Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘John’

We are jumping right back into the middle of a really intense encounter between Jesus and his opponents. As we saw last week it is actually a trial scene, at least an informal one.

In the Jewish legal system anyone can bring charges and they have accused Jesus of two things: 1) breaking the law by healing on the Sabbath and 2) making himself equal to God, which is blasphemy, and carries with it the death penalty. Jesus defends himself by claiming to be God’s unique agent who only does what his Father, who sent him, told him to do. (For more see – Why Jesus can heal on the Sabbath). 

Well, Jewish trials were based on testimonies, not investigative or detective work. And the one who had the most impressive or honorable witnesses usually won. And so in our passage today Jesus seeks to lay out the positive case for who he is through the use of testimonies.

Testimonies to Jesus

31If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. 32There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true.”

Jesus’ testimony refers to what he has just said about himself in vs. 19-30 regarding who he is and his relationship with the Father. He understands that they don’t accept his words as valid testimony (although they should since he is not an ordinary person 8:13-18).

But the Father bears witness to him. This is what Jesus means when he says “there is another who bears witness about me.” (The present tense here excludes this from referring to John’s witness which is all in the past tense below)

And he presents this as coming through three different avenues, in accordance with the Mosaic Law that says, “A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” – Deuteronomy 19:15 (NIV).

1) The testimony of John the Baptist. 33You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”

Jesus appeals to John for two reasons: 1) God sent John and spoke through him (1:6). And 2) they themselves went to hear John’s testimony, giving credit to it. They had some openness to John for a time, so Jesus is saying, “remember his testimony to me.”

John told them that the Messiah was in their midst. And he testified to Jesus’ exalted status. He called Jesus the “Son of God” (1:34). And he said, “after me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me” (1:30). Even though John was older than Jesus, the Son of God existed before John.

Jesus himself doesn’t need John’s witness because he knows who he is apart from this. But he hopes they will listen to him.

(That this is all in the past tense seems to indicate that John is either in prison or more likely already dead.)

2) The testimony of Jesus’ works. 36But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

Works here refer to the miracles and healings that he is doing in their midst, and has just done in healing the man who couldn’t walk for 38 years. (Jesus’ “works” can be more broadly construed, as in 5:20 where it has to do with Jesus’ role on the final day in giving life and judging. But here seems to be focused on his signs, as in 9:3) (See 10:37-38; 14:11 for the witness function of his signs)

As the man born blind, but later healed by Jesus says in 9:32-34, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” And as Jesus himself says in 15:24 he does “works that no one else did.” These testify to who Jesus is. 

3) The witness of the Father’s word. 37And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.”

This refers to the witness of the Scriptures as we will see in a minute (below v. 39, 46-47). (This is not a new witness of the Father, but it is a testimony that he “has” borne to Jesus.) 

But first let’s note that all three of these testimonies establish that the Father sent Jesus – vs. 36, 37, 38; they establish Jesus’ point about who he is; he is God’s authorized agent.

Next Jesus says more about this last witness of Scripture, but he does so in the context of making –

Countercharges against his opponents

In a Jewish legal context, unlike our own, the one who began as a defendant can become a prosecutor of his accusers and successfully bring charges against them. And this is what Jesus does in this section; he turns the tables on his opponents.

Talking about Scripture he says, “His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.”

When he speaks of God’s voice and form he is talking about the giving of the Law or Scripture at Mt. Sinai. When God gave the Law the children of Israel heard God’s voice as a trumpet sound, and they saw him as a thick cloud with smoke and fire – Exodus 19:9-11; 16-20 (They didn’t see God’s form per se – Deuteronomy 4:12, but a visible manifestation in fire – 4:36; or his glory –  5:24).

But his opponents have neither heard nor seen God. They haven’t truly received God’s word.It is not abiding in them.

And he knows this by their outward actions – they do not receive “the one whom he has sent;” God’s Word in human form (1:1; 14).

39You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” “Search” refers to diligent Scripture study, in this case of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. And there is no doubt that his opponents studied the Scriptures carefully.

But they have missed the central point of Scripture. They have a wrong focus and so they have missed the witness of the Scriptures to Jesus, which is the central point.

