THE FINAL THREE PROOFS OF DEITY – John 5:36-40

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INTRODUCTION:

Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale about a young woman who was tested to determine whether or not she was truly a princess.  You may be familiar with the story:  “The Princess and the Pea”.  Actually, the literal translation of the title of his story, from Danish to English, is “The Princess on the Pea”, and that title describes the story more clearly.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, or would like to refresh your memory, click the following link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waw0U9tKpW0.  You will watch a very short and concise summary of the story with sketches.  The “pressure test” proved positive and the prince married the princess.  Don’t you love happy endings?

As you can well imagine, it’s going to take much more than a “pea” to prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the King of heaven and earth.  During this conversation with the leaders of the Jews, Jesus has already given them three “signs”, or witnesses of His deity, and He has three more to go.  “Like 3 peas in a pod”, these next three witnesses are very closely-related to one other  Let’s see what else He has to say about Himself in this passage of Scripture:  John 5:36-40.

I.  THE MIRACLES (verse 36)

The Lord Jesus has already shared with them His own witness concerning Himself, and also John the Baptist’s testimony about Him.  But the courtroom imagery isn’t over yet.  Jesus is still surrounded by His accusers for healing a person on the Sabbath, and they are still not convinced that He has the authority to do such things on the Lord’s day.

Jesus now presents His own works as proof that He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God.  In verse 36 we read, “But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”  When we think of Jesus’ works, we naturally think of His miracles because they were examples of His divine power.  As Nicodemus said to Jesus in John 3:2, “No one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”   We are told in John 10:41 that John the Baptist worked no miracles.  However, the Bible does record specific miracles performed by ordinary men, such as Moses, Elijah, and the apostles Peter and Paul.  Do those miracles also prove that they are also sent from God?  Yes, they do, but none of these men ever claimed to be the Son of God.  No true servant of God would ever make that claim; but Jesus did, and His mighty works are evidence that His claim is true.  One who is able to raise the dead by the words from His mouth must have all power, and the One who sent Him must be God.  His works are a “greater witness than that of John” – being stronger, and more decisive evidence. 

The word that is translated “works” in my Bible, is the Greek word “erga”.  This word encompasses more than just the miracles of Christ.  It includes His whole purpose for being sent by the Father – including His birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection.  It refers to His whole ministry on this earth.  We see that perspective in the words that Jesus says in His prayer to the Father in John 17:4, “I have glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.”  The Lord Jesus was a Man on a mission.  What about you?  What is your mission in life?  Have you given it much thought? Have you ever put your mission in writing so that you can compare it to the way you live each day:  the way you use your time, spend your money, choose your friends?  You might find that to be a challenging and rewarding assignment.  The Lord Jesus is giving us an Example to follow.  His mission must have been very clearly delineated in order for Him to be able to confidently say that He had accomplished it.

II.  THE WITNESS OF THE FATHER (verses 37-38)

The next witness that Jesus brings to their attention (again) is God the Father.  He has called God His Father many times already, and their response has been anger and threats.  They don’t want to believe His words;  they don’t even want to hear them!  I’m amazed at Jesus’ patience and persistence, because He tells them again for the umpteenth time!  Here are His words in verse 37:  “And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me.  You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen Him.”  

Jesus is still surrounded by the leaders of the Jews.  That’s an intimidating situation for Him, but He will not back down from His claims, and He will not deny Himself nor withhold His witnesses!  He keeps telling them the truth whether they like it or not!  Let’s look at the first phrase in verse 37:  “And the Father who sent me”.  I believe that Jesus is saying, “I’ve already established the fact that the Father sent Me.  Let’s move on!  It’s no longer a theorem but a fact!”  You may be familiar with the abbreviation QED.  It comes from the Latin words, “Quod erat demonstrondum”, which mean, “what has been demonstrated”.  When my high-school math teacher wrote QED in large letters on the blackboard after solving a math problem, he was saying, “It’s been proven!  It’s obvious!  Let’s move on to the next problem!”

Moving on, I can sense, from Jesus’ words and the way He phrases them, that He is getting angry at the hardness of their hearts.  We’ll see that anger increase until it reaches a crescendo in verse 40.  This is no “gentle reproof” that He’s about to express to them.  It’s a scathing rebuke!  I think I even see some sarcasm and irony in His words also.  As we look at HIs words more closely, I think you’ll agree with me that “they had it comin’ to ’em!”

I can feel a biting sarcasm in the words “You have neither heard HIs voice at any time, nor seen Him.”  There was a voice from the Father at Jesus’ baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  Near the end of Jesus’ life, in John 12:28, Jesus asks the Father, “Glorify Thy name”, and a voice comes from heaven again saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”  In this case, most of the multitude that heard it said that “it had thundered”.  I wonder if they used that same excuse at His baptism.  It’s as if Jesus is implying, “Are you saying that My Father doesn’t speak loudly enough and doesn’t enunciate His words clearly enough for you to understand what He is saying, and that He is the One who said it?”  I doubt that anyone present at those two occasions could forget the words that the Father had said.  I also believe that those listeners told everyone they knew the words they had heard.  It’s not every day that God speaks from heaven in a loud voice for everyone to hear!

Jesus adds, “nor seen His form”.  Later, when Philip says, “show us the Father”, Jesus responds by saying, “He who sees Me, sees the Father”.  Could Jesus be saying here to his accusers, “You’re looking Me in the face, but you don’t see the Father; you don’t recognize the Father in Me?”  There are other interpretations of this verse of Scripture, and I don’t claim to be an authority.  I’ve come to this personal understanding based on Jesus’ rising anger and the increasing sharpness of His words to them.

In verse 38, Jesus is saying, “that’s not all” – “And you do not have His words abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.”  God’s words were on their lips but not in their hearts.  When you think about the life and the words of Christ, who received the most scathing rebukes from Him?  Was it not the hypocrites?  And who were the greatest hypocrites of His time?  Were they not the Scribes and the Pharisees?

In any great forest you will find many huge trees.  They tower above other trees and appear to be the very picture of strength and maturity.  However, loggers will sometimes not even bother to cut down these huge trees.  At first one wonders, “Why leave them?  After all, a tree that big must contain twice or thrice the amount of lumber as a smaller tree.”

The reason is simple.  Huge trees are often rotten on the inside.  They are the hollow trees that children’s picture books show raccoons living in.  And they are the trees that are often blown over in a strong wind-storm because, while they appear to be the picture of strength, in fact their hollowness makes them weak.  This is the essence of hypocrisy – appearing strong on the outside, but being hollow and rotten on the inside.  Even so, the Scribes and Pharisees standing around Him didn’t have God’s Word abiding in them.  As I said earlier, it was on their lips but not in their hearts.  It wasn’t genuine.  They appeared righteous and scholarly on the outside, and people looked up to them because of this, but they were hollow, empty and rotten on the inside.

III.  THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES (verses 39-40)

Jesus’ anger is still rising as He says these words to His accusers, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life”.  A few versions of the Bible translate verse 39 as a command:  “Search the Scriptures”, but this does not fit the context.  He’s rebuking them and ridiculing them for the way they study the Scriptures, and for the conclusions they make.  The Lord Jesus uses the plural word, “Scriptures” to refer to the whole Old Testament, composed of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  The Rabbis of that day studied the Old Testament Scriptures very meticulously, examining how many words were on a line and on a page; how many of each letter and of each word were on a line, a page, or the whole book.  They followed many of the techniques that the scribes used when copying the Scriptures.  Their purpose was to demonstrate to others how well they knew all the minute details of the Scriptures.  For many of the Rabbis, it was a way of exalting themselves and causing others to be amazed at their knowledge of the Scriptures, coming to the conclusion that they must be very close to God.

