THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD – John 8:12-20

John 8:12-20, Uncategorized

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

I.  THE SETTING (verse 20)

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

II.  JESUS’ DECLARATION (verse 12)

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

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

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

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

III.  THE RESPONSE (verse 13)

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

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

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

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

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

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  a work-in-progress

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

 

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

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

INTRODUCTION:

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

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

I.  THE SETTING (verses 1-2)

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

II.  THE CONFRONTATION (verses 3-6a)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV.  THE WALK OF SHAME (verse 9)

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

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

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

V.  WORDS TO THE WOMAN (verses 10-11)

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION:

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

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

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

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

 

CONSTRUCTION SITE:   COMPLETED

DEFENSE WITNESSES ARE SCORNED – John 7:45-53

critical spirit, criticism, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION:

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

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

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

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

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

II.  THE RESPONSE (verses 47-49)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV.  THE RESPONSE (verse 52)

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

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

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

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

V.  THE RESULT (verse 53)

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

CONCLUSION AND LESSONS:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

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

FANNY CROSBY — The Woman Behind the Hymns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to hear the whole hymn, sung beautifully by Bernie and Carol Paulson, type the words:  “my savior first of all – bernie and carol paulson” into your web browser and their youtube site should be at the top of the first page.

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

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

THE AFTERMATH: A FALLING OUT – John 6:60-71

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INTRODUCTION:

There are books galore on the topic of leadership.  It would take you an eternity to read them all because new books about leadership are being written and published every day.  Have you ever read a book on following, or becoming a good follower?  I’ve never read, nor have I ever seen a book on that subject.  So I typed “books on following”, and “books on being a follower” into the web browser of my computer.  What I received in response was books on leadership.  I then typed, “how to be a follower” into my web browser and was given many YouTube sites telling me how to become a follower of someone’s social media site, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others.  With the click of a button or an icon, I can instantly become someone’s follower, and receive updates.  With the click of another button or icon, I can also instantly “unfollow” a person.   It’s as simple as that!  There are also many online courses being offered which will give you tools and techniques proven to increase the number of your followers.

In this age of social media, “following” has taken on a new meaning.  The number of one’s followers is a sign of popularity.  Gaining new followers can easily become an obsession, as well as a source of personal pride and competitiveness.  A friend of mine recently told me that he goes to social media sites mainly to get information.  He’s interested in keeping up-to-date on certain people and organizations.  What immediately comes to your mind when you think of the words “following” and “follower”?

TRANSITION:

During the lifetime of Jesus Christ on this earth, followers were often referred to as “disciples”.  In this passage of Scripture, John 6:60-71, we are going to study the effect that Jesus’ conversation had on His followers, and observe how Jesus responds to the situation.

I.  THE VERBAL REACTION OF MANY (verse 60)

In verse 60 of John, chapter 6, we find the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ conversation with His crowd of followers.  “Many, therefore, of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ ”  The word “disciple” is the Greek word “mathetes”, which literally means “learner” or “pupil”, and the teacher was called a “didaskalos”.  The corresponding Hebrew words that were used during that period of time were the “talmid” and the “rabbi”.  In the first century, when you wanted to find out more about a person, and learn from him, you followed him around.  There may have been several motives for doing so, such as curiosity, entertainment, a desire to join the crowd, as well a personal commitment to that person.

For example, since you’ve come to this site and are reading this article, you may be a blogger yourself, and have your own blog site.  Let me ask you a question.  Can you follow a blog site without truly being a follower of that site?  I would say that the answer to that question is “yes”.  You can click the “follow” button or icon for a number of reasons.  You may have read one article, liked it, and clicked the “follow” button because you wanted to get email alerts when new articles are added to the site.  You may have clicked “follow” because you want your name and photo added to the list of other followers in the hope that readers might check out your site as well.  It’s a form of advertising.  Or you may have read several articles and are eager to continue to learn, grow spiritually, and share what you have learned with others.  Those are just a few possible motives.  As you can see, there are many possible reasons for following, and not all those reasons demonstrate long-lasting commitment.