Here’s an example of this witness, from just before in John 5:27,  Jesus identifies himself as the Son of man spoken of in Daniel 7:13-14 who receives dominion and glory on the final day.

Although they hope that by studying the Scriptures they will  have life, they will not, since they have missed the point; they have missed Jesus who is the one who gives life.

And then we come to their core problem. “41I do not receive glory from people. 42But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

In contrast to Jesus, who doesn’t care at all about human praise but only seeks after God and loves God, they do not love God, but do care about human praise.

As was the custom in that day there was great regard for teachers – with various honors, rank and titles given to them. Jesus is saying that they are more than happy to accept these fellow teachers who come in their own name and they will exchange praise with one another. But when God’s unique agent comes, in the Father’s name, they reject him. Why? Because their desire is for human glory and not the glory of the one God. Their pride keeps them from listening to Jesus as he challenges them and corrects their understanding of Scripture. (See Matthew 23 for a similar critique.)

(The phrase in v. 44, “the only God” is a statement of the Shema that there is only one God – Deuteronomy 6:4. So whatever we say about the relationship of the Father and the Son, there is still only one God)

Then the focus comes back to Scripture. 45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

They have missed the witness of Moses to Jesus. A specific example of this comes from Deuteronomy 18:15-18. Here the Lord says to Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you . . . and I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever does not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” God spoke through Moses of sending an agent like Moses, who would speak God’s words and the fate of all would rest on their listening to him.

Although they hope that Moses will defend them on the final day (his role as the intercessor for Israel in Scripture was thought to continue), he will actually accuse them. For he himself wrote of Jesus. But they have not truly believed Moses, which leads them to reject Jesus.

(Notice the correspondence between the Father’s “word” 5:38 and “my words” in 5:47 [an inclusion] as well as how the subtext of Deuteronomy 18:18-19 uses the phrase “my words” for God’s words. Also notice the agency language of this subtext,  including coming “in my name.”)

 A summary of Jesus’ charges:

1. They have not truly received or believed God’s word in Scripture  and Moses.

2. They have missed the point of Scripture and Moses, which is Jesus.

3. Their hearts are focused on seeking after human glory, so they receive those who come in their own name.

4. And this pride leads them to reject God’s promised agent, Jesus, who comes in the Father’s name. They think they know the Scriptures and won’t listen to him.

And in rejecting Jesus they show that they have (or already had) rejected God. Because to reject an agent is to reject the one who sent him.

Some challenges for us

Do you accept who Jesus claims to be? As we saw last week, he is God’s agent. He only does and says what the Father tells him to do and say. He is the one who fully and truly reveals God (1:18). And he is testified to by John the Baptist; the works of Jesus recorded for us; and the word of the Father in the Scriptures.

Do you accept him for who he is? And if so, do you live your life like this is true, according to his words and example? This is the true test of what you believe about Jesus.

Don’t miss the point of Scripture. You can know everything there is to know of the details of Scripture – it background, various theories of composition, what this or that scholar says about any topic – but still miss the point and find no life.

Jesus is the point of Scripture. The Old Testament points to him, which is what Jesus is talking about, and now the New Testament presents him and points back to him. And it is when we see and know Jesus in the Scriptures that we find the life that the Scriptures can give.

Beware of teachers who seek human glory. Those who are seeking human praise are too proud to truly hear and receive from God. They are busy hearing and receiving praise from others.

Whether it is in popular Christian culture with teachers exalting themselves in various ways, or in Academia with its culture of giving and exchanging glory with one another with various ranks and titles – these are not the teachers to listen to. Look for teachers who love God and seeks after the glory that comes from God alone.  They are the humble ones that labor seeking no recognition. These are the ones who receive from God and can teach you the word.

Let’s learn from Jesus’ love for his enemies. They are actively seeking to kill him, making capital charges against him. But he shows his love for them. He certainly speaks the truth to them, calling out their sin. But he does this out of love. In 5:34 he says, “but I say these things so that you may be saved.” Wow! They are trying to kill him and he is trying to bless them with salvation.

May we also love our enemies, even when they make wrongful charges against us and seek to harm us.

William Higgins

 

Read Full Post »

Testimonies to Jesus

The Father’s testimony to Jesus: 31If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. 32There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true.