I read a story about an 18-year-old boy who was deeply interested in scientific subjects, especially astronomy.  So his father bought him a very expensive telescope.  Since the boy had also studied optics, he found the instrument to be very intriguing.  He took it apart, examined the lenses and made detailed calculations on the distance of its point of focus.  He became so absorbed in gaining a technical knowledge of the telescope itself that he never got around to looking at the stars.  He knew a lot about that fine instrument, but he missed seeing the wonders of the heavens.  He overlooked the purpose for which that telescope was made.

In a similar way, these Jewish leaders missed the purpose for which the Old Testament Scriptures had been given and written down.  The word translated “searched” is the Greek word “ereunao”.  It was sometimes used to refer to a lion or a dog tracking it’s prey by scent (smell).  Jesus was telling them that they had “lost the scent” but had chosen to continue on anyway, and they were going down the wrong trail!  They needed to retrace their steps, pick up the scent again, and follow that trail to where it really leads – to Him.  “It is they (the Scriptures) that bear witness to Me.” Jesus is saying that the Scriptures are not an end in themselves; they are a means to an end.  They are like a signpost pointing directly to Christ and telling us about Him.  Wouldn’t it be a shame to be so taken up with measuring, studying, and admiring the signpost, that we don’t notice or pay heed to the message that’s written on the signpost, nor do what it says?

A little girl bought a Bible to give to her father for his birthday.  When she opened it to write him a note, she wasn’t sure what to say.  “From Mary” seemed to lack feeling.  “From your little daughter” would not be right because he had told her she was getting to be a big girl.  Then she thought, “From one who loves you.”  But others loved him too.  She went to her father’s library and pulled one of his favorite books from the shelf.  On the flyleaf she read, “From the Author.”  That was it!

When the young girl’s father opened the gift and saw, in Mary’s handwriting, “From the Author,” he thought to himself, “I’m not acquainted with the Author of the Bible.”  That thought prompted him to begin studying God’s Word, which led to his conversion.  He came to know the Author.

As it was in Jesus’s time on earth, so it is today.  There are many people today who study the Bible for educational purposes only, rather than for relational purposes.  They know the Book but aren’t personally acquainted with it’s Author.

Now comes another rebuke to the Scribes and Pharisees in verse 40:  “Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”  I sense some irony in Jesus’ words.  He’s giving them an invitation.  In spite of all the things they have said and done, Jesus is giving them another opportunity to come to Him to receive life from the true Source of eternal life.  John Calvin said these words, “In order to come from spiritual death to spiritual life, it is necessary to come to Jesus.”  The Scriptures don’t give life; they point to the Giver of life.  Jesus is telling them that He is the only way to eternal life.

What is their response to His invitation?  They stubbornly, obstinately, and  intentionally refused to do so.  They would rather be “dead wrong” than change.  They preferred to stay in their own darkness and turn their backs to the light.  No wonder Jesus is so angry at them.  He offers them eternal life and receives a “slap in the face” in return.

I’m placing a clickable link to the movie, The Gospel of John, again because I think it captures the emotion of the moment and gives a good visual depiction of this confrontation.  If you click this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYrvOsc-rCU  and then move the time line at the bottom of the picture to the right until you get to 40:20 (40 minutes, 20 seconds), there you will see this passage of Scripture being enacted.  It has left a lasting impression on my mind.  I hope it will do so on your minds also.

CONCLUSION:

The Lord Jesus has given us five witnesses of His deity.  If you are not a Christian, it should be obvious to you that the solution has been given.  You have a choice to make.  You can accept and respond to Jesus Christ as the Son of God by repenting of your sins and turning your life over to His control.  The result will be a life-changing experience.  You will experience joy and peace such as you have never experienced before, and your desire will be to know Him more fully through the study of His Word, and to enjoy Him and serve Him for the rest of your life.  Whatever you give up will be considered of no significance compared to what you gain.  The only other choice is to refuse Him and face the consequences.  Putting it off is, in a sense, refusal because there is no good reason to do so, and it won’t be a good excuse if you should die in the next moment.  Please respond to what is obviously true, and don’t let personal pride, or the fear of what others may think, get in the way of the most important decision of your life.  The Lord Jesus wants you to come to Him.  Please don’t refuse His request.

Fellow-Christians, we are the sixth witness of the deity of Christ.  Our changed lives, our devotion to God, and our joy in the midst of the trials of life are a “miracle” to those around us.  Jesus tell us that “we are the light of the world”.  In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).  LET IT SHINE, LET IT SHINE, LET IT SHINE!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this completed site:  John 5:36-40.  You are welcome to take a walk around the block and visit the other finished projects.  It’s a nice day for physical and spiritual exercise.  Hope to see you in this neighborhood again soon!

WOMAN AT THE WELL, PART IV – Witness, Response, and Lesson – John 4:27-34

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I.  INTRODUCTION:

Luis Palau, a Latin-American evangelist, tells of the conversion of a woman in Peru whose life was radically transformed by the power of Christ.  Rosario was her name.  She was a terrorist, a brute of a woman who was an expert in the martial arts.  As a terrorist she had participated in the death of twelve policemen.  When Luis conducted a crusade in Lima, she learned of it.  Being incensed at the message of the Gospel, she made her way to the stadium with the intent to kill the preacher.  Inside the stadium, as she contemplated how to get to him, she began to listen to the message he was preaching.  She fell under conviction for her sins, and embraced Christ as her Savior.

Ten years later, Luis met this convert for the first time.  By this time she had assisted in the establishment of five churches.  She was a vibrant, active Christian witness and worker in the church, and had founded an orphanage that cared for over a thousand children.

Almost two thousand years before this amazing transformation, another notorious woman was converted through the words of the Savior Himself.  We don’t know her name, but in this sermon we will be studying the dramatic change in her life, and how the Lord used her testimony in a mighty way.  We will also learn the lesson that the Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples as the effects of this woman’s conversion are in the process of happening.

I.  THE DISCIPLES’ REACTION (verse 27)

The Lord Jesus has been talking to the woman at the well, offering her living water, revealing her “secret” sins, and then revealing Himself as the Messiah that she had been longing to see.  Here in verse 27 the scene changes. “And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman; yet no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why do you speak with her?’ “   It was not customary for Jewish men to speak to women in public, and it was forbidden to speak to Samaritan women.  That was the teaching of the Rabbi’s during that period of time.  If it had been one of their fellow-disciples engaged in that conversation, they might have said something like “You know that is forbidden!  What’s the matter with you?”  But no one questioned Jesus, or rebuked Him.  Their respect for Jesus was great, and they were beginning to realize that He didn’t share their prejudices.  He treated all people with respect and love, and they were learning from His example.

II.  THE WOMAN’S RESPONSE (verses 28-29)

It’s obvious to me, from verse 27, that the passage of Scripture we are studying does not record every word of the conversation between the Lord Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  When the disciples return to the well, the two of them are still conversing with each other. What’s recorded here is what the Spirit of God revealed to the apostle John, and he recorded in his gospel.

Verses 28 and 29 focus on the woman’s reaction and response to the words and claims of Jesus.  “So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’ ”  We can see from her words and her actions that this woman had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, was converted. and became a devoted follower of Him.  Like Rosario in my opening illustration, her life was completely changed, and in her case we get to see the immediate results.  She left her waterpot behind at the well when she left.  She was so filled up with the “Living Water” that both her spiritual and her physical thirsts were completely satisfied.  Besides, she was going to be coming back for it very soon. The city of Sychar was at least half a mile from the well, and I believe she ran the whole distance!  This woman immediately became the first woman-evangelist in the New Testament.  She even gave an invitation:  “Come and see”!  She said those words respectfully, wanting them to find out firsthand and come to their own conclusions.  Her last words are “This is not the Christ, is it?”  She believes it.  Jesus Christ has already changed her life; but she is saying those words to arouse their curiosity.  They are looking forward to Messiah’s coming also.  Enthusiasm can be contagious, and this woman certainly had enthusiasm that day!  She was starting her life all over again, and getting off to a running start!

