Archive for May, 2018

John 8:52-59

John 8:52-59 has the bantering continuing between Jesus and the religious leaders.  They accuse Him of being crazy.  “At this point the Jews said, Now we know you’re crazy. Abraham died. The prophets died. And you show up saying, ‘If you practice what I’m telling you, you’ll never have to face death, not even a taste’.”  The great claim of Jesus delighted the religious leaders; they believed they finally caught Him in a clearly blasphemous claim. They denied the claim Jesus made to grant eternal life.  But what Jesus said is true.  He is the only way, truth and life.  No one comes to the Father but through Him!

Jesus makes it clear that what He is teaching is not about Him, but the One who sent Him. “Jesus said, If I turned the spotlight on myself, it wouldn’t amount to anything. But my Father, the same One you say is your Father, put me here at this time and place of splendor. You haven’t recognized him in this. But I have. If I, in false modesty, said I didn’t know what was going on, I would be as much of a liar as you are. But I do know, and I am doing what he says”. The religious leaders claimed that the Father in heaven was their God, but it was not a true claim. In truth, they did not know God, but Jesus did. He was in complete alignment with God’s plan for Him.

Jesus returns to their obsession with their heritage.  “Abraham – your ‘father’ – with jubilant faith looked down the corridors of history and saw my day coming. He saw it and cheered”. He makes it clear that He was not some unexpected guy that showed up.  He was the one prophets had talked of for generations.  Jesus claimed that not only was He greater than Abraham, but Abraham himself also acknowledged this. Jesus told them that He was the eternal God, existing not only during the time of Abraham but before he was born and lasting into eternity.

Jesus claimed to be the great I Am, the voice of the covenant God of Israel revealed at the burning bush. “The Jews said, “You’re not even fifty years old – and Abraham saw you?” “Believe me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything.”  That did it – pushed them over the edge. They picked up rocks to throw at him. But Jesus slipped away, getting out of the Temple”.  They knew He couldn’t have ever seen Abraham or vice versa.  But Jesus continues pressing the truth – that He was before Abraham was. There actions demonstrate that the religious leaders understood perfectly what Jesus meant. He claimed to be eternal God, and they regarded that as blasphemy. They felt He was worthy of death and intended to carry it out at the moment.  But it wasn’t yet His time to die, so miraculously, he escaped unscathed.

John 8:44-51

In John 8:44-51 Jesus continues a very pointed debate with the religious leaders of the day.  “You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies”. The religious leaders had brought up the issue of parentage by insulting Jesus in John 8:41. Jesus replied by explaining their spiritual parentage – they were the spiritual children of the devil. This was evident in that their desires matched the devil’s desires: the desire to kill, steal and destroy.  If you ever wonder who the true enemy is and what he wants for our life – well Jesus makes it clear here.

Jesus plays the trump card – what evidence do they have to convict Him of being what they are accusing.  “I arrive on the scene, tell you the plain truth, and you refuse to have a thing to do with me. Can any one of you convict me of a single misleading word, a single sinful act? But if I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me”? Again, Jesus gave His enemies – who hated Him so badly they wanted to kill Him – an opportunity to declare some sin in Him – and they could not. This was another remarkable testimony to the sinlessness of Jesus Christ.  The reality is that the religious leaders were at a point they had to make a decision.  If Jesus was telling the truth, why could then not believe Him?  And if He was not, which they certainly could not prove, what would they do?

Then Jesus throws this in their face: “Anyone on God’s side listens to God’s words. This is why you’re not listening – because you’re not on God’s side”.  That’s a pretty strong accusation that brings a pretty quick response.  “The Jews then said, That clinches it. We were right all along when we called you a Samaritan and said you were crazy – demon-possessed”!  They had to call Him crazy.  There was no other option.  If He was telling the truth, they knew they had to follow Him and accept Him as God’s Son.  So they had to take a drastic approach.  The enemies of Jesus were frustrated and exasperated. They were unable to make Jesus look bad, and even more had believed Him. So they launched their last attack: name-calling.