Verse 60 says that “many“, not “all” of his listeners, had a negative attitude about the teachings that Jesus had just expressed to them, and they put their attitude into words, saying, “This is a difficult saying; who can listen to it.”  The Greek word translated “difficult”, literally means “hard”.  The word does not mean “hard to understand”, but “hard to accept” once you understood it.  You might say that Jesus’ words were “offensive” – His teachings were opposed to their own personal beliefs and prejudices.  Therefore they rejected His whole conversation.  True disciples wouldn’t react in that way.  A true disciple would be willing to listen, to learn, and to believe in Him because of who He is, even if the teaching might seem, at first, to be offensive.  The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, made the following statement:  “Understanding is the reward of faith.  Therefore, seek not to understand so that you may believe, but believe so that you may understand.”  The Lord Jesus has already given this crowd of followers plenty of reasons to believe in Him and trust Him.

Bible expositor, Alfred Barnes, tells us the doctrines that were apparently offensive.  First, that Jesus was superior to Moses; secondly, that God would save all that He had chosen, and those only; thirdly, that He was the bread that came from heaven; and fourthly, that it was necessary that an atonement should be made, and that they should be saved by it.  Barnes goes on to say, “These doctrines have always been the most offensive that men have been called on to believe, and many, rather than trust in Him, have chosen to draw back to perdition.”

When these so-called disciples said, “Who can hear it?”, they meant, “Who can put up with it?”.  “Who can listen to His words any longer without losing their patience and responding with outbursts of anger?”

II.  JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE CROWD  (verses 61-65)

The mumbling and grumbling has started again, and verse 61 tells us that Jesus is aware of it.  Now He is faced with a choice.  Is the Lord Jesus going to politely back away from the conflict?  Is He going to give excuses for His offensive words?  Is He going to say something like:  “I didn’t mean to . . . what I really meant was  . .That didn’t come out right . . . what I was trying to say is . . . I’ve had a lot on my mind lately . . . I didn’t sleep well last night , , , Maybe we should start this conversation all over again.”  Do those excuses sound familiar?  Have you ever used any of them yourself?  Be honest!

The other choice would be to stand His ground, give further evidence of the truth of His statements, and then move along in the same direction, full-speed ahead..  This is the course of action that Jesus pursues in spite of their opposition.  It’s full-speed ahead!  He begins by asking them a question:  “Does this cause you to stumble?”  He’s letting them know that He hears what they are saying, and He also knows the condition of their hearts.  The word “stumble” is the Greek word “skandalizei”.  We get our English word “scandalize” from that Greek word.  Jesus is saying, “Are My teachings offensive to you?”  “Do they go against what you want to believe?”  He is also leading into what He is about to say next.  His second question, found in verse 62, is “What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?”  Jesus is not telling these followers that they will see His ascension into heaven because Acts 1:6-13 tells us that only the eleven apostles watched that happen.  Jesus is speaking hypothetically.  One of the statements that offended some of these followers was that Jesus claimed that He had come down from heaven.  Now He’s saying, “What if you saw me ascend to heaven – the same place that I told you I came from?”  “Would that offend you all the more?”  You might say, from Jesus’ response, that He is separating the chaff from the wheat!

In verse 63, Jesus explains His purpose for saying those things to them, and He also  reasserts His authority or right to say them.  “The spirit gives life; the flesh accounts for nothing,  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”  I don’t personally think that Jesus is speaking about the Holy Spirit here, even though the beginning of His statement is also true of the Holy Spirit.  He’s clarifying His analogy by saying that He’s referring to the spirit of man, not his physical flesh.   A man’s spirit is his source of life, and God gives him that spirit.  His listeners were very familiar with Genesis 2:7, which says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  The Greek word translated “spirit” here in verse 63, is pneuma, which literally means “wind” or “breath”, and is sometimes used to refer to the Holy Spirit as well.  Jesus is speaking to them in  Hebrew (Aramaic), and the word Jesus probably used is ruach, which also means “wind” or “breath”.  So there is nothing lost in translation between the two languages.  The Scriptures describe Jesus’ death on the cross with the words “He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30; Matthew 27:50).

Now, in verse 64, Jesus “hits them with a bombshell” when He says to the crowd of followers, “There are some of you who do not believe.”  He’s implying, “You know who you are, and I know who you are also.  You can’t hide anything from Me.”  The apostle John goes on to explain the basis for Jesus’ words:  “For He knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.”  As God, Jesus was all-knowing, but having taken the form of a man, He temporarily laid aside the use of that attribute.  It was the Father who had revealed that information to Him.  Jesus has “opened the exit doors even wider” for those who weren’t truly His followers, and don’t want to be His followers because they don’t really believe in Him.

