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

CONVERSATION WITH NICODEMUS, PART II – John 3:8-13

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THE ILLUSTRATION OF THE WIND

Has the wind ever caught your attention?  Was it the sound of it, the suddenness of it, the power of it, the things being carried along by it, the refreshment it gave, or some other aspect that caused you to observe it’s workings and be fascinated by it?  Were there times when it caused fear and apprehension because of its power and unpredictability.  I have personally experienced a tornado and a typhoon.  The memories of those two experiences are still fresh in my mind, and come back into focus whenever the wind gives me another reminder.  In that little town in Iowa, no one could deny, the next morning, that there was a tornado in their town the night before.  It took weeks to clean up the mess and months to repair the damages.  On the island of Okinawa, Japan, no one could deny that a typhoon had struck the island.  We heard the winds, saw the water from the ocean coming across the island, and witnessed the damage that occurred in its wake.  Both experiences left unforgettable reminders on the landscape and in our minds.

The wind has often been the subject for poets, songwriters, movie producers, and photographers.  The wind has been used to express feelings of exhilaration (“the wind in my sails”, “the wind at my back”), of frustration and hopelessness (“try and catch the wind’), of sudden and irreversible loss (“gone with the wind”), or the experience of being drunk and out-of-control (“three sheets to the wind”).  In each case the wind is depicted as something that is outside our control and can have an effect upon us.

TRANSITION:

The Lord Jesus has been having a discussion with Nicodemus on the subject of being “born again” or “born from above”.  Nicodemus is not getting the picture, and it is not an easy concept to grasp.  So Jesus is about to give him an illustration that will use physical realities to help explain spiritual realities.  That’s where we left off in the previous sermon (John 3:1-7).  The Lord Jesus said to him in verse 7, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’.” 

I.  THE ILLUSTRATION (verse 8)

The Lord Jesus and Nicodemus may have been sitting in the courtyard talking, and an evening breeze may have been blowing.  This would make the illustration not only appropriate but timely.  Jesus says to him in verse 8, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  He’s telling Nicodemus that being born again, “born of the Spirit”, is much like the wind.  One cannot control it.  Like the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life, it is invisible but powerful.  You can’t see it taking place but you can see and feel the effects and results.  The Greek word that the apostle John uses for both “wind” and “Spirit” is the word pneuma.  They are the same word and they work in the same way.  But Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus in Hebrew (Aramaic), and the word He used was ruach, which also means both wind and Spirit.  So there is nothing lost in translation!

II.  THE REPLY (verse 9)

In reply to Jesus, Nicodemus says in verse 9, “How can these things be?”  He’s giving Jesus an abbreviated version of what he said before.  This time I think that Nicodemus is getting the message but he doesn’t want to put the pieces together.  Because of Jesus’ response to follow, I think that Old Testament Scriptures dealing with this subject are popping into the mind of Nicodemus and he’s trying to set them aside rather than deal with them.  Just as he is unwilling to admit that Jesus is the Messiah, addressing Him as a “Teacher from God”, so also he is not willing to consider those verses in his mind as being addressed to him personally and conclude that the Messiah is the One who is speaking to him right now.  What are those verses that have come to his mind?  For one,  Ecclesiastes 11:5 says, “You do not know the path of the wind , , , so you don’t know the activity of God who makes all things.”  It’s almost as if Jesus was quoting from this passage of Scripture – the words of Jesus and Solomon are so closely-related.  Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  David expresses his need to become a new person with a new heart and spirit from God.

The words of the prophet Ezekiel should have immediately come to the mind of Nicodemus.  God tells Ezekiel in Ezekiel 11:19, “And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them”.  By using the word “them”, God is addressing, not only the nation of Israel, but also the individual members of that nation.  Ezekiel 36:26-27 is probably the clearest Old Testament reference of them all.  It says, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.”   This prophesy points out that before there can be a change on the outside, there must first be a new heart and spirit given by God to each person, and immediately the Spirit of God will indwell and empower His people.

When you’ve heard or seen something amazing or startling, have you ever used the phrase, “That really blew me away”?  The Free Dictionary defines the phrase in these words:  “to affect someone intensely in mind and emotion.”  When I’ve used the phrase, it was my way of expressing a joyful amazement, a happy surprise and excitement about a new revelation.  Why wasn’t Nicodemus “blown away” as a result of the things he just learned?  Why isn’t he showing appreciation and asking questions, wanting to know more about Jesus and His teachings?

III.  JESUS’ REACTION AND RESPONSE (verses 10-13)

In response to the “ignorance” of Nicodemus, Jesus chides him with these words:  “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?”  Every teacher, every Jew was familiar with the words of Ezekiel 37:  The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones.  Every Jew was looking forward to the fulfillment of that prophesy.  The wind, the Word of God, the Spirit of God, rebirth, the breath of God, and the kingdom of God are all included in this passage of Scripture.  “Ignorance was no excuse” for Nicodemus.  To rephrase His words, Jesus is saying, “Nicodemus, how can you not know these things?  There is no excuse!”

In verse 11, Jesus says “truly, truly, I say to you.”  The King James version uses the original Greek words:  “Amen, amen”.  That’s what it says in the Greek text.  He uses those words 25 times in John’s Gospel.  When we say an oath in court, we say “I swear to God” or “as God is my witness”.  By saying the words “Truly, truly, I say to you”, Jesus is swearing to them on His own authority.  Only Jesus could use those words to attest to the truth of what He was saying.  He didn’t have to swear to anyone higher than Himself because there was no one higher than Himself.  Therefore, every time He used those words, He was declaring Himself to be God.  The apostle John doesn’t tell us any reaction from Nicodemus when Jesus said those words.

I don’t mean to come down harshly on Nicodemus for his answers.  I think he wants to know the truth, but he’s trying to get an explanation for things that can’t be understood completely.  That’s why Jesus is using illustrations to give him a basis for comparison.  If Nicodemus did not want to know the truth, he would have left in anger after Jesus’s first statement.  The fact that Jesus is continuing to give illustrations says to me that He wants to continue to expose Nicodemus to truth for as long as he is willing to listen.  The Holy Spirit will bring clarity and conviction in His time.

After swearing an oath to Nicodemus, Jesus says, “We speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness.”  Why does the Lord Jesus use plural pronouns and adjectives in this statement?  Is He referring to the Trinity, He and John the Baptist, He and His disciples, He and other teachers, He and the prophets, or He and all those born of the Spirit?  Is Jesus being rhetorical or generalizing?  Could there be a reason other than these?  That’s a lot to choose from!  It’s hard to say for certain.  Looking at the immediate context of His words, I personally think that Jesus is including Himself with the prophets who came before Him (including John the Baptist).  My second opinion is that He might be including His disciples.  Those are only opinions.  In any case the focus of Jesus is on the rejection of the witnesses and their testimony (Himself included).  We’ll find in verse 32 that the prophet John the Baptist echoes those words of Jesus when he says, “What He (Jesus) has seen and heard, of that He bears witness; and no man receives His witness.”   He is identifying his witness with that of Jesus.

In verse 12 Jesus gets to the point behind His illustration.  “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”  Jesus is not rebuking Nicodemus here; He’s proving His point.  Jesus is saying, in essence,,  “I’ve shared with you the illustration of the wind, which you can see, hear and feel, but can’t explain.  If you have to accept the workings of the wind by faith, since you can’t explain its source or how it happens, but can experience the results, how much more is this true of spiritual realities.  You also have to accept them by faith in the promises of God’s Word, and by faith in the Person who is explaining them to you.”  I would also add the words, “Do you see what I’m saying?  Is that making more sense to you”?  Nicodemus knows that Jesus is being respectful, and is trying to help him realize the need for faith.  There are many things in this world that we cannot understand, but we accept them by faith because we cannot deny the results.

Jesus concludes His illustration of the wind in verse 13 by saying,
“And no one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.” 
  I wondered, “why does it say ascended into heaven first, and then descended from heaven?  Didn’t Jesus “descend from heaven” first, at his conception and birth, then “ascend into heaven” later, after His death and resurrection.  The literal Greek text will help us to understand the meaning.  The translation of the Greek text word-by-word says:  And no man has gone up into heaven except the (one) out of heaven having come down, the Son of man.”    It is true that no man (no human soul) had yet gone to heaven.  No human soul could go to heaven until the Lord Jesus satisfied the wrath of the Father by dying on the cross for sin, and then rising from the dead.  The Scriptures speak of a place of waiting for the righteous, sometimes called “Abraham’s bosom.  It was a place of contentment, but not yet the joy of being in the presence of God.

I also think that Jesus had another reason for saying those words in the order that He said them:  “ascended . . . descended”.  He’s referencing Proverbs 30:4, a proverb written by Agur, and one that, I’m sure, Nicodemus was familiar with.  After saying those words, Agur gives an awesome illustration about God, His Son, and the wind.  He says, “Who has gathered the wind in His fists?  Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?  Who has established all the ends of the earth?  What is His name or His son’s nameSurely you know!   

“Gathered the wind in His fists” – that description really blows me away!  Try to imagine that!  We may not be able to catch the wind, but God can!  In fact, He doesn’t have to catch it because it has already been gathered in His fists!  What a description of God’s greatness, power and sovereignty!  If you want to put yourself in an attitude of worship and focus your thoughts on God, that’s a good verse to bring to mind.  Then Agur ends his proverb with the words “Surely you know!”.  You should know, Nicodemus; you’re sitting right next to Him!  The Son’s name is JESUS!

Jesus concludes this illustration of the wind by referring to Himself as the “Son of Man”, a title that was given to the Messiah by the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel.  Every time Jesus uses that term to refer to Himself, He is declaring that He is the Messiah.

Bob Dillan wrote a song in 1962, which was released as a single in 1963.  Many singers have sung that song, and the Trio of Peter, Paul, and Mary made the song very popular.  In 1994 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  In 2004 it was ranked on Rollin’ Stone Magazine’s list of the top 500 songs of all time.  As you probably already know, the name of that song is “Blowin’ in the Wind’ If you would like to hear that song, type “blowin’ in the wind” on your web browser.  Many questions are asked and many social issues are faced and the conclusion given after each one is:  “The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”  In other words, there doesn’t seem to be any answer.

With all due respect for the author and singers of that beautiful song, the answer isn’t “blowin’ in the wind”.  That’s the illustration.  The answer is “BEING BORN-AGAIN”.  If that’s the answer, then what’s the question?  Actually, there are many questions that are answered by those words of Jesus.  Here are just a few questions that can be answered by being “born again”, “born from above”:
How can I find peace of mind?  How can I be delivered from my fear of death?  Where can I find purpose and meaning to life?  How can I be delivered from my addictions?  Where can I find unconditional love?  What’s the solution to hatred and wars?  How can I escape from my fatalistic attitude toward life?  How can I be sure I’m going to heaven?  How can I keep from going to hell?  How can I break away from my conformity to this world?  How can I ever forgive myself for the things that I have done?  What can be done about this emptiness I feel inside?

If none of those questions relate to you, maybe there are other questions you might want to add to that list.  Whatever the case, the Lord Jesus wants to make things new for you.  He wants to change you into a new person if you will let Him do so.  The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus isn’t over.  There are other illustrations that He is going to use to make that decision clearer for Nicodemus and for you.  I hope you will come back to see the picture more clearly.  The best is yet to come.  There was a price that had to be paid in order to make that new birth possible, and Jesus will pay it all.

If you are a born-again Christian, as I am, let’s remind ourselves of what it was like in our lives before that wonderful day, and pray for others around us who are experiencing the emptiness and frustration with life that we once faced.  Let’s ask the Lord Jesus to make us more like Him – loving and caring for everyone who came His way, and communicating the truth in love.

 

CONSTRUCTION SITE:

Thank you for visiting and I hope you’ll come back to visit other completed construction sites   I have a complete series of messages on Philippians, James, Jonah, and other assorted messages here from the last four years of Bible study.  Thank you for giving me the privilege of sharing with you.  Having this opportunity to share with you the results of my Bible study has encouraged me to study all the more, as I try to put the things I’ve learned into words that I hope everyone can understand and apply to their lives.  May the Lord be with you, and may His Spirit control and empower you like the wind at your back today!  May He fill your sails with a steady breeze as you sail through your day with joy under His control!