  • You are a Samaritan (one of the most despised races to the Jews)
  • And have a demon (saying that Jesus was demon possessed)

Jesus responds as only He could, sticking directly to God’s plan.  “Jesus said, I’m not crazy. I simply honor my Father, while you dishonor me. I am not trying to get anything for myself. God intends something gloriously grand here and is making the decisions that will bring it about. I say this with absolute confidence. If you practice what I’m telling you, you’ll never have to look death in the face”. Even in the midst of accusations and an effort to kill Him, Jesus offers His accusers a chance to gain eternal life.  This is another remarkable claim that only makes sense if Jesus is God, and is one with God the Father. Jesus promises eternal life to those who keep His word.  It’s the same offer He makes to you and me, who aren’t all that different from the religious leaders who were sinners just like us.  We all need a Savior.  Jesus is that Person!

John 8:38-43

John 8:38-43 has Jesus continuing his dialogue with the religious leaders of His day.  “I’m talking about things I have seen while keeping company with the Father, and you just go on doing what you have heard from your father”.  Jesus is giving them first person knowledge – He’s been with the Father.  They are trying to share from their twisted version of God’s Word – which they have adapted and shaped to fit their own personal agenda. Jesus reminded them that what He did was consistent with His Father, and what they did was consistent with their father.  He didn’t argue the fact that Abraham was their father, at least by heritage.  But that did not compare to the foundation from which Jesus was teaching – a personal relationship with God the Father.

God’s Word is key to our ability to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon considered several ways that God’s Word should have a place in the believer’s life:

  • The Word of God ought to have an inward place
  • The Word of God ought to have a place of high honor
  • The Word of God ought to have a place of trust
  • The Word of God ought to have a place of rule
  • The Word of God ought to have a place of love
  • The Word of God ought to have a permanent place

The religious leaders weren’t all that interested in really knowing God, and certainly not listening to Jesus.  “They were indignant. Our father is Abraham”! Jesus exposed the inconsistency in their life. They said they were children of Abraham, but didn’t act like it at all.  We’re often guilty of the exact same sinful behaviors.  If God is our Father, we need to listen to and walk in obedience to Him.

You persist in repeating the works of your father. They said, “We’re not bastards. We have a legitimate father: the one and only God. If God was your father,” said Jesus, “you would love me, for I came from God and arrived here. I didn’t come on my own. He sent me”.”  They again attack Jesus and his earthly parents and lineage.  Jesus again made the remarkable claim that He and His Father were and are so close in nature that if one truly lives as if God is their Father, they would also love Jesus. There is no room left for the person who says, ‘I love God but reject Jesus.’ They cannot accept that He is anything special given where He was born and who He was born to.

Jesus asks the people why they are so dense.  “Why can’t you understand one word I say? Here’s why: You can’t handle it”.  Jesus explained that the problem with their lack of understanding was rooted in their failure – even inability – to listen to His Word. This reminds us that the ability to listen to His Word is a gift that we should always be grateful for. It isn’t that God’s Word is so complicated and complex that you have to be a scholar or be trained to understand it.  But His Word is a spiritual word, and our ability to hear and understand is a gift God gives us.  It can’t be understood by man’s effort or ways.  God must open our spiritual eyes and ears to enable us to not only hear, but understand and then apply what He has given to us as the handbook for life.

John 8:34-37

John 8:34-37 has Jesus addressing the problem we all face head on – sin.  “Jesus said, I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will”.  Sin in this passage is in a verb tense indicating a habitual, continual action, which implies a continual habit of sinning rather than an occasional lapse.  It describes us as humans very effectively.  Scripture is clear that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards, but here Jesus makes it clear that sin grabs us and we become a slave to sin.

Some of us try to push it to the enemy with the approach that “the devil made me do it”.  Nice try, but Jesus debunks that right up front.  Sin is a choice, plain and simple.  It doesn’t happen to us.  It isn’t done through us.  It isn’t the fault of the devil or any other influence in our life.  Sin is a choice, and it leads to a very bad outcome. But it also takes control of our life and makes us a slave if we continue making the choice to sin. Slavery to sin is the worst kind of slavery, because there is no escape from our self. A Son must set us free, and the Son of God sets us free and brings us into the family of God.

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ came to this earth to do exactly that – to set us free from sin.  “The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through”.  He, and He alone, is in a place that can truly address the sin problem we have.  There is no other solution.  There is no other escape.  We choose sin and become trapped by it.  Along with the reality that sin disqualifies us from spending eternity with the Father, which can only be corrected through the forgiveness of sin.  How does that happen?