Preacher and author, Henry Drummond, was once asked to address a meeting at the exclusive West-End Club in London, England.  He began with these words:  “Ladies and Gentlemen, the entrance fee into the kingdom of God is nothing, but the annual subscription is everything.”  There were many in Jesus’ audience who wanted to be part of the club but didn’t want to pay the subscription fees.  Jesus had quite a following that day, but very few genuine followers.

What Jesus then shares, in verse 66, defies their understanding, and hurts the foolish pride of many of His listeners.  He reiterates what He said in verse 44, when He says in verse 65:  “no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  Jesus is telling them that faith is a gift.  It’s impossible for us to believe by our own enabling.  Only God can draw a person to Himself.  He’s also implying that hearing His words doesn’t necessarily lead to faith.

III.  THE DESERTION (verses 66-67)

Then it happens.  Hundreds of these followers turn away from Jesus and begin to walk away, wanting nothing more to do with Him.  Verse 66 says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.”  The Greek word literally means “the majority”.  There were more people leaving Him than there were of those who were staying with Him.

Have you ever felt sadness because people who were close to you didn’t come through for you?  Did you ever feel a sense of abandonment by the majority of those around you because of something you said or did?  How would you feel if over half of the friends on your social media sites decided to “unfriend” you at the same time because of something you said or did?  What would be your reaction if most of the followers of your blog site decided to “unfollow” you on the same day because of something you wrote?  Would you feel a twinge of sadness and abandonment?  I certainly would!  God gave each of us emotions and, even if we don’t always express them, we feel them deep down inside and it hurts!  The Lord Jesus had a human nature like ourselves, with the same emotional makeup that each of us possesses.  Let’s see how He responds to what was happening to Him at that moment.

IV.  JESUS QUESTION TO THE TWELVE (verse 67)

Verse 67 gives us Jesus’ initial response.  “Jesus said therefore to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you’?”  I personally believe that Jesus said those words to the twelve disciples with sadness in His heart, and I think that sadness was evident to them by His facial expression and by the way He spoke those words.  This should come as no surprise to us.   The prophet Isaiah described the Messiah as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  This was probably one of many times that Jesus was saddened and grieved at people’s rejection of Him and His words.  In this case, Jesus is hoping to receive some encouragement from the twelve.

V.  PETER SPEAKS FOR THEM ALL (verses 68-69)

Simon Peter was quick to respond, in verses 68 and 69, saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”  I don’t know whether Peter could have said it better, and that’s just what Jesus needed to hear at that sorrowful moment in His life.  Peter affirmed who Jesus was, attested to the truth of Jesus’ words, and expressed his faith in Him.  Peter was also speaking on behalf of the other eleven disciples, assuming that they all believed as he did.

VI.  JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE TWELVE (verses 70-71)

In verse 70, Jesus corrects Peter’s words, but I think there is much more to Jesus’ words than just correcting a misconception on Peter’s part.  It reads, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ “  The verse indicates that He is speaking those words, not only to Peter, but to all twelve of the disciples.  Why would Jesus say such a cutting remark?  In those days, calling someone “a devil” was pretty strong language. Was Jesus just releasing His frustrations or did He have a specific purpose in mind?

I don’t personally think that Jesus’ emotional state changed from sadness to anger in verse 70.  I believe that Jesus said those words with sadness in His heart, in His eyes, and in His words.  As He looked around at the twelve, His eyes may have lingered at the face of Judas as He said the word “devil”.  It may have been similar to the look on Jesus’ face when He turned to look at Peter after the cock crowed and Peter had denied Jesus three times.

The Lord Jesus loved Judas and wanted him to come face-to-face with his own greed.  He gave Judas the responsibility of being the keeper of the money box (John 12:4-6; John 13:21-29) to show him how easily he gave into the temptation to rob from it.  As we shall see, Jesus will wash Judas’s feet, pray for him, and show him honor.  It saddened Jesus that one who was in such close proximity to Him on a daily basis for three years, would be so distant from Him in his heart.  The Lord Jesus had chosen Judas to be one of the twelve, showed him love and concern, revealed Himself to him by His life and miracles, and offered him eternal life.  He even gave Judas the power to heal diseases and cast out demons when He sent the twelve out two-by-two to proclaim the Gospel. (Luke 9:1-11; Matthew 10).  But it was all in vain.  Judas hardened his heart again and again.

In verse 71, the apostle John adds the following personal comment:  “Now he meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.”  He said those words because he, Peter, and the other disciples had no idea that Judas was not a true follower of Christ.  Judas played the role so well that none of the other disciples noticed any differences.  John was as shocked as all of the others, and wants to make that known to his readers.