1. The testimony of John the Baptist: 33You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

2. The testimony of the works of Jesus: 36But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

3. The testimony of the Father’s word: 37And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.

Countercharges regarding the Father’s word

a. Don’t have God’s word in them/unbelief in Jesus: His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

b. The Scriptures bear witness to Jesus/their false hope/life:  39You search the Scriptures (writings) because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

 c. Receiving glory/seeking God: 41I do not receive glory from people. 42But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

 d. Receiving agents: 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.

d1. Receiving agents: If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.

c1. Receiving glory/seeking God: 44How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

b1. Judgment/their false hope/Moses wrote of Jesus: 45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

a1. Don’t believe Moses/unbelief in Jesus: 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Read Full Post »

We are in the Gospel of John once again this morning with another story of Jesus healing a person in need. But we are also moving into new territory. We are into a new section of John that begins in chapter 5 and goes until the end of chapter 10. And within this new section, the healing and teaching of chapter 5 all go together and give us some really important insights about who Jesus is. And so I invite you to read ahead and follow along as we work our way through these Scriptures in the weeks to come.

Our story

1After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.”

After healing a royal official’s son, Jesus has now gone from Galilee back to Jerusalem. He went up for a feast but John doesn’t tell us which one. As we will see, the focus of this story is the Sabbath.

“The Jews” is a phrase that refers to a certain group of Jews – the Judean establishment and those in agreement with them, not all Jews. After all, Jesus and his followers are Jews. This section of John, chapters 5-10 is all about conflict between Jesus and these ‘powers that be,’ and ultimately their rejection of him.

pool of Bethesda

This is a model that shows us what the pool of Bethesda looked like. As you can see there were actually two of them connected together. Both of them together were as big as a football field, and are thought to have been 20 feet deep.

(It’s not clear where the Sheep gate was -Nehemiah 3:1; 12:39. It was most likely a small opening in the north wall of the temple – A. Kostenberger).

“3In these (five roofed colonnades) lay a multitude of *disabled people – blind, lame, and paralyzed.” It’s unclear what this pool was used for (public baths? cleaning sheep before entrance to the temple?)  But it attracted those with physical afflictions because in the ancient world pools of water and springs were often thought to have healing powers. This is still true today in some quarters.

5One man was there who had been *ill for thirty-eight years.” As we learn from v. 7 he can’t walk. And here we learn that he has had this condition for a very long time. Longer than many people lived in that day – 38 years.

6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’” Jesus knew, supernaturally, that the man had been there a long time longing for healing.  So Jesus initiates this conversation with him. Usually people ask Jesus for healing. Here Jesus asks if he wants to be healed.   

7The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.’”

Perhaps some of you have in your Bible, or in a footnote a longer verse 3 and a verse 4. This is a textual variant, something not found in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. It says that those at the pool were 3bwaiting for the moving of the water; 4for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.”

This is an attempt to provide a background to our verse here. What is this stirring of the water about? An angel does this. And why does it matter that he can’t hurry in? Because only the first one in is healed.

A copyist of Scripture inserted this note in the column that sought to explain the situation or the superstition that was believed. (And some later copyist took it as Scripture).

The man thinks Jesus is wondering why he hasn’t been healed by the water yet. Does he really want to be healed? And so the man explains that he can’ walk to get in in time. He assumes that Jesus also believes in the healing power of the pool. But Jesus doesn’t operate by superstitions – he operates by the power of his word, for he is the Word made flesh. 

8Jesus said to him, ‘*Rise, take up your bed, and walk.’” His bed would have been a mat made of palm leaves or straw. This would have been be rolled up and easily carried.

The reason Jesus asks him to take up his bed and walk is to demonstrate the healing. This makes it clear that he is in fact healed.

9And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” This is an amazing healing! He wasn’t able to walk for 38 years, but when Jesus spoke he was healed at once and then he rose up and walked. Again, John narrates really difficult miracles that Jesus does as signs that point to who Jesus is and what he does. And this one certainly qualifies.

But there’s a problem . . . “Now that day was the Sabbath. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.’”

If you are reading this story for the first time, this is the first indication that this took place on the Sabbath.

