to remain in Galilee was not only for His own protection at this particular time, but also for the protection of His family.

CONCLUSION:

What can we learn and apply from this particular episode in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Once again we observe Jesus’ absolute obedience and submission to the will of His Heavenly Father.  He’s on the Father’s timetable each moment of every day, and He’s content to wait until the Father reveals His will, and the proper time to execute it.  He waits for the opportune time, the best time, because that’s His Father’s time, and the Father knows best.  No one, and nothing, is going to get in the way of doing His Father’s will, on schedule.  Not even His own brothers could deter Him from doing the will of His Heavenly Father.  Oswald Chambers shared this observation from his study of the Scriptures:  “There never was a more inconsistent Being on this earth than Our Lord, but He was never inconsistent to His Father.”

What about us?  Whose timetable do we follow?  Who holds the stopwatch in our lives?  Are we willing to wait on the Lord in prayer when the situation isn’t clear, or when the timing doesn’t seem right?

We can also learn a lesson from the way the Lord Jesus treated people – in this case, His own brothers.  Jesus’ love for His Heavenly Father did not exclude His love for His earthly family.  He didn’t interrupt His brothers, but calmly listened to their advice.  They didn’t understand the potential consequences of their advice, but Jesus did.  He understood their motives and their frustrations, and showed respect for their feelings.  The Lord Jesus was fulfilling the second Great Commandment by treating His brothers the way He would like to be treated.  What have you learned from His example?  By God’s grace, are you ready and willing to put those lessons into practice in your relationships with your own family members?  The Scriptures tell us the results of that loving treatment being given to His brothers by Jesus.  After His resurrection from the dead, in Acts 1:14, we find that His brothers are included among His followers.  Two of Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, became leaders in the early church and wrote epistles that bear their names.

If you are a committed follower of Jesus Christ, the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:48-50, where He asked a question, and then answered it for the sake of those who are listening to Him, are meant for us as well.  He said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?  For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”  We are “blood-relatives” of Jesus Christ and “blood-relatives” with every other believer in Jesus Christ.  We became children of God through the shed blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, on our behalf.  Are you treating your fellow-Christians the way you would treat Jesus?  Are you treating them the way Jesus treated His own brothers?  I hope so, and He wants it to be so.  Let’s renew our commitment to follow the Lord consistently and love one another unconditionally.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

 

FLESH AND BLOOD – John 6:51-59

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INTRODUCTION:

“THIS IS A TEST.  THIS IS ONLY A TEST.”  Have you heard those words before? Those words are a warning to all who are listening and watching, telling them that this is only a practice session, and informing them that, if this was an actual alert, instructions would be given to prepare each person for what was about to happen.  As you listened to those words, were you trusting that the one who was speaking them was telling you the truth, and was speaking with authority?

Author C.S. Lewis made the following statement concerning belief and authority.  He said, “Believing things ‘on authority’ only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy.  Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority.  I believe there is such a place as New York.  I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there is such a place.  I believe it because reliable people have told me so..  The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the circulation of the blood on authority – because the scientists say so.  Every historical statement is believed on authority.  None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada.  But we believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them; in fact, on authority.  A person who balked at authority in other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to know nothing all his life.”

Since the very beginning of His ministry, the Lord Jesus has been speaking with authority, and this authority has been attested to by John the Baptist, by the voice of the Father from heaven at His baptism, and by the miracles He has performed.  Let’s see how the Jewish leaders and the crowd respond when Jesus’ words seem offensive, and they don’t understand what He means by what He is saying.

TRANSITION:

Jesus is in the synagogue in Capernaum, and He’s been telling the people in the synagogue that He is “the bread of life”, and that whoever eats of this bread will not die but will live forever.  The crowd is taking His words literally, thinking that He is talking about physical bread.  They are bewildered by His words because they don’t understand how this can be physically possible.

I.  REPETITION AND ADDITION (verse 51)

In chapter 6, verse 51 of John’s gospel, Jesus repeats this statement about Himself, but this time He adds a trailer at the end of it.  He says, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  Notice that Jesus did not say “my body”, but “my flesh”.  The Greek word is “sarx”, and Jesus is going to use that word six more times before this conversation is over.  As the saying goes, the Lord Jesus has “opened a can of worms” and there is going to be a repulsive reaction from the crowd.  Get ready for some negative repercussions!

II.  THE RESPONSE (verse 52)

How did the people react to those words?  Verse 52 says, “The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”   They must have thought that Jesus was talking about some form of cannibalism.  The Greek word translated “argue” literally means to “fight” or “quarrel”.  They are “fighting mad” and are taking out their anger on each other in the presence of Jesus.  Notice the words they use to refer to Jesus, calling Him “this man”.  After all the things that Jesus has said and done so far in His public ministry, they refuse to consider Him to be anymore than just a man.  They’ve shut their eyes and closed their ears and their minds to everything they have seen and heard.  Ironically, many of those present didn’t close their mouths to the free food that was miraculous provided for them on the previous day!

I used to wonder, “Why didn’t Jesus tell them He wasn’t speaking literally but figuratively, and then explain to them what He meant by those words?  I now think that a more appropriate question is, “Why didn’t they ask Jesus to explain to them what He meant?”  The answer to both of those questions is the same:  the crowd didn’t want an explanation.  What they were looking for was an excuse and an opportunity to kill Him.  As John 5:18 says, “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill Him . . .”.  Maybe that’s why they were arguing so vehemently with each other – they may have been fighting about how they were going to kill Him and who was going to do it. We don’t know for sure, but we do know that those thoughts were in their minds.

The crowd may have missed the words “for the life of the world” because of the shocking words that preceded them.  Jesus was saying that what He was offering them wasn’t for the Jews only, but for everyone.  As the apostle John says of Jesus in I John 2:2, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

III,  EATING AND DRINKING – FLESH AND BLOOD (verses 53-58)

Rather than calming the angry crowd, Jesus makes a series of statements that are even more repulsive to His audience.  He begins by saying, in verse 53, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”   In John’s gospel, we find that Jesus often uses the phrase “Truly, truly, I say to you”.  He does so, not because He is telling the truth in this case, but because He is letting His listeners know that He has firsthand knowledge of what He is about to say, and therefore is speaking with authority.  He is also implying that they should, therefore, pay close attention to what He is saying.because it is very important information that applies to them. 

When Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood”, what did He mean by those words?  Why did He say them?  There is a tendency to look for similarities between Jesus’ words to this crowd and the words He said to His disciples at the Last Supper.  But Jesus was not referring to the Lord’s Supper (or Communion) in this conversation here in John 6.  He did not intend His statement to be taken literally.  He is using an analogy to communicate spiritual truths in the context of what they have already been talking about.  This is one of the many times in John’s gospel where Jesus uses symbolism to communicate spiritual lessons.  We have already studied Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, where Jesus compared the wind that was blowing that evening to the Holy Spirit, and told Nicodemus that he must be born again of water and the spirit in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.   In His conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus compared the water in the well to the living water He would give her, and if she drank from it, she would never thirst again but would have everlasting life.  So what does Jesus have in mind on this particular occasion?

Here in verses 53-58, as the Lord Jesus uses those words several times with some alterations, get ready for a history lesson, a principle of philosophy, and another short course in Greek grammar in order to understand what He really means by those statements.  Firstly, the differences between His words spoken here and those spoken much later at the last supper are much greater and more numerous than any possible similarities. 

   A.  A HISTORY LESSON

When the Lord Jesus celebrated the Last Supper (the Passover feast) with His disciples, He did not say “This is my flesh”,  He said, “This is my body.  He also did not say, “This is my blood”.  Rather, He said “This is the new covenant in my blood”Luke 22:20 says, “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’.”  The focus of His attention is on the cup and the new covenant.  The Lord’s Supper (Communion) is not a sacrifice but a remembrance.  The apostle Paul addresses this issue to the Corinthian church in I Corinthians 11 because of misunderstandings concerning the Lord’s Supper.  Some members of the church at Corinth, along with many in churches today, mistakenly thought (or think) that eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord’s Table is essential for salvation, and that all who do so are guaranteed salvation.  The apostle Paul quotes those words said by Jesus, and then, in verse 26, he summarizes by saying, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”  Rather than being a source of salvation, the Lord’s Supper is not only a remembrance, but also a proclamation. 

Looking again at the context of Jesus’ words on the way to the synagogue and in the synagogue, Jesus uses this analogy of flesh and blood because that was the initial subject of the conversation.  He was comparing Himself to the manna which their forefathers ate after fleeing from Egypt.  The Jews listening to Jesus took pride in the manna, considering it to be heavenly food which extended one’s lifespan, and asked Jesus to give them a sign like the manna.  Jesus addressed this belief of theirs by saying that He is the living bread.  He is greater than the manna because the life He offers lasts forever.

Rather than look ahead to the Last Supper to find a reason for Jesus’ words, it would be better to look back in history to the night when the first Passover was celebrated.  Before the manna, there was the Passover meal.  Before God sustained His people with the manna, He saved them from their bondage in Egypt.  In order for this salvation to occur, a price had to be paid:  death for life.  In Exodus 12, each household of the sons of Israel was told to slaughter a lamb, roast its flesh and eat it along with unleavened bread and put the lamb’s blood on the two doorposts and the lintel of their home.  When the death angel passed through Egypt that night, wherever he saw that blood he would “pass over” that house and the firstborn would be spared from death.  The people of Israel would also be delivered that night from the bondage of Egypt, and God would lead them to the land He had promised them and give them a new life there.  So the flesh and blood of the lambs were the instruments used by God to bring salvation, deliverance, and a new life for His people as they believed and obeyed the word of the Lord given to them through Moses.  I believe that the original Passover was the Old Testament event that Jesus may have had in mind as a basis for comparison when He spoke of eternal life and deliverance through His flesh and blood.

B.  A PRINCIPLE OF PHILOSOPHY

A second evidence that Jesus was referring to salvation comes from one of the branches of philosophy called logic.  It is the science of evaluating arguments and determining sound reasoning.  A fundamental law of reasoning is the following:  “Two concepts which are equal to a third concept are also equal to each other.”  That sounds logical, doesn’t it?  Let’s see what Jesus is saying in verses 53-58 and then add up the results that come from the “eating” and “drinking”:  1)  If you don’t do so, “you have no life in yourselves” (verse 53).  So Jesus’ command is absolutely essential for eternal life.  2)  He “has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (verse 54).  It’s a guarantee of eternal life and physical resurrection.  3)  He abides in Me and I in him” (verse 56).  Jesus speaks of an eternal relationship with Himself.  4)  “he shall live because of Me” (verse 57).  Jesus is saying that He is the source of that life.  5)  “he . . shall live forever” (verse 58).  Once again, the result of doing so is eternal life.

In each of His statements, Jesus is equating “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” to having eternal life as a result, correct?  If we look ahead to verse 63, we find that Jesus says, ” . . . the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”  Jesus is telling His disciples afterward that he was speaking to the crowd in the synagogue about spiritual things and was not to be taken literally.

Now let’s compare Jesus’ words in verses 53-58 with other statements He made recently on the topic of eternal life.  Several times the Lord Jesus has spoken clearly about eternal life and what was necessary on man’s part in order to receive it.  In His discussion with Nicodemus, He began to speak clearly and literally in John 3:14-16, where He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.”  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  The only other recourse given is that of perishing.

Later, in John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”  The only other option given is “judgment”.

Now, in the middle of this present conversation with the Jews, Jesus says, in verse 47, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

As you can see from these three statements made by Jesus, eternal life results only from believing,  The logical conclusion, then, is that “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” is the same as believing in Him, with an emphasis on His atoning work, since both concepts have the same result.

C.  A LESSON IN GREEK GRAMMAR  (verse 53)

As you probably know, the Gospel of John, together with all the other books of the New Testament, was written in Greek.  The English language, in this particular passage of Scripture, does not communicate the tense of certain verbs as clearly as the original Greek text because there are more tenses to Greek verbs than there are in English.    In verse 53, Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  Those two verbs (“eat” and “drink”) are in the aorist tense, denoting a one-time action.  It is not continued or repeated, but is a once-and-for-all event.  In passages of Scripture such as John 6;29, where Jesus asks people to believe in Him for eternal life, or tells them that they do not believe, the aorist tense is used also.  This is another proof that the words, “eat my flesh and drink my blood” are equivalent to saving faith because they are both once-for-all events, using the same tense of the verbs.

D.  A SECOND LESSON IN GREEK GRAMMAR (verses 54-58)

This second lesson is a new insight for me.  Below is the New International Version translation of verses 54-58:

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will
raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father,
so the one who feeds on me will live because of me,  This is the bread that
came down from heaven.  Our forefathers ate manna and died,
but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

The words “eats”, “drinks”, and “feeds” are verbs in this English translation, but in the original Greek text they are not verbs, but participles.  You may be thinking, “Would you refresh my memory?  Just what is a participle and what does it do?”  I will be glad to do so, having just refreshed my own memory!  Participles are verb-forms ending in “ing” which have the characteristics of both a verb and an adjective.  To demonstrate that definition, let me write out for you verses 54-58 again, only this time you will see those verbs changed to participles.  The words that I’ve enclosed in parentheses are implied in the Greek text.

The (one) eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life and I will
raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
The (one) eating my flesh and drinking my blood remains in me, and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father,
so the (one) feeding on me will live because of me.  This is the bread that
came down from heaven.  Our forefathers ate the manna and died,
but the (one) eating this bread will live forever.

Does reading that literal translation give you a change of perspective?  It did for me. The present participles put the emphasis on the believer rather than on believing.  Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is a one-for-all event, demonstrated by the use of the Greek aorist tense.  Once a person takes that step of repentance, faith, and commitment to Jesus Christ, thereby becoming a Christian, a life-long process begins (as demonstrated by the use of the present-participles).  It’s called the “doctrine of sanctification”.  This process includes growing in our relationship to the Lord through spending time with Him in His Word and in prayer, as well as through the fellowship with other believers.  As verse 56 says, “(The believer) remains in me, and I in him.”).  There is a closeness to God that becomes closer, and a fellowship with God that becomes deeper as the believer spends time with Him.  It’s the abiding relationship that Jesus will later describe in John 15.  There is also a deepening dependence upon God as the believer seeks to obey God, serve Him, and be a witness for Him.  It’s the Father’s desire, and it should be our goal, to become more and more like His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  So verses 51-53 focus on the beginning of spiritual life – how a person becomes a believer, and verses 54-58 describe the believer’s spiritual growth until the day when God calls him home to be in His presence and enjoy Him for eternity.  The once-for-all event of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, evidenced by genuine repentance for our sins and the surrender of our lives to His Lordship, then becomes a moment-to-moment fellowship with God, and obedience to our heavenly Father as His adopted children.  When this life is over we will see God face-to-face and enjoy His presence and His love for eternity in heaven.  Those are the three aspects of the doctrine of salvation:  justification (the one-time event),  followed by sanctification (the process of spiritual growth as His children), followed by glorification (with God for eternity in heaven).

IV.  POINT OF REFERENCE (verse 59)

The apostle John ends this conversation of Jesus by letting us know where it occurred.  We can’t say that this conversation didn’t happen because John documented it.  John writes, “He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.”  Our responsibility. as readers and students of God’s Word, is not to discount this conversation or overlook it, but to understand its spiritual meaning and apply it’s principles to our lives.

CONCLUSION:

Where are you today in relation to this conversation between Jesus and the Jews in the synagogue in Capernaum?  Do you understand what it means to believe in Jesus Christ?  Do you realize the price that Jesus, the Son of God and the Lamb of God, is going to pay to make that relationship with God possible?  Are you ready to commit yourself to follow the One who wants to give you a new, and an abundant life now, and eternal life with Him in heaven?  Whether you are ready or not, please read my “About Page” to understand what that decision involves and the Scriptures that declare it.

If you have placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and your life bears evidence to that decision, are you growing daily as a result of your fellowship with Him?  Are you enjoying His presence with you throughout your day, and learning to depend more and more on His strength and His faithfulness to supply your needs?  Is it becoming more and more obvious to those around you that your faith is real and your joy is infectious?  I hope so.  That’s just part of God’s desire for His children, as revealed in His Word.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Welcome to this completed construction site.  John 6:51-59 is a controversial passage of scripture with a number of viewpoints or interpretations.  There can only be one correct interpretation,  The Lord Jesus had a reason and motive for saying the things He said, and the apostle John was an eye-witness and wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 

 

 

 

THE BREAD OF LIFE – John 6:48-50

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INTRODUCTION:

There are many foods in this world of ours that are available only to a few people because of their cost or because of their scarcity or seasonal nature.  But bread is the universal food of mankind.  It is found on every table – rich or poor, king or peasant.  Whether it is made of wheat, corn, rye, oats, rice, or some other grain, it is bread, the cheapest and most nourishing food.  Bread represents all the elements needed to sustain life.  Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, gives the following description.  “Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking.  Throughout recorded history it has been popular around the world and is one of the oldest artificial foods, having been of importance since the dawn of agriculture.”

Here in John’s gospel, Jesus has been described in terms of the basics of physical life.  He is called “light” in chapter 1, and describes Himself to Nicodemus, in chapter 3, as the “light that has come into the world.”  Jesus also describes the work of the Spirit of God by using the wind, the movement of air, as an illustration of spiritual birth.  When speaking to the woman at the well, in chapter 4, Jesus identifies Himself to her as the Source of “living water”, and now He is referring to Himself as the “bread of life”.   Putting those descriptions together, we have the basics for sustaining physical life in human beings:  light, air, water, and bread.  His purpose for all these illustrations is to transition from “physical basics” to “spiritual basics”, and so far He has been very successful in doing so.  There is more to be said about bread.  In this passage of Scripture we’re going to see how this information about Himself is received by this small crowd of people who crossed the Sea of Galilee in boats that morning, and found Jesus and His disciples in Capernaum.

I.  JESUS RESTATES HIS CLAIM (verse 48)

Verse 48 contains these words of Jesus:  “I am the bread of life”.  He just said those very same words to them several minutes earlier in verse 35.  I think there is more to His words than just repetition for the sake of remembrance.  In Matthew’s gospel we find that Jesus spent quite a bit of time in the synagogues of the Jews.  It was His practice to visit the synagogues in Galilee when He was in that region.  Matthew 4:23 says, “And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues . . . “.  Since a small portion of the 5000 crossed the Sea of Galilee in the early morning and found Jesus and His disciples, I personally think that Jesus was on His way to the synagogue in Capernaum when they joined Him, and Jesus spoke to them about the bread of life while they were walking into town.  As they approached the synagogue, bystanders along the way may have joined the crowd, and they followed Jesus into the synagogue.  Inside there were more people, gathered for the time of instruction.  I think Jesus may be repeating His earlier statements for the sake of the people in the synagogue, who were watching them enter the building and were, no doubt, curious about what they were discussing.  This may not be the first time that Jesus taught in their synagogue.  John 6:59 confirms this.  It reads, “These things He said in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum.”

I’m sure they all wondered what Jesus meant when he walked into the synagogue, waited for everyone to sit down and listen to Him speak, and then said those words, “I am the bread of life.”  Jesus was saying that in Him are all the elements for a healthy, growing spiritual life.  The famous missionary, Jonathan Goforth, had preached a series of messages in a chapel in southern China in the early 1900’s.  Afterward, a man asked to talk to him.  The man said, “I have heard you speak three times, and you always have the same theme.  You always speak of Jesus Christ.  Why?”  The missionary replied, “Sir, before answering your question, let me ask, ‘What did you have for dinner today?’ ”  “Rice”, replied the man.  “What did you have yesterday?”
“The same thing.”  “And what do you expect to eat tomorrow?”  “Rice, of course.  It gives me strength.  I could not do without it.  Sir, it is . . .”  (the man hesitated, as if looking for a strong word).  Then he added, “Sir, it is my life!”  The missionary responded quickly, “What you have said of rice, Jesus is to your soul.  He is the “rice” or “bread of life”.

There may yet be another reason why Jesus keeps repeating that He is the bread of life.  The Jews in Judea had grumbled saying that Jesus and His family were from Nazareth, and no prophet was supposed to come from Nazareth.  They didn’t ask Jesus where He was born and they didn’t do any research for themselves, or they would have learned that He was born in Bethlehem.  Did you know that the name “Bethlehem”  literally means “House of Bread”.  Jesus was speaking to them in Hebrew, and the word He was saying was “lehem”, the second half of the word “Bethlehem”.  He’s saying, “I am lehem” over and over again.  Wouldn’t you think that the town of Bethlehem might come to the minds of some of His listeners?  “I am ‘lehem’ from ‘Bethlehem’.”  “I am bread” from the “house of bread”.  I certainly wouldn’t rule out that possibility, and that’s a new insight for me.

II.  COMPARISON TO THE MANNA RESTATED (verses 49-50)

Once again, Jesus also compares Himself to the manna for the sake of all the people who are present, many of whom did not hear the first statement in verses 28-32.  But this time Jesus changes the wording slightly to emphasize a different perspective.  Earlier, in verses 28-31 the crowd asked Jesus to show them a sign as proof that He came from God.  Then they describe the kind of a sign they want Him to perform.  To paraphrase, they said,  “Give us a sign like the one Moses gave the people of Israel.  Send us manna from heaven to eat.”  The crowd wanted another free meal; only this time they wanted it catered from heaven!

The Lord Jesus responds to them by telling them about the long-lasting effects of the bread He has to offer them.  In verse 35, He says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  Jesus is speaking spiritually, but they are taking it literally.  They want this bread, just as the woman at the well, in John 4:15, wanted that “living water”!  He also states, in verse 33, that the bread He offers is not exclusive to the Jews, but inclusive of the whole world.  He “gives life to the world”.  So the bread Jesus offers in Himself is long-lasting and inclusive of all peoples without distinction.

A.  THE MANNA WAS PHYSICAL FOOD  (verse 49)

In verse 49, Jesus once again begins to compare Himself to the manna, but this time He emphasizes that He is the bread which will prevent death.  He says, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.”  The manna sustained physical life but it didn’t prevent death.  All who ate the manna eventually died.  There would be no argument among the people listening to Him concerning that statement.  They were probably nodding their heads silently in agreement.  The Scriptures were clear that the manna was given to sustain the lives of their ancestors until they died, or until the next generation entered the promised land and could eat the fruit of that land.  However, the next sentence from the mouth of Jesus is going to raise some eyebrows and start the grumbling again!  This is especially so because He is now inside the synagogue where there are probably priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees among those who are listening to Him speak.  The crowd isn’t friendly anymore!

This is not the Sabbath day.  They apostle John is very diligent about letting his readers know when it is a Sabbath or a feast day of the Jews.  The previous Sabbath was just a couple of days earlier, when Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (John 5:1-17).  If it’s not the Sabbath, why would Jesus be going to the synagogue on a weekday?  This synagogue was a busy place during the week also.  It served as a community center, school, court, and place of study.  There was never a dull moment in the synagogues of that day.

B.  THE BREAD OF PERPETUAL LIFE (verse 50)

In verse 50, the Lord Jesus once again makes a comparison between the manna and the bread He has to offer them.  He says, “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.”  So far, the crowd has been thinking that Jesus is talking about physical bread, so they are naturally going to deduce that He is talking about physical death.  Two people from the Scriptures must have immediately come to their minds.  Their names were Enoch and Elijah, and they are the only two people in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings who did not die.  (Genesis 5:22-24; II Kings 2:1-15).  It’s also obvious from the Scriptures that it wasn’t bread that kept these two men from dying.  What is Jesus talking about?  Why is He making such a claim?

To begin with, I think the Lord Jesus wants to bring the subject of death to their minds.  The children of Israel were given the manna in answer to their fear of starving.  Jesus is going to give them an answer to their fear of death.  It’s a subject about which there was a considerable difference of opinion among first-century Jews.  Each of those present in that synagogue had ideas they were taught as children, along with their own personal ideas about death and the after-life, referred to in Hebrew as the Olam Ha-Ba (the World To Come).

A cemetery in Indiana has a tombstone that is over a hundred years old, and it bears this epitaph:

Pause, Stranger, when you pass me by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be,
So prepare for death and follow me.

An unknown passerby had read those words and scratched this reply below them:

To follow you I’m not content,
Until I know which way you went.

The passerby was right.  The important thing about death is what follows.  Where are you going?

One sizable group of Hebrew people during the first century were the Sadducees.  They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.  One of my professors in Bible college said something that I’ve never forgotten.  We were studying the Gospels and he said, “The Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead;  that’s why they’re ‘sad,you see’.”  If I didn’t believe in a resurrection from the dead, I’d be sad too; wouldn’t you?

From what I’ve read about first-century Judaism, the greater focus of attention appears to be on the here and now, rather than on the there and then.  If you have a computer, you probably get notifications of updates that need to be installed.  Some of those updates take quite a bit of time to install.  Usually you are given the option of three buttons to choose from.  You can click “install now”, “set a time”, or “remind me later”.  If you’re like me, you don’t want to be bothered by the interruption and so you click the “remind me later” button.  I’ve been clicking that button several times over the past weeks, putting it off again and again.  I need to stop and let the developers of my operating system get the job done!  First-century Judaism probably wasn’t much different from our society today when it comes to the issue of death.  It wasn’t a subject that they liked to discuss, so they often ignored it or kept putting it off until later.  Evangelist Billy Graham made the following comment:  Much of the world pretends that death does not exist.  We like to speak of the dead as “departed”, or persons who have died as having “passed on” or “expired”.  We do not like the word “death”.  It seems so final, so irreversible, so hopeless.

Do the Old Testament scriptures talk about the death and the afterlife?  Yes, in many places.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and others are spoken of as being “gathered to their people” after they died.  By contrast, the wicked were described as being “cut off from their people.”  Daniel 12:2 speaks of a conscious life after death in one of two places, and both are everlasting.  It never ends.  Many passages of Scripture use the word Sheol to refer to the place of the dead (in the Psalms, Job, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Jonah, Isaiah, I Samuel, and others).  Add to that the teachings of the Rabbis that were collected as part of the Mishnah and Talmud.  In these writings it seems that each of the rabbis had a different teaching about the afterlife.  This added confusion to the minds of the people, and increased their fear of what’s in store for them beyond the grave.

With that background in mind concerning death and the afterlife, the people’s ears must have been tingling and their attention focused on the Lord Jesus after He said those words in verse 50:  “This is the bread which comes out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”  Everyone there was wondering, “What is He going to say next?”  “How can this be possible.”  I think Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us as well, a principle for sharing the Gospel message:  Sometimes, in order to awaken in people a desire for eternal life, you’ve got to put the fear of death into them!  By putting the fear of death into people, we may also be putting the fear of God into them:  “If there is a God, what’s He going to do to me when this life is over?”  “I’ve tried to be good, but so far I haven’t been very successful!”

CONCLUSION:

Is death a subject that you don’t like to think about or talk about?  Do you sometimes worry about your own death and what might await you on the other side?  Would you like to put an end to those worries and have a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of life?  If so, please go to my sermon on John 1:12, entitled “What Does It Mean To Receive Christ”, and consider what God wants you to do, and what He gives you in exchange for your act of obedience and faith.  May you allow the Bread of Life to be the One who satisfies the deepest hunger of your soul, both now and for eternity.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Let’s feast on the Word of God, which describes for us the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of life.

 

 

 

ALL COMERS WELCOME . . . FOREVER! – John 6:36-40

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INTRODUCTION:

As World War II in Europe was drawing to a close, the allied armies gathered up many hungry and homeless orphans, placing them in camps where they were well-fed and cared for.  Despite the excellent care, the children slept poorly at night.  They seemed nervous and afraid.  Finally, a psychologist came up with an idea.  After a large evening meal, each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he was put to bed.  The children were told that this particular piece of bread was to be held and not eaten.  They were to hold it until the next morning.  The piece of bread produced wonderful results.  The children slept soundly because, after so many years of hunger, they finally had the assurance of food the next day.  It was right there in their hands!

In John 6:35, Jesus told the crowd, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  He’s telling them that He is the permanent answer to their spiritual hunger and thirst for God, just as He was the temporary source of their previous physical hunger. His purpose is to focus their attention away from their physical needs and direct that attention to their spiritual needs.  The Lord Jesus is also telling them, in that short statement, that He alone is the source of life; He alone is the source of salvation.  This is the first of seven “I AM” statements made by Jesus, and recorded only here in the Gospel of John.  In the next five verses, Jesus elaborates on the meaning of that statement and how it applies to them.

I. SEEING WASN’T BELIEVING (verse 36)

Jesus begins by referring back to something He showed them previously.  That’s what He’s doing in verse 36 when He says, “But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.”  It’s “show and tell” time again!  He showed them, the previous day, the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fish, and they responded by saying, in verse 14, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  However, they didn’t really believe their own words because, on the following morning they ask Jesus how He could have gone around the lake in such a short time (John 6:25).  They don’t believe that He could have done so in a miraculous way.  In verse 26, He chides them because they are following Him around, not because of the signs, but because of the food.  There has been a lack of understanding and a wrong motivation on their part.  I don’t sense anger on the part of Jesus, but rather, sadness because they are so earthly-minded and self-centered.  So He reminds them again, in verse 36, of their unbelief in Him.

Jesus is using a teaching method that has been used on all of us many times in the past, and a form of instruction that we have used many times as well.  It’s called “repetition” or “reinforcement”.  Not only in the passage of Scripture we are studying (John 6:36-40), but throughout the rest of his conversation with this crowd, Jesus is saying basically the same thing over and over again from different perspectives.  The focus of His teaching is going to be on the process of salvation. In response to their unbelief, Jesus is now going to be making some very profound statements.

II.  JESUS’ ROLE IN SALVATION (verses 37-38)

In spite of their unbelief, Jesus says to the crowd, in verse 37, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me”.  In view of the situation, I think that part of what Jesus is implying, by those words is:  “I’m not here to argue you into the kingdom of heaven, nor force you to believe Who I am and what I say.”  He tells them that the Father has given Him those who are to be saved, and all of those whom the Father has given Him will come to Him in faith.  Isaiah 53 is the prophecy of the Messiah as the suffering servant, and in verse 11 it says, “As the result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied.  By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”  Jesus will see the fulfillment of His labors and “the many” will be saved.  Jesus has stated that His Father is in control, and has chosen those who will be saved.

This concept of election was nothing new to the nation of Israel.  Of all of the nations that have ever existed, the nation of Israel would have no problem understanding that God makes His choices based on His own sovereign will.  He does what He pleases and no one can change it.  We find this truth in God’s promises to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and others.  The nation of Israel was His “chosen people”.  We find that restated in the Psalms and the prophets, especially the prophet Isaiah.  We see it also throughout the history of the nation of Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures.  God performed amazing miracles to show the nations that He was the true God, and that He was with His people Israel.

Jesus’ words, in verse 37, also include man’s responsibility.  Those who are given to the Son by the Father will come to Him.  There is an act of the will on their part, just as there is an act of the will by those who refuse to come to Him.  In the remainder of verse 37, Jesus tells them what will happen to those who come to Him when He says, “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”   He is speaking of each individual believer and letting them know that each person’s salvation is secure in His arms. There is a true story that describes this sense of security.

When the evangelist, George Needham, came to preach at a town in England, he was the guest of a gentleman who had a beautiful home surrounded by towering trees.  One day, while walking in the shade, meditating on the things of God, Needham heard a fluttering sound and the startled cry of a bird.  Glancing upward he saw a lark being chased by a hawk.  The little song bird dashed wildly through the branches, screaming in fear.  Close behind were the fierce eyes and sharp talons of its enemy.  The bird continued its frantic flight until it seemed exhausted and about to give up.  Then it saw the evangelist below, and in an instant flew directly into his folded arms and nestled there.  It seemed conscious of perfect safety.  Do you think that evangelist would pick up that little bird and cast it to the hawk?  Certainly not!  He would defend it at any cost to himself.  Do you feel safe in the arms of the Lord, no matter what might come your way?

Almost two centuries ago, John 6:37 became a very significant verse of Scripture in the life of a woman in England.  When you hear the words she wrote down, I think you will recognize them immediately.  Charlotte Elliott learned an important lesson about Jesus one sleepless night in 1834.  She was an invalid, so when her family held a bazaar in Brighton, England, to raise money to build a school, she could only watch from afar.  That night she was overwhelmed by her helplessness and could not sleep.  But her sadness was turned to joy when she realized that God accepted her just as she was.

Her experience inspired her to write these well-loved words:  “Just as I am, without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come!  I come!”  When she published the completed poem in The Invalid’s Hymn Book, she included with it John 6:37.  I wonder how many times that song has been sung, at Billy Graham crusades and elsewhere?  And they haven’t finished singing it yet!  Her song is a reminder that no one who comes to Jesus will be turned away.

Jesus continues the conversation by telling the people His reason for coming to earth.  In verse 38 He says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  During His entire conversation with this crowd, Jesus uses the phrase “I’ve come down from heaven” six times.  He’s telling them that His one and only purpose for leaving His throne in heaven is to do the Father’s will, and all that it entails.  Their response to Him will not change His course of action, nor His commitment to His Father.

III.  THE FATHER’S WILL IN SALVATION (verse 39)

In verse 39, Jesus describes the Father’s will from His perspective.  He says, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”  He is stating to them that it is His responsibility to protect and provide for all that the Father has given to Him and entrusted to His care.  Jesus is part of the divine plan and is “under orders”, so to speak, from His heavenly Father.  Those orders include raising them up on the last day as the final fulfillment of that plan (I Thessalonians 4:14-17).  Verse 39 is an assurance of salvation to all whom the Father has given to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, because Jesus will fulfill all the responsibilities given to Him by the Father so that the Father’s will might be fully accomplished.

IV.  THE RESPONSE AND THE RESULTS (verse 40)

In verse 40, Jesus now describes this same process of salvation from a human perspective, applying it to every individual.  This time He says, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Do you enjoy a good mystery?  Do you read mystery novels?   Have you watched mystery programs or mystery movies.  There is a library where I live and I noted that there are almost as many mystery novels as there are romance novels. and many more mysteries than westerns.  Good mysteries tend to have high viewer-ratings on TV, and there are mystery movies galore.  Even many of the romance and westerns have mysteries within them.  People enjoy trying to solve mysteries before the solution is given.  The Bible contains many mysteries also.  There is the “mystery of the kingdom of God” (Matthew 4:11), the “mystery of His will” (Ephesians 1:9), and the “mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19), among many others.  As you can see from the three I’ve mentioned, many of these mysteries in the Bible are tied to each other.

In this passage of Scripture, John 6:36-40, we are faced with a mystery:  God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation.  It’s important for each of us to know what the Scriptures say about this mystery, even though our finite minds cannot completely comprehend these truths.  Since Jesus is going to be talking about this subject again in John 10 and 17, I’m going to try to stick to the information and concepts that Jesus is addressing in this Scripture passage.

In verse 40, Jesus describes the Father’s will in terms that we can understand.  When He says the words, “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him”, Jesus may, once again, be using an illustration from the Old Testament scriptures that He communicated to Nicodemus In His conversation with him in John 3:14.  Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”  He was referring to the bronze serpent that was placed on a pole (a standard with a cross-beam for holding a banner) and lifted up by Moses.  Looking up to that serpent on the pole was an act of faith, humility, repentance, and obedience.  Only then would those Israelites be saved from physical death, after having been bitten by the fiery serpents.  Jesus is saying to the crowd in verse 40 that individuals aren’t saved because they are chosen by the Father and given to Him.  They are saved because they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and their changed lives are evidence that they are His.  This eliminates the false conclusion that “If I’ve been chosen, I will be saved, so it’s useless for me to do anything on my part.”  That’s looking at the wrong side of salvation.  Our responsibility is to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  This also rules out the theory of double-predestination – that God has chosen those who will be condemned.   The Scriptures tell us that people are responsible for their choices.  No one is going to be compelled to go to heaven against his will, and no one is compelled to go to hell against his will.   That’s what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:18 when He said, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.”  That’s the human side or perspective of salvation.

Dr. H.A. Ironside had these words to say:  “Are you willing to come to Jesus?  He will in no wise cast out.  Whoever you are today, if you will come to Him, He will take you in.  You do not have to settle any question about predestination before you come to Jesus.  And when you come, He receives you; and having come, you may know that you are one whom the Father gave to the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Let me add that before you “come”, you have to “leave”, right?  In order to come to a person, or to another place, you have to depart from where you are now.  Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth (Philippians 2:9-11).  Coming to Him in faith means leaving the things that are controlling our lives in order to give Him His rightful place as the Lord of our lives.  Let’s make no mistake that we can have genuine faith in Him without repentance.  They are the two sides of the same coin.

If you are a Christian, please be careful not to try to solve God’s side of the mystery of salvation.  Let’s leave salvation in God’s hands.  That’s where it began; that’s where it belongs; and it couldn’t be in better hands.

Let me share with you two illustrations that each give a picture of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.  These illustrations have helped me see it from a human perspective, and yet cause me to realize that there is a divine perspective.  The first is a diagram showing two lines going up to heaven.  One of the lines is labelled “God’s sovereignty” and the other is labelled “man’s responsibility”.  the lines are not parallel but are slightly angled toward each other.  As the lines go up to heaven you can see that the lines are going to meet eventually, but they pass through a cloud and then meet on the other side out of our view.  The cloud is labelled “human understanding”, and the lines meet on the other side in God.  The illustration points to the fact that both concepts are given in Scripture, so there must be an explanation.  For the time being we need to accept that by faith and God will explain the mystery when we see Him.  The other illustration depicts a sign on the gates of heaven, and the sign reads, “BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND YOU SHALL BE SAVED”  (Acts 16:31).  After you pass through the pearly gates you notice that another message is written on the other side of that sign.  It says, CHOSEN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD (Ephesians 1:4).  Those are the human and the divine sides of salvation.  I hope those two illustrations will be helpful and useful to you.

As we reflect upon the mystery of God’s plan of salvation, may we be filled with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving for His sovereignty and grace.  May we be reminded of God’s words to Isaiah in Isaiah 55:8, where God says,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this recently-completed sermon on John 6:36-40.  May the year 2018 be a joy-filled and challenging year for you.  As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14, “. . . but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  The race is on for the year 2018!  I hope you are one of the contestants, not one of the bystanders.

 

 

A Meal for a Multitude – John 6:1-15

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INTRODUCTION:

“In the city of Philadelphia many years ago, a little girl named Hattie May Wiatt came to a small Sunday School and asked if she might attend.  They regretfully explained to her that they were completely crowded out and that there was no room.  Some time later Hattie became seriously ill and soon slipped away from this earth to be with Jesus.  Under her pillow was found an old, torn pocketbook.  Inside was a scrap of paper in which she had wrapped fifty-seven pennies.  On the paper, scrawled in a childish hand, were these words:  “To help build the church a little bigger so that more children can go there to Sunday school.”  Hattie May was only a little child, and so she didn’t have much that she could give to Jesus, but she had saved fifty-seven shining coppers to help enlarge a Sunday school that could not let her in.  The pastor, deeply touched, told his congregation what the little child had done.  The newspapers repeated the story, and soon from far and wide gifts began to come in to build a bigger auditorium.  That contribution of fifty-seven sacrificial pennies, given in love for Jesus, grew until the fund reached the sum of $250,000.  As a result, in Philadelphia there is now a great church, seating over 3000 people, with plenty of room for little children who want to attend Sunday school.” (Our Daily Bread devotional)

We will soon see how that touching story relates to the passage of Scripture we are now studying:  John 6:1-15.

I.  THE SETTING:  (verses 1-4)

Verse 1 begins with the words, “After these things”.  Actually, several months have passed since the end of chapter 5.  During that time Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount, performed several miracles and told several parables, He also gave His disciples the power to heal the sick and cast out demons, and then sent them out two-by-two to proclaim the kingdom of God.  When they returned to Him, Jesus listened to their accounts of what they had done (Matthew 9-14; Mark 4-6; Luke 5-9)

Now He’s going by boat across the Sea of Galilee, probably to spend some time with His disciples and get some much-needed rest.  What happens next is recorded in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15).  The time alone with His disciples didn’t last long.  Verse 2 tells us that “a great multitude was following Him”.  They were walking around the Sea of Galilee, probably bringing their sick and lame along with them for Jesus to heal.  Mark’s gospel tells us that the crowd of people were already there when He and His disciples arrived.

Verse 3 tells us, “And He went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.”  From that vantage point they could see quite a distance, and they “lifted up their eyes” and watched and waited until all who were coming had arrived.  The mountain they climbed was part of what is now called the Golan Heights.  There was a large, grassy plateau at the top.

Luke 14:21 says that the crowd consisted of 5000 men “aside from women and children”.  If you do the math, that means there were 15,000 to 20,000 people in that crowd.  Where did all these people come from?  I think the apostle John gives us part of the answer to that question when he inserted verse 4 into his narrative.  It says, “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand”.  This means that throngs of Jews from all over the Roman Empire were making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover meal.  What would you do if you were one of those pilgrims and saw a large crowd of Jews going in a different direction?  I’d want to ask them some questions, wouldn’t you?  “What’s going on?” “Where are you going”?  “Why”?  I believe that many of these pilgrims decided to make a detour and follow this crowd to see Jesus.

In spite of the fact that Jesus wanted to get away to a secluded place with His disciples to rest for a while, He wasn’t irritated by the fact that the crowds of people followed Him. Luke writes, “. . . and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God, and curing those who had need of healing.”  The Lord Jesus was always a servant, concerned about the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others.

II.  THE TEST (verses 5-9)

As the day wore on, the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the people away so that they could buy food for themselves (Mark 6:36).  In response, Jesus said to Philip (the “mathematician”), “Where are we going to buy bread that these may eat.”  He’s saying, “These people are our guests.  So, what are we going to do to provide them with a meal”  Jesus knew what He was going to do, but He puts Philip to the test; and Philip (“the mathematician”) considers this to be a “math test”, so he works out the problem in his head.  “Let’s see, 5000 men plus women and children, multiplied by the cost of one meal for each person, divided by the number of days worked to earn that amount of money.” . . .   Philip can’t count that high in his head, so he makes a minimum “guesstimate” in verse 7, saying, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.”  Philip is saying, “This is mathematically impossible; two-hundred days wages wouldn’t be enough to give them each a mouthful of bread.”  Philip failed that test!

At that moment Andrew (the “bringer”), Simon Peter’s brother, approaches Jesus.  Andrew is always bringing someone to Jesus, and in this case he brings along a little boy.  The child’s mother made him a snack lunch that morning to take with him for the day, and he wanted to give it all to Jesus.  Does that remind you of Hattie May Wiatt, the little girl in my introduction?  Like Hattie May, this little boy had no idea how great the cost would be to meet the need, but he wanted to give everything that he had in order to help meet that need.

Andrew said to Jesus, in verse 9:  “There’s a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish”.  If Andrew had stopped there, it would have been a demonstration of faith in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, Andrew continues, “but what are these for so many people?”  Andrew failed the test also!  He failed because, like Philip, he removed his focus from His Messiah and started doing the math.  This was not a math test that Jesus was giving them.  He is not their math teacher, but their God!  I would consider this to be more of a history test than a math test, and I’ll explain why later on in this sermon.

So far, the only one who has passed the test is this little boy!  He knew that Jesus could meet the need – that’s why he made his investment!  For him, it wasn’t a mathematical problem, but an opportunity to express faith and trust in Jesus.  Whether it’s a lunch or 57 cents, this boy and Hattie May gave what they had and God does the rest.

Before we look into the miracle itself, let’s first look into the lunchbox.  I’m sure there was a broad smile on Jesus’ face as He squatted to talk to the child.  I can imagine that Jesus embraced him as He thanked the boy for his gift.  When Jesus opened the lunchbox, what does He see?  Before His eyes are five small barley cakes.  Barley is the food of the poor, so Jesus knows that this child is from a poor family.  He also knows that the boy is not with his family because they did not come along with him to meet Jesus.  They may have given him that lunch because they were both going to be in the fields that day, harvesting someone’s crop or gleaning the left-over grain in order to have enough to eat for themselves and their family.  When the boy saw crowds of people going around the lake, and learned that they were on their way to see Jesus, he decided to join them.

What do those barley cakes look like?  They are small and flat, and look like little tortillas.  The two dried fish were probably about the size of sardines.  Not much of a meal, is it?  It was barely enough to feed this child, and would have provided only a few mouthfuls for a hungry man.  But the child’s lunch was the answer to Jesus’ question to Philip:  “Where are we going to buy bread that these may eat.”  Jesus didn’t say “how”, but “where”.  The answer to that question was now in His hands, and He and His disciples didn’t even have to pay for it!

III.  THE MEAL (verses 10-11)

Rather than chiding these two disciples for their lack of faith in Him, Jesus puts them and all the rest of His disciples to work.  This is going to be a disciple-participation miracle, and not just a child-participation miracle.  He says to them in verse 10, “Have the people sit down.”  As His disciples fan out to pass those words on to the people, they are probably wondering in their minds:  “What is He going to do next?”

Have you ever wondered what happened to the boy?  Did he just walk away and fade into the crowd?  I don’t think so.  Based upon the character of Jesus and His love for people, especially little children, I think that Jesus invited the boy to stay close beside  Him so that the child could watch the miracle as it was taking place.  He was going to see firsthand how Jesus was going to use his small lunch to feed the multitude.  I’m sure this was an unexpected surprise for him.

How did this miracle take place?  Verse 11 tells us that it began with a prayer of thanksgiving to God the Father, said by Jesus.  “Jesus therefore took the loaves, and having given thanks”.  Luke’s Gospel adds the words, “looking up to heaven”.  Jesus gave thanks for the abundance of food that didn’t exist yet!  By looking up to heaven, Jesus made it obvious to His disciples and everyone near Him that He was giving thanks for the Father’s provision.  That is a prayer of trust in the Father’s enabling!  Let me ask you a question.  How would you like to invite 20.000 people over for a free meal, all-you-can-eat?  You would be asking for a miracle too!

You might say that the miracle that followed took place in the hands of Jesus.  John 6:11 continues with the words, “He distributed to those who were seated; likewise the fish as much as they wanted.”  The other Gospels add that Jesus broke the loaves (tore the tortillas) and broke the fish.  I personally believe that this was a two-part miracle, in the sense that it happened in two distinct places.  It happened in the hands of Jesus as He broke the loaves and fish and placed the pieces in the baskets, and the miracle also happened in the baskets themselves.  I believe those baskets became “never-ending fish and chips baskets”.  The apostles distributed some at first and then set the baskets down in each of their distribution areas and the people could come and get more until they were satisfied.  It would be similar to the widow’s never-ending jar of oil in II Kings 4, or The Olive Garden Restaurants’ “never-ending salad bowl and breadsticks”.  Otherwise, Jesus would have been breaking loaves and fishes for many hours, and the twelve apostles would have made several hundred trips back and forth distributing and refilling.  Jesus and His disciples would have been too exhausted to eat, and the sun would have been going down.  Does that opinion make sense to you?

That done, guess who had the privilege of having lunch with Jesus and His disciples?  The boy who gave his lunch is going to receive back much more than he gave!  Can you imagine what a joyful experience that must have been, and I imagine that each one of the disciples thanked him also.  This child is going to have quite a story to tell his parents that evening!

IV.  THE CLEAN-UP (verses 12-13)

In verses 12 and 13 we learn that Jesus is no “litter-bug”, and He does not believe in wasting food.  He tells His disciples to “gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.”  Each of His disciples returned with his basket full of pieces of bread and fish.  These baskets were probably of a wicker material and could hold about two gallons each.  Twenty-four gallons of leftovers from five little tortillas and two little fish!  It was another opportunity for His disciples to reflect upon, and be amazed at what had happened, along with all the people who were there.  It had become, not only a disciple-participation miracle, but an audience-participation miracle as well!

Did you ever wonder what they did with all those leftovers.  I think the Lord Jesus gave them away to some of the poorest people in the crowd for their next meal, or as food for any animals they might have.  I wonder whether one or more of those baskets was given to that little boy to take home and show his parents.  We don’t know, but one thing we do know for sure is that the boy who donated his lunch will always be remembered because of his generosity.  Likewise, the people of Philadelphia will never forget Hattie May for her donation of 57 pennies to build a bigger church.  To have that kind of faith we need a big concept of God – a child’s concept of God!

V.  THE REACTION (verses 14-15)

After the meal is over and the clean-up is completed, we see the initial response of the crowd in verse 14.  “When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ ”  Which “prophet” are they referring to, and how did they come to that conclusion?  For all Jews at that time, a favorite messianic passage of Scripture in the Law of Moses was Deuteronomy 18:15.  Before his death, and before the people of Israel crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, Moses told the people, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”

This amazing meal reminded the people of the manna that Moses said God would provide for their ancestors to eat while they were in the wildernes.  That’s why I said earlier that Jesus’ question to Philip in verse 6 was more like a history test than a math test. He wanted to bring to Philip’s mind the miracle that God performed in the wilderness.  In Exodus 16:4, God said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you”.  God speaks to Moses again in verse 12 saying,  “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.”   How many people were fed by the manna and the quail in the wilderness?  Numbers 12:37-38 tells us that there were 603,550 men over 20, apart from women and children.  Multiply that number by four, and we’re talking about 2.5 million people fed with manna every day for 40 years.  Try doing the math to see if you can figure out how much bread was eaten.  I’ll bet you can’t do it in your head!  In both cases, there was enough, and more than enough to satisfy everyone’s needs.  I made some calculations based upon a few assumptions.  If an omer was equivalent to a bushel, and a bushel was equivalent to an American gallon, then 2,500,000 people times 365 days a year times 40 years would be a minimum of 36,500,000,000 (or 36 billion, 500 million) bushels or gallons of manna, and that’s only what was gathered and eaten!  That’s a lot of bread!  It would be enough to feed the entire population of our world for 5 days, with some leftovers!  Isn’t that awesome?  We have an awesome God!

Returning to the passage of Scripture we are studying, we learn that the multitude Jesus fed had come to the conclusion that Jesus must be the Prophet, the One who was to be their Messiah.  In verse 15, we are told what this crowd of people wanted to do.  It reads, “Jesus, therefore, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” Mark’s and Luke’s gospels add that Jesus sent the disciples on ahead of Him by boat, and then dismissed the crowd before going up on the mountain.

CONCLUSION:

This particular miracle, the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus, was a continual source of inspiration and encouragement to a man by the name of George Mueller.  This man of God cared for as many as 2000 orphans at one time in Bristol, England during the middle of the 19th century.  No regular means of support was available and no appeals for money were ever made, yet thousands of dollars came from all over the world.  The orphanage personnel often faced desperate situations, but George Mueller always said, “The Lord is testing us.  I don’t know what He’ll do, but He knows, and that’s enough.”  As Jesus lifted up HIs eyes and thanked His Father for food that wasn’t provided yet, so George Mueller would sometimes sit down with the orphans and thank God for food that was not on their tables.  Often there would be a knock on the door before he even finished praying!

A principle we can draw from this passage of Scripture and from these illustrations from history, is that there is no need, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, that God cannot supply.  We need to look beyond our overwhelming needs to see our all-sufficient God.  What are your “impossibilities”?

There is also a principle we can learn from the little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus.  The Lord never forgets to reward those who do what they can, no matter how small their contribution may appear in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.  Let’s give our all to Jesus Christ and watch Him use it to meet the needs of others and bring glory to Himself.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  (COMPLETED)

Thank you for visiting this completed work-in-progress.  Another project, John 6:17-21, will begin very soon on the adjacent lot.  See you there!

THE CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR UNBELIEF – John 5:41-47

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INTRODUCTION:

The Queen Mary was the largest ship to cross the oceans when it was launched in 1936.  Through four decades and a World War, she served until she was retired and anchored as a floating hotel and museum in Long Beach, California.  During the conversion process, her three massive stacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted.  But on the dock they crumbled.  Nothing was left of the 3/4 inch steel plate from which the stacks had been formed.  All that remained were more than thirty coats of paint that had been applied over the years.

After healing the invalid at the pool of Bethesda,  the Lord Jesus went into great detail to substantiate His claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God.  He described five witnesses that couldn’t be refuted; and there were hundreds, even thousands who could attest to the truth of what they saw and heard.  He had built a structure that was strong and lasting, incapable of being torn down and destroyed.  Now, in verses 41-47, the Lord Jesus directs His attention toward His accusers, who are standing around him in their elegant robes and with their pious countenances, and He starts chipping away at their paint!

I.  EMPTY OF LOVE (verse 41-42)

Jesus has been appealing to their minds by giving them proofs of his deity.  Then He appealed to their wills, exposing their stubborn refusal to believe Him.  Now He’s going to get to the heart of the problem.  In verse 41, Jesus gives them a brief description of His own attitude as a basis for comparison to theirs.  He says, “I do not receive glory from men.”  He is not seeking the applause of men.  Rather, His motivation is that of doing the will of the Father out of love for the Father.  He is filled and controlled by His love for His Father.  (John 5:19-20, 30).

By contrast, he says to them, “but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.”  Can you feel the sharpness of His rebuke? “But I know you”, He says.  They are not going to pull the wool over His eyes!  He sees underneath the paint!   Now He’s going to be chipping away at it, and revealing to them what He sees!

The first thing he reveals to them, in verse 42, is that they have no love for God.  In their hearts they don’t really love God.  It’s just “external paint” that they have applied to themselves so that others might see it and admire them.  I think Jesus is also saying, “You don’t really believe in God, and you are unwilling to believe in Me, because you don’t love God.  I can envision the anger on their faces and can almost hear the murmuring and threats they are making.  I think Jesus had to raise His voice in order to be heard above their murmuring and complaining.

II.  FILLED WITH PRIDE (verses 43-44)

In order to affirm what He has just told them, and give them the underlying reason for His statement in verse 42, Jesus reiterates what He told them earlier.  In verse 43, Jesus begins by saying, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you did not receive Me”.  What He means by those words is, “I’ve already proven to you that I’ve been sent by God and have His authority, yet you refuse to accept Me for Who I am and obey Me.  You refuse to show me the honor and worship that I deserve.”

I believe that the words that follow are used by Jesus to point out the irony in what they have been doing.  He says, “if another should come in his own name, you will receive him.”  Jesus is making a true statement about what the leaders of the Jews have done many times in the past.  During the time of Jesus there were two schools of thought based upon the teachings of two rabbis:  Shammai and Hillel.  The scribes and Pharisees spent much time debating with each other regarding which one of them was right on various issues and doctrines, rather than studying the Scriptures themselves.  Later on, Jesus tells them, in Mark 13 and Matthew 24, that many other false Messiahs will come on their own authority and draw many astray.

Jesus didn’t fit their own description of the Messiah.  Jesus was too humble, poor, and plain.  They were looking for a Messiah whom they considered to be worthy of being followed – a Messiah who would come in royal robes; a stately figure with awesome physical and political power who would crush the power of the Roman Empire. They wanted a Messiah who would recognize their devotion to God and their leadership abilities, and Who would put them in positions of authority in His kingdom on earth.  Jesus was the total opposite of what they had in mind.

In verse 44, Jesus rebukes them again by asking them a pointed question: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another. and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”  He faced them with the true cause of their unbelief – their own personal pride and conceit.  The word “glory” is a translation of the Greek word “Doxan”, which comes from the verb “dokeo”, which means “to think”.  The scribes and Pharisees had a very high “opinion” of themselves; so high that they even argued among themselves as to who was the most famous.  You might say that there was even a battle going on to form a “pecking order” among the proud, and nobody wanted to give in to the others.  They were so busy glorifying themselves that they had no interest in seeking the glory of God that could be found reflected in Jesus Christ.

On the French Riviera, it is such an important status symbol to have a balcony on an apartment, that it is quite common to see balconies painted on the walls of apartment houses.  People even painted wet laundry hanging on the clothesline, just to give it a touch of reality!  In the same vein, there was no limit to what these Jewish leaders would do in order to give their own lives an imitation “touch of reality” that might cause others to “look up to them” and be impressed by what they saw.

III.  THE CONSEQUENCES (verses 45-47)

The Lord Jesus has been chipping away at their exterior paint.  Now He is going to hammer away at their foundation so that it crumbles like the stacks of the Queen Mary.  He says, in verse 45, “Do you think that I will accuse you before the Father”?  He’s saying, “Do you think that I am going to follow your example?”  They have been accusing Him of doing miracles on the Sabbath in violation of the Law of Moses (John 5:10,16).  The Lord wasn’t the One who would be gathering the information and pressing charges against them.  He continues by saying, the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.”  The men standing around Jesus claimed to be disciples of Moses.  That statement of Jesus must have raised some eyebrows and evoked some angry responses.  They’ve put their hope in the wrong person because Moses is not going be on their side!

In verse 46, Jesus gives the reason for His statement:  “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me.”  Where did Moses write about Jesus?  Moses does not use the name “Jesus”, but he refers to the Messiah in several places using a variety of names to describe Him.  In Genesis 3:15, Moses wrote down the words that God said to the serpent in the hearing of Adam and Eve after their disobedience:  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between her seed and your seed; He shall bruise (crush) you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heal.”  The “seed of the woman” is the Messiah.  He will be a descendent of her.

In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses refers to the Messiah as a prophet when he says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”

In Genesis 49, Jacob summoned all his sons to gather around him before his death, and prophesied concerning each of his sons.  In his prophecy concerning his son, Judah, Jacob says:  “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Genesis 49:10).  This is the only place in the Bible where Shiloh refers to a person rather than a place.  Shiloh is the Messiah, and He has already come to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ.  So why does it say that the scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes?  History gives the answer.  In 70 A.D. the nation of Israel was conquered and its people scattered throughout the earth.  The scepter was removed from Judah, but it is still retained.  Jesus was the last Person from the line of David, on both His mother’s and his father’s side, who had the legal and spiritual right to assume the throne.  He still retains that right and will be returning to bring that prophecy to fulfilment.

Jesus closes His rebuke with the words “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words.”  Jesus was saying to them, and He says to us today also, that belief is not just a matter of the mind, but also of the will.  They knew those Messianic texts, but they were unwilling to ascribe them to Him.  They refused to obey Moses, and they refused to obey Christ.  There was no valid excuse for their behavior.  They loved themselves to the exclusion of a true love of God, and in their pride they chose to be their own gods, doing their own will instead of God’s.

The same is true today.  There is no acceptable excuse for not believing and obeying God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  There is no excuse for not searching after God and asking Him to reveal Himself to us.  There is no excuse for not responding to the truth that we have, the truth God has given to each of us.  The only thing that holds us back is our own foolish pride in ourselves, the original sin of Adam and Eve, the temptation that Satan wants us to give in to.  Don’t let pride separate you eternally from the One who loves you sacrificially and wants you to experience the joy of submitting yourselves to Him as your Lord and King; a joy that will change your life forever, giving you a new purpose for living as you enjoy doing His will and experiencing His power and presence.  Let’s “remove the paint” and “be real” in Christ Jesus our Lord!  

Fellow Christians, let’s review each day and ask ourselves who is getting the glory in our lives.  Even when we are serving the Lord and living in obedience to His Word, it’s always tempting to take the glory to ourselves rather than put the focus on the One who loves us, inspires us, empowers us, and has gifted us to serve Him and be witnesses for Him.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,

And let us exalt His name together.”
Psalm 34:1-3

  CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

May the Lord Jesus be the One who holds your life together, and gives you joy, peace, purpose, and meaning each day.  May He also receive the glory that He alone deserves.

 

 

 

 

CALL THE FIRST TWO WITNESSES – John 5:30-35

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I.  INTRODUCTION:

The Lord Jesus Christ had just claimed equality with God in seven areas.  The magnitude and the significance of Jesus’ claims called for substantiation.  Jesus now introduces five witnesses to validate those claims.  We are going to examine the first two witnesses in this study of John’s Gospel.

I.  HIS WITNESS CONCERNING HIMSELF (verses 30-31)

On the night I became a Christian, I was encouraged to read the Gospel of John.  In the first five chapters of John’s Gospel, two verses of Scripture really spoke to a need in my life as a new Christian, so I wrote down the references and the verses on the inside cover of my Bible.  The first verse was John 3:30, where John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease”.  The second verse was John 5:30, and I just wrote down the first part of the verse, “I can of mine own self do nothing”.  Those two verses described to me what living the Christian life was all about:  putting Christ first in my life, living to glorify Him, and realizing my own inability to do so apart from His enabling.

Verse 30 seems to be a transition verse.  I think Jesus is restating what He said in verse 19.  In that verse He said, “Truly, truly,  I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”  By saying these words in verses 19 and 30, Jesus is declaring that His testimony about Himself is true.  Notice that, in verse 30, Jesus starts speaking in the first-person again, using the words “I” and “Me” instead of “He” and “Him” when referring to Himself.  In the remainder of verse 30, Jesus says, “As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me.” Therefore His witness and His judgments are true because it’s the Father’s witness through Him, and it’s the Father who is making the judgments.  Their witness and judgments are one-in-the-same.  The Greek word, “martyrion”, translated “witness”, is a very important word in John’s gospel.  We get our English word “martyr” from that Greek word, and it occurs 47 times in the gospel of John; so we’ll be seeing it again and again as more and more witnesses take the stand.

In verse 31, Jesus says, “If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true.” He’s speaking in a legal sense, meaning that it is not admissible in a court of law.  Of course, Jesus’ testimony is true for the reasons He has already given.  He and the Father are one and He always does the will of the Father.  But He is living among sinful men who may give false testimony if it’s to their advantage, and they think they can get away with it.  Even the law given to Moses does not allow a person to testify in his own case.  In Deuteronomy 17:6, God 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.”  Again, in Deuteronomy 19:15. Moses writes, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or more witnesses a matter shall be confirmed”.  So Jesus is going to follow the Mosaic law and provide them with other witnesses of His deity and of His authority to judge men.

Have you ever placed the names of personal references or character references on your resume or job application?  Have you ever been asked by others if you would be willing to be a personal reference for them?  It’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility, isn’t it?  We choose personal references who are up-to-date in their relationship with us and can vouch for our character and abilities.  We want references whom we respect; who have known us for a number of years, and who think highly of us.  Isn’t that true?  Let’s see whom Jesus chooses to be witnesses of His character and deity.

II.  THE WITNESS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (verses 33-35)

In verses 33-35, we find that Jesus chooses John the Baptist as a witness.  I’ve skipped verse 32 for now because Jesus is alluding to Someone He is going to be describing in greater detail in verses 37-38.  For now we will call that person the “mystery Witness”.  Jesus reserves this Witness for later because He is the “Expert Witness”.

John the Baptist bore witness to the deity of Christ several times in John’s gospel.  You will find his testimony in chapters one and three.  John the Baptist was considered to be a prophet of God, and many, including a few of the Pharisees, believed his words, repented and were baptized. In verse 33, Jesus says, “You have sent to John, and he has born witness to the truth.”  He’s making reference to John 1:19.  The Jews sent priests and Levites to John asking, “Who are you?”, and John answered them truthfully.  Quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah, he says, “I AM THE VOICE OF ONE  CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD’ ” (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3).  In another instance, John calls himself the “friend of the bridegroom”, making all the preparations for the wedding and waiting to hear the bridegroom’s voice. (John 3:29).  The focus of John’s words and John’s ministry was always on Jesus, the coming Messiah.  After Jesus began His public ministry, John encouraged all of his own disciples to follow Jesus.  At that point in time, John the Baptist was the best human witness to the deity of Christ.  He may not have looked like the best witness, considering the clothes he wore and the food he ate.  However, a good witness should not be determined by the clothes he wears or the food he eats, but by what he has seen and heard first-hand, what he knows, and by his integrity and willingness to provide the information he possesses.  You might say that the Lord Jesus chose John the Baptist to be one of His personal references on His resume, and He continues to give us more reasons for doing so in verse 35.

In verse 34, Jesus qualifies His words by saying, “But the witness I receive is not from man”.  His point is that He doesn’t require man’s testimony as proof of His Messiahship.  However, He includes John’s testimony “that you may be saved.”  John the Baptist’s words were true, and he was sent by God to prepare people’s hearts for the Savior.

Now Jesus gives us another description of John the Baptist, who, at that point in time, may be in prison or might already have been killed.  I say that because of the description Jesus gives in verse 35.  Jesus uses the past tense when he says, “He was a lamp that was burning and shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”  In the original Greek text, there is a definite article before the word “lamp”.  John the Baptist was God-appointed as a lamp to the nation of Israel.  The Greek word, luchnos, translated “lamp”, refers to a portable lamp (a candle or an oil lamp).  It was placed on a candlestick or a lampstand to provide light to those nearby and to be seen from a distance.   A different word was used to describe Jesus.  He was a “light”, and the Greek word, phos, means “to make manifest, to shine (especially by rays).  It is the word that is used to describe the sun.  Our words “photo” and “photography” are derived from that word.  John was a lamp that pointed the way to salvation in Jesus Christ.  He is described by Jesus as a lamp that was “burning and shining”.  A lamp must be lit in order to burn and shine.  God “ignited” John the Baptist, and he “burned” with a zeal for God; and he also “shone”, giving off the light of truth in the darkness.  F.B. Meyer makes this comment:  “A lamp must burn if it is to shine.”  In burning, the oil is eventually consumed.  In burning, the candle burns itself out when the wax and the wick are gone.  William Barclay said, “A true witness burns himself out for God.”  It’s a life-long passion and commitment.  So when Jesus used the words “was burning and shining”, it makes me wonder whether John’s life and witness had already “burned out” (come to an end). 

In verse 35, the Lord Jesus says three words that add a note of sadness to the ministry of John the Baptist.  Those words are:  “for a while”.  At the beginning of his ministry, large crowds of people came out to see him.  Matthew 3:5-6 says, “Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan.”  That’s a lot of people!   Some of them were travelling quite a distance to listen to him and be baptized by him!  But he made some enemies among the Pharisees and Sadducees when he called them a “brood of vipers“, and urged them to demonstrate genuine repentance for their sins, warning them of what would happen if they didn’t do so.  John’s popularity didn’t last long, but John wasn’t trying to win a “popularity contest”.  He accomplished the purpose for which God sent him by preparing the way for the Messiah, and he was an outspoken witness to the deity of Jesus Christ.  As the “friend of the Bridegroom”, his responsibility was to make all the preparations for the wedding, and when he heard the Bridegroom’s voice, calling for His bride (all who repent of their sins and acknowledge Jesus Christ as their King and Lord), it was time for him to step back, join the wedding guests, and rejoice in the wedding.

CONCLUSION:

Does the Lord Jesus Christ have you as a personal reference?  If not, He wants you as His personal reference.  My understanding of Scripture is that everyone’s name is written down in the Lamb’s book of life as a potential reference.  It’s written in blood: His own blood shed on the cross for you.  Your name is only blotted out of His book of life if you refuse to repent and acknowledge Him as the Lord of heaven and earth, Who paid the price your sins deserve, or if you keep putting it off until it’s too late.  He’s waiting and hoping, but the choice is up to you.  Your reference is there, but it hasn’t been activated yet.  Once it’s activated, it’s there forever.  What are you waiting for?  Now is the time to think it over and respond.  Now is the time to admit your need for Him, and to turn your life over to Him.  Please don’t choose to ignore, or refuse His desire and His offer to you.

If you are a born-again Christian, is Jesus Christ your personal reference?  Is His name listed first on your resume (your life)?  If so, shouldn’t it be obvious to others around you where you work, where you go to school, and in your community?  If you are a genuine, committed Christian, the Lord is not going to be an “add-on” reference in your personal portfolio.  His Name and a description of Him is going to fill the whole front page in large print and bold letters!  He will also be the “headliner” at the top of every other page!  People won’t be able to miss it, and that would be your intent!

Frances Ridley Havergal wrote a hymn based upon David’s call to commitment given to his army in I Chronicles 12, and His army’s response to him.  Verse 13 says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said:  “We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse.”  The title of her hymn is:  WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE?  Below I’ve written the first stanza to that hymn, and I hope that you will find a hymnal and read the other three stanzas as well.

Who is on the Lord’s side?  Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side?  Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side?  Who for Him will go?
By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side, Savior, we are Thine.

With our enlistment papers already signed, may we be clothed in His armor and standing together at the battle line.  May it be obvious to everyone we know and everyone we meet, that we are on the Lord’s side, and we will not retreat!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this recently-completed sermon on John 5:30-35.  I hope that you will take it to heart.  It’s time to move the equipment and tools to the construction site next door:  John 5:36-39.  It may take a couple of days to clear the land and set a foundation.  Until then, you’re welcome to visit the finished projects.  I believe there are 120 sermons on this blog site.   May you rely on the power of Christ and enjoy the presence of Christ at your side throughout this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JESUS CHRIST: RESURRECTED, RESURRECTOR, AND JUDGE – John 5:26-29

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INTRODUCTION:

There is much we can learn from little children.  They are so eager to learn, and so straight-forward in their conversations with adults.  Here is a case in point.  It was Sunday morning and the church service was over.  A little girl had been taught about the second coming of Christ and was quizzing her mother.  “Mommy, do you believe Jesus will come back?”  “Yes”.  “Today?”  “Yes.”  “In a few minutes?”  “Yes, dear.”  “Mommy, would you comb my hair?”

That little girl thought her mother was paying close attention to what she was saying and was answering her clearly, so she wanted to look her best when she meets Jesus!  How about you?  Do you want to look your best when you meet Jesus?  That topic of conversation is appropriate to the passage of Scripture we are now studying:  John 5:26-29.  Jesus mentions five resurrections in verses 24-29 and we examined the first two, which the Lord Jesus described in verses 24-25.  The spiritual regeneration and resurrection of believers was described by Jesus in verse 24, and the physical resurrections from the dead by the words of Jesus are predicted in verse 25 and will be happening soon.  There are three more resurrections described by the Lord Jesus in the order of their occurrence.  Jesus is sharing that information as further proof to the Jews that He is the Son of God.  Let’s take a look at those resurrections, one-at-a-time.

I.  THE THIRD RESURRECTION:  HIS OWN (verse 26)

In verse 26 we find these words spoken by Jesus:  “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.”  You may wonder, “What does that verse have to do with the resurrection of Christ?”  “The word ‘resurrection’ isn’t even mentioned in that verse!”  That’s a good question!  Let’s see if we can find a satisfactory answer.  The Lord Jesus uses a similar expression in John 10:17-18.  “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This commandment I have received from My Father.” 

Putting these two passages of Scripture together, Jesus is saying that He always existed with the Father.  No one gave Him life because He has always had it, from all eternity.  Only God could say that truthfully.  Therefore only Jesus could lay down His life and take it back up again.  Warren Wiersbe puts it this way:  “Our life was derived, but His life is original.”  As John 1:4 says, “In Him was life”.  That’s why Jesus could say, in John 2:19, when the Jews asked for a sign after Jesus cleansed the temple, “Destroy this temple (His body), and in three day I will raise it up.”  

We have looked at Scripture passages which seem to point to the fact that Jesus raised Himself from the dead by His own power.  But the question, “Who raised Jesus Christ from the dead”, hasn’t been completely answered yet.  There are other passages of Scripture which seem to disagree with that conclusion.  Let’s take a look at some of those other Scriptures and see if we can resolve the issue once we get a good look at it.

Acts 10:40 says, “God raised Him on the third day”.  In Romans 6:4, the apostle Paul says, “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father”.  In Romans 8:11, Paul says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dwells in you . . . “.  So who raised Jesus from the dead?  Was it God, the Father, the Holy Spirit, or Christ Himself?

You may disagree with the next statement, but keep reading.  God is not a Person.  God is a title that is given to the divine nature or essence.  So when the term “God” is used, it represents all three Persons in the divine essence:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  That helps us understand Acts 10:40, which says that “God raised Him”, but what about the Scriptures that speak specifically of the Father and the Spirit raising Jesus from the dead?  I’m convinced that it was a cooperative effort, and the apostle John wanted to make that clear.

This is not the first time that all three Persons in the Trinity are mentioned.  I’ve found that each of the three members of the Trinity is mentioned in every “major event” in history (from God’s perspective).  Creation was the first “major event”, and all three are mentioned as participating (Genesis 1:2; 1:26; John 1:3).  The words spoken by God, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness“, tell us that God wants us to know, right from the beginning of the Scriptures, that He is a plurality.  The Jews knew that;  one of the Hebrew words for God in the Old Testament Scriptures is the word “Elohim” which is plural.  The second “main event” was the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary.  Luke 1:35 says, “The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and the power of the Most-High will overshadow you.”  Jesus was the “Seed of the Woman” Who was implanted in Mary’s womb (Genesis 3:17).  I think that God wanted those particular words to be spoken to Mary so that she would know that this was the true and living God who was going to accomplish this miracle in her.  The third “main event” was the baptism of Jesus, which marked the beginning of His public ministry.  It’s recorded in all four gospels.  Together with Jesus was the “voice of the Father, and the Holy Spirit descending as a Dove and resting upon Him.”  Can you imagine what that scene must have looked like.  The heavens opened up, causing everyone to look up into the sky.  What they see is a dove descending out of heaven and they hear a booming voice say, “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:21-22).  The fourth “main event” is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, as we have already seen.  His resurrection was so irrefutably true that the elders and the chief priests of the Jews gave a large sum of money to the guards and said, “you are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep’ ” (Matthew 28:11-15).  In each of those major events in the Scriptures, God wanted it to be known that the God of heaven and earth is a Trinity composed of three distinct Persons:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

II.  THE FOURTH RESURRECTION:  TO ETERNAL LIFE (verses 27-29a)

In verse 27, Jesus says of God the Father, “and He gave Him (Jesus) authority to exercise judgment, because He is the Son of Man.”  He’s telling the Jews that He has been given the authority to judge all men, and it’s based on the claim that He is the “Son of Man”.  Evangelist Billy Sunday said in one of his sermons, “There are two hundred and fifty-six names given in the Bible for the Lord Jesus Christ.”  I’ll take his word for it!  The Jews knew very well what Jesus was saying about Himself when He used the name “Son of Man”.  The prophet Daniel used those words in Daniel 7:13-14 as he was describing visions He had.

“I kept looking at the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like the Son of Man was coming
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”

The Jews listening to Jesus’ words knew that He was again claiming to be the Messiah.  If His claim was true, then He had the right and the authority to judge the world.

Having made that claim again, the Lord Jesus continues, in verses 28-29, to describe the events and judgments that are going to take place in the future by the voice of His mouth.  In verse 28 He says, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice”.  Notice that Jesus begins with a caution or a warning:  “Do not marvel at this”, as if its too amazing and far-fetched to be true.  Think of all the amazing things God has done in the past.  Jesus is speaking in the third-person, using the words “He” and “Him” instead of “I” and “Me”.  He wants their focus to be on the word “Messiah” and what the prophets have declared about Him and His reign as King and Judge of all the earth.

Then Jesus does say something amazing:  “all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice.”  The dead can’t hear!  They can when Jesus calls them!  He’s going to be proving that claim very soon, only on a much smaller scale:  one-at-a-time.  But right now He’s talking about millions at one time.  There are many today, and there have been many throughout the ages, who have chosen to believe that death is the end of one’s existence.  You’ve probably heard the saying, “ALL DRESSED UP AND NO PLACE TO GO”.  That saying is sometimes found on tombstones.  But the Lord Jesus tells us that death is not a dead-end street.  Rather, it is a fork in the road.  Jesus is going to tell us about the two roads that split-off and continue in opposite directions forever after the road of this mortal-life ends.  So we do have “some place to go” – every one of us!

I’m going to call the first road “The Narrow Road” because, sadly, there are so few who follow it.  This road or path often has much more than a “one-percent grade”, but if you ask any hiker, it can be a joyful and exhilarating experience if you bring along the right equipment, wear the proper clothing, have some fellow-hikers with you, and follow the rules.  You’ll even build up some “spiritual muscles” along the way!  And don’t forget to enjoy the scenery along the way, and give praise and glory to the One who created it!

The first half of verse 29 gives us a brief description of where this trail leads for the devoted followers of Jesus Christ:  “those who did the good deeds to the resurrection of life.” .  That phrase standing alone may seem to say that “good deeds” are what get us into heaven.  From the context, Jesus is saying that genuine repentance and faith in Him is going to result in a changed life, and the “good deeds” are the observable evidence of that changed life.  If a person is a genuine believer, it should be obvious to the world around him.  This “resurrection of life” is the resurrection of Christians and saints of the Old Testament to eternal life with no more death (Revelation 21:4).  I Thessalonians 4:16-17 describes the scene.  “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”  That is a description of the next event on the prophetic calendar.  It’s referred to as the Rapture and it could happen at any moment.  All believers will stand before the Judgment seat of Christ, where each of our lives will be completely reviewed (II Corinthians 5:10), and rewards will be given for faithful service.  My understanding of the “judgment seat of Christ” is that it is going to be “play-back time” for each of us believers.  We are each going to be watching a re-run of our lives, and you know how you hate to watch re-runs on TV!  Every thought, word, action, and attitude, whether good or bad, will pass before our eyes or in our minds before any rewards are given.  We’ll consider that in more detail at the conclusion of this message.

III.  THE FIFTH RESURRECTION:  TO ETERNAL CONDEMNATION

The fifth and final resurrection will be the resurrection to condemnation.  A father and his son were reading epitaphs on some of the gravestones in a cemetery.  Every description seemed to indicate that the deceased person was in a state of bliss.  After a while, the boy asked, “Daddy, where are all the wicked people buried?”

The child had a point.  There are many who have lived their lives in a way that is evil in the sight of God, and have refused to acknowledge their sins, and commit their lives to Jesus Christ by faith.  Many enjoy their immorality and even boast of it, defying God.  They live as if they don’t realize that there is an occupation many perform here on earth that is also practiced in heaven – accounting!  At the end of verse 29, the Lord Jesus tells His listeners, “those who committed the evil deeds to the resurrection of judgment.” 

You may be wondering:  “Where are all the unbelieving dead residing until the resurrection of judgment”?  Their souls are not in hell.  II Peter 2:4 says, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment”.  The word “hell” is the Greek word tartarus, and this is the only place it is found in the New Testament.  II Peter 2:9 says, The Lord knows how to . . . keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.”   In Luke 16:23, Jesus refers to this place as “hades”, and it is a place of torment.  That’s where they are residing before the resurrection to judgment.  

Billions of unrepentant, unregenerate sinners from all of mankind throughout human history will be standing before the Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be condemned to the lake of fire.  You can find the description of the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15.  Verse 15 says,  “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  You have never watched a horror movie that’s worse than the description given in those verses.  Matthew 25:45 and II Thessalonians 1:8-9 tell us that it is an everlasting punishment.  The prophet Amos gave the people of his day a warning when he said, “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12).

Are you prepared to meet God?  Please don’t put aside or put off choosing to make the Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of your life.  Consider the risks you are taking.  You could die at any moment and the Lord could come at any moment.  In either case, it will be too late to change your mind.  There are no second-chances and no loopholes.

Warren Wiersbe tells about a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy.  Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon.  The child who was saved grew up to be a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime.  The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who had saved his life, so he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience.  But the words from the bench silenced his plea:  “Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged.”

Today, Jesus Christ wants to be your Lord and Savior if you will repent of your sins and turn your life over to His control.  He gave His life in order to make that possible.  Don’t put it off until you stand before Him as Judge and hear the words, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!”

If you would like to read a presentation of the Gospel message given in the Scriptures, please click the following link provided by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc.:  https://peacewithgod.net/steps-to-peace-with-god.

Fellow Christians, in view of the coming judgment seat of Christ that awaits us, and the great white throne judgment that’s ahead for unbelievers, what should be our attitude and our focus?

I personally believe that the judgment seat of Christ should be a source of rejoicing and encouragement among believers.  The Syriac expression, “maranatha” (“our Lord comes”) was used as a greeting in the early church. When believers  gathered or parted, they didn’t say “hello” or “goodbye”, but “maranatha”.  It was the Christian “aloha”.  If we Christians had that same upward look and perspective today, it would add to our joy and anticipation in the midst of the struggles we face each day.  Let’s use the coming rapture as a means of encouraging one another.   The “day is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The judgment seat of Christ is also a reminder that, as God’s children, we are stewards of our lives, and of all that God has entrusted to us. (I Thessalonians 4:1; I Peter 4:10-11; I John 2:28; 3:3).

Brethren in Christ, don’t forget to think about and reflect upon the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20.  There is a sense in which it applies to us.  God is a holy God.  Therefore He hates sin and pours out His wrath on guilty sinners.  Look through the Old Testament.  You’ll see it everywhere because His people kept turning away from Him.  God hasn’t changed.  He is still a holy God.  To satisfy His holiness, He poured out His wrath for sin on His Son.  When we repented and turned to Christ as our Lord and Savior, the judgment of God was taken away and we were declared innocent.  That “turning” on our part was probably in answer to the prayers and the witness of many people.

Do you have a clear, biblical understanding of the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the great white throne judgment, and eternal condemnation in the lake of fire?  If you do, it should cause you to tremble and shutter when you think of those close to you and around you who are facing eternal condemnation.  They need your sincere prayers and witness.  In Romans 10:1 the apostle Paul said, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they might be saved.”  In II Corinthians 5:20 he says, “We  beg you (implore you, plead with you) on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”.  May God increase our burden to pray for the lost, and may He empower our witness as we plead with them to be reconciled to God and escape His wrath through the shed blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  May we be ready and eager to see the Lord Jesus when He comes, and our work on this earth is over.  Until then, there is much work to be done for the Kingdom of God.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED 

Welcome to this completed construction site:  John 5:26-29.  Thanks for visiting.  It’s time to gather up my gear and equipment, and set up a new construction site next door:  John 5:30-33.  You’re welcome to grab your own tool belt and join the crew, or stop by and watch as the construction takes place.  See you then!  Maranatha!

 

 

 

THERE’S A LAW AGAINST IT – John 5:10-14

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INTRODUCTION:

A man is walking down the street one day with a smile on his face, a gleam in his eyes, and a spring in his step.  Suddenly he is stopped by several policemen and a conversation ensues.

“Where are you going?”
“I’m going home.”
“What’s that under your arm?”
“It’s my lounge chair.”
“What are you doing with that?”
“I’m taking it home.”
“How much does it weigh?”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t you know it’s against the law to carry one of those on Saturdays?”
“I was told to do so.”
“Who told you?”
“I don’t know.”

By now you’re either confused, amused, or both.  This imaginary conversation doesn’t seem to be making any sense, does it?.  It’s also spoiling the moment for this happy traveler!  He was minding his own business and now he’s accused of breaking the law!

I mean no disrespect for policemen and other law-enforcement agencies and personnel.  They do a valuable service by protecting the rights of our citizens and upholding the laws of our country.  My purpose is to focus our attention upon a group of self-appointed “policemen” in this passage of Scripture.  These public spokesmen had their own version of God’s laws, and they were trying to “enforce” them, or force them upon the nation of Israel, making life miserable for everyone except themselves.  We will see how they try to turn this amazing miracle into an act of civil disobedience, and expose the Miracle Worker as being a Criminal.

I.  DATE AND TIME OF INCIDENT (verse 9)

Verse 9 of John’s Gospel, chapter 5, ends with these words:  “Now it was the Sabbath on that day.”  I purposely left that sentence out of my previous sermon because I didn’t want to take the focus away from the Lord Jesus and the miracle He performed at the pool at Bethesda.  A man who had been an invalid for 38 years was told by Jesus, “Arise!  Take up your pallet, and walk.”  The man gladly obeyed.  This incident occurred on the Sabbath day, probably in the late morning or the early afternoon.  We don’t know for sure.  There may have been a hundred or more people at that pool who witnessed the miracle.  Most, if not all of those witnesses, were invalids like himself.

II.  THE ACCUSATION (verse 10)

Verse 10 reads, “Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet’.”  The Sabbath – that’s going to be a major arena of controversy between the Lord Jesus and the Jewish leaders because this is the first of several miracles performed by Jesus on the Sabbath day.   In John 9:1-12 Jesus healed the blind man.  In Luke 4:31-37 He cast the demons out of the demoniac, and in Matthew 12:9-14 He healed the man with the withered hand.  All three of these miracles were performed by the Lord Jesus on the Sabbath day.

Before we go any further, we need to have a clear understanding of the “Sabbath-day laws” that the Jewish leaders have been adding to God’s Sabbath law over a period of hundreds of years.  These laws were part of the 613 laws that the Jewish leaders had put together as interpretations of the laws God gave to Moses.  But the process of making interpretations and stipulations didn’t end there.  By the time of the ministry of the Lord Jesus on this earth, those 613 laws had become 613 categories of laws as more interpretations were still being added to each category.  I don’t know how they kept track of them all!

The category of bearing burdens on the Sabbath was a result of their misinterpretations of Exodus 20 and 23, as well as Jeremiah 17:19-27 and Nehemiah 13:15-19.  The original intent of those passages of Scripture was the prohibition against  the carrying of heavy burdens on the Sabbath for the purpose of doing business on that day.  Let me give you some examples of just how far they drifted from the intent of Scripture.  What constituted a burden in their minds?   According to their laws, you could not wear false teeth or an artificial limb on the Sabbath, nor could you wear shoes or sandals that had nails in them.  You couldn’t carry a needle in your robe, nor wear jewelry.  All of those things were considered “burdens”, and those are just a few examples.

Let’s look again at the wording used by the Jewish leaders in verse 10:  “It is the Sabbath; and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”  Did you notice their wording?  They said, “It’s not permissible”.  They didn’t say “God forbids you”, because He doesn’t.  They didn’t say, “It’s against God’s Law”, because it isn’t.  They could not show this man any Scriptures that specifically prohibited his activity.  What these leaders are saying is :  “We forbid this activity; it is not permissible in our sight because it is a violation of our laws.”

This legalism concerning the Sabbath observance wasn’t just limited to the Jewish Rabbis at that period in time.  There are many cases, even in this day and age, when people have gone beyond the teaching of the Scriptures concerning the Sabbath, and have tried to impose their beliefs onto others.

There is a true story about a minister who was a Sunday guest in a home in Scotland.  It was a very warm day and he suggested opening a window to get some fresh air.  The hostess eyed him sternly and said, “Mon, dinna ye know that ye can have no fresh air in this house on the Sabbath?”  No fresh air was her rule for keeping the Sabbath Day.

The following illustration may be closer to home.  The story is told of a pastor who found the roads blocked one Sunday morning and was forced to skate on the river to get to church, which he did.  When he arrived the elders of the church were horrified that their preacher had skated on the Lord’s day.  After the service they held a meeting where the pastor explained that it was either skate to church or not go at all.  Finally, one elder asked, “Did you enjoy it?”  When the preacher answered, “No,” the board decided it was all right.  In this case, doing “enjoyable work” was forbidden on the Lord’s day. (Today in the Word, December, 1989).

II.  THE ALIBI (verse 11)

The healed man’s answer to his accusers shows good reasoning on his part.  But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Take up your pallet and walk.’ “  The Man who gave such an “impossible” command, and then gave him the power to fulfill it, was certainly Someone to be obeyed.  Jesus’ authority was superior to theirs in his mind.  I doubt that he even thought about their “Sabbath laws” in his amazement and exuberance. Jesus gave him the command and the impossible became a reality.  He was now a new person physically.  May that also be our attitude as well.  “I do what God says because He says so”.  It’s as simple as that!  He is worthy of my obedience because of Who He is. 

III.  THE SUPPORTING EVIDENCE (verses 12-13)

The man’s alibi wasn’t sufficient to satisfy the Jewish leaders.  They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet and walk’?”  They are not asking that question so that they might meet Him and worship Him.  Quite the contrary!  They consider the perpetrator of this miracle to be guilty of the greater crime, and deserving of even greater punishment.  In their minds there was no excuse for His behavior.  Not even a miracle from God could supersede their laws, and they didn’t even want to know the details of the miracle.  Evidence was not important in this case of theirs.

Verse 13 says, “But he who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.”  I don’t find it surprising that this former-invalid didn’t know the name of the Person who healed him.  It was still early in Jesus’ public ministry, and since this man had spent most of his life laying next to the pool of Bethesda, he probably didn’t hear very much news from the “outside world”.  It appears that this was the first and only appearance of the Lord Jesus at the pool of Bethesda.  Not only that, but Jesus made a quick getaway after performing that miracle, disappearing into the crowd of people that had gathered around them.   The Greek word literally means “to dodge”.  You might say He “quietly made His way through the traffic in order to dodge any stones that might be thrown in His direction”! This was not yet the time or place for the Lord Jesus to have a major confrontation with the Jewish leaders.

IV.  THE HEALED MAN REVISITED (verses 14)

When the commotion was over, we read in verse 14:  “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘Behold, you have become well;  do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you.’ ”  After dropping off his pallet at home, this man went immediately to the temple to praise God for what He had done, and possibly to offer a grain offering of thanksgiving as well.  This is where the Lord Jesus finds him, and admonishes him not to sin anymore.  Thirty-eight years earlier, this man must have committed a sin in his youth that resulted in his weak and helpless condition.  The fact that he had been healed of the consequences of his sin did not give him the right or permission to engage in such behavior again.  I think this was the intent of Jesus’ admonition and I hope the man learned his lesson.

This passage of Scripture doesn’t tell us whether or not this man believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Messiah.  There is no indication that he worshipped Christ or followed Him.  However, I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that he didn’t do so.  Every step he took and every move he made was a reminder of who Jesus was and what He had done for him.  The Bible doesn’t record everything that happens in the lives of the people mentioned in it.  I prefer to believe that this man became a changed man on the inside also, and that his life and his words became a testimony for Christ to others around him.

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

This incident isn’t over yet.  In the next message the Jews are going to be interrogating Jesus and we’ll be studying part of His response to them.  From the passage of Scripture that we’ve just studied, I’ve derived four principles.

1.  God’s grace and power can only begin to become effective in our lives at the point when we acknowledge our own helplessness and look only to Him in obedient faith.

2.  The love, mercy, and generosity of God are not an excuse for sin, but rather a motive for grateful obedience

3.  God’s purpose was not to enslave man but to free him.  In Mark 2:27 Jesus said, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  Rest on the Sabbath day meant rest from work in order to be refreshed and have time for worship and fellowship with other believers.  It also did not rule out acts of kindness and mercy to others in need.

4.  My standards, if they go beyond the teachings of Scripture, should not go any further than myself.  Legalism consists, not in having standards which exceed the bounds of the Scriptures, but of considering these personal standards as being equal to Scripture, and trying to impose them on others.

May this study help you to understand and deal with the forces of legalism around us today.  I believe that the only cure for legalism is a humble heart and a correct understanding and application of God’s Word.  So please stay in God’s Word and make it your only guide for living.

If you would like to watch a well-enacted video of the healing at Bethesda as well as the rest of John 5, click the following link below.

 

 

THE HEALING AT BETHESDA – John 5:1-9

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INTRODUCTION:

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl argued that the “loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect on man.”  As a result of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl contended that when a man no longer possesses a motive for living, and has no future to look forward to, he curls up in a corner and dies.

In 1965, James B. Stockdale became one of the first American pilots to be shot down during the Vietnam War.  He was captured by the Viet Cong, and spent seven years as a prisoner-of-war.  During that period of time he was frequently tortured in an attempt to break him and get him to denounce the U.S. involvement in the war.  He was chained for days at a time with his hands above his head so that he could not even swat the mosquitoes.  Today, he still cannot bend his left knee and walks with a severe limp from having his leg broken by his captors and never reset.  One of the worst things done to him was that he was held in isolation away from the other American P.O.W.s and allowed to see only his guards and interrogators.

How could anyone survive such treatment?  As he looks back on that time, Stockdale says that it was his hope that kept him alive – the hope of one day going home; that each day could be the day of his release.  Without hope, he knew that he would die in hopelessness, as others had done.

In this passage of Scripture, John 5:1-9, we will see the description of a man whose life seems hopeless.  Then he has an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and everything changes.

I.  THE SETTING (verses 1-2)

Verse 1 says, :After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem”  We don’t know for sure what feast this was.  The Jews living a day’s journey from Jerusalem were required to observe three feasts a year:  Passover, Tabernacles, and Pentecost, so it was probably one of these three feasts.  Notice also that Jesus is mentioned by name but His disciples are not mentioned in this verse, nor in this passage of Scripture we are studying.  It appears that Jesus went to the feast alone.  Once again, we do not know for sure.  But we know from what follows that the Father had another appointment for the Lord Jesus to keep, and this appointment was near the Temple area in Jerusalem.

Verse 2 describes that location in some detail.  “Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.”   From his description, the apostle John is telling us that the pool at Bethesda is going to be Jesus’ first stop in Jerusalem.  As we shall see, this pool is not a place that healthy people would normally visit.  Bethesda means “house of mercy”, but some manuscripts use the name Beth-Zatha which means “house of the olive”.  This pool is located by the sheep gate.  That gate is only mentioned four times in the Bible:  here, and three times in the book of Nehemiah (3:1; 3:32; and 12:13).  It is a gate near the temple area which is used to bring sheep and oxen to the temple as sacrifices during the temple services.  Commentator William Barclay gives a helpful explanation for the pool of water at Bethesda.  “The word for pool is kolumbethron, which comes from the verb kolumban, to dive.  The pool was deep enough to swim in.”  The five porticoes were porches that were probably covered, providing some protection from the sun or the rain.  This is the only place in the Bible where the word Bethesda (Beth-Zatha) occurs.

II.  THE ENCOUNTER (verse 3)

Verse 3 describes what Jesus sees as He enters the pool area and gets a panoramic view of the five porticoes:  In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered [waiting for the moving of the waters.].”  The place was crowded with people, and they were people who were limited in their mobility and were probably not able to take care of themselves.  Family and friends probably carried them to these porticoes or helped them to get there.  You’ve probably heard the saying “Misery likes company”, and maybe you’ve used those words yourself in appropriate situations with various shades of meaning.  The phrase has been around for many centuries.  A translation of the words of 14th century historian Dominici de Gravina reads:  “It is a comfort to the unfortunate to have had companions in woe.”  Having other people to converse with, who understand what you are going through because they are going through something similar themselves, can be a real source of comfort and encouragement.  Sometimes the greatest suffering can be emotional and social – the feeling that you are alone in your suffering; that no one else understands or cares.  As John Stockdale said in my introduction, that one of the worst things that happened to him as a P.O.W. was being isolated from the other Americans.

The apostle John says that the sick people were “waiting for the moving of the waters”.  What do those words mean?  Historians have remarked about a spring underneath this pool, and excavations have verified John’s words.  It was an “intermittent spring” that would occasionally force hot water up between the rocks at he bottom of the pool.  When this happened, the surface of the water would become agitated and bubbles would appear.  That’s what the disabled people lying on the porticoes were watching for and waiting to see.

III.  THE POPULAR OPINION (verse 4)

The explanation of the moving of the waters is given in verse 4 as the popular opinion of the people.  “for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]

It was not unusual for the Jewish people of that time to attribute such occurrences to the ministry of angels.  In the Old Testament, angels are mentioned as protectors of the nation of Israel against oppressors, and as the ones God used to supply the physical needs of the prophets.  When the nation of Israel turned away from the true God to worship false gods, many of those religions of the other nations believed that every body of water had its own spirit that protected it.  So it became customary and popular for the people to attribute to angels or spirit beings any natural occurrences that they did not understand or could not explain.  Many bibles show brackets from the second half of verse three and continuing to the end of verse four.  This was done to indicate that the information within the brackets is missing from some of the oldest manuscripts.

IV.  THE WORST CASE SCENARIO (verse 5)

In verse 5, the apostle John gives us the worst case-scenario.  “And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness.”  We don’t know when this illness began in his life; we are only told how long he has been afflicted with it.  Thirty-eight years – that’s half a lifetime!  If anyone there would be considered a “hopeless case”, it was he.  We  also don’t know the diagnosis, only that he had no strength in his body and was incapacitated.  Little does he know that he is going to become the focus of Jesus’ attention.  In the midst of that crowd of ailing people, Jesus is going to be talking to him personally.”

V.  THE QUESTION (verse 6)

In verse 6, we see the situation from Jesus’ perspective.  “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?’ “   Does that sound like an odd question to you?  It did to me at first.  The Lord Jesus’ question reveals to us something about what Jesus knows and what He doesn’t know.  While Jesus was here on this earth, He was not all-knowing.  When He became a man, He became like us in all things except sin (Philippians 2:5-8; John 8:46, Hebrews 7:26).  His knowledge consisted of what He learned from experience and study, plus what the Father revealed to Him.  So in this case, He was not given an understanding of this person’s thoughts and emotions.  He did not know whether this person wanted to be healed or not.  The ailing person knows that what Jesus is asking by the question, “Do you want to be healed”  is “Do you still believe that you can be healed, or have you given up all hope of ever being healed?”  Does he have the faith needed to be healed or has he closed the door of his heart to such a possibility?  If his answer reveals that his faith and hope are completely gone, there would be no reason to pursue the conversation any further.

VI.  THE RESPONSE (verse 7)

The man gives Jesus the answer He hopes to hear, but he does so in an indirect way.  He’s saying, “I’m helpless, but I’m not hopeless.”  He didn’t need hope; he needed help.  I think this man is also giving Jesus a hint  concerning his unspoken request:  “Would you be willing to help me into the water the next time the ‘stirring’ occurs?”  Since Jesus asked him the question, would He be willing to be part of the answer?  Little does he know that he’s talking to the Son of God!  The answer to his “long-suffered problem” is just a few words away!

VII.  THE HEALING (verses 8-9)

To his surprise, a command is given to him by Jesus, and he responds by faith.  A miracle happens!  “Jesus said to him, ‘Arise, take up your pallet, and walk’.  And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.”   There were actually three commands given by Jesus:  “arise”, “take up your pallet”, and “walk”.  All three of those commands were fulfilled when the man obeyed.  It became obvious to him and everyone around him that this was no “adrenalin rush”, nor “power surge”, but a complete and total healing.  Muscles, tendons, and ligaments were restored; joints lubricated, circulation restored, nerves reconnected to the brain, and the ability to walk while carrying his pallet – all done instantly without any physical therapy or re-learning.  All the effects and side-effects of his long illness were removed at once.  Amazing!  And I’m sure I missed many other physiological and neurological events that happened at that moment in time.  When the Lord Jesus gives commands, He also gives the enablement to carry out those commands.  As the Son of God, Jesus has the power and authority to instantly heal body, soul, and spirit.

When the Lord Jesus gave the command, did this disabled man feel the strength in his body before he chose in his heart to obey and make the effort to get up?  It doesn’t say.  I prefer to believe that faith came first – faith that this Man had the power to fulfill His command.  As the ailing man believed, made up his mind to obey, and began to act in obedience to Christ, the strength and healing came to him to enable him to fulfill Christ’s command.  This man who had not been able to do anything for himself for thirty-eight years, was instantly able to everything that a healthy man could do!

CONCLUSION:

Do you want to be healed?  Do you wish to get well?  Are you suffering from a spiritual illness that has no natural cure?  Do you feel like you don’t have the strength to go on because your life is empty and meaningless?  Have you become fatalistic or are you still desperately looking for answers?

Do you believe in miracles?  It will take a miracle to change your spiritual condition, heal you, and make you a new person.  Do you want to be healed?  If not, there will be no miracle in your case.  The only cure for your spiritual condition is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Lord Jesus Christ is asking you to believe that He is the Son of God, the God-Man; to take that first step of obedience by repenting of your sin and turning your life over to His control and power to change your life.  Only then will the miracle occur.  As II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  You will become a new person with a new spiritual life that will affect every other part of your life. 

Do you wish to get well?  Have you come to the conclusion that you are, at times, a weak, faltering Christian?  What are you struggling with in your life?  Could it be pride, anger, lust, dishonesty, foul language, smoking, drinking to excess, or something else?  The temptations are always there.  Are you often discouraged because of these temptations and sins?

The following is an imaginary story that illustrates our dilemma and struggle, as Christians:

The devil decided to have a garage sale.  On the day of the sale, his tools were displayed for public inspection, each being marked with its sale price.  There were a treacherous lot of implements:  hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, lust, lying, pride, and so on.  Set apart from the rest was a harmless-looking tool.  It was quite worn and yet priced very high.
“What is the name of this tool?” asked one of the customers, pointing to it.
“That is discouragement,” Satan replied.
“Why have you priced it so high?”
“Because it is more useful to me than the others.  I can pry open and get inside a man’s heart with that, even when I cannot get near him with the other tools.  It is badly worn because I use it on almost everyone, since so few people know that it belongs to
me.”
It is still his favorite tool today, and he continues to use it on God’s people.  But be encouraged!  God’s miracles are much greater and more powerful than any of his tools!  May you find in the Lord Jesus Christ the hope, the strength, and the encouragement that only He can give.   May each day of your life be a miracle that others can observe as you joyfully walk by faith and in obedience to Him.

A friend recently sent me a true story taken from Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, Beyond Suffering:

Dorothy Williams was a British missionary who served in West Africa during the 1930’s.  She was a nurse from Wales who spent her time on the mission field training African nurses.  Dorothy was very frail, and her mission board back home didn’t expect her to last more than a year or two working in Africa.  But with God’s help, she amazed the board by serving many years, refusing to be discouraged by her limitations.  This inspired the young African nurses under her charge who were often disheartened by their own poverty and lack of resources.

One day a nurse was carrying a tray of surgical instruments, and Dorothy noticed a sad look in her student’s eyes.  “Oh, Mum, I am feeling much afraid today,” the young woman shared.  “Dearie, look at those shiny instruments on your tray,” Dorothy said, picking up the sharpest one.  “The devil has a tray of instruments too, and the shiniest and sharpest is his tool of discouragement – it’s sharp because he uses it so often.”  The student nurse smiled, blushed, and then went on her way with fresh resolve.

Ezra 4:4-5 describes the devil’s strategy against God’s people.  It is “to discourage and frighten people , , , to work against them and to frustrate their plans.”  Do not be fearful, for the Bible repeats the phrase, “Do not be afraid,” 112 times.  And Dorothy would add, “Don’t be discouraged.”  You have your own shiny, sharp tool:  The Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).  Keep it sharp and use it often against your adversary!

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