This brings an illustration to mind.  A young salesman was disappointed about losing a big sale, and as he talked with his sales manager he lamented, “I guess it just goes to prove you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”  The manager replied, “Son, take my advice:  your job is not to make him drink.  Your job is to make him thirsty.”  (Preaching, Dec., 1985).  This woman, by her words, her attitude. and actions had created a thirst in the men of Sychar, and they were following her to the well in the hope of satisfying that thirst.

III.  INVITATION ACCEPTED (verse 30)

A miracle was about to occur in the city of Sychar.  Normally the men of that city would not dare to be seen in the presence of such an immoral woman, and would have refused to talk to her, but something had drastically changed about this woman, and they could see it in her face and hear it in their voice.  I imagine that she was breathless from running that distance, and there were tears of joy in her eyes and an expression of excitement on her face.  The Spirit of the Lord had also gone before her to prepare their hearts for what she was going to tell them.

Amazingly, the men of the city decided to accept her invitation and began to follow her to Jacob’s well.  They wanted to find out for themselves whether or not her words to them were true.  We’re not talking about a handful of men, or a company of men, or even a large group of men.  If “all” of the men in the city of Sychar followed her, there would have been hundreds of men, stretched across the countryside, coming to Jesus!

A similar situation and response occurred in Mainland China.  A Chinese farmer, after having cataracts removed from his eyes, made his way from the Christian compound to the far interior of China.  Only a few days later, however, the missionary doctor looked out his bamboo window and noticed this formerly blind man holding the front end of a long rope.  In single-file, and holding onto the rope behind him were several dozen blind Chinese whom the farmer had rounded up and led for miles to the doctor who had worked a “miracle” on his eyes.  His restored sight was cause enough for this man to share what had happened to him with those in like condition. (1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching).

IV.  MEANWHILE . . . BACK AT THE WELL (verses 31-34)

A.  DISCUSSION ABOUT FOOD (verses 31-33)

Verse 31 may not seem to be saying much of any consequence, but it is actually a pivotal verse that gives us much information about the disciples.  “In the meantime the disciples were requesting Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat’.”  Those two words, “Rabbi, eat”. speak volumes about their trip to Sychar to buy groceries.  Let me describe what I mean.  A group of twelve Jewish men show up at the market place in Sychar, Samaria that afternoon.  Do you  think anybody noticed?  I think every eye in the market place was on them, wondering what they were doing in their city.  I also think that the disciples could sense this, and felt uneasy about it.  Did the disciples make use of this opportunity to tell the people about Jesus and invite them to meet Him?  No.  Did they say anything to anybody at all?  If they did, it would only have been what was absolutely necessary in order to purchase the food.  How do I know that?  Because of those two words, “Rabbi, eat”, which indicate that their only concern was the enjoyment of the food they bought Add to that the fact that they “marveled” that Jesus was talking to this Samaritan woman.    If they had been witnesses of Christ to those people, they would have come back with hearts full of joy and love, and their first concern would have been to tell Jesus how God had used them.  In fact, the men of the city might have followed them back to the well to meet Jesus if they had been invited to do so.  Sadly, their prejudices and their concern for themselves got in the way, and the disciples were ineffectual for the Lord on that day.

In response to the entreaty of His disciples, Jesus says in verse 32, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  The Lord Jesus has a masterful way of generating curiosity in His listener or listeners.  He peaked the curiosity of Nicodemus and the woman at the well through His conversations with each of them, using physical realities as a transition into spiritual realities.  He does so once again with His disciples and gets a similar reaction.  They are whispering to one another in verse 33, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?”  They thought He was talking about physical food because they had never experienced the joy and excitement of bringing another person to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Messiah, their Lord and King.

B.  DOING THE WILL OF THE FATHER (verse 34)

Jesus overhears their quiet conversation with one another so He gives them an explanation in verse 34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”  Doing His Father’s will was the essence of His life.  It brought Him complete satisfaction and renewed His spirit the way that food nourishes and renews the body.  In this case, doing the will of the Father meant sharing the good news of forgiveness of sins and eternal life with the woman at the well.  It was the good news that her long-awaited Messiah had come and revealed Himself to her.

Have you ever been so happy and excited that you didn’t even feel like eating?  Did you just want to think about what happened and share it with everyone who would listen to you.  If you’ve had such an experience, then you know what Jesus is talking about.  Jesus speaks about doing the Father’s will several times during His life on earth, and He faithfully did so.  If we change one word in verse 34, we can apply it to our own lives as well.  “My food is to do the will of Him who SAVED me, and to accomplish His work.”  The Lord Jesus gave us a perfect example of what it means to do the will of the Father, even to the point of death on the cross for us.  In this particular instance, doing the will of the Father refers to the salvation of souls.  That was the food that nourished His spirit the way physical food nourishes and strengthens the body and delights the senses.

CONCLUSION:

Is something missing in your life?  Are there major questions that are still unanswered and issues that are still unresolved?  Does life seem to have no meaning or purpose beyond this present moment?  Have you been trying to fill that void with all kinds of earthly things to no avail.  You’re not alone.  One of the greatest and wealthiest men of all time had the same problem and tried to solve it “his way”.  His name is Solomon the king, the son of David, king of Israel.  He wrote a book of the Bible entitled “Ecclesiastes” describing his problem of not being able to find lasting joy and purpose in life.  He pursued human wisdom, pleasure, riches, fame, building projects, and other pursuits but could find no lasting satisfaction.  He said it was all “striving after wind” (Eccl. 1:14,17).  The book of Ecclesiastes ends with these words:  “The conclusion, when all else has been heard, is fear (worship) God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14).  Prior to this statement, Solomon said that the truly wise are like goads, irritating our consciences until we allow the Shepherd to nail down those truths forever as convictions in our lives through faith in Him.  Will you give your life over to the Shepherd today?  Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).  There is no better place to be, and no greater One to follow.  Whose sheep are you? 

If you are a Christian, or just became a Christian, did you know that surveys taken by the Billy Graham Association, Campus Crusade for Christ, and other Christian organizations have found that the number one reason why many Christians don’t share their faith is because of the fear of what others might think of them?  But if you are truly enthusiastic about your faith in Jesus, you won’t let anyone or anything get in your way.  That concern won’t even enter your mind because you’ll be thinking about the will of God and the person’s need, not about yourself.  Pastor and author, Stuart Briscoe gives a very concise definition of a witness:  “A witness is someone who, by explanation and demonstration, gives audible and visible evidence of what he has seen and heard, without being deterred by the consequences of his action” (S. Briscoe, “Getting Into God”, p. 76).  Let’s ask God to empower our witness as we strive to tell everyone we know about the life-changing message of the Gospel, and let them see how that message, and the Person of Jesus Christ, has changed our lives.

Thank you for visiting.  I hope that this study of God’s Word has been of encouragement to you today.  The next passage of Scripture that I will be studying is John 4:35-42.  There are also over one hundred completed sermons on this site and you are welcome to visit them all.  May the grace and peace of the Lord be with you today and always.  May you delight in doing the will of God and sharing the Word of God with others.

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL (Background and Opening Greetings) – John 4:1-9

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INTRODUCTION:

Do you find it easy and natural to open a conversation with a total stranger?  Are there certain people you would not go out of your way to begin a conversation with?  Are there certain people, or kinds of people, that you would try to avoid having a conversation with?   Are there people with whom you would feel hesitant or awkward about opening a conversation?  If you were honestly able to say “yes” or “no” to the first question,  and “no” to all the other questions, you are a very unusual and remarkable person!  The Lord Jesus Christ was an unusual and remarkable person when it came to initiating a conversation with a stranger.  There is much that we can learn from Him.

In John’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus’ last one-to-one conversation with a “stranger” was His conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and Ruler of the Jews, and a devout and upright man.  They talked about “being born-again”, or “born from above”.  The next conversation is going to be as different as night and day because of the differences between the two people who talked to Jesus.  Let’s take a look at what led up to this meeting, and examine the opening remarks.