According to Mosaic law you cannot carry a work load on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-35; Jeremiah 17:21, Nehemiah 13:15). But this isn’t what is happening here. What is really at stake here is the oral law or what is called the traditions of the Elders. According to the oral law you cannot carry an item from one domain to another on the Sabbath. And he has carried his bed from the pool of Bethesda to the temple. (M. Shabbat 7.2; 10.5) He has broken a tradition of the Elders.

[Jesus often contradicted the traditions of the Elders (Mark 7) but he does not break the Sabbath. He is not a Mosaic law breaker or sinner (8:46); he does not annul the Law (10:35).]

[In this story the focus is not on Jesus healing on the Sabbath but on carrying things on the Sabbath, since they are confronting the man, not Jesus. (The latter is taken up in 5:16 and following and 7:21-24).]

Notice in all their concern for the things of God there is no recognition of the amazing healing that just took place!

11But he answered them, ‘The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’’ 12They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?’’ 13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.”

He feels the pressure of the authorities and is quick to point to Jesus as the source of the problem. Jesus is now seen as leading someone astray to break the Sabbath by telling him to do this, at least according to their understanding of the Law and their extra-biblical traditions.

14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.’”

Jesus makes a connection here between his previous physical ailment and his unfaithfulness to God. And he warns him to stop sinning so that an even worse fate doesn’t befall him. Now, of course, we have to be careful with this because there is certainly not always a connection between our sin and illness.

For instance in chapter 9:2-3 Jesus is clear that in the case of the man born blind that it was not because he or his parents sinned that he was blind. So it can be true (here, 1 Corinthians 11:30), but not always (Job and Jesus’ own sufferings). Jesus knows the connection in this case by supernatural insight. And unless God gives you this it is best not to make any assumptions.

(Notice how both the Jews and Jesus have a concern for sin in his life.)

15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.” Throughout this passage the man doesn’t come across in a good light:

1) Jesus talks to him and heals him, but he doesn’t even know who Jesus is.

2) The man displays no faith in the story. Jesus simply found him, healed him and told him to rise up.

3) When he gets in trouble by the Jews he is quick to shift blame onto Jesus to get himself out of trouble.

4) When Jesus speaks to him again in the temple, he doesn’t thank Jesus or respond to his call to repentance.

5) Rather, he uses the healing Jesus gave him – his ability to walk – to go and find the Jews in order to turn Jesus in.

Some gleanings for us

1. Don’t be like this man. If last week the royal official was an example to us of one who had real faith in Jesus, this man is not an example to us. He received a great blessing from Jesus, but had no gratitude, and in fact turned Jesus over to his enemies.

Well, when Jesus blesses us how do we respond? With faith in him, with devotion, with gratitude? Or are we just focused on the blessing we got?

And when Jesus blesses us do we then still hang out with those in the world – who don’t know God, who don’t walk in God’s ways, who are enemies of God? (James 4:4)

Don’t follow the example of this man!

2. Nothing is too difficult for Jesus. Once again, even when a person has been unable to walk for nearly a lifetime, Jesus is able to bring instant healing. This should encourage us because this is the same Jesus who loves us and cares for us in all our difficulties.

3. Don’t focus on human teachings and miss the work of God. The Jewish leaders were zealous for mere human traditions that went beyond the word of God. And in their zeal for these, they missed out on what God was doing through Jesus – not just this healing, which they completely overlooked – but all that God was doing through Jesus. In fact, they came to oppose God and God’s work because of their concern for these lesser things that God didn’t even require.

Well, we like our extra-biblical traditions as well.

– What? New people are coming, so we are going to sing some different songs now that they can relate to? Even though there are a thousand different ways to worship God, we want what is comfortable to us. We hold on to our mere human traditions.

– What? God speaks a powerful message to us, but it came through tongues and interpretation and we don’t do that kind of stuff!

– What? God is bringing people into his kingdom here, but they are different than we are and we don’t know how to relate to them and it makes us uncomfortable.

Don’t hold on to the lessor things. When God moves, let him move.

4. Jesus gives life. This miracle is also called a sign (6:2). And what it tells us about Jesus is really the same as the last healing. Jesus is the one who gives life – resurrection life.

If we skip ahead here to John 5:21 we can see this connection. Jesus says, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son give life to whom he will.” The same word is used in v. 21, “raises” the dead as the word Jesus used in our story in 5:8 when he told the man “rise” take up your bed and walk.

This healing pictures Jesus as the one who raises the dead and gives new life. Remember, Jesus isn’t about miracles, the miracles are about Jesus – and this one teaches us that Jesus gives new life. May we all receive the new life that Jesus has for us this morning. May we be transformed by it. And may we go forth and share this good news with others.

William Higgins

Read Full Post »

A. The man: 5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of *disabled people—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been *ill for thirty-eight years.

B. Jesus sees him and speaks to him: 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

C. The man answers Jesus: 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”

D. Jesus tells him to take up his bed and walk: 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”

E. Healed/Sabbath: 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.

 E1. Healed/Sabbath: 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath,

D1. The Jews tell him it is unlawful to take up his bed and walk: and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.”

C1. The man answers the Jews: 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.

B1. Jesus finds him and speaks to him: 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

A1. The man: 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

 

Read Full Post »

A. Water to wine in Cana – 2:1-12. Galilee [sign 1]

B. The leaders of Jerusalem in conflict with Jesus – 2:13-22. Jerusalem

C. Conversation with Nicodemus – 2:23-3:21. Jerusalem

D. Jesus baptizes more than John – 3:22-4:3. Judean countryside

C1. Conversation with Samaritan woman – 4:4-27. Samaria

B1. Many in Sychar believe – 4:28-45. Samaria

A1. Healing of child in Cana – 4:46-54. Galilee [sign 2]

____________________________

A and A1 – 2:11 – There are several inclusion markers – “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did . . .” – 2:11; “This was now the second sign that Jesus did . . .” – 4:54. “Cana in Galilee” – 2:1, 4:26. 4:46 refers back to the making of wine in Cana. Additional parallels between both stories: 1. a need is expressed – for wine, for healing. 2. Jesus offers some resistance – “what does this have to do with me?” – 2:4; “unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” – 4:48. 3. Faith in his power persists – “do whatever he tells you” – 2:5; “come down before my child dies” – 4:49. 4. Both focus on Jesus’ word – “do whatever he tells you” – 2:5; “the man believed the word that Jesus spoke.” – 4:50. 5. Jesus responds differently than asked – he does a miracle behind the scenes on his own terms; he doesn’t come with the man but heals the boy from a distance. 6. Servants are involved in both stories. 7. Faith is noted at the end of each story – “his disciples believed in him” – 2:11; “he himself believed and all his household” – 4:53. (With thanks to Ben Witherington for several of these.)

B and B1 focus on two cities: Jerusalem and its temple, and Sychar of Samaria. In the first Jesus symbolically announces judgment and encounters resistance. In the second there is acceptance of Jesus and salvation. In the first Jesus’ death and resurrection are foreshadowed. In the second Jesus as the Savior of the world is foreshadowed.

C and C1 focus on two conversations: Nicodemus is from Jerusalem, is a man, is upright; The woman is a Samaritan (heterodox), a woman, and immoral. Nicodemus came at night; the woman came at noon. Jesus knows people in general -2:24-25 and he knows that Nicodemus doesn’t truly believe – 3:12; Jesus knows the woman’s marital history – 4:16-19. In both Jesus speaks of “eternal life.” In both Jesus speaks of the “Spirit.”

B and C are bound together by – 2:13 “the Passover feast of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem”; 2:23 – “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast.” Nicodemus as a ruler of Israel also links these two passages together.

B1 and C1 are bound together by an inclusion – 4:4-6 – Jesus passes through Samaria; 4:43-45 – Jesus goes to Galilee. The woman from Samaria links these two passages together.

In B and C and B1 and C1) there are overly literal misunderstandings: B) Jesus says destroy this temple. They think he means the building, but he means his body. C) Jesus says you must be born from above. Nicodemus thinks he means another natural birth, but he means by the Spirit. C1) Jesus speaks of living water. The woman thinks he means a new spring of water, but he means the Spirit. B1)  Jesus speaks of food. The disciples think that he means literal food, but he is talking about doing God’s will.

*There is also geographical symmetry. It begins with Galilee, then two stories connected to Jerusalem, with the Judean countryside in the middle. Then there are two stories connected to Samaria, and Galilee again at the end.

William Higgins

Read Full Post »

We are finishing up our “series within a series” on Jesus’ interactions with Nicodemus. As we get started here today I would remind you that last week we discovered how it is now possible to be born of the Spirit or receive eternal life – through Jesus’ being lifted up on the cross and then on into heaven and pouring out the Spirit. 

By way of introduction today, let me say that I take verses 16-21 to be the words of John, the Beloved disciple, the writer of our Gospel. John is here, I believe, reflecting on the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, especially vs. 14-15. (Most writers agree).

Let’s take look at our first set of Scriptures –

John 3:16-18

And we begin with the well known v. 16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his beloved (only) Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

There are three key themes in this verse – God’s love; God’s purpose to save the world through Jesus; and the role of faith in Jesus as the means of salvation. I believe the reason this verse is so popular has to do with these basic and essential themes, and the way they are brought together in a concise and understandable way here.

First, the theme of God’s love. (The other two will be developed more in vs. 17 and 18.) 1) We learn that God’s love is sacrificial. “God so loved . . . that he gave his beloved, Son.” The extent, the depth of God’s love was such that he was willing to do what it took to save us. It cost him. He sacrificed for us.

Notice the echo here of Genesis 22:2 and the story of Abraham offering up his son Isaac:

  • In Genesis, God told Abraham, “take your son . . . and offer him as a burnt offering . . ..” In v. 16 we are told that God gave his Son on the cross as a sacrifice.
  • Abraham’s son is called “your beloved son, whom you love.”  In v. 16 God’s Son is the Father’s “beloved” Son.

Now Abraham did not have to go through with it, God provided a ram. But it presents a picture of what God himself has now done for us and his sacrificial love for us.

2) God’s love includes all. Who does God love? “The world” – speaking of every single person who has ever lived or will live. Who can receive of God’s love? “Whoever” or as it can be translated “everyone.” It is available to every single person. This is not talking about a sub-set of humanity. It is emphatically talking about all people.

3) God’s love blesses us greatly. God acts for our good, to help us in our need, which is what love does. We are in danger of perishing, but God gives us “eternal life,” a gift of inestimable value. 

God’s love for us is so amazing and astounding, especially given our lack of love for God.

v. 17 picks up and expounds on the second theme of v. 16, God’s purpose in giving Jesus is to save the world. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

We have two purpose statements here, one negative and one positive. God’s purpose is not to condemn; “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world.” Positively stated God’s purpose is to save; he acted “in order that the world might be saved.” Again, “the world” is all the people in this fallen world who are in danger of perishing (v. 16).

This teaches us that it is not God’s will to condemn anyone in the world. God’s purpose, God’s choice, God’s will, is the salvation of the world.

  • As Ezekiel 18:23 says, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
  • As 1 Timothy 2:3-4 says, “God our Savior . . . desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • As 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, the Lord does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

It is not from God’s end that people are not saved. There is no limit in what Jesus has done on the cross (1 John 2:2). There is no choice he has made that hinders anyone. He loves all and gives his Son freely for all. If it were left to God, all would be saved. His choice is clear. No, the difference has to do with us; what happens on our end.

v. 18 then, picks up and expounds on the third theme of v. 16, the role of faith in Jesus as the means of salvation. 18The one who believes in him is not condemned, but the one who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the beloved Son of God.”

Now, all of salvation is from God. And without God’s love and initiative, and without Jesus death and resurrection, none would be saved. Not a single person. But as this verse makes clear whether we receive the gift of salvation, or not, has to do with whether we put our faith in Jesus, or not. In this respect our faith in Jesus, or lack of it, is the difference.

God doesn’t force his grace on us; he doesn’t choose for us. The one who believes is saved and the one who does not believe is condemned – v. 18. (They remain under the condemnation they already had. As it says here, “is condemned already” (see also 3:36).

So as I said, the problem is on our end. If we are not saved it is because when we hear the good news of Jesus, we choose not to believe.

But then, why do some choose not to believe? Why don’t they accept of God’s love and gift of salvation? If it is not God’s purpose to condemn them, why are some still judged? This is what our next set of verses speak to.

John 3:19-21

19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” He is saying, this is how judgment works. They don’t believe and they don’t receive because, despite God’s love for them, they “love the darkness.” And they love the darkness because they hide under its cover so they can continue their evil deeds. This is what they want.

John goes on similarly in v. 20, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” They not only love the cover of darkness, they hate being exposed by the light of God so that their wrongdoing is made know. They know that what they do is wrong, but they want to hide this.

So how does judgment work? It is a self-judgment. They choose to reject Jesus because they like their situation and want to keep it. This is why they don’t believe.

But then we have the other side. 21But the one who does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Some have already responded to God’s light prior to the coming of Jesus. They do “what is true.” God has already been at work in them. As it says, their “works have been carried out in God.” And so when the light of Jesus comes, they believe in him. They are not afraid of exposure. The light simply shows that God has already done a work in them.

[Notice that this last section of verses parallels the first section – 2:23-3:2. (See the literary structure handout). The first section of this passage has Nicodemus comes to Jesus, the light, “by night.” And here the light of Jesus comes into the world and people come to him.]

The language of these verses echoes chapter 1, which provides a framework for understanding what’s going on here. Chapter 1 tells us that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5); and that this light “enlightens everyone” (1:9).

God’s light has always been shining in the darkness; in the world enlightening everyone. But then, as 3:21 says, “the light has come into the world.” Chapter 1 spoke of “the true light . . . coming into the world.” (1:9). And this light has now come into the world in the person of Jesus.

  • So some, having already rejected the previous light of God and God’s work in their lives – reject the further, brighter light of Jesus. As John said, they need the cover of darkness to do what they love; and they don’t want to be exposed.
  • Others, having already received of the previous light of God and God’s work in their lives – receive the further, brighter light of Jesus. As John said, so that it may be clearly seen that their works have been carried out in God.

Now, this is not to say that those who love the darkness can’t at some point repent and respond to Jesus as his light continues to come to them. Think of the Samarian woman in chapter 4. No, John is simply laying out in general terms why some don’t believe in Jesus; why they are judged despite the fact of God’s love for them and his purpose to save them.

As you hear the good news of Jesus and as God’s light shine forth – Where are you at? Are you open to God? How will you respond?

The message for you today

God loves you deeply. Every single one of you! No exceptions. And he has sacrificed greatly for you.

And God’s purpose for you is salvation, not judgment, but rather that you be born of the Spirit; that you receive eternal life.

And this is what you need to do – believe in Jesus! Believe that through his lifting up on the cross there is no more condemnation and that through his ascension into heaven he pours out the Spirit upon us to give us new life.

Will you believe? Will you receive of this gift of new life today?

William Higgins

Read Full Post »

A. Coming to the light out of the darkness

a) Doing signs/belief: 2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.

b) Jesus knows all people: 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about a person, for he himself knew what was in a person.

a1) Doing signs/belief: 3:1 Now there was a person of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This one came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

B. Born from above/the Spirit – life

a) Born from above: 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above he (she) cannot see the kingdom of God.”

b) Marvel: 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

c) born of water/Spirit: 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit,

d) Enter the kingdom: he (she) cannot enter the kingdom of God.

c1) born of flesh/Spirit: 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

b1) Don’t marvel: 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You (all) must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

a1) Born of the Spirit: So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

C. How these things can be

a) How can/these things?: 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

b) You do not understand these things: 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

c) Testimony: 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you (all) do not receive our testimony.

b1) You do not believe these things: 12If I have told you (all) earthly things and you (all) do not believe,

a1) How can/these things?: how can you (all) believe if I tell you (all) heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

B1. Whoever believes in him has eternal life

a) Whoever believes/eternal life: 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his beloved Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

b) Not to condemn: 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world

c) Saved: but in order that the world might be saved through him.

b1) Not condemned: 18 The one who believes in him is not condemned,

a1) Whoever does not believe/condemned already: but the one who does not believe is condemned already, because he (she) has not believed in the name of the beloved Son of God.

A1. Coming to the light out of the darkness

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

– does not come to the light: 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his (her) works should be exposed.

– comes to the light: 21 But the one who does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his (her) works have been carried out in God.

William S. Higgins

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »