The Scarlet Letter

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Last week, Pastor Zane told us that the officers sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees returned and were questioned about why they didn’t take Jesus into custody. The officers told those religious leaders that no one has spoken the way Jesus speaks. The Pharisees were concerned that the officers sent to capture Jesus were taken in by His teaching. In fact, the Pharisees were concerned about anyone that was convinced by Jesus’ teaching. Nicodemus reminded the Pharisees about their due process and the right of a person to face one’s accusers. The Pharisees responded by asking if Nicodemus was from Galilee and then they issued another order to ensure no prophet would arise out of that area and then everyone went home. This morning, we’ll pick up the story as Jesus meets with another group of people and begins teaching them.

Read our passage for today that’s found in John 8:1-11.

From a chronological point of view, it is reasonable to conclude that the encounter with the Pharisees occurred late in the day. While everyone else went home, “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” Did He sleep outside? Did He stay with a friend? We’re still in the time period for the Feast of Booths so did He stay in one of the temporary shelters built for the Feast? Did He stay up all night in prayer? All of those are possible, but we’re not told. The next morning comes and notice something. Verse 2 says, “Early in the morning, He came again into the temple.” Notice that Jesus is an early riser. He doesn’t waste time lounging about in bed. No snooze alarm, no three or four alarm clocks set to get His day going. Early in the morning, Jesus makes His way to the temple. As He arrived, “All the people were coming to Him.” As was His custom, “He sat down and began to teach them.” At this point, Jesus is accustomed to people wanting to hear what He teaches. Who the people were and what was actually taught remain a mystery. The point is that Jesus began doing what He normally did. He sat down and began teaching. This is not a proof text that prescribes the only method of teaching is to sit down. Jesus sitting represents a more informal, casual setting. It’s less intimidating. Think of a Community Group setting: it’s informal, there’s interaction, there’s opportunity to ask questions. There’s a place in our life for formal messages brought by a preacher, but there’s far more opportunities to live life together where we can learn from those more spiritually mature than we are. When we put ourselves in those situations, spiritual growth occurs.

In the middle of His teaching, here comes, “The scribes and the Pharisees.” The Pharisees we know, but who are these scribes? This is the only usage of the term in the Gospel of John which lead many scholars to believe John did not write this portion. The word appears 23 times in Matthew, 21 in Mark, 14 in Luke, and three times in Acts. A scribe is someone that is an interpreter and teacher of Mosaic law. In the Old Testament, teachers of the law were Levites fulfilling the role of priests. To get a better idea about scribes, take the time to turn over and read Neh. 8:1-8. Notice 27 scribes are mentioned by name. These scribes would be the precursor to the rabbi which means my master, my teacher. The combination of scribes and Pharisees appears only here in John. They appear eight times in Matthew, once in Mark, and five times in Luke although twice the order is reversed, and just once in Acts. These scribes were also known as teachers of the law and lawyers. Not all scribes were Pharisees, but there were Pharisees that were scribes. When you see the two terms together, it represents an opposition to the teachings of Jesus primarily because people believed Jesus’ teaching, and according to Matt. 15:2, broke, “The tradition of the elders.” And that brings us full circle to the problem the scribes and Pharisees bring to Jesus.

Here comes the test. Look at vs. 3-5. John gives us the synopsis in v. 3. The scribes and Pharisees come to the temple with a woman that has been caught in the act of adultery and they bring her to the center of the court where all the people are listening to Jesus teach. So everyone is on the same page, adultery is when a married person has sexual relations with a person who is not their spouse. Adultery was specifically prohibited in the 7th Commandment.

The woman is brought out in public view and her sin is pronounced against her. I have some questions. Why, all of a sudden, do they address Jesus as Teacher? In Chapter 7, the Jews had a big problem with Jesus’ teaching because they said He was not educated. After listening to His teaching, the crowd concluded He had a demon. In 7:30, they sought to seize Jesus, but His time had not yet come. Many believed His teaching and the Jews and the Pharisees grew even more desperate to shut Him down. Their goal is to silence Jesus and they call Him teacher. Is the term dripping with sarcasm? Is it false sincerity? Are they mocking Him? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as we continue on. In what world is it okay to drag a woman into the middle of town and bring an accusation for all to hear? But that’s looking at in a 21st Century context. We would never think to do that, right? We would never think to call someone and say, “Oh my goodness, Myrtle, you are not going to believe this! We need to pray for poor Wilbur, Sister Betty is stepping out on him.”

How exactly was she caught, “in the very act?” What happened to the guy? The law was clear that both parties involved received the same punishment. If she was caught in the very act, how did he get away? How did the scribes and Pharisees know where to go to catch her and what time to be there? How did they get in to wherever this was happening? This has all the indications that it was a sting set up by the Pharisees. They even quote the source document to show Jesus they know what they’re talking about. They tell Jesus, “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” The law of Moses refers to Lev. 20:10 that says, “If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Deut. 22:22 says, “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” Ex. 20:14, “You shall not commit adultery.” They used Scripture as a weapon to bring to light the woman’s sin in order to trap Jesus. To be fair, the Pharisees are right. The Law of Moses did require both parties engaging in adultery to be put to death and the method was typically by stoning. The punishment would be carried out by the community.

The scribes and Pharisees didn’t care about this woman necessarily. We don’t have a lot of examples where people are dragged into the public square where their sins are laid out for all to hear. This is first century Jerusalem which is under Roman governance. Stoning was not commonplace during Jesus’ day. Stephen became the first martyr of the New Testament when he was stoned in Acts 7. In 2 Cor. 11:25, the Apostle Paul says he was once stoned. Given the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, the governor would have jurisdiction over this type of matter. It was far easier to secure a divorce than it was to execute a death sentence. The legalist Pharisees were only concerned about one thing: they were trying to trap Jesus. Moses says she should be stoned, what do You say? Is Jesus going to fall into the trap? The Pharisees have brought Jesus what they believed to be a clear violation of Mosaic Law. They cite the authority with the goal of getting Jesus to disagree with Moses by saying something other than death should occur. Doesn’t this type of thing happen to Believers? You speak the truth of Scripture and someone counters with some random fact in the Bible. We’re seeing this type of thing a lot today and the end result is the same thing the Pharisees were trying to do to Jesus. This is polarizing America and it’s polarizing the church. The pandemic has revealed the true colors of a lot of people. We have people in the church that care more about your vax status than they do about your spiritual status. We have people more concerned about properly washing your hands than about being washed by the blood of Christ. We have people on national platforms tell us the only way to fulfil the second greatest commandment is to wear a mask. People tell us if we were prolife, then we would care about immigration, global warming, reparations, and fair wages. People are trying to trap you into saying something they believe is non-Christian behavior and the only thing they’ll accept is complete agreement with them. Don’t fall for it.

And now Jesus demonstrates true wisdom. The trap has been set. In their minds, Jesus is in a no-win situation. If He agrees with Moses that the woman should be stoned, then He would be inconsistent with previous His behavior because He was known to be a friend to sinners. If He disagrees about stoning her, He would be in conflict with the Law, something they believed the Messiah could not and would not do. Mercy and justice are set as opposing principles and the Pharisees are feeling pretty good about themselves. In their minds, the Pharisees have won, there’s nothing Jesus can say to get Himself out of this situation. Because we can read, we know they were, “Testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him.” The Pharisees were not interested in the woman herself. They didn’t care that she was caught in adultery. They used her to get at Jesus. In a stunning turn of events, Jesus says not a word and does not seem flustered by all the posturing and blustering. “But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote in the ground.” What did He write? Some say it was from Jer. 17:13 that says, “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of the living water, even the Lord.” Some say He wrote the sins of those men that were in front of Him. As He continues writing in silence, the Pharisees pressed Him again. “He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus responds with a trap of His own. Deut. 17:7 says, “The hand of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” This is a legalistic bunch. What Jesus really thinks of these men is found in Matt. 23:28, “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” They make a big show of looking good, but are not. Jesus is not trying to condemn the Pharisees, but to show them there is no hope in following man-made standards or some set of beliefs to get to God. They should evaluate themselves before passing judgment on others. Jesus will not be fooled and will not be goaded into a fruitless argument. “Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.” We still don’t know what He’s writing, but it must have been something incredible. Those things are not revealed and remain a source of much speculation.

“When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.” The “it” refers to Jesus saying the sinless one could cast the first stone. The Pharisees leave one by one from the oldest to the youngest. And when they are gone, only Jesus and the woman remain. The woman, likely completely humiliated and embarrassed, is left alone with Jesus. “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”  Jesus is not surprised they are gone, but I’m guessing the woman was. The case against her has completely fallen apart because there are no witnesses and no authority remaining to prosecute the case. I imagine this to be a scene of incredible compassion and empathy and perhaps some uneasiness on the woman’s side. The woman answers Jesus’ question, “No one, Lord.” Lord in this verse is a term of respect and simply means sir. Jesus’ final word on this matter could be a sermon by itself. Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” The word condemn here means determining guilt and executing punishment. Just a few minutes earlier, this woman was facing death by stoning. A whole lot of nonsense has been preached about Jesus’ words and I’d like to be clear about what He’s not saying. He does not give the woman a pass and does not condone her behavior. He’s not even saying don’t judge people. Jesus tells her, “From now on sin no more.” In Jo. 5:14, remember the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus healed him and told him the same thing. “Do not sin anymore,” but added, “So that nothing worse happens to you.”

One of the most misused verses tell us, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1) Mercy and justice collide in this story. The Pharisees are out for blood, yet get a lesson in mercy, compassion, and love. In no way, shape, or form is Jesus condoning sin.

Of this story, commentator G. L. Borchert says moral standards are not diminished in the touch of mercy. This is a lesson for all of us, especially at a time when we seem so divided. Let’s put off those things that are non-essential to our faith that seem to divide and let us be united in Christ. The crowd is still there. What are they thinking? What happens next? Join us next week to find out.

Living Waters

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Last week, we learned that the Pharisees heard the crowd’s muttering and took action against Jesus. The chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Jesus, but Jesus continued to teach. Jesus told the people that He’s be around a little longer, but then was going to the Father that sent Him. Jesus was talking about a specific place, but the Pharisees didn’t understand and reasoned there was no where Jesus could go where they couldn’t find Him. There will come a time when people will seek Jesus, but He won’t be found.

Jesus defined that time as a little while. This morning, the Feast of Booths comes to a conclusion with some incredible teaching from Jesus.

Take a look at John 7:37-44 that we’ll be looking at today.

The Scripture for today represents the last day of the Feast of Booths. The little while that Jesus is to remain is getting shorter each day. There is a large crowd as the Feast of Booths comes to its conclusion. There won’t be another festival or celebration for about six months until Passover. The Feast of Booths is a harvest celebration. Each day a pitcher of water would be drawn from the Pool of Siloam and carried to the temple where is would be ceremoniously poured on the altar. This represented the rain that was critical to a bountiful harvest.

Zech. 14:17-19 says, “And it will be that whichever families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.”

This celebration was a big deal. At this point in the calendar year, it’s the start of fall. The cisterns would be getting low because of the dry summer months so rain is needed. People would be very keen on what Jesus is about to say. “Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” There’s a lot here so let’s break it down. Jesus takes a position of teaching by standing up. You get a sense of urgency, a sense of hope, a sense of expectation when Jesus stands. He uses a loud voice as He begins a very short, just two sentences message that is incredibly important. These two sentences take just 11 seconds to speak and Jesus doesn’t say another word before leaving.

The first thing I notice is the word anyone. It is a pronoun that means any person. If anyone is thirsty. Jesus is not speaking of actual thirst. It is a metaphor: Jesus is using the celebration of the Feast of Booths where the people prayed for sustaining rain to symbolize the need to satisfy one’s physical thirst. He used the same metaphor in Jo. 4 with the woman at the well. If anyone is thirsty. Remember, this is a metaphor. Who gets thirsty? Everyone. Rich and poor, young and old regardless of nationality, regardless of any social or cultural biases present. Jesus is using the universal need for water and metaphorically applying it to salvation.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” He doesn’t leave it at the problem of thirst. He includes the solution to the thirst. If you’re thirsty, come to Me, I will satisfy your thirst. Is. 12:3 says, “Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.” Jesus provides the solution to everyone’ thirst. To be clear, everyone that is thirsty will not have their thirst satisfied by Jesus because not everyone will accept the invitation. A response is required. How do we know Jesus is talking about salvation? He goes on to say, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of water.” Believe here is a form of the Greek word pistis that means faith. It is a present tense verb. Verbs are action words which means there is action required of the person. Faith is real trust, confidence, and reliance that can only be placed in someone who is believed to have the qualities attributed to such a person. This faith or belief is occurring at this moment and is ongoing. Think about things that you once believed in and no longer do. This is abiding faith that is present and continues in our life. We’ll see this principle later in John.

There is an undefined caveat that Jesus uses: “as the Scripture said.” We don’t know if Jesus is thinking of a particular Scripture, a scriptural principal regarding salvation, or about scriptural references to water. There are a number of scriptural passages about water. In Ex. 17, God provided water from a rock. A number of Old Testament writers mention that event including Nehemiah, Asaph in Psalms, and Isaiah. Zech. 14:8 says, “And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them towards the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.” Maybe He wasn’t thinking about any particular Scripture, but Scripture as a whole. “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” This is significant! When you have scriptural belief in Jesus, you get rivers of living water. The idea is an endless supply of clean, fresh, life-sustaining water that comes from deep within a person. Perhaps the metaphor of water coming from a rock to water flowing from the Rock of salvation is not lost on you.

Remember, this is a metaphor and it is not to be taken literally. John takes a moment to explain this metaphor. “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John introduces the concept of the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was nothing new to John and he referenced Him in Chapters 3 and 4. John would also be familiar with Old Testament writings that spoke of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to judges, warriors, and kings to lead and guide them. The Spirit also spoke to and through prophets so He’s not something new. This indwelling will occur in the future and to specific people. The Spirit will be given to those that have faith in Christ – those that believed.

In Is. 44:3, the prophet says to Jacob, “For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams in the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your off spring and My blessing on your descendants.” John is anticipating this just like the dry and dusty ground anticipates the life-giving relief that rain brings. This is not here yet, but John knows it’s coming and he knows when it’s going to happen. John knows that the indwelling of the Spirit will not occur until after Jesus is glorified. The glory of Christ or His glorification is a theme we’ll see moving forward in John. He uses a form of the word glory 17 times, more than any other New Testament writer. John generally uses it to refer to a manifestation of God’s presence and power. Here, he is speaking of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. When Jesus is glorified, we can expect the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The debate about Jesus continues. We’re still in the crowd of people and all of them heard the same message, but different conclusions are made about who Jesus is. “This certainly is the Prophet.” Moses spoke of the Prophet in Deut. 18. Notice they say the Prophet not a prophet. All major translations use the article “the” in this verse. That’s important because there have been a number of prophets over the years. A prophet is someone that speaks the words of God and they always are true and accurate. Someone that claims to be a prophet whose words do not come to pass is labeled a false prophet. The people have been looking for the prophet since the days of Moses and some conclude that Jesus is the One. Others said, “This is the Christ.” Christ is not Jesus’ last name. Jesus was His name given on the day of His circumcision just as the angel told Mary. Names back then were more descriptive than they are today. According to Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, “Names were chosen for various reasons, such as to express religious convictions or hopes or some to describe a physical characteristic or some circumstance of birth.” Sometimes the Bible explains a name like Jacob (supplanter), Isaac (he laughs), or Noah (rest). A prophet tells the things of God or speaks on God’s behalf, but Christ is something different. Some in this crowd said Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the One that would deliver them from their sin that was predicted to come all the way back in the Gen. 3:15.

“Still others were saying, Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He?” This question supposes the answer is no. Some said the Prophet, some said the Christ and others chose to discount Him altogether because of where He came from. Jesus can’t be the Messiah because He was from Galilee. “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” This question supposes the answer is yes. The Christ, Messiah will come from Bethlehem. That’s what the prophecies said, that’s what the people understood from the teaching they’ve had all their lives. Somewhere along the way in interacting or hearing about Jesus, the fact that He was born in Bethlehem was lost on them.

Take the time and turn over and read Matt. 2:1-6. The fact that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem would have been readily known. They concluded since Jesus was from Galilee, He could not be the One. The Messiah will be a son of David they argued. From Bethlehem they said. Is. 9:1 says, “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.” Somewhere along the way, they forgot about Isaiah. And then in 9:6, Isaiah says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” They remembered Bethlehem, but forgot the incredible prediction made by Isaiah. Why didn’t they check the genealogical records? Why didn’t Jesus correct them? Why did John let these details go unanswered? Those are questions that we ask as we go through the gospel. When you consider the entire gospel, these are very small tidbits of information. Keep in mind what John thought of Jesus that he recorded in 1:14.

In the crowd we have three groups of people. Those that concluded Jesus was the Prophet. Those that were convinced Jesus was the Christ or Messiah. And those that believed neither of those. What was the result of this? “So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him.” I spoke of this last week. When people feel strongly about something and others disagree, division results. In a church setting, division is generally considered bad. You can have division about décor, Bible translations, style of music, and even what kind of food to have at a fellowship. In an organization, division is good. On a submarine, everyone belongs to a division that is based on their job specialty. In a police department, you might be part of the patrol division or investigative division. In college football, there is Division I, II, and III that establish the level of expertise. Ford Motor Company has a research and development division. The crowd drew different conclusions about Jesus and that caused the people to be divided into different groups. One segment of this crowd decided that they were going to take action against Jesus and it looks like they sided with the Pharisees. “Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him” How this came to be John does not say. We know His hour had not yet come and we see the power of the God’s perfect timing. We can look back with certainty and answer the why questions because we have the whole picture.

Jesus offers the people living waters that will flow abundantly from within them. We learn of the coming of the Holy Spirit that will be given to every believer. The people are divided about who He is. Jesus slips away again to teach another day. What happens to the crowd? What will the chief priests and Pharisees say? Join us next week as chapter 7 draws to a close.

The Pharisees

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Last week, Pastor Mark told us that Jesus was in the temple teaching. Some of the people in Jerusalem knew the Jews were looking for Him. The Jews were amazed at the things Jesus taught because He had no education. The people knew Jesus where He was from. The Jews wanted to seize Jesus, but His hour had not yet come. Many came to know Him through His incredible, life changing teaching. This morning, we’ll pick up the story as Jesus continues to teach the crowd in Jerusalem, but we’ll shift our focus to the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.

Take the time to look at our passage today found in John 7:32-36.

It seems there are some people in the crowd loyal to the Pharisees. As the people talked among themselves about Jesus, others listened. These are people that would be familiar with the coming Messiah, although they are having a hard time changing their paradigm from what they thought to reality. The last verse Pastor Mark covered says, “But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?” The Messiah is in front of them and has performed many miracles yet the people are still confused. Adding to this is the religious authorities that have labeled Jesus a blasphemer. Still others said Jesus leads people astray. “The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him.” It seems the crowd was concerned about the things Jesus said too. Muttering means to express one’s discontent, to complain or grumble. They’re complaining because of the things Jesus was saying. “However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.” The crowd erroneously concluded since they knew Jesus, He could not be the Messiah. This conclusion was wrong and Jesus cried out, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. “I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” (Jo. 7:28-29)

The religious leaders heard the crowd’s mutterings and take action against Jesus. This is going on in the background as the crowd is still listening to Jesus. “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” (Matt. 12:14) What would have happened if those religious officials had simply talked with Jesus? These people were supposed to be the guardians of the truth, religious experts who should have been able to recognize the Messiah, people who claimed to be so in tune with God and considered themselves instruments of righteousness. The Pharisees were critical of Jesus when they sent Jews to question John when he was baptizing in the Jordan. (Jo. 1:19ff) The Jews had issue with Jesus when He healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath in Chapter 5. Up to this point, we have not heard a lot about the Pharisees. Nicodemus was the only bright spot among that group. Remember Jo. 3 when he went to Jesus in the night to speak with Him and Jesus responded with Jo. 3:16.

But it seems they’ve had enough because, “The chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.” This is the first use of the term chief priests in John. Priests were responsible for the holiness in the temple and if you remember from the Old Testament, there was just one High Priest at a time. As the Roman Empire expanded, the priestly office became more of a political office rather than a spiritual office. Someone that had wealth could secure a position as a priest. As I mentioned earlier, the Pharisees were the experts of the law, the knowledgeable ones concerning God and the Scriptures. Together, the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees made up the Sanhedrin which was the ruling judicial council for the Jews. Officers were dispatched to seize or arrest Jesus because they heard the murmurings of the crowd. Officers represent what could best be understood as the temple police. They would be responsible to maintain order and peace at the temple area and also enforce rulings made by the Sanhedrin.

Even while this plot is going on in the background and Jesus is most certainly aware of it, He continues teaching. You have to get the picture of what is happening in your mind. Remember, it’s the time for the Feast of Booths so there’s a lot of people in Jerusalem. The Feast of Booths is one of the three major religious festivals celebrated by the Jews. People from all over the region would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for this celebration. The Pharisees are in the crowd watching and listening, but not hearing with open ears. I imagine they’re looking at Jesus with contempt. Who does this man think He is? What gives him the authority to speak such things? It’s blasphemy. Then Jesus says, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.” This seems a bit cryptic and it does cause some confusion in the crowd. Jesus has been conducting public ministry for about two and a half years and He knows that His time is running out. But for the crowd, it didn’t make much sense because they didn’t understand the message He was bringing to them. Jesus has about six months left on earth and a lot of teaching happens in His last six months. Jesus tells them up front that He is not going to be around them forever.

“For a little while,” He says. Jesus introduces the time restriction: a little while. Little is the Greek word mikros where we get our English word micron. It means small in size, amount, or degree. It also means a relatively brief extent of time and that’s the meaning here. He’s going to be around for a bit longer and then He’s leaving. It’s not an undefined period of time. It gives us the idea of urgency. Hurry up. Follow Me. Walk with Me. Notice the shift from the talk about where Jesus came from to where He is going. Jesus has a destination in mind, He has a goal and that goal is to fulfill the will of the Father. He’s talking about a specific place, a geographic location. Jesus is going to the place of Him. Him refers to God the Father. Jesus is going to the Father who sent Him. Remember Jo. 1:1-2, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Then in v. 14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is planning on going to the place where God is. We know that Jesus is talking about the crucifixion and death, but the people listening are not grasping what He is saying. His disciples don’t even get it and they have difficulty understanding this all the way up to the actual crucifixion. Jesus speaks of going to the Father seven more times in John.

And then Jesus introduces a restriction. “You will seek Me, and will not find Me.” Don’t get lost on the comparison. Jesus just said He’ll be with them a little while longer and then He is going away back to the Father that sent Him. This has been the mission from before time began. This has been something that God designed to affect redemption for mankind. People will seek Jesus, but He will not be found. The word seek here is a very interesting word. There is a double meaning here as we’ll see in the next verse. Seek can be applied to the philosophical search of mankind. We seek purpose and meaning in life. In the olden days, you’d hear high school graduates go on a quest to find themselves. People that do not know Christ seek self-satisfaction, they seek fulfilment in what they do, they seek pleasure.

In Matthew 5, Jesus spoke of pursuing two very different goals. I’ll boil it down by saying the pursuit of righteousness versus unrighteousness. What is authentic and what is hypocrisy. In Matt. 5, Jesus gave a number of examples to help the people understand what He meant. He spoke of murder vs. hatred and adultery vs. lust. He spoke of unfulfilled commitments vs. promises. He spoke of turning the other cheek. He spoke of going the extra mile and said if someone wants your shirt, give him your coat too. He spoke of loving your enemy and praying for your persecutor. Then in Matthew 6, Jesus warned people of practicing righteousness for the wrong reasons. He spoke of giving to the poor and offered up two ways to do it. One is righteous: don’t let anyone know what you’re doing. The other is unrighteous: they sound the trumpet so that their gifts would be recognized. He spoke of praying. Don’t be like the hypocrites who stand in the synagogues and streets so that they are noticed. But go into your secret closet and pray. When you fast, don’t put on a gloomy face so that others will notice your piety. Don’t store treasure on the earth, but in heaven. You can’t serve two masters. Don’t worry about what you’ll eat or drink. Don’t worry about what you’ll wear. These things are what the Gentiles seek: unrighteousness; that which is not pleasing to the Lord.

So what about believers: what are we to seek? Matt. 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” People will seek Jesus, but He will not be found. In the ever-popular desire to seek out purpose for one’s life, you can easily miss the mark. In the pursuit of self-indulgence and self-satisfaction, you can miss the entire reason you were created. When you pursue His kingdom, you pursue Christ. The idea is a total and whole hearted commitment to fulfilling God’s will for your life. Jesus says, “You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.” We know what Jesus is saying. There is a time that it will be too late to seek Jesus; to seek fulfillment in Christ, to seek complete and total immersion into the things of Christ. There may be a time when we will look back and wonder where the time went, we’ll wonder how we missed the mark, how we did not fulfil God’s purpose for us. There may come a time when we realize we are not where Christ wants us. When you go somewhere and realize you’re not where you want to be, you stop. We used to stop at a gas station and ask for directions, but sometimes we’re too stubborn to do that. Instead of finding the way, we wander down the road hoping something looks familiar, hoping we’ll see a sign directing us to the right way. If you find yourself in a place that God doesn’t want you to be, stop: allow Him to update the route and get you back on track. Just because you’re going down a path doesn’t mean you can’t stop and turn around and start over. Jesus knows that men will seek Him and He wants to be found. The other meaning of seek is apparent from the response of those gathered.

“The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He?” The Jews missed the point of what Jesus is telling them.   They’re thinking geographically, Jesus means eternally. They’re thinking physically, Jesus means spiritually. They reason among themselves asking if Jesus is going to go out among the Jews that are scattered across the region. Over the years, Jews left Israel and ended up in Egypt, Syria, Italy, Asia, and all around the Mediterranean Sea. The Jews rationalized that there was nowhere that Jesus could go that they wouldn’t be able to find Him. They wonder if Jesus is going to bring His radical teaching to the Greeks which not only means those that live in Greece, but those that are not Jewish or in another word: heathen. Will Jesus teach the heathen? The answer to that question is something the Jews didn’t even begin to comprehend. We know the answer to that question is found throughout Scripture and specifically in Matt. 28:19-20. After what I envision is a lot of huffing and puffing and blustering, the Jews say, “What is this statement that He said, ‘You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come?” After all the teaching and examples, and analogies, they clearly do not understand. They’re so stuck on earth, that they can’t see heaven. They’re so lost, but don’t give up hope. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Lu. 19:10)

Jesus says, “Where I am, you cannot come.” What a powerful, absolute statement. We know He’s talking about unbelievers because unbelievers cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We have just a little time left to seek Christ. So what will happen next? Will the Jews find Jesus? Join us next week as the Feast of Booths comes to a conclusion.

The Difficult Teaching Continues

You can watch the video for this message here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us of the extreme confusion from the Jews as a result of Jesus’ instructions regarding His flesh. We know Jesus was speaking metaphorically, but the Jews were beside themselves thinking Jesus was talking about cannibalism. Jesus continued His explanation by saying that whoever does eat His flesh and drink His blood abides in Christ and therefore Christ abides in them. Jesus told them He lives because of the Father and anyone that eats of Jesus will live because of Christ. Jesus concludes by comparing manna, the bread of heaven, to spiritual bread. The people that ate the manna died, but the people that eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood will have eternal life. These things He spoke in the synagogue in Capernaum. This morning, we’ll see the response of many of His disciples and what it means for us.

Take a look at John 6:60-65 that we’ll be looking at today.

Hearing does not mean understanding. We start with a reference to “many of His disciples.” Who these people actually are is not mentioned, but as we have seen, many people followed Jesus with the hope of getting something in return. We’re still relatively early in Jesus’ earthly ministry and word continues to spread about Him. The twelve disciples are not included in this group as we’ll see in v. 67. John says, “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?”  “This” refers to the difficult statements made that Pastor Mark told us about last week. Jesus spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. For the people listening, this represented radical teaching such as they had never heard before. Even though Jesus explained what He was talking about, they didn’t understand. Since they didn’t understand it, they rejected it.

I find this very curious. If you remember, I often compare situations in our walk with Christ to daily life. We commit ourselves to the most rigorous pursuits that have little to no bearing on eternity. We have football players and coaches who subject themselves to two or three a day practices in the extreme south Georgia heat, but can’t find the time for the once a week church service. We have law students that sacrifice all their time for two years to pursue a law degree, but can’t find the time to study the Bible consistently. We have social justice warriors that sit safely at their computer pointing out all the injustice in the world, but won’t step out from behind their keyboard to do practical ministry. We face uphill climbs in nearly every pursuit of this life and we’ll work to overcome those challenges, but to serve in Children’s Church, no . . . that’s not my gift. We learn incredible principles of algebra, calculus, and physics, but conclude the Bible is just too difficult to understand. The people that followed Jesus, and I mean literally walked behind Him, had the concept of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood taught by the Master Himself, and they didn’t understand. It was a difficult concept for them. Difficult mean hard, needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand. The Jews were part of that crowd. Remember back in v. 52, “The Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Jesus responded by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”

The Jews and the others say what a lot of people say today, even in the church: “This is a difficult statement, who can listen to it?” In other words, “It’s too hard, I don’t get it.” Good teachers recognize the potential response of difficult concepts and adapt the teaching so the students understand. They provide additional examples of the truth so the students get it. The people Jesus is teaching are not incapable of learning, they refuse to entertain the ideas presented because they are difficult to grasp. Not only did the people not grasp the principle of abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in them, they grumbled about it. If this wasn’t eternally critical in our faith walk, it would be comical. What you’re saying is too hard so I’m just not listening anymore. It’s just too hard, I don’t get it.

Jesus, the good teacher, is conscious or aware of what is happening. They grumbled. It means to express one’s discontent or to complain or murmur. These are not redeeming qualities. Jesus asks them, “Does this cause you to stumble?” In other words, does this teaching, eating My flesh, drinking My blood, cause you to lose your faith? Does it cause you to walk away? Does it cause you to be offended? Matt. 11:6 says, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Remember that Jesus is speaking of the principle of abiding. He previously used the example of being the bread of life. He’s doing what He can to help them believe, but the reality is they do not want to believe. Remember He’s speaking to them in the synagogue, the place where Jews worship God and the place where religious teaching took place. These were people you would assume would want to hear the truth from the One that was in the beginning with God and the One that was God. Throughout human history, the prophecy of Messiah was taught. People have been looking forward to the One that was prophesied in Gen. 3:15 since the fall of mankind. The people hearing Jesus didn’t understand and instead of saying, “Jesus, we don’t understand, can You explain it another way?” they complained among themselves and Jesus, being the teacher, calls them out with a simple, pointed question. “Does what I’m teaching you cause you to fall, to be offended?” By their own willful ignorance, they get offended at Jesus’ teaching. Instead of listening to the principles, they chose to ignore His words and got offended. Does this sound familiar? They don’t want to see the truth that is standing in from of them.

And then Jesus changes tactics. It’s clear the people don’t get it and really don’t want to get it so Jesus changes methods. He asks them a rhetorical question, “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” If you don’t understand the principle of abiding faith, how are you going to understand it when I go back to heaven? In Jo. 3:12 Jesus said, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things.” If you stumble over simple principles of faith, how are you going to get the more difficult principles? We see this played out often in the church. We see people faithfully attend week after week that seem to have it all together and then something happens. God has been faithful throughout their lives and something unexpected happens. A bad medical diagnosis. An accident. A life altering injury. An affair. A church split. A fallen minister. A fallen giant of the faith. A rebellious or wayward child. A lost job. This unexpected event causes a crisis of faith and they scream why, why God have You allowed this tragedy to happen? If you stumble over simple principles, how will you ever get through the difficult principles?

The abiding principles Jesus is trying to teach them is a lesson we need to get ahold of early in our walk of faith. If we don’t take the time and effort to understand something like the abiding character of Christ and what that means on a daily basis, how will we ever walk with Him when life happens? Not to be overly dramatic here, but what I have experienced from dealing with people in a crisis of faith are generally not a result of those tragedies I just mentioned. What I have seen is people looking for the smallest thing to be offended at to give them an excuse to blame someone else for what is lacking in their own faith walk. When my wife, Kari, was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, we never one time questioned if God had forsaken us. That doesn’t mean it was easy or fun, but we gained additional insight into the principles of Scripture, we learned valuable lessons about where our hope comes from, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we were able to rely on His plan. Tragedies are not allowed to break you down and cause you to leave the faith, they’re designed to show you the power of God and to give you reason to trust and praise Him. Tragedies in our lives allow those unbelievers around us to see our complete reliance on Christ and give encouragement to believers to know that we walk by faith. Tragedies help us to see that we must totally rely on Christ. Jesus is trying to get them to understand, is trying to persuade them to grasp the principle of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. If they can’t or won’t grasp that concept, they’re not going to get it when He is lifted up to heaven. Jesus has used this technique before. He said in Jo. 1:50, “Because I said to you that I saw you under a fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” In Jo. 1:51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” In Matt. 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” In Matt. 26:64 Jesus said, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus often told the people of easy things followed by difficult things.

Jesus then tells them the secret to understanding. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” This verse is in direct keeping with what Jesus was teaching them about His body. He’s breaking it down in simple terms. The flesh in and of itself does nothing for anyone. A body is simply a vessel designed to carry the spirit. You hear this concept often preached at funerals. Without the Spirit giving and sustaining life, the body is just an empty house, an empty vessel void of anything that makes it of value. But a body filled with the Spirit is an entirely different matter. When Adam was formed from the dust of the ground, he was nothing until God breathed life in him.         The reason people have value, all people, is because God is the giver of life. God’s power is the force that allows a life to be conceived, a life that is precious in His sight. Once that soul departs the human vessel, it has no value. This may be grim, but the empty vessel is discarded. It’s buried in the ground, or entombed above the ground, it’s burned and turned into ashes, or it might even be thrown into the sea. When the body is buried, we might go pay it a visit because of what the vessel meant when it was alive. Dead bodies have lost all their value because the life is gone.

The conclusion of the principle. The goal for this teaching was for people to hear the words, understand them, and then follow them. It serves no purpose just to have knowledge. Knowledge should impact us. Understanding principles are life changing. When you understand that God loved us so much that He was willing to send His Son to die to pay the penalty of sin, that is life changing. It’s life changing to understand that we love because God first loved us. Jesus knew that His teaching would fall on deaf ears, not because it was difficult to understand or they were prevented from understanding, but there were some that refused to understand. He declares, “There are some of you who do not believe.” It was not accusatory; it was not condemning: Jesus was stating a fact. There were some that did not choose to have faith.

John explains what Jesus said and says, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.” Jesus knows these things because He is omniscient. He knows what is going to happen before it happens. He knows all the variables. He knows all the characteristics of the people involved. Just because Jesus knows what will happen does not mean He causes it. Foreknowledge is not causative. Jesus knows who will reject His teachings and who will reject Him and as a result will reject the Father and face eternity separated from God. While He knows that, He desire is that all will come to repentance. Jesus offers His conclusion by saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” Let me unpackage this for you. We need to remember Jo. 6:37 that we looked at a few weeks ago: “All that the Father gives Me will come to me, and the one that comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

I’m going to do something a bit strange and simply repeat what I taught several weeks ago on this matter. Acts 28:27 says, “For the hearts of this people have become insensitive, and with their ears they hardly hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.” Why would God close the eyes and ears of people? This concept is called judicial hardening and it may be difficult to understand. This is a temporary condition designed to further His will. Those that are rebellious and disobedient are allowed to continue in this manner for a time. It’s all part of the redemptive plan that concludes with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Acts 2:23 says, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Jesus stepped out of heaven to affect the redemption for mankind. His goal was to accomplish what God the Father set before Him. The reason people walked away was not because God pre-selected them for condemnation, but because they failed to see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. If God had determined that certain people had no ability for salvation, why would there need to be a temporary blindness? If they were totally depraved and had no chance at salvation, why make blindness to the truth temporary? God allowed them to continue in this blindness until such a time as He saw fit to take the veil off of their eyes. That’s why Jesus spoke in parables and mysteries. That’s why Jesus would tell people He healed, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” In Rom. 11:13-14, Paul said, “But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Therefore insofar as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry if somehow I may move my own people to jealousy and save some of them.” There was a greater purpose in God’s plan of redemption that had to play out.

The difficult teaching over Jesus’ flesh and blood will conclude next week. For now, we’re left with the people in the synagogue confused and complaining about the hard teaching that Jesus has just shared. Jesus has challenged them by comparing this teaching to something really hard like His ascension. We know that salvation is only possible because of the plan of redemption put in place by God the Father. We know that the Father desires all men to come to repentance and the system is through Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. Join us next week as our friend Chris Martin will provide the conclusion to this incredibly important chapter of John.

Our Allegiance

You can watch the video for this message here.

Today we celebrate the 4th of July and many people don’t know that the actual holiday is called Independence Day. This holiday is more than fireworks, cookouts, and parades and this year, more than a long weekend. Independence Day is about a country founded, rooted, and established on Christian principles. It was Patrick Henry that said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington said, “Do not let anyone claim tribute of American patriotism if they even attempt to remove religion from politics.” “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” – Pres. Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Danbury Baptists on Jan 1, 1802. “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people. . . it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams

Despite what politicians, the main stream media, or the history revisionists say, America was founded not on the concept of freedom to worship any god, but on the freedom to worship Jesus Christ.

We begin with the genesis of a revolution. I’m not going to pretend that this is an exhaustive account of how it all started. Especially as each generation seems to forget more and more about how this nation began. It was not independence that motivated early Americans, but individual rights. People living in the colonies at the time were known as British Americans. They were citizens of Great Britain. Their main concern was the British Parliament levying taxes on them to pay for the French and Indian War also known as the 7 Years War. There was the Stamp Act (taxed anything made of paper), the Townshend Act (taxed colonial imports like lead, tea, and paint), the Molasses Act, the Sugar Act, the Tea Act and others. Effectively, everything that was bought or sold, imported or exported had a tax placed on it or it was regulated.

In 1774 following the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament passed five laws that they would call the Coercive Acts that were designed to squash the colonists and force them into submission to Britain.

  • Boston Port Bill: closed the Boston Port eliminating commerce and trade in the city.
  • Administration of Justice Act: granted a change in location to Great Britain or a British colony in the event of a jury trial.
  • Massachusetts Government Act: Limited colonial power and reinstated royal governance including outlawing freely called town meetings and elected positions.
  • Quartering Act: required the building of barracks to house British soldiers and if there wasn’t enough room, it allowed newly appointed Massachusetts governor Thomas Page to house British soldiers in out buildings, barns, and inns without permission.
  • Quebec Act: designated the western region north of the Ohio River as part of Quebec and made Roman Catholicism the official religion of Quebec.

The Colonists would call them the Intolerable Acts. All of the tax acts would lead to the famous phrase, “Taxation without representation” and later “Taxation without representation leads to tyranny.” The Colonists had no representation in the British Parliament which led to the Battle at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 starting the Revolutionary War. Hundreds of Colonists gave their lives to regain these rights. It was during this time of conflict that Patrick Henry, a politician from Virginia gave a speech before the Virginia Provincial Convention. Here is how he concluded it:

“The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable – and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare absolute freedom from England. John Adams, who was on the drafting committee for the Declaration of Independence, wrote his wife saying, “The second of July 1776 will be the most memorable day in the history of America; I believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival, with shows, games, sports, balls, bon fires and illuminations, from one end of the country to the other, from this time forward and forever more.” It was on July 4th that the final wording was ratified and later signed by the 56 members representing the 13 colonies. What John Adams predicted was correct.

After America declared her independence, she had to win it by force. There was no established and organized Army or Navy. Their fighting forces consisted of militia units in the colonies. England had an army of well trained and disciplined soldiers. Declaring independence and achieving it proved difficult because the people were never fully united behind the war effort.

About a third of the colonists were apathetic. As many as a third of the colonists sympathized with Great Britain calling themselves loyalists. They were also known as Tories. This meant that victory in the Revolutionary War depended on patriots who made up about a third of the new country’s entire population. 7200 Americans were killed during the war; 8200 wounded; 10,000 died from disease and exposure with nearly 3000 men dying at Valley Forge alone. 6500 died in prison after being captured and 1400 soldiers were listed as missing. The war that began on April 19, 1775 ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. America was established; a nation where every person could be free and have an input into the ways things should be done.

Though many signers of the Declaration paid a high price, others reaped a great reward. Of the 56 people that signed the Declaration, two became President, three Vice-President, and two sons of signers became President. Seven served in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate. Sixteen went on to become state or federal judges. Thirteen became governors and dozens of others held other high political offices. Five would go on to establish colleges and universities including the University of Georgia. Each holds an important place in our history.

If you are here today and you call yourself a Christian, you have made an allegiance pledge. Do you remember the day when you made that decision? Do you remember the day you understood that your sin separates you from God and without the shed blood of Christ, there is no hope? Do you remember the day when you understood the free gift of grace that God lavished up you? Do you remember that day? The day you made that declaration? At that time, you pledged your allegiance, your devotion, your loyalty, your dedication, your commitment, your very life, to Jesus Christ. You made the same proclamation Paul made in Gal 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul says that he has been killed with Christ, he no longer lives, but Christ is living within him. No longer will you live for yourself; you’ll no longer seek your own will for your life; you’ll no longer live for the things of this world. You now seek God’s will for your life, seeking to do what pleases Him. That’s scary for a lot of people. Becoming totally dependent upon Him. Some refuse. Remember the words of Joshua, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15) When you become a follower of Christ, you must pay a high price. It’s one thing to make a bold declaration. It’s another to live up to it. Saying it is a lot easier than doing it. Joshua made his declaration, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.” (Josh. 24:16a) Israel pledged their allegiance to God, but it didn’t last long. Jud. 2:11-12a tell us, “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers.”

Wars are not won by people who make declarations. There are four major wars, 13 wars, 29 conflicts, and 14 skirmishes going on in the world today. Those wars are not being fought by lawmakers, but by men and women in harm’s way on the ground. In the Lord’s Army, we find the same thing the colonists found; we’re having a hard time because there are so many that just don’t recognize the enemy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Satan comes at us like a roaring lion and an angel of light. The battle is hard to win because some professing Christians are just like the Tories, they’re still loyal to the enemy and to sin. Remember that a third of the colonists couldn’t care less? We’ve got some who are uninvolved – people who are content to let others fight the good fight. Jesus demands total, radical, and unswerving allegiance. “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26)

Our allegiance to Christ has got to be more than words. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21) “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”  (Tit. 1:16) Why don’t Christians fight? I think we get in the way: our pride, our opinion, our desires, our comfort, our convenience, our will, our way and the ultimate excuse: busyness. That’s why Jesus said we must pick up our cross, and deny ourselves daily in order to be his disciples. The church should be leading the battle. The church should be a place of hope for the hopeless. A place of joy despite circumstances. A place of peace beyond understanding. A place of love, forgiveness, healing, and acceptance. A place of new beginnings. In Matt. 16:18 Jesus said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

One day we will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and give an account of our lives. Will we be able to say our allegiance is to Jesus Christ and to Him alone?

The Bread of Life

You can watch the video for this message here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us the crowds found Jesus across the sea. They sought out Jesus because of the miracle of the loaves and fishes; not because they believed the sign, but because they were filled. Jesus told them the work of God was to believe in, “Him whom He has sent.” The people told Jesus they wanted a sign. Jesus reminded the people that God sent bread out of heaven when they were in the wilderness, and then Jesus mentions the true bread of heaven that gives life to the world. The people tell Jesus, “Lord, always give us this bread.”  This morning, Jesus tells the people about the bread of life in a passage that has a significant impact into the theology of salvation.

Carefully read John 6:35-40 that we’ll be looking at today.

Jesus makes a declarative statement to begin His message to the people. Jesus emphatically states, “I am the bread of life.” Remember, the people Jesus is speaking to have just had their physical hunger satisfied. That was the miracle of the feeding of the 5000, but the people did not understand the significance of what Jesus provides. “Always give us this bread” they tell Jesus. The people were mainly concerned with their physical need for food, but Jesus was mainly concerned for their eternal need for Him. The people were concerned for the temporary. Jesus was concerned about what was permanent. “I am the bread of life.” Jesus uses the phrase, “I am” in this verse and it is the first of nine significant I am statements to declare who He truly is. We’ll see the others as we move on in John. “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” In verse 31, Jesus reminded the people that God provided manna from heaven to sustain their physical needs. They had to gather the manna each day and it would spoil if it was kept overnight. They needed a daily provision of physical food. Now Jesus is saying that He would provide bread that satisfies a physical need for food.

“He who comes to Me will not hunger.” The word “come” is a very interesting word that means to move toward or up to a reference point. Jesus is saying if you move toward Him, He will provide what you need so that you will not hunger. “and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Believe is the familiar Greek word pistis where we get our English word faith. You remember on April 25th when I went through faith and why it’s vital to our walk in Christ. Heb.  11 provides an incredible backdrop of what faith can do. Here Jesus says that if you come to Him, you won’t hunger. If you believe in Him, you won’t thirst. If you’re wondering why Jesus speaks of physical needs, His audience would be well familiar with the people He’s speaking about. The story of the great exodus from Egypt has been told from generation to generation.  Turn over to 1 Cor. 10:1-9 and let’s take a brief look at that. Paul ties physical food, water, and idolatry together to remind the people where they came from. The need for physical food and drink is universal and Jesus is using that to help the people understand that He can provide nourishment that does not end.

But the people have a problem. After Jesus explained what He can do, there is still a responsibility on the people. You’ve heard it said, I see it, but I don’t believe it. You’ve also heard it said, I’ll believe it when I see it. This is essentially what Jesus is telling the people. Jesus says, “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.” You’ve dealt with those type of people. People who say they’ll believe if they see, but they don’t. People want impossible things to occur in order for them to believe, but even when those impossible things come to pass, they still don’t believe. Jesus has just fed about 20,000 people from five loaves of bread and two small fish and the people still don’t believe! How do we who live in such a vibrant, technological, information overloaded, and connected world that can see most anything instantaneously fail to believe what we see? It is a matter of faith. We must take the observation of our eyes, the experience and knowledge in our brain and translate that to faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) Jesus knows of their belief issues and that’s why He began that verse with the word but. Just because you see a steak does not make you full or satisfy your physical hunger. The word “but” represents a contrast. Just because you see Jesus does not mean that you are follower. Just because you are in church does not make you a follower. Just because you are an American does not make you a follower. Just because your parents are followers does not make you a follower.

Belief in Jesus requires a spiritual dimension. Look at Rom. 1:18-23. God put the desire to know Him into every human being that has or will be created. These next few verses have caused considerable confusion when it comes to soteriology which is the doctrine of salvation. The correct context of Chapter 6 is crucial to a correct understanding of the doctrine of salvation. In Chapter 6, Jesus is addressing a crowd of people that largely do not believe in Him. In 6:26 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” They are following Jesus because they are looking for a handout, but they are not followers of Christ in a spiritual sense. Included in this mass of people are the 12 that Jesus chose for the position of Apostle. In John 10:40, Isaiah’s prophecy is quoted and the quote is attributed to Jesus and says, “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they will not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and be converted, and so I will not heal them.” Lu. 19:41-42 says, “When He [referring to Jesus] approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known on this day, even you, the conditions for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” According to Rom. 11:8, God has given them over to a spirit of stupor and they cannot understand the truth before them. It is important to note that the Israelites were not born this way. These Israelites are being cut off from God because of their rebellion and rejection of the truth. You have to understand the proper context of John 6 in order to understand what salvation is.

And then we have the collision of sovereignty and free will. Some people reading John 6 will apply a modern application to the next few verses, but as we’ve already established, John 6 is not about us. Jesus affirms that by saying, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Notice that incredible caveat. “All that the Father gives.” All here is the same all we’ve seen in other verses that means everyone without distinction, or anyone without exception. “All that the Father gives will come to me” is talking about the 12 Apostles. There are two types of people here: the 12 and those that hear and believe through the message of those Apostles. The concept of give is a frequent one in John and when you look at the cross references, you’re taken to John 17. Look carefully at 17:1-3. God has granted the authority over all flesh to Jesus Christ. The eternal life promised by God comes through belief in Jesus Christ. Notice the word “may” in v. 3. It is conditional and not restrictive as we’ll see again in a moment. Salvation hinges on what Christ did on the cross and the belief in that finished work. This goes back to the theme of this book that I hope you will have memorized before too long: Jo. 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Belief in the work of Christ means eternal salvation. Jo. 6:27 says, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” This has been and will continue to be a fundamental principle for John that we need to understand and hold on to. We’ll see this again next week from Jo. 6:47 when Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say unto you, he who believes has eternal life.” It really can’t get any clearer than that. To solidify the fact the Jesus is talking about the 12, consider Jo. 17:12 that affirms, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name, which You have given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” If this chapter were talking about God’s choice for salvation, was it a mistake to choose Judas? It was a choice to fulfil an office, an assignment, not about eternity.

Do not overlook the incredibly important truth in verse 37: “The one that comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Remember I said that there are two types of people in this verse: the given – the 12 disciples or apostles and then those that will believe  because of the words or messages of those 12 disciples. When you approach Christ with belief in what He accomplished, He will not turn His back on you. “The one that comes” is a reference to an individual pursuit. God calls everyone to Himself through the work of Christ. We’ll see from Jo. 6:44 next week that God initiates the call by saying, “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him.” But a response, a decision is required as Mark 1:15 says, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Individual response and belief is always required for salvation. Verse 38 goes on to say, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” In context, Jesus is talking about while He is on planet earth in the flesh. Christ has a specific purpose while He is God in the flesh and that is to facilitate God’s redemptive plan for humanity. That plan included training those 12 disciples that were given to Christ to fill the role of apostles These 12 would then carry the message of salvation to the Jew first then the Gentile. If you notice, there’s not a whole lot of salvation preaching going on from the lips of  the original 12 until after Jesus is crucified. Jesus speaks in parables to which the disciples are frequently saying, “We don’t understand what You are saying.”

Some people try to tie v. 37 and 39 together to support a particular view of salvation. V. 39 says, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that all He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” Contextually, Jesus is talking about while He is on earth displaced from His proper abode in heaven. You can’t apply a 2021 context about what happened in about 30 A.D. Acts 28:27 says, “For the hearts of this people have become insensitive, and with their ears they hardly hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.” It’s called judicial hardening and that’s a difficult concept to understand. Why would God do that? It’s a temporary condition designed to further His will. Those that are rebellious and disobedient are allowed to continue in this manner for a time. It’s all part of the redemptive plan that concludes with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Acts 2:23 says, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Jesus stepped out of heaven to affect the redemption for mankind. His goal was to accomplish what God the Father set before Him. The reason people walked away was not because God pre-selected them for condemnation, but because they failed to see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. God allowed them to continue in this blindness until such a time as He saw fit to take the veil off of their eyes. Again, that’s why Jesus spoke in parables and mysteries. That’s why Jesus would tell people He healed, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” There was a greater purpose in God’s plan of redemption that had to play out. Rom. 11:32 says, “For God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may show mercy to all.” It should come as no surprise what the word all means. It’s the same all that’s in v. 39. God’s not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9) Any and all are inclusive, not selective. People that choose not to follow Christ is not because they were predetermined for separation, but because they have chosen to reject the gift of God that is found in Christ. Over and over Scripture tells us of God’s desire to see everyone come to the knowledge of the truth and accept the gift of God, but He knows not everyone will.

Back in Jo. 6:28, the disciples asked Jesus, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” The answer is found in our last verse for today: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” Everyone is a very broad and inclusive term. Beholding and believing go hand in hand. For John, if you behold Jesus; look at, gaze intently so as to understand it, you will believe. Believe is that word faith that we have looked at a number of times in John. Jesus is speaking collectively at first, but notice the shift. He speaks of everyone that believes and then shifts it to a personal pronoun him. Everyone that believes has eternal life. Then Jesus says, “I will raise him up on the last day.” Ultimately salvation is a personal decision to believe based on faith. This is the second time we see the phrase last day in John. This refers to the resurrection and we’ll see the phrase a few more times in this chapter.

We started with Jesus declaring that He was the bread of life. That bread would satisfy the spiritual hunger that every human has to know who God is. Romans 1 speaks of this. Then we moved into a challenging section of the chapter that some have used to conclude that God makes the decision of salvation for us. Dr. Leighton Flowers sums this up for us. So, what is the intent of John 6?  Is it as the Calvinist teaches — that God has condemned all men over to a totally disabled condition from birth due to the sin of Adam and only irresistibly draws out a pre-selected number of people for salvation leaving the rest without any hope of response to His own appeals for reconciliation? OR…Is the intent of John 6 to tell us the narrative of Jesus’ provoking Israel in their hardened unbelief while drawing out for himself a remnant of divinely appoint messengers to take the gospel into all the world, drawing all to himself, after he is raised up? John 12:32 says, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”

A Test of Monumental Proportions

You can watch the video for this message here.

Last week, Pastor Mark shared with us the scathing rebuke Jesus gave to the Jews. Jesus told the Jews that He accomplishes the will of the Father. The testimony of Jesus is true and God confirmed that testimony and provided His own. John testified to the same truth. The Jews were so misguided about eternal life that was not found in the Scriptures they searched, but in the One the Scriptures testify about. This morning, Jesus leaves Jerusalem and the presence of the angry, religious Jews to go back to the region He is most familiar with and we’ll see another sign that Jesus is who He says He is.

Take a look at our passage that’s found in John 6:1-15.

Once again John uses a time reference to set up what he is about to write, “After these things.” Unlike other time references, this one is a bit easier to define. Last week we saw a fairly contentious exchange between the Jews and Jesus in Jerusalem that stemmed from Jesus healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. After that confrontation, Jesus and His disciples go back to the region of Galilee. “After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias).” Galilee is the Hellenistic or Greek name for the lake. Tiberias is from the Roman emperor. Luke calls it Gennesaret which is from the Hebrew Kinnereth meaning harp or lyre which some people think came from the shape of the lake. Kinnereth is used in the Old Testament book of Numbers. Today, it is typically referred to as Lake Kinneret, but in Christian circles, most people call it the Sea of Galilee. Jesus goes to the other side of the lake. It’s the east side, the less popular, less populous, more barren area of the lake. This has been a fairly long journey from Jerusalem to Galilee.

John’s transition from Chapter 5 to 6 is pretty uneventful. When we look at the other gospels, we discover some very interesting events. In Mark 6 we learn that King Herod married his brother’s wife, Herodias. John the Baptizer learned of this and told Herod it was wrong. Mark 6:18 says, “For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So, Herod sent his men to arrest John and threw him in prison and Herodias held a  grudge against John from that point forward and wanted to put him to death, but could not. Why? “Herod was afraid of John, knowing he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe.” (Mark 6:20) The reasoning was purely selfish. V. 20 goes on to say, “And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.” Apparently, Herod would have discussions with John, presumably about Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

During a banquet to celebrate Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias dances for the king and he is so pleased he said, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” Then he added, “Up to half of my kingdom.” (Mark 6:22-23) Her request? “The head of John the Baptizer.” Herod sends his executioner to the prison and cuts off John’s head which is placed on a platter and brought to the daughter who gives it to her mother Herodias. We also learn from Mark that Jesus’ disciples had preached all over Galilee. Matthew gives us the Sermon on the Mount, the story of the leper, the centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother that were all healed, the calming of the sea, and the demons that were cast out and allowed to go into the herd of pigs. Matthew records a number of other signs and miracles that are absent from John’s gospel. That’s why you need to read and study the whole counsel of God’s Word.

We’re not told exactly how long between Chapters 5 and 6, but some estimate it was about six months. Whatever time period it was, it did not deter the crowds from following Him. The reason is simple. “A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick.” It’s likely the crowd grew as they followed Jesus. Curious onlookers joined the caravan that wanted to see and perhaps try and get to know this prophet they had been hearing about. “Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with His disciples.” It’s no coincidence that we find our story taking place on a mountain top. There are many mountain top experiences in the Bible. Abraham went to the mountain top to sacrifice Isaac. Moses met with God on the mountain top. Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on the mountain top. Mountain top experiences can be very exciting. This location would give Him a perfect vantage point to see all those that had followed Him. Jesus takes a seat with His disciple at His feet and all those that followed Him there also sit down. This is a teaching moment.

We have the time reference in v. 4, “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.” Passover had become a very important time for Israel. It reminded the people how God protected them from the curse of the death of the first born. It reminded the people how God delivered them from their oppressors in Egypt. It reminded them of how God delivered them through the waters of the Red Sea. It’s also a very important reminder for John. This is the second Passover mention in this gospel. Jo. 2:13 is the first and there is a third one is mentioned in 13:1. We can reasonably conclude John’s gospel occurs over about a three-year period.

Jesus and His disciples find themselves in a dilemma. “Therefore Jesus, lifting His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” As they sit down and see all those gathered and still more continuing to fill the area, Jesus asks Philip the million-dollar question. What are we going to do about dinner? John does not give us Philip’s facial expression, but I can imagine some terrifying thoughts were going through his head. This is a logistical nightmare. How do you supply food on short notice to a crowd of people? Another question is why does Jesus assume responsibility to feed those that followed Him? As Philip is pondering is options, John says, “This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” John’s statement encapsulates the lack of knowledge the disciples have of who they are walking with. It should have been relatively easy for Philip to answer the question if he truly knew Jesus. This story is the only one that appears in all four gospels. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, the disciples approached Jesus and encouraged Him to send the crowd away so they could find food in neighboring villages. Jesus pushed the responsibility on feeding the crowds to the disciples. Only in John do we see this question posed to Philip.

Jesus was testing Philip. 2 Cor. 13:5 says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?” Test comes from the word that means a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something. We undergo tests in all facets of life without grumbling or complaining. We have tests in school. There is a written and a practical test to determine if the state will issue a driver’s license. There are advancement and promotional exams. While I was in the Navy, we had qualification exams and continuing training exams to ensure we had the requisite knowledge to operate safely. When I was in welding school, we had knowledge exams and then had to demonstrate the ability to weld. When Zane went to technical school, he was examined in the refrigeration cycle and the characteristics of various kinds of freon. In cooking school, you have to demonstrate how to make various dishes. These tests examine knowledge and demonstrate ability and we have no problem with these tests and understand they are required to move on in school, qualify, graduate, or receive a certification. But when it comes to our walk of faith, we’re supposed to trust you even though there is no demonstration of faith, knowledge, or ability. This whole episode is a test to determine where the disciple’s faith is.

Jesus knows what He’s going to do, and He wants to see if the disciples know. “Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” A denarius had the value of about a day’s wage. Philip did the math in his head and concluded eight month’s wages wasn’t enough to give everyone even a bite of food. Philip was from the area where they were and probably knew what was available in the towns surrounding the hillside. Philip went down the path most of us would. There is no possible way to satisfy the hunger of the people. The situation is impossible and hopeless. Maybe not. John says, “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