I.  THE DEPARTURE TO GALILEE (verses 1-3)

Chapter 4 begins with the words:  “When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were)”.  How quickly news spreads and gets distorted in the process!  What was a private conversation between John’s followers and John the Baptist has been turned into a “bone of contention” by the Pharisees.  Apparently they only heard, or wanted to hear, one side of the conversation.  What about John’s answer to them?  After sharing the relationship between the bride and groom and the friend of the bridegroom, John says, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  The Pharisees weren’t interested in that part of the conversation.  They were looking for an excuse to start a major confrontation between the Jews and Jesus.

Verse 3 gives us Jesus’ response.  He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.”  Jesus wasn’t running away out of fear.  He was obeying the will of the Father.  His time of confrontation, leading to His death, had not yet come.  He was avoiding that confrontation for the time being because He was on the Father’s timetable, not theirs.  It was time to go back to the headquarters of His ministry, which was in Galilee.  There was much to be done there, as we shall see.

II.  THE ROUTE TAKEN (verses 4)

Verse 4 says, “And He had to pass through Samaria”.  Geographically speaking, Jesus did not “have to” pass through Samaria.  There were two other routes.  There was the direct route through Samaria, but most Jews, and all the Pharisees and  teachers of the Law, refused to take that route.  They would either take the coastal route or they would cross the Jordan River, travel north through Perea, and then cross the Jordan River again north of Samaria.  Using these two routes would double their travel time from three days to six days.  Jesus, however, had to go through Samaria because it was the Father’s will for Him to do so.  The Lord Jesus had an appointment to keep with a particular Samaritan, and no advance-notice was given to that person.

Why this unwillingness, on the part of the Jews, to go through Samaria?  Well, to say that the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along with each other would be putting it mildly!  Historical events from several hundred years earlier caused this hatred for one another to develop, and more recent events only served to fan the flames of that hatred.  Later on in Jesus’ ministry, the Jews, in an attempt to give Jesus the worst possible insult, said, “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48).  Notice which description came first.  They are either saying that being a Samaritan is worse than being demon possessed or that all Samaritans are demon possessed.  Such was their hatred for the Samaritan people.

It all began 700 years earlier when the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom (Samaria) and took most of the Jews into captivity.  Those Jews who were left behind intermarried with the people from other nations that the Assyrians had conquered and placed in the northern kingdom of Israel.  They became despised by the Jews in the southern kingdom of Judah because they were no longer pure Jews.  The rest of the Jews who were taken into exile never came back but were assimilated into the gentile nation.  They were called “the lost 10 tribes of Israel”.  More information will be revealed in the upcoming conversation.

III.  THE REST-STOP ALONG THE WAY (verses 5-6)

In verse 5, the apostle John, since he was along with Jesus and the other disciples on this journey, gives us some geographical and historical information along the way.  He says, “So He (Jesus) came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there.”   Jacob’s well had a special place in Jewish history and historians say that Jacob’s well is “one of the best attested sites in Palestine, at least since New Testament times.”  Yet it’s possible that none of His disciples had ever seen the well before this occasion.  They may never have taken this route before, but they don’t question the Lord’s decision to go through Samaria.

Verse 6 gives us a brief description of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well.  It was about the sixth hour.”  He got tired like we all do after physical exertion.  He needed time to sit down, get some rest, and quench His thirst.  Though the apostle John’s major focus is on the deity of Christ, he doesn’t pass up any opportunities to show that Jesus was also truly a man.  The Lord Jesus was now alone.  Verse 8 explains that “His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.”  The scene was ready in preparation for another private conversation.

“It was the sixth hour”.  They didn’t have clocks or watches in those days, and time was measured beginning at approximately 6:00 in the morning.  So it was about 12:00 noon, the hottest part of the day in that region.

IV.  A CONVERSATION BEGINS:  OPENING REMARKS (verses 7 and 9)

As Jesus sits there resting in the heat of the day, he beholds a Samaritan woman coming His way.  She has her water jar on her head or shoulder, and her leather bucket and rope in her hand in order to lower the bucket into the well and bring up the water to fill her jar.  This was not the usual time of the day for drawing water from this well.  Women usually came in the early morning or the late afternoon when it was cooler.  She came at noon, possibly because she had a bad reputation among the women in her village.  So she preferred to come to Jacob’s well for water at a time when no one else would be there.

As she begins to draw water to fill her jar, Jesus does the unthinkable.  He breaks tradition but He obeys God’s Word which says, “You shall love  your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). He asks this woman to do Him a favor.  In verse 4 the Lord Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink”.  He is not giving her a command but making a request of her.  Translated into our culture, Jesus is saying “May I please have a drink” or “Would you do me the favor of giving me a drink of your water.”  We don’t know His tone of voice but we know the kind of Person that Jesus was and is.  He obviously said those words with kindness and love in His voice because of her response.  I can imagine that her eyes must have widened and her jaw dropped.  She probably looked Him square in the eyes to see if He was being honest and sincere.  She must have seen much more than that in His eyes and facial expression because she does something that a Samaritan woman would never do to a Jewish man – she answers Him!   She broke her traditions by breaking her silence and responding to Him.

“How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink, since I am a Samaritan woman?” (verse 9).  How did she know that Jesus was a Jew?  Was there a difference in physical appearance, clothing, or speech between Jews and Samaritans?  Probably all three, since they were a people of mixed race with different customs.

l don’t think this woman was being rude or sarcastic when she said those words to Jesus.  I think she was amazed by His words, the kindness in His voice and the sincerity and love in His eyes.  I also think that she said those words to Jesus after she gave Him the cup of water to drink.  The words “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” are in parentheses.  John may be adding those words to explain the reason for her reply.  They don’t appear to be words that were actually said by the woman.

I’ve learned a couple of lessons from the introductory remarks to this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  First, people are more important than traditions, laws, customs and prejudices.  When the Lord Jesus began and continued a conversation with this woman, He overcame just about every major prejudice you can think of:  racial, moral, religious, social, cultural, geographical, historical, and sexual.  She was more important to Him than her “dossier” (her public and personal background and reputation).  What about you and I?  What thoughts, attitudes and responses do we have toward different kinds of people, especially people who are vastly different from us, people who may treat us with distain or silence when we are around them?  The kind of love that Jesus demonstrated by His words and actions is impossible for us to imitate unless we are “born-again”, having become a child of God through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  When we become a new person, the transformation into the likeness of Christ can begin as we yield to the control of the Spirit of God within us.  Then the barriers between us and others can begin to break down and new relationships can be formed.

Secondly, The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us a lesson about receiving from others. There was an article in Psychology Today entitled “5 Reasons Why Receiving Is Harder Than Giving.”  Author John Amodeo gives these five possible reasons. 1.  Defense against intimacy  (keeping people distant).  2,  Letting go of control.  3.  Fear of strings attached.  4.  Belief that it is selfish to receive.  5.  A self-imposed pressure to reciprocate.

I had been giving to the support of two missionaries while in the military and in college, A few years after graduating from college I decided to go to Bible school in order to become a missionary myself.  When a mission board accepted me, I struggled with the idea of raising support for several of the reasons given above.  I talked to my spiritual mentor about my struggle to receive support from others.  He was one of the missionaries I supported.  I still remember his words.  He said, “Tom, it brought you a great amount of joy to give to the support of me and my family and the ministry God has called me to, didn’t it.  Well, your generosity to us brought us a great amount of joy also, and I’ve shared that with you many times.  Now you are in a ministry that involves raising support so that you can give full-time service in your focus of ministry for the Lord.  Don’t deprive others of the joy they would receive if they chose to support you, and continue to send your newsletter to everyone on your list whether they support you monetarily or not.”  He also encouraged me to add a personal note to  my prayer letters to make them personal.

We find many times in the Old Testament and the New Testament where God’s priests, prophets, disciples, as well as Jesus himself received gifts from others.  Like them, may we also be humble enough to receive and thankful enough to express our gratitude.

As I continue this study of John 4, I’ve found several enactments of this conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well on YouTube.  I’ve chosen to link to the following site because it shows two different enactments one after the other, and it follows the Scripture passage closely.  The second video is even more detailed and inclusive than the first.  Watching these two videos, as well as others, has given me a fresh perspective of John 4:1-42.  Here is the site.  Clicking it should take you there:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sma4o3mCPwA

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you will visit other sermons on this site as well.  May your conversations be seasoned with love and genuine concern for others.  May you also experience great joy in both giving and receiving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE WITNESS FROM HEAVEN – John 3:31-36

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Have you ever been a witness in court?  Have you served on the jury of a court case?  Have you ever been asked to give a report about something that you witnessed – something that you saw or heard?  Did you have to answer questions, and were you told to fill out a written report?  Every detail is important, isn’t it?  Whatever the situation, those involved want enough proof to secure a verdict or to validate a situation or verify a person’s identity.  We pay extra postage to get a return receipt, or we pay extra to have a document or package sent by certified or registered mail for our own protection.  We may also want the assurance that it has been delivered to the right person and has been personally signed for and received.  We may also want the recipient to realize the importance of the document we sent, and the need for an immediate response to it.

What is it that makes a person a good witness?  What is required in a court of law?  The first requirement is that the witness must give firsthand information.  The judge isn’t going to accept hearsay evidence.  Secondly, the witness must be willing to testify.  Thirdly, the witness must be reliable.  His witness must be substantial and consistent enough to be believable.  These three requirements are necessary if a person is to be an excellent witness.  John’s point in this passage of Scripture is that the Lord Jesus Christ is a perfect witness concerning God.  This is one of the major themes in John’s Gospel.   Let’s see how this theme unfolds as we examine the witness of Jesus Christ to the world around Him, and to us today.

First, the following words of Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on John’s Gospel, will help prepare us for the study of verses 31-36.  He says,”Bible scholars do not agree as to who is speaking in John 3:31-36, John the apostle or John the Baptist. . . There are no quotation marks in early manuscripts, but since all scripture is inspired, it really makes little difference who said the words”.  Personally, I think they are the words of the apostle John as he ties the previous words of John the Baptist into the theme of his Gospel.  But what is of importance to us is an understanding of what those words in John 3:31-36 mean, and what the Spirit of God wants us to learn from them and apply to our lives.

I.  FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE AND INFORMATION (verse 31)

When you go to a “second-hand” store, are you expecting to find brand-new items, fresh from the factory?  I hope not.  You may find your visit to be frustrating and a waste of your time.  It’s called “second-hand” because other hands have already made use of it and that person is passing it on for someone else’s use.  We don’t know the whole story about that particular product’s history, nor all the details of its prior use.  In a similar vein, John is about to tell us that everything we know about God is “second-hand”, so to speak.  We receive it from a secondary source:  in this case, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We don’t know every thing He knows about the Father.  We haven’t seen everything He has seen, heard everything He has heard, nor experienced everything He has experienced in His relationship to the Father.

Verse 31 says, “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth.  He who comes from heaven is above all.”   Notice the repetition of words and phrases in this verse:  “from above , . . above all . . . from heaven . . . above all”, as well as the words “of the earth . . . from the earth  . . . of the earth”.  Heavy emphasis is placed on the fact that the Lord Jesus is from heaven.  He is the God-man, and was sent “from heaven” into this world by God the Father.  The Greek word, anothen, was often used to show a comparison or contrast.  Judaism emphasized the contrast between above and below.  Heaven is God’s sphere and the earth is man’s.  In the New Testament, the contrast is made between a holy God and sinful man.  When John uses those words, “above all” and “from heaven”, he means that only Jesus knows the Father perfectly and intimately because He has existed from all eternity with Him in heaven as a member of the triune God.  Therefore He alone can give first-hand evidence of what God is like.  John 1:18 says, No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”  No one can explain what God is like better than Jesus because no other human being is God.

By contrast, everyone else is called “earthly” or “from earth”.  There is more to these words than meets the eye.  John may be making reference to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in 3:12, where He says, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”  I think the words “earthly” and “from earth”  may also have the connotation “fallen”, suffering the effects of Adam’s sin.  We were born with a mind, will, and conscience which are tainted by sin, and this limits our capacity to know about and understand heavenly things.  When James refers to human wisdom, he calls it “earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15).  So our capacity to be a perfect witness of heavenly things is negated by the fact that we are not God, and by the fact that we are earthly and sinful human beings.

II.  WILLING TO TESTIFY (verse 32)

In verse 32, John tells us that the Lord Jesus was willing to testify about God.  No one had to force Him to testify because that was one of the reasons He came to this earth.  It says in verse 32,  “What He has seen and heard, of that He bears witness, and no one has received His witness.”  The Greek word oudeis, translated “no one” has the connotation of being “very few”.  At the end of Jesus’ life He had very few followers who had committed themselves to Him as their Lord.  John is reiterating what he said in John 1:11, “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him, but . . . “ (there were exceptions),  But that didn’t stop Jesus from being a faithful witness.  He was willing to testify in spite of the response.  The book of Hebrews begins with these words:  “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.”  It was part of God’s plan.  The author of Hebrews also gives Jesus’ qualifications as a witness when he says, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.”  I’ll say it again, no one is more qualified to testify about God the Father than His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is willing and ready to do so, not only by His words but also by His life.  He has also chosen to bear witness to us today by allowing His words and a description of His life, death, and resurrection to be written down for us in the Scriptures.

III.  A CONSISTENT WITNESS (verses 33-35)

The Lord Jesus also fulfilled the third requirement for a perfect witness.  His witness was consistent.  It was complete, and therefore totally reliable.  Verse 33 says, “He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true.”   Various seals were popular in that day.  The Bible refers to a “signet ring” and a seal that was worn around the neck.  The seal was often pressed into a small amount of wax or clay at the bottom of a document to publicly attest to the truth of it, or to enter into a contract.  Verse 33 is saying that when a person understands the testimony that Jesus makes about Himself, and then commits himself to what he has seen and heard by following Jesus, his words and his changed-life bear witness to the fact that Jesus is truly the Son of God.  One’s life and words are like a seal for everyone to see.  The life of Jesus has made an indelible impression. So each of us who is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ is a witness to the truth of God by our words and our lives.

In verse 34, John gives us another reason why Jesus’ words are true when he says, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.”  The giver of the Spirit is God the Father; the receiver of the Spirit is the Lord Jesus Christ.  So Jesus is not only our Ambassador, sent to us from God the Father, but He has also been given all power and authority to act in that capacity.  He comes “fully endorsed”.  The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of Truth”, and the Lord Jesus has been given a “full measure” of Him by the Father.

Not only that, by verse 35 says, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.”  Not only does the Lord Jesus have all the qualifications of a perfect witness for God to the world, but He has been given all the power to prove it by His actions.  God the Father guarantees the truth and total reliability of Christ’s words.  And all of this was  motivated by love – the love of the Father for His Son and their love for us.

IV.  THE VERDICT (Verse 36)

The testimony has been given and it has been proven to be absolutely true.  Now John gives us the verdict.  We are left with two choices, with eternal consequences which are as different as night and day.  The first consequence:  “He who believes in the Son has eternal life.”  The word “believe” refers to a commitment to the authority and rule of Jesus Christ in your life.  By believing, Jesus Christ is not only Lord, but he is your Lord.  We will begin to taste what heaven is like as He brings joy and peace into our lives.  The Holy Spirit will give us a love for God’s Word and will begin to change our lives as we yield to His control, and we will begin to take on a “family resemblance” as children of God.  And the best is yet to come.  We will spend eternity in heaven enjoying His presence and speaking to God face-to-face, all expenses paid!  It will be so amazing that it is beyond our present imagination.  The apostle Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah when he writes:  “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)

Now John puts all of this into stark contrast at the end of verse 36:  “but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  People don’t like to hear about the wrath of God.  Many believe that God is good, loving and forgiving,  They can do what they please and He’ll forgive them and let them into heaven.  There are many who believe that all roads lead to heaven, that all religions basically believe the same things.  That’s not what this passage of Scripture has been saying,  The wrath of God abides on all who will not acknowledge Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Savior.  This isn’t “scare tactics”.  I call it “reality therapy”.  We need to face the facts.

There have been times when a person has spent a lot of time and money to lovingly help another person, only to have the intended recipient become angry, refuse the gift and reject the giver.  Sometimes this is referred to as a “slap in the face”.  It hurts very deeply because it is rude, uncalled for, and saddens the giver.  It deprives both people of the joy they could have experienced, and a deeper bond of friendship that could have developed between them.  The intended recipient is also depriving himself of something he really needs and of someone who really cares.

God presents you and I with a gift at the cost of His own Son’s life.  He poured out His wrath for sin upon His Son and watched Him suffer and die in order to save us from the consequences of our own willful sins.  He broke off His fellowship with His Son until the debt was completely paid.  There was no other way to make this gift possible.  There has never been a greater gift and there has never been a higher price to pay for it.  To ignore or refuse such a gift is a “slap in the face” of God.

Let’s take a closer look at God’s wrath and the reasons for it.  Some people believe that wrath is beneath God’s character; that it suggests a lack of self-control or a bad temper on His part.  But God’s wrath is based upon His holiness and justice.  No one stands under God’s wrath except those who have chosen to do so.  God respects people’s freedom of choice, and gives them what they choose with all its implications and consequences.  Every person who chooses to be his own god; to worship another god, to ignore or rebel against the true God and testimony of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is choosing to face the wrath of God rather than the mercy of God.  Every person who thinks he can earn his way to heaven by his works and is unwilling to recognize his own sinfulness and hopelessness, and seek the only true remedy for his spiritual condition, is placing himself under God’s wrath (Romans 3:20).

An American Indian who was a Christian was once asked the question, “What did Jesus do for you?”  They were outside so he squatted down, gathered some leaves into a pile, and placed a worm that he found under the leaves into the middle of the pile.  Then he lit a match and set the outside edges of the pile on fire.  As the flames closed in on the worm and were about to engulf if, the man quickly picked up  the worm and put it safely on the ground.  Then he looked up and said, “that’s what Jesus did for me.”

We either entrust our lives to Jesus Christ and commit ourselves completely to Him as our only Lord and Savior, or we receive the punishment that our sins deserve in the sight of a holy God.  It is God’s desire, and my desire, that you not ignore or reject the witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, but instead commit yourself to Him who died for you and wants you to be with Him forever in heaven.

For those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God wants us to be impressed  with His hatred of sin, and not regard sin lightly or make excuses for it in our lives.  Let’s also be continually praising Him for what He did for us, and for the love that motivated it, and praying for the salvation of those who have not yet chosen to follow Him.

There are many other completed sermons on this website and you are welcome to visit them all.  May the testimony of the Lord Jesus give you a sense of inner peace and protection as your trust in Him continues to grow stronger.

     

CONVERSATION WITH NICODEMUS (Part IV) – John 3:19-21

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THE ILLUSTRATION OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS

INTRODUCTION:

Have you ever played Hide and Go Seek?  It was one of the after-supper games that the children in our neighborhood would play.  The way we played it, as kids, was with one “seeker” who was chosen for the first game, and the position rotated so that each of us had at least one turn.  The rest of the children were “hiders”.  The seeker would begin by closing his eyes, then counting to one hundred loudly, giving the hiders time to find a place to hide.  For those who couldn’t count that high, they could count to ten for each of their ten fingers.  When the seeker finished counting, he would say loudly, “Ready or not, here I come!”  Then the search began.  The winner was the last one found.  At first it was pretty easy to find the hiders, but as the evening wore on, it became darker, and finding one another became harder.  That was because the darkness became part of your hiding place, and you could sometimes even move to another hiding place without being seen (which was against the rules but nobody would know).  When our parents called us in to get ready for bed, it always seemed that it was at the time when the game was becoming the easiest for the hiders and the most challenging for the seekers.

The darkness had become our friend.  While the sun was out, it was our enemy, so to speak.  The sun made it harder for us to hide because there weren’t as many good hiding places.  We could too-easily be seen.  But the darker it became, the more we blended in with the darkness.  That’s why some of the kids wore dark clothing.  They were more obvious when the sun was out, but when the sun was going down they were better able to blend in with the darkness.  Our parents realized that the darkness could also be our enemy, causing us to stumble or bump into things and get hurt because we couldn’t see where we were going.  That’s why they called us to come inside, even when we didn’t have school the next morning.

I’ve just shared about physical light and darkness, and their affect on our game of Hide And Go Seek.  Jesus is concluding his conversation with Nicodemus by talking about spiritual light and darkness.  He’s going to tell Nicodemus why many people don’t want to be born anew by the Spirit of God, and why they do not want to admit their own sinfulness and hopelessness, and look to Him in faith.

I.  THE VERDICT (verse 19)

Verse 19 says:  “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  The Lord Jesus is calling Himself “the light who has come into the world”   People don’t want to be born again by the Spirit of God.  They don’t want to recognize their sinfulness and helplessness, and look in faith to His Son for forgiveness and healing.  They like their evil ways and don’t want to give them up

Of all the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah was the best known, and his writings were the most-often read.  The reason for this was his focus on the coming Messiah.  His words were a source of hope, joy, and expectation.  I’m sure that Nicodemus had memorized many portions of Isaiah, and as Jesus talks to him about light and darkness, those Scriptures are coming to his mind, and Jesus knows that this is happening.  In the book of Isaiah, the Messiah is often referred as a “light in the darkness”.  For example, Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”  Another Messianic prophecy in Isaiah is Isaiah 60;2,3:  “For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you.  And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”  Jesus’ words and His judgment were not unfamiliar to Nicodemus.  He also remembered Scriptures referring to light and darkness in the psalms.

Through these illustrations, Jesus is saying that He didn’t come into this world to judge, but to save.  However, people are judging themselves when they refuse to turn from their darkness and respond to His light.  William Barclay shares an illustration that brings the point across.  A visitor was being shown round an art gallery by one of the attendants.  In that gallery were certain masterpieces beyond all price, possessions of eternal beauty and unquestioned genius.  At the end of the tour the visitor said, “Well, I don’t think much of your old pictures.”  The attendant answered quietly, “Sir, I would remind you that these pictures are no longer on trial, but those who look at them are.”  That man’s reaction demonstrated his own blindness to beauty and talent.

II.  THE EXPLANATION (verse 20)

In verse 20, the Lord Jesus explains more fully what He said in verse 19.  Here are His words:  “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”  The light that Jesus is referring to is Himself, “the light of the world”  He’s not using these words in a physical or intellectual sense, but from a moral and spiritual perspective.  He’s telling Nicodemus that, in spite of the fact that God loves the world so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for their sins so that they might have forgiveness and a new life, the vast majority of the people do not want to come to Him.  In their pride they are saying, “I like living in my sin.  Leave me alone!  Don’t expose me to the truth because I don’t want to hear it!”  The word “hate” is a very strong emotion and choice.  It’s directed not only toward it’s revealing effects, but also to its Source.  They don’t want to see themselves as they really are.  Therefore they don’t want to have anything to do with Jesus.  It’s a self-imposed spiritual blindness and darkness.  In the Old Testament, darkness (in a spiritual sense) is a place where the light of God does not shine.  Jesus has given Nicodemus a description of those who will not come to the light, as well as the reasons for that choice.  The apostle Paul gives a description of such people when he speaks to Timothy about the last days.  “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (II Timothy 3:2-4).  That’s quite a description!