In a word, it is the grace of God offered to us through Jesus. The people in Jesus’ day thought their heritage would be the ticket to get into heaven.  But you don’t get in based on who you are, who you know, or where you came from.  You get in because of one of two reasons:

  1. You have lived a perfect life of obedience, free from sin, and absolute in your holiness and godliness
  2. You have been forgiven for the sin you have committed, the things you have fallen short in, through the shed blood of the Savior

There is no third option.  You won’t get into heaven for any other reason.  In Jesus’ time, the people thought their lineage would be enough, but it won’t.  “I know you are Abraham’s descendants. But I also know that you are trying to kill me because my message hasn’t yet penetrated your thick skulls”.  We need to deal with our sin and be sure of our eternity.  Jesus is the only way.  Are you ready?

John 8:31-33

In John 8:31-33  Jesus defines what it looks like to be a disciple.  “Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure”.  If you want to be Jesus’ disciple, you must abide in His word. There is no other way. To be a follower of Jesus is to abide (to live in, to dwell in, to make your home in) His word.  Jesus said, ‘If you’ – He emphasized a distinction from those who had not believed so faith is the foundation of discipleship – ‘stick with this (or abide in my word as other translations have it)’ – not simply being content with taking the first step towards faith and obedience but continuing to walk with Him – ‘then’ – but not till then – ‘are we really His disciples.

We don’t put nearly enough focus on the importance of being a disciple.  Jesus left us with a commandment in Matthew 28.19-20 to “go make disciples of all nations”.  Sometimes we apply that as something we need to get others to do, when in fact it has to begin with us becoming a disciple ourselves first.  We can’t make disciples until we become a disciple.  Discipleship is much more caught than taught.  Jesus was clear that there were significant benefits for those who walk with Him on this journey.  “Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you”.  This is the result of abiding in the word of Jesus – we are set free from the deception and lies of the enemy and world around us.

When we prove ourselves to be His disciples and we know the truth, God works His freedom in our life through His truth. The freedom Jesus spoke of doesn’t come from just an academic pursuit of truth; but from abiding in His word and being His disciple.  It is how we live that truth day by day and moment by moment that sets us free.  There is nothing like the freedom we can have in Jesus. No money can buy it, no status can obtain it, no works can earn it, and nothing can match it.  And it is free for the taking if we’ll only believe in Him, receive the free gift of grace God offers, and then spend our life walking in obedience to Him as a disciple.

To be a disciple means to be a ‘learner’ which is what the word means.  We can only be learners if we are studying at the feet of the Master.  Becoming a Christ Follower is not just praying the sinners prayer and then going on with life.  It begins there – when we realize that we are on a path to eternal destruction and separation from God – but from there we move from Jesus as Savior to Jesus as Lord.  That’s the lifetime relationship walking with Him as a true follower or disciple.  It isn’t a hour or two in the pew on Sunday morning.  It’s a day by day, moment by moment pursuit of His truth through the Word and a personal relationship with Him through prayer, meditation and other spiritual disciplines.  Are you a disciple of Jesus?  That’s what He has called us to be.  It’s not hard – ‘stick with me’ – but it is extremely difficult to actually do.  It’s what we are called to do.  Are you living that way every day?

John 8:25-30

John 8:25-30 has the religious leaders still trying to figure out who Jesus is.  They really don’t get it.  “They said to him, Just who are you anyway”? They have no intention of believing what He says, but were trying to get Him to mess up any way they could.  Actually it a wonderful question to ask with a sincere heart. Yet this question of the Pharisees came from a combination of confusion and contempt. Though Jesus told them again and again who He was, they continued to ask, always hoping for an answer they could use to trap and condemn Him.  There was never any intent to believe what Jesus said, only a desire to trap Him somehow so they could lock Him up or put Him to death.

Jesus calls out the issue with their ability to believe Him.  They plainly didn’t trust God either. “I have so many things to say that concern you, judgments to make that affect you, but if you don’t accept the trustworthiness of the One who commanded my words and acts, none of it matters. That is who you are questioning – not me but the One who sent me”.  Jesus emphasized the point again, that His words were from God the Father. Therefore if the Pharisees opposed Jesus, they really opposed God the Father.  They definitely didn’t want Jesus messing up their system and power, so they had to refuse to hear God too.

These leaders were dense. “They still didn’t get it, didn’t realize that he was referring to the Father”.  They not only couldn’t believe in Jesus – they were unable to connect the dots that Jesus was talking about God as the ‘One’ who sent Him. But He doesn’t give up.  He makes another run at trying to explain things. “So Jesus tried again. “When you raise up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am – that I’m not making this up, but speaking only what the Father taught me. The One who sent me stays with me. He doesn’t abandon me. He sees how much joy I take in pleasing him.” When he put it in these terms, many people decided to believe”.

When the Pharisees heard Jesus speak they became even more opposed to Him. Yet there were many who heard the same words and believed in Him. They believed despite the evident opposition of the religious leaders.  This makes the religious leaders even more against Jesus.  After all, He was upsetting the apple cart and messing with their power and livelihood.  It had nothing to do with whether Jesus was who He said He was.  It was all about protecting their turf and making sure that Jesus didn’t disrupt the good things they had going.  He was never going to convince them to believe, but that never stopped Him from continuing to try.

John 8:19-24

In John 8:19-24 the religious leaders just don’t get it.  Jesus is standing right in front of them, proclaiming His place as the Son of God, and they are completely oblivious to what He’s saying.  “They said, “Where is this so-called Father of yours?” Jesus said, “You’re looking right at me and you don’t see me. How do you expect to see the Father? If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father”.”  In referring to Jesus’ lineage, the Pharisees thought they had some damaging information on Him. They must have thought, “Watch how He reacts when we reveal what we know about Him.” In response, Jesus made it clear that they did not know anything about Him or His Father.  They were in fact clueless.

Jesus rewinds and tries to make another run at explaining who He was and what the future would be.  “He gave this speech in the Treasury while teaching in the Temple. No one arrested him because his time wasn’t yet up. Then he went over the same ground again. “I’m leaving and you are going to look for me, but you’re missing God in this and are headed for a dead end. There is no way you can come with me”.”  Jesus knew He was going to heaven. Because of their hatred against Him, Jesus could say that His accusers – these so called religious leaders – were not going to heaven. Where He was going, they could not follow.

The religious leaders have no clue what Jesus is talking about.  They think Jesus is going to take his own life.  “The Jews said, “So, is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by You can’t come with me”? They had it all wrong.  Their vision was merely based on the world they knew. The Jews of Jesus’ time taught that the lowest levels of Hades were for those who committed suicide. Here the Pharisees tried to twist Jesus’ words to imply that He will kill himself and therefore be cast into Hades.  They got it totally wrong and “Jesus said, You’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms”.  As humans, we can get caught by the limits of our senses.  Jesus has no limits.

Jesus tries yet again to explain things.  “I told you that you were missing God in all this. You’re at a dead end. If you won’t believe I am who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins. You’re missing God in your lives”.  These guys were religious leaders, yet lived in darkness that filled their mind and their deeds. The darkness remained because they rejected and refused to believe the light. Jesus gave them a serious warning; grace will not last forever. Death makes the outcome of our sin permanent unless we have addressed it through the grace of Jesus Christ to cover our sin through His shed blood. The religious leaders of the day never got that truth.  We will have the same outcome if we don’t grasp the truth and hang on to Jesus!

John 8:12-18

John 8:12-18 has Jesus continuing to teach.  He makes a huge claim for all to hear.  “Jesus once again addressed them: I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in”.  Light was an important symbol in the Feast of Tabernacles. During the feast, many emblems and ceremonies remembered the pillar of fire that gave light to Israel during the Exodus.  It was what led them for their 40 year journey.  Now, Jesus took this important symbol and simply applied it to Himself: I am the light of the world.  Jesus was clear – He is all we need to live a life that pleases God.

But of course, the religious leaders objected.  They were having no part of Jesus’ claim to be the path for all of us to follow.  “The Pharisees objected, All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on”.  Jesus just proclaimed that He was the light of the world, but the Pharisees couldn’t see it. They couldn’t see His light, but it was because they were blind, not because the light of Jesus failed to shine.  We have to open our eyes to see the light Jesus offers.  These leaders wanted things they could see and touch to validate what Jesus was saying, but He makes it clear that believing in Him requires faith.

“Jesus replied, You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that”.  Though the religious leaders protested, Jesus was absolutely secure in His identity, despite all the voices that told Him otherwise. This place of being settled and secure in one’s identity as a child of God and a follower of Christ is a wonderful pattern for believers today.  Knowing Jesus should be something we can have absolute confidence in, and claim completely.

Jesus believed that His testimony was enough. Yet to accommodate them, He also brought another testimony. God the Father also testified that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God and God the Son. “But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God’s Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have: You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me”. There is no doubt that Jesus is the Son of God, and our Savior and Lord.  The religious leaders refused to believe it because it would completely disrupt their system and plans.  But that doesn’t change the truth.  Jesus is who He says!

John 8:1-11

In John 8:1-11 Jesus has left the crowd as they have all gone home to their own homes to rest.  He “went across to Mount Olives” to rest.  It wasn’t long before Jesus was “back in the Temple again”.  He has remained in Jerusalem a few days post the Feast of the Tabernacles, and is still teaching although the religious authorities wanted to silence Him, or even arrest Him.  Their efforts were failing as “Swarms of people came to Him”.  Jesus didn’t run from the people who were wanting to hear God’s truth, even though He knew it would make Him a target.  “He sat down and taught them”.

The religious leaders decided to try a new approach. If they couldn’t scare Him away by threatening Him, they decided to try and make a fool of Him.  “The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery”.  They knew full well her situation, and what the law said about it.  She not only was guilty but was continuing in her violation of the law.  But the point of their dragging her before Jesus was to try and discredit Him.  To mention the obvious, there was also a man involved in this very act of adultery – yet the guilty man was not brought before Jesus for judgment. It also meant that there were pre-arranged spies sent to witness this affair, and they carefully noted the sordid details.  This was a setup.

They state the obvious: “Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say”?  Jesus knows exactly what they are up to.  “They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.  They kept at him, badgering him”.  This wasn’t about the woman or her sin at all.  Jesus doesn’t dispute the law, or condemn the woman to death.  “He straightened up and said, The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone”.  Jesus turned the tables on them.  This woman was being used as a pawn in their efforts to get Jesus.  But He changes the focus to them, and gives them the choice of appearing to be without sin if they were to cast a stone at her, as the law stated.

He wasn’t done. Jesus didn’t react with anger or outrage. He didn’t scream at the woman or those who brought the woman. Jesus paused and stooped down to a low posture, identifying with the humiliation of the woman. “Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt”. He didn’t stare down the accusing men in an act of intimidation. He comes to her place, right where she was. Scripture doesn’t say what He wrote.  But it certainly got their attention. “Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone”.

“Jesus stood up and spoke to her. Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?  No one, Master. Neither do I, said Jesus. Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin”. Jesus changed the game for this woman.  The woman – guilty of sin, and a great sin – knew the goodness of having no condemnation. She passed from sin and a death sentence to forgiveness and life.  Jesus sent her away with an exhortation to stop her sin, without ever approving of or accepting her sin, yet forgiving her completely for it.  That’s our Savior and Lord.  He longs for our repentance and following.

John 7:44-52

John 7:44-52 has the religious leaders again wanting to arrest Jesus.  But His presence was overpowering, and no one dared touch Him.  “Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him”.  During His time on earth, Jesus divided people. People could not truly be of two opinions about Jesus, so some would be for Him while others would be against Him.  The temple guards are questioned for the lack of execution in arresting Him.  “When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, Why didn’t you bring him in”?  They certainly wanted it done, but were not out there assisting at all.

The leaders got an answer they were not expecting.  “We have never heard anyone speak like this! the guards responded”.  Jesus was different from anyone they had ever experienced before.  These officers of the temple had heard many rabbis teach, but they never heard anyone speak like Jesus. They were so impressed by the message of Jesus that they found it impossible to do their assigned work of arresting and silencing Him.  The religious leaders mock the guards.  “Have you been led astray, too? the Pharisees mocked. Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him”? They turn up their noses at these simple guards who have fallen for what they believe to be Jesus deceit.

But backing up the guards was the crowd that was following Jesus.  “This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them”!  The religious leaders put no stock in them at all, and felt they were foolish and ignorant.  The pride of the religious leaders was plain, as was their despising of the common people in the crowd. They hoped to shame and intimidate the temple guard who didn’t arrest Jesus with the idea that all the smart and spiritual people don’t follow Jesus – neither should they.  Things seem to be moving toward escalation, so one of the Pharisees intervenes.

Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home”.  Nicodemus tried to reason with the religious leaders, warning them against judging Jesus too hastily.  The religious leaders who lived in Jerusalem and Judea despised the people of Galilee, and often mocked them. To these religious leaders from Judea, nothing good could come from Galilee.  They were wrong, very wrong in fact, but at this time Nicodemus diverted their attention and plan and Jesus continues to minister and teach.

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