CONCLUSION:

Are you a genuine follower of Jesus Christ?  Have Jesus’ words, in this passage of Scripture, caused you to consider whether or not you want to be identified with Him and follow Him?  Have you turned away from Him in the past?  Many in that crowd walked away from Jesus because they didn’t want to acknowledge that He was the Messiah, the King of heaven and earth; they didn’t want to believe in His teachings.  They didn’t want to acknowledge their own sinfulness, and didn’t want to turn the control of their lives over to Him.  Do you feel an emptiness inside and a need to know God?  He wants to reveal Himself to you as you read and study His Word.  It’s not too late to turn around and choose to follow Him and become obedient to His Word.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and your life bears witness to your commitment to Him as your Lord and Savior, do you feel sadness as you look around you at those who refuse to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ and respond to Him by repentance and faith?  Are you willing to ask God to give you a greater compassion for the lost, and a burden to pray for them consistently and confidently, trusting God to change their hearts and draw them to Himself?  God wants to turn that sadness into joy in answer to your believing prayers.  We can never pray enough for those who don’t know the Lord.

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. 

 

 

 

DESIGNED TO WORK TOGETHER – I Peter 4:10-11

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A man broke his left arm.  One night when he couldn’t sleep, he imagined a dialogue between his right and left hands.  The Right Hand said, “Left hand, you are not missed.  Everybody’s glad it was you that was broken and not me.  You are not important.”

Left Hand asked, “How are you superior?”

Right Hand replied, “Why, my owner cannot write a letter without me.”

Left Hand:  “But who holds the paper on which he writes?”

Right Hand:  “Who swings the hammer?”

Left Hand:  “Who holds the nail?”

Right Hand:  “Who guides the plane when the carpenter smoothes a board?”

Left Hand:  “Who steadies the board?”

Right Hand:  “When our owner walks down the street and lifts his hat to greet someone, which of us does it?”

Left Hand:  “Who holds the briefcase while he does it?”  Then he continued.  “Let me ask you a question.  When our owner shaved yesterday, you held the razor, but his face is cut.  Why?  Because I wasn’t able to help.  Also, our owner’s watch has stopped.  Why?  You may do the winding, but if I’m not there to hold it, the watch doesn’t get wound.  You can’t take money out of his wallet to pay for something because I’m not there to hold it.  The master can do very few things without me.”

So each of us has a place of service for the Lord.  None is greater – just different.  Imagine the Master Carpenter’s tools holding a conference.

Brother Hammer presides, but several suggest he leave the meeting because he is too noisy.  Brother Hammer replies, “If I have to leave this shop, Brother Screw must go also.  You have to turn him around, again and again, to get him to accomplish anything.”

Brother Screw then speaks up.  “If you wish, I’ll leave, but Brother Plane must leave too.  All his work is on the surface.  His efforts have no depth.”

To this Brother Plane responds, “Brother Rule will also have to withdraw, for he is always measuring folks as though he were the only one in the right.”

Brother Rule then complains about Brother Sandpaper.  “He ought to leave also because he’s so rough and always rubbing people the wrong way.”  And so goes the discord.

In the midst of all this discussion, in walks the Carpenter of Nazareth.  He has arrived to start his day’s work.  Putting on his apron, he goes to the bench to make a pulpit from which to proclaim the gospel.  He uses Brothers Hammer, Screw, Plane, Rule, Sandpaper, and all the other tools.  After the day’s work, when the pulpit is finished, Brother Saw arises and remarks, “Brethren, I observe that all of us are workers together with the Lord.”

In I Peter 4:10-11, the apostle Peter says,

“As each one has received a special gift,
employ it in serving one another,
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
.  Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were,
the utterances of God;
whoever serves, let him do so
as by the strength which God supplies;
so that in all things God may be glorified
through Jesus Christ,
to whom belong glory and dominion
forever and ever.  Amen

Every believer in Jesus Christ received a spiritual gift from God at the moment when we repented of our sins, and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, choosing to follow Him as our Lord and Savior.  How do I know that?  Because the Bible tells me so.  “As each one has received a special gift.”  Borrowing from the words of a Negro spiritual:  “All God’s chillun got gifts.”  How do I find out what my spiritual gift is?  First of all, you need to open the gift.  Not to open it is a sign of disrespect and lack of appreciation for the Giver.  Your spiritual gift has to be opened in a special way.  At your birthday party, you opened your gifts before the eyes of everyone present at the party, didn’t you?  The givers wanted to see the expression on your face, hear the words of appreciation, and know that you intend to make good use of that gift.

God wants us to open our spiritual gift before the eyes of a local body of believers.  He wants us to build relationships with the other members in the church and get involved in the activities and ministries of that church.  The best way to show appreciation for a gift is to make use of it.  That was the purpose for which the gift was given, and using it brings joy to the giver and the receiver.

God only gives good gifts, and each of those gifts is necessary for the building up and encouragement of the body of Christ, the Church.  Along with the spiritual gift God has given us, comes the responsibility to use it for His glory.  The apostle Peter calls us “stewards”.  As Christians we are “under New Management”, and God has given each of us the privilege and responsibility of being managers of the gift that He has given us.  We are told to “employ it in serving one another.”  As we become active in serving the body of Christ, other believers may recognize our spiritual gift before we do.  Either way, we’ll come to realize the spiritual gift we have received from the Lord if our desire is to serve others, our ability comes from God’s enabling power, and our goal is to give glory to God when He empowers our use of it.

Remember, every spiritual gift is important and necessary or God wouldn’t have given it to you.  Every one of us is a member of God’s orchestra under His direction, and each of us has an important part to play so that the Conductor, the orchestra, and the audience (the world around us) would experience the full effect of the harmony that is produced, thus drawing us closer to the One who wrote the music, arranged the score, and conducts each performance.

I hope you’re in the orchestra.  It’s practice time again, and every day is a concert!  Let’s play our parts well, enjoy the harmony that results from our combined efforts, and save the applause for the Conductor!

The apostle Peter concludes by saying “Amen”.  I second that “Amen”, brother Peter!  All in favor, say “Amen”!

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.

 

 

 

RESPONDING TO CRITICISM – John 6:41-47

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INTRODUCTION:

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

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

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

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

I.  MUMBLING AND GRUMBLING (verse 41)

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

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

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

II.  THE REASON FOR THEIR GRUMBLING (verse 42)

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

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

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

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

III.  JESUS’ RESPONSE (verse 43)

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

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

A.  BEING DRAWN, AND COMING (verse 44)

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

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

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

B.  TROUGH THE WORD OF GOD (verse 45)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED on 2/8/18

SHOW AND TELL – John 6:22-35

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INTRODUCTION:

I can remember, when I was in kindergarten and first grade, the teacher would tell us that we would be having “Show And Tell” time on the following day.  Each of us children was asked to bring an interesting and unusual object to class, and then we would each take turns showing our object to the rest of the children and telling them something about it.  Our parents were allowed to help us with our choice of what to bring to school the next day.  Does that bring back memories?  That expression, “Show And Tell”, originated in the 1940’s and is one of the learning exercises still being used in early-childhood education.  It is often used by adults also as a means of getting to know one another and as a form of instruction and entertainment. It can also engage more than one of our senses, such as sight, sound, touch, and smell.

You may be wondering how this teaching method or game relates to the passage of Scripture we are now studying:  John 6:22-35.  If we look back at the previous day in Jesus’ life, He showed them that He was the Son of God by breaking the five barley cakes and two dried fish and feeding 5000 men, together with their wives and children.  He also showed them how much was left over by having His disciples gather up the fragments.  There were twelve baskets filled with those leftovers.  Sadly, neither the crowd nor His disciples came to the understanding that Jesus was the Son of God as the result of that miracle He just showed them.

After the meal, Jesus showed two more signs to His disciples only.  The first sign or miracle was the sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee, and the second was Jesus Himself walking on the water toward them in the midst of the storm.  The Lord Jesus showed them a life-threatening situation and they did not call upon Him to save them. He then showed them Himself walking on top of the water and they refused to believe it, thinking they were seeing a ghost.  They thought their eyes were deceiving them and they were hallucinating.  They weren’t convinced by what He showed them, but they did become convinced when He spoke to them.  Why?  Because, in John 6:20, Jesus said to them, “I AM, do not be afraid”.  He used God’s covenant name which He gave to Moses to tell to the people of Israel.  Matthew 14:33 says, “and those who were in the boat worshipped Him saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son.’ ”  They finally “put two and two together”, so to speak.  Jesus was claiming to be the God who parted the Red Sea, fed the people of Israel in the wilderness with manna for 40 years, and stopped the Jordan River from flowing.  It required both “show and tell” to convince the disciples that Jesus was the Son of God.  The story isn’t over yet.  There are many others who were “shown” but also have to be “told”.

I.  THE BACKGROUND (verses 22-25)

Verse 22 begins with a search for the missing Jesus.  The last time the crowd saw Jesus was the night before when Jesus told His disciples to get into a boat, and He sent them on their way across the Sea of Galilee.  Then He told the crowd to go home, and I’m sure many of them saw Jesus heading for the hills.  Many of those same people came back the next morning, and verse 22 describes the scene and what they were doing.  “The next day the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone.”

I wonder whether these people came early that morning in the hope that Jesus might treat them to a free breakfast!  There were probably still many among them who wanted to make Jesus their King.  They weren’t able to find Jesus, and when they looked across the lake they saw only one boat docked there, and that was the boat the disciples used the day before.  They already knew that Jesus didn’t go in the boat with them, and now they know that Jesus didn’t cross the lake in another boat.  Where could He be?  He wouldn’t have walked all the way around the lake in the middle of the night, would He?

Verse 23 says that “other boats came from Tiberias.”.  Those boats must have been blown across the lake by the storm the night before.  Having become convinced that Jesus was not on their side of the lake, verse 24 says that they “got into the boats and went to Capernaum.”  The city of Capernaum was the place where Jesus normally resided when He was in the district of Galilee. It’s beginning to sound like a variation of “Hide and Seek” but, instead of one person seeking all the rest of the people, all the rest of the people are seeking one person!

Verse 23 tells us that the crowd found whom they were looking for.  It reads, “And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did You get here?’ ”  They must have been very surprised, amazed and confused.  Their question seems strange to me.  I would have expected them to say “Rabbi, how did you get here”, not “when did you get here.”  It makes me wonder whether they concluded that Jesus must have walked around the Sea of Galilee, and were wondering how He could have done it so quickly during the night.   If you do the math, the circumference of the Sea of Galilee is 33 miles around the shoreline.  Let’s say that the distance from the place where Jesus fed the 5000 to Capernaum on the other side was 16-18 miles.  That’s a long way to walk along the sand of the sea shore wearing a long robe and sandals in the dark of night and heading into the wind!  Now I understand why they asked “when” instead of “how”.  Walking that far in such a short time under those conditions must have seemed like a miracle to them.  Little did they know just how amazing a miracle it actually was.  Jesus took the “short-cut” across the lake on foot!

II.  THEIR MOTIVES QUESTIONED AND CORRECTED (verses 26-27)

Rather than answering their question, the Lord Jesus responds by questioning and correcting their wrong motives.  In verse 26, He says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”  Jesus is telling them that their interest in Him is merely selfish.  They considered Him to be some kind of a magician who could meet their physical needs.  Many of them wanted to make Jesus their king so that their need for food would be taken care of and they wouldn’t have to work any longer.  Their motive was:  “What’s in it for me”.  They missed the meaning of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and now Jesus has to explain it to them.  It’s “Show and Tell” all over again!

In verse 27 Jesus says, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you.”  Those words should have brought the words of the prophet Isaiah to their minds.  Isaiah 55:2 says, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy.”  God has given mankind a hunger for things that this world cannot satisfy.  Jesus is telling them about two kinds of food:  food for the body and food for the soul or spirit.  He’s telling them that He is the only One who can satisfy their deepest needs, the hunger of their souls.  He’s also implying that we need to work to provide for our physical needs.  In the context of that particular situation, Jesus may have been using the word “work” to describe how they wearied themselves by walking around the lake to find Him in order to get more free food.  But only God can provide lasting satisfaction.    Physical food “perishes” in two senses.  If it is not eaten, it become stale, rotten, or ,moldy.  But if it is eaten, it perishes in the sense that the body uses it up and in a few hours we are hungry again.  We need more food to replenish what has been digested and its nutrients are now gone.  Have you ever considered how much of your time is spent eating?  If you are a typical person who lives an average lifetime, you will probably spend about 35,000 hours of your lifetime eating.  That’s eight years of eating non-stop for 12 hours each day.  That’s a lot of eating and that’s a lot of food!  If we have to spend that much time satisfying our physical hunger for food, how much more time should we be spending in the satisfaction of our spiritual hunger for God!

The wisest man in the Old Testament, King Solomon, who may also have been the wealthiest man in the Old Testament, wrote a book of the Bible entitled “Ecclesiastes”. In this book, Solomon describes his search for happiness and fulfillment.  He went down many dead-end streets, pursuing wisdom, pleasure, riches and work, and found that they were all vanity, “striving after wind”.  These things did not fill the emptiness in his soul.  His conclusion:  “fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  Only the worship of God, and the living of one’s life to please Him, brings lasting satisfaction.

Jesus is teaching the crowd a similar lesson here in verse 27.   He’s telling them that there is something more to life than working for physical food.  He encourages them to work “for the food that endures to eternal life.”  Then Jesus tells them the source of that eternal life, and by Whose authority He can make such a statement.  He says, “which the Son of Man will give you”. Notice that Jesus is talking about the future in this case.  The eternal life can’t be given to them until Jesus pays the price for their sins by dying on the cross and then rising victorious from the grave.  It is also conditioned upon their willingness to believe in Him and entrust their lives to Him as their Lord.  “For on Him the Father, even God, has set his seal.”  Jesus is stating His credentials.   The Father set His seal of approval on His Son at Jesus’ baptism and His seal of authority through the miracles that Jesus performed.  A seal was used in those days for many different reasons.  It witnessed the truth of a document or person. It could also be used, among other things,  to show ownership, authority, approval, or as a guarantee of quality,  Since Jesus’ discussion with the crowd is about food, I read that some bakers during that period of time would put a seal or impression on their bread as they baked it in order to let people know where the bread came from, and also as a guarantee of its quality.

So Jesus has told them that both their intentions and their motives are wrong as they follow Him around seeking free food to fill their stomachs.  They should be seeking the spiritual food which lasts for eternity, and which He alone can provide.  What follows is a time of questions on their part and answers on His part.

III.  QUESTION AND ANSWER TIME (verses 28-33)

In verse 28 the crowd asks their first question: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”  What did they mean when they said those words?  I think they were saying, “Give us a list of the things God wants us to do so that we can perform them.”  In their minds, “works” meant obeying the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets.   So they were asking, “Which particular ones did He have in mind; which ones merit eternal life after they are accomplished?”  They didn’t understand what Jesus just said to them.  Their minds focused on the word “work” and their attention became glued to that word.  Bible expositor Alfred Barnes makes this comment:  “The idea of doing something to merit salvation is one of the last that the sinner ever surrenders.”  Here’s an illustration that exemplifies that comment made by Barnes.

A young man in the military, who was concerned about his eternal destiny, had been encouraged to receive Christ and stop trying to save himself.  He felt, however, that he must show his “good intentions and sincerity” by first cleaning up his life.  His superior officer had often tried to make it clear to him that salvation comes to him who “does not work but believes”, but the young man couldn’t seem to grasp this truth.  One day, when he had been busy doing some work which left him covered with dirt and grease, he received a call to see his commanding officer.  He didn’t like to go in his grimy condition, but having been told to leave immediately, he went without delay.  When he arrived, the one who had sent for him said, “Sewell, I am very glad to see that you know how to obey orders.  Now that’s the way I’ve been telling you that you must respond to the Gospel call.  Come to the Lord Jesus Christ just as you are.”  Those words went right to his heart, and then and there he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

In verse 29, Jesus responds to their question by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  Notice that Jesus uses the word “work”, not “works” (plural).  He’s the one who is going to do the work to provide eternal life, not them.  It’s going to be His gift to them through His atoning “work” on the cross, not as a result of their “works” to please God.

Obviously, the crowd was not satisfied with Jesus’ answer to their question, so they ask Him two more questions in verse 30.  They ask, “What then do you do for a sign, that we may see and believe you?  What work do you perform?  The miracle of the loaves and fish should have been proof enough that He was the Messiah.  But they wanted more proof; they’re always wanting more proof, more miracles.  The next verse reveals the real reason for those questions.  They continue by saying,  “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ “   They are referring to a comparable miracle in the life of Moses.  I think they are saying, “Moses feed the Hebrew people in the wilderness with manna for 40 years.  If you are greater than Moses, why don’t you prove it by feeding all of us for 40 years?  Then we’ll believe you.”

In verses 32 and 33, Jesus corrects their beliefs.  When they say “HE”, they mean Moses, but that’s not who that Scripture passage is referring to.  They are correctly quoting the words written in Psalm 78, verse 24, but they are incorrectly applying that statement to Moses.  The psalmist is referring to the works of God in that psalm.  Moses’ name isn’t even mentioned, nor is he referred to indirectly, in the seventy-two verses of Psalm 78.  It’s not obvious from their question that they are referring to Moses.  So how do I know they are?  I know so because Jesus knows it, and He communicates that fact to them in verse 32 when He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”

The Jews of that day highly esteemed Moses, sometimes even more highly than God!  They attributed all the plagues on the Egyptians, as well as the parting of the Red Sea, the water from the rock, the manna, the quail, and every other supernatural event to Moses instead of God.  They also believed that the manna ceased when Moses died.  But Joshua 5:12 states that the manna continued after they entered the land of Canaan and didn’t cease until the day after they celebrated the feast of the Passover, when they ate some of the produce of the land.  That was over two months after Moses’ death!  Their beliefs point to a tendency throughout history for people to glorify the person God uses rather than God, who empowers and uses that person.  Moses would have been enraged at their exaltation of him rather than God.

Jesus goes on to make a distinction between the manna (the bread which fell from the sky), and the “true” bread from heaven.  He says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”  The Greek word used here is katabainon”, which means “to descend” rather than “to fall”.   He’s implying that the true bread from heaven descended to become a part of humanity.  He’s also saying that this bread is not only for the Jews, as was the manna, but this bread is for the whole world as well.

What’s the reaction of His audience?  They still have their minds on physical food, and “forever food” sounds even better than forty years of manna.  Their response? “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” (verse 33)  Does that response sound familiar?  When Jesus told the woman at the well about “living water” that would quench her thirst forever, she said, “Sir, give me this water”.

IV.  THE REVELATION (verse 35)

Jesus reveals Himself to them in verse 35 when 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 telling them that only He can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.  Without Him we are spiritually starving. As you well know, you can make bread, smell it and touch it, but unless you eat it, the bread isn’t going to do your physical body any good.  This fact is also true spiritually.  Unless Jesus Christ is in your life, and has become a vital part of your life, you are dying of starvation spiritually and eternally.  It’s time to repent of your sins and invite Him to be your personal Lord and Savior.  He is the One who will satisfy your spiritual hunger and thirst now and forever.

If you have already made that commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and are feasting on His Word, be sure to share the wealth with others.  We can’t make people eat, but by allowing Christ to rule in our lives, we can provide an environment where others around us become hungry for the spiritual satisfaction we have in Christ.  For several years I worked across the street from a large bakery.  When they were baking bread, the smell of it would fill the air.  At break time, many of us would go outside to enjoy the smell of it.  In our minds we were imagining eating it because the smell made us hungry for it.  If the employees at the bakery would have invited us to come and have some to eat, we would have eaten as much as they would give us.

Can we honestly say what the psalmist said in Psalm 73:25-26?  These are his words:  “There is none upon earth that I desire but Thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

It is told of Sadhu Sundar Singh that many years ago he was distributing Gospels in the central province of India and he came to some non-Christians on a railway train and offered a man a copy of John’s Gospel.  The man took it, tore it in pieces in anger, and threw the pieces out the window.  That seemed the end, but it so happened, in the Providence of God. there was a man anxiously seeking for truth walking along the line that very day, and he picked up, as he walked along, a little bit of paper and looked at it, and the words on it in his own language were “the Bread of Life.”  He did not know what it meant; but he inquired among his friends and one of them said, “I can tell you; it is out of the Christian book.  You must not read it or you will be defiled.”  The man thought for a moment and then said, “I want to read the book that contains that beautiful phrase; and he bought a copy of the New Testament.  He was shown where the sentence occurred – our Lord’s words, “I am the Bread of Life”; and as he studied the gospel, the light flooded into his heart.  He came to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he became a preacher of the gospel in the central province of India.  That little bit of paper, through God’s Spirit, was indeed the Bread of Life to him, satisfying his deepest need. (shared by John A. Patten)

The Bread of Life satisfies and nourishes those who are hungry for it.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Welcome to this completed sermon on John 6:22-35.  If you would like to study along with me but don’t feel like you have the “tools for the trade”, check online.  Type “Gospel of John”, or “Bible study resources” and you will find hundreds of sites.  I probably use preceptaustin the most because of the number of Greek helps  and because I like the way it is organized, but I also use many other sites, too many to list here.  You’ve got all the tools you need online!  Hope to see you at he next construction site  There is much work to be done and you will find it to be an enjoyable experience.  It’s like digging for gold and precious stones!