I found an illustration that fits that description to some degree.  The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong distain for “religious” things.  As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship.  October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever – the best in the entire county.  When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God.  Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.”  The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite.  In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared.  It read simply, “God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.” (William F. Brown in Making Sense of Your Faith)

III.  THE ALTERNATIVE AND THE INVITATION (verse 21)

Verse 21 gives the last words recorded by John of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.  The Lord Jesus says, “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”  Nicodemus did “come to the light” (Jesus), even though it was under the cover of darkness.  This act shows a desire to want to know the truth about Jesus, but his understanding is unclear.  He hasn’t acknowledged that Jesus is the Messiah because there has not been a response of worship, repentance and obedience.  There has been no evidence of change in his life and no commitment to follow Him.  I sense that an invitation is being given to Nicodemus by Jesus.  The next step in his life is to be born again by the power of the Spirit of God so that he can manifest the glory of God in his life.

The conversation ends abruptly there.  John records no parting remarks.  He leaves it there and moves on.  We aren’t told the affect this meeting has had on Nicodemus.  There don’t seem to be any immediate results.  Nicodemus goes back home and his life continues where it left off before this meeting.  He has much to think about and sort out in his mind.

In 1964, Billy Page wrote a song and his brother Gene arranged it.  The song was originally performed by Dobie Gray in 1965 and became a big hit here in the USA and in the UK.  The name of the song is “The In Crowd”.  Here are the words to the first stanza:

I’m in with the “in-crowd”; I go where the “in-crowd” goes.
I’m in with the “in-crowd”, and I know what the “in-crowd” knows.
Anytime of the year don’t you hear; dressing fine, making time.
We breeze up and down the street; we get respect from all the people we meet.
They make way day or night; they know the “in-crowd” is out-of-sight
.

Nicodemus is leaving the presence of Jesus to go back to the “in-crowd”.  As a Pharisee, and especially as a leader in the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus is in the “in-crowd” of Jewish society at that time and place.  The words of that song ring true for him.  But if any member of the “in-crowd” found out that Nicodemus had a personal meeting with Jesus, he would be out of the “in-crowd” in a hurry!  Make no mistake about that!

Nicodemus is “out-of-sight” alright!  He makes a comment about following God’s Law when his associates are making accusations about Jesus in John 7:50-53, and then we don’t hear about him for over two years!  I believe that Nicodemus was there, together with the other rulers, watching Jesus die on that cross (Luke 23:35).  It would have been obvious to him that Jesus’ illustration of the serpent on the pole was being fulfilled before his eyes.   Did Nicodemus become a follower of Christ?  I’m convinced that he did.  He wouldn’t have gone along with Joseph of Arimathea to request the body of Christ from Pilate, and he would not have spent a fortune for aloes and spices in order to give Jesus a King’s burial if he wasn’t convinced that Jesus was his Messiah (John 19:38-40).  He was no longer a member of the “in-crowd”.  He had become a child of God and was now a member of God’s family:  the fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION:

There is much that we can learn from Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus.  For one, Jesus’ life was a major part of His witness.  Nicodemus was impressed with Jesus and with His method of teaching.  He wanted to meet Him and talk to Him personally.  By welcoming Nicodemus, showing respect and listening to him, Jesus was given the privilege of responding to him. and focusing on his deepest need.  Jesus let Nicodemus know that there was a cure for his deepest needs, even though Nicodemus didn’t express them.  Everyone needs a cure for sin and its effects on their lives, and Jesus pointed Him to the only cure.  Jesus kept His presentation simple, using physical illustrations that were familiar to Nicodemus in order to help him understand spiritual realities.  Most importantly, Jesus stressed the love of God for him.  God’s love for him and for the world was Jesus’ primary focus.  That’s why God provided a way to Himself through the shed blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is why Nicodemus would give up what he had and become a follower of Jesus Christ.  Let’s keep those principles, demonstrated by Jesus, in mind and follow His example in witnessing.

There are also lessons to be learned from Nicodemus.  What I’ve learned this week is that Nicodemus was an exception to the rule.  He was not the typical Pharisee and Ruler.  But every person has the potential of being an exception to the rule by the grace of God.  Look at the apostle Paul!  So don’t give up on people.  Love them, take an interest in them, befriend them, listen to them, and pray for them.  Remember that you also have the potential of being an exception to the rule by the grace of God.   



CONSTRUCTION SITE :

Welcome to this completed work site: John 3:19-21.  It’s time to move to the site next door as we keep working our way down the block.  John the Baptist designed the next building for us, and it’s time to follow his blueprint and enjoy seeing what it looks like with each working day.  Please come back again soon or visit other completed messages on this blog.  May God shed the light of His Word on your life and cause you to shine brightly for Him, as He lives and reigns in you.

 

THE REMOVAL AND BURIAL OF JESUS – John 19:31-42

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INTRODUCTION:

When the Lord Jesus came into this world as an infant, there were also miraculous signs that accompanied His birth.  Luke 2 tells us of the angel who suddenly appeared to the shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.  After the angel made the announcement of the Savior’s birth, a whole multitude of angels appeared in the sky singing, “Glory to God in the highest . . . “.  Then there was a star that pointed the way for the Magi from the East to find Jesus.

Jesus’ death was also followed by some amazing events.  Matthew 27 tells us that immediately after Jesus said “It is finished!”, the earth shook and the rocks were split apart.  Also tombs opened up and bodies of the saints were raised and entered the holy city of Jerusalem.  When the centurion who was guarding Jesus saw these things happening, he said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”.  The Lord Jesus revealed His deity to a few people both at His birth and at His death.

I.  REMOVAL FROM THE CROSS (verses 31-37)

As we read in verse 31, the Jewish leaders asked Pilate that the legs of those crucified should be broken so that they would soon die, and then could be taken off their crosses before the Passover Sabbath began.  Breaking their legs would result in a quick death because the crucified person would no longer be able to lift himself up to exhale, and would soon died from asphyxiation.

Pilate granted their request, and the soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but they didn’t break Jesus’ legs because they could see that He was already dead.  So in verse 34 it says that “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear”.  The middle of the spear’s head was a hand-breadth wide.  Out of Jesus’ side flowed blood and water.  It’s believed that the sword pierced the membrane surrounded the heart, and the serum with clots of blood in it was proof that Jesus had already died.

These events fulfilled two Old Testament prophesies.  The first was the instructions for cooking and eating the Passover lamb.  Exodus, chapter 12, says that as you eat the lamb, you are not to break any bone of it.  This command not to break any of the bones of the Passover lamb is repeated in Numbers 9:12 as they celebrate this feast day each year.  Secondly, the piercing of Jesus’ side fulfills the prophesy in Zechariah 12:10, which is quoted here in verse 37:  “They shall look on Him whom they pierced”.

II.  THE BURIAL (verses 38-42)

The Romans had made an exception by taking Jesus and the two thieves down from the cross.  Normally the Romans left those who were crucified on their crosses until their flesh was eaten by birds of prey.  Guards kept watch over the bodies in order to keep friends and family members from taking them away.  But Pilate made an exception in this case.

Up until now, Joseph of Arimathea had been a secret believer for fear of the Jews.  Now, in verse 38, he boldly comes forward to claim the Lord’s body for burial.  Why did Pilate hand over the body of Jesus to Joseph?  Joseph wasn’t even related to Jesus, and that was against Roman law.  Perhaps it was because Pilate was convinced that Jesus wasn’t guilty.

In verse 39 Nicodemus joins Joseph, bringing with him a hundred pounds of spices.  Why so great an amount of spices to prepare one man’s body for burial?  That’s’ enough spices for a king’s burial!  That’s exactly what they wanted to do for Jesus – give Him a king’s burial!  The spices were probably in a powdered form, or a paste.  They put some of the spices directly on Jesus’ body, wound strips of linen cloth around His body from His feet to His shoulders, and put more spices between each layer of cloth.

Verse 41 says that “in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb.”  Matthew 27 tells us that it was Joseph’s new tomb, which he had hewn in a rock.  This hill called “Golgotha”, on the edge of town, was considered  a God-forsaken place.  No expensive tombs were constructed by the Jews in this area.  Most wealthy Jews had burial places on the property where they lived.  It’s very possible that when Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death, Joseph of Arimathea hurriedly bought that piece of land in the garden and hired a crew of laborers to cut that tomb in the rock so that Jesus could be buried there.  There wasn’t time to take the body of Jesus very far because it was almost time to prepare for the Passover meal.  Matthew 27 tells us that they rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb after they put Jesus inside, and the chief priests and Pharisees put a guard there.  They didn’t believe Jesus’ prophesy that He would rise from the dead in three days, but they wanted to make sure no one could steal the body and start a rumor that Jesus rose from the dead.

As you’ve read this sermon, have the events surrounding the death and burial of Christ made any impression on you?   The centurion who observed these events was amazed and afraid, and his attitude toward Jesus Christ changed.

ILLUSTRATION:  One day two non-Christians were riding along on a railroad train discussing Christ’s wonderful life.  One of them said, “I think and interesting romance could be written about Him”.  The other man replied, “Yes, and you are just the man to do it, setting forth the correct views of His life and character.  I advise you to tear down the idea of His divine nature, and paint Him and He was – just a man living among men.”  The recommendation was acted upon and the novel was written.  The man who made the suggestion was Colonel Ingersoll, and the author was General Lew Wallace.  The book was entitled “Ben Hur”.  I imagine that many of you have read the book or seen the movie.

In the process of writing that book, Wallace learned some amazing truths.  The more he studied Jesus’ life and character, the more he become convinced that Jesus was more than just a great teacher.  Like the centurion in Matthew’s Gospel, he became persuaded that “Truly, this was the Son of God”!  I pray that you might also reach that conclusion, act upon it, and enjoy the privileges of being a “child of God”.

CHRIST’S RESURRECTION AND FIRST APPEARANCE – John 20:1-18

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I.  INTRODUCTION:

Christians meet together for worship and fellowship on Sunday morning because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, and Christians have been worshiping on Sunday ever since. Throughout the centuries men have tried to honor their heroes by erecting lavish monuments.  The massive pyramids of Egypt were built as resting places for the Egyptian Pharoahs;  the glistening Taj Mahal in India is the tomb of an Indian emperor and his favorite wife.  Lenin’s tomb in Russia’s Red Square is where the body of the Marxist leader is preserved by some mysterious process;  and the burial vault at Mt. Vernon is the site of George Washington’s’ body. Jesus’ simple grave can’t compare with these costly burial places.  But the tomb of Jesus excels all of these in the most important respect.  It’s empty!  He is not there!  At the heart of the Christian faith is the claim that Jesus Christ, on the third day after His death on the cross, rose from the dead and is alive forevermore.  No other world religion has dared to make such a claim about its leader.

I.  MARY AT THE TOMB (verses 1-2)

Let’s look at what happened in John’s Gospel on the third day after Jesus’ death on the cross.  In Verse l, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb very early on the first day of the week.  Luke’s Gospel tells us that Mary was bringing spices to prepare  His body for burial.  She must not have known that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had already done so. Why did Mary wait until the third day after Jesus’ burial?   The Jewish traditions taught that the soul hovered over the body of a dead person until the third day, when it finally left.  Friends and family were often in the habit of going to the grave up to the third day, when corruption was supposed to begin, in order to make sure that the person was really dead. The first thing Mary sees is the stone that had been rolled away from the tomb.  The stone was a large disc-shaped stone that had  been rolled down against the entrance to the tomb.  It would have taken many men to move such a heavy stone away from that tomb. Mary must have been in a state of shock as she ran to tell Peter and John what she had seen.  She tells them in verse 2 that “they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid Him”.  Notice that Mary says, “WE do not know”.  Luke tells us in his Gospel that Mary was accompanied by Joanna and Mary the mother of James, as well as other women, when she went to the tomb.

II.  PETER AND JOHN (vs. 3-10)

After listening to Mary words, Peter and John have a foot race to the tomb in verses 3 and 4, and John wins.  It’s interesting to see the differences in these two men.  Verse 5 says that John looks inside the tomb, sees the linen wrappings, but does not go in.  Peter, however, is more bold.  He goes into the tomb, sees the linen wrappings lying there, and also sees the face-cloth rolled up in another place. In verse 8, John also enters the tomb, sees the linen wrappings and believes.  What did John believe and why did he believe it?  John believed Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead, and he believed when he saw the linen wrappings.  The wrappings were strips of linen cloth.  The spices placed between the wrappings were like glue, and they held the strips of cloth together.  It was like a cocoon around Jesus’ body from His shoulders to His feet.  Jesus’ glorified body somehow passed through those wrappings, leaving them flattened but still wound together. A little boy once said sadly to his mother.  “I’m so disappointed!   You told me that something beautiful would come out of that brown thing I picked up the other day, but when I just now looked at it, I found a hole in it and only an empty skin was left!”  The mother said, “My child, you have looked in the wrong place for what I have promised.  Come with me.”  The mother took the boy back into the other room, and there, not too far from the empty cocoon, was a beautiful butterfly.  It had perched on the window sill so that it could dry its wings in the warmth of the noonday sun. Jesus’ disciples did not understand that Jesus must rise from the dead in fulfillment of Scripture, so verse 10 says that they went away to their own homes, to go back to their old way of life.  In much the same way these friends and followers of Jesus looked in the wrong place when they looked for the Savior.

III.  MARY AND THE ANGELS (verses 11-14)

In verse 11 we find Mary Magdalene remaining at the tomb weeping, and then when looked inside the tomb again, she saw two angels sitting one at the head and one at the feet of Jesus’ empty wrappings.  However, Mary did not realize that they were angels.  In verse 13 they ask her, “woman, why are you weeping”, and Mary gives her reason.  She says, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid Him.”  Mark’s Gospel tells us that the angel on the right tells Mary:  “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified;  He is risen;  He is not here.”

IV.  MARY AND JESUS (verses 15-18)

You can imagine Mary’s confusion in verse 15 when she turns around and Jesus is standing there.  But Mary didn’t recognize Jesus, nor did anyone recognize Him.  He was changed.   He now had a glorified body and His physical appearance was changed.  Jesus asks her basically the same question that the angel asked her.  Mary didn’t recognize Him until verse 16 when Jesus said her name.  Then she recognized His voice and the way He always said her name.  She calls Him “Rabboni”, which means Teacher. Jesus is not chiding Mary in verse 17 when He says to her, “Stop clinging to me . . . “.  He is actually gently letting her know that the time is short and there is much to be done.  Then, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives her a commission when He says, “Do not be afraid;  go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.”  Mary does so in verse 18.

CONCLUSION: Today we celebrate the resurrection  of Jesus  Christ from the dead.  We serve a risen Savior, don’t we?  The resurrection of Christ is mentioned 108 times in the New Testament, and it is the greatest miracle in the New Testament.  For the believer, the cross of Jesus Christ closes the door to hell, and the empty tomb opens the gates of heaven.  Andrew Blackwood makes this observation:  “There is not a single pessimistic note anywhere in the New Testament after Christ’s resurrection.”  The risen Christ became a source of rejoicing for all who followed Him.  They were reminded  of what Jesus said to them in John 16:22 before His death:  “Now is your time of grief,  but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” Are you experiencing the joy of the resurrected Christ?  Is He living and reigning in your life?  May we experience that joy and peace this Easter day and every day of our lives.  Let’s not let a day go by, let’s not let a waking hour go by without thinking about and thanking God for the death and resurrection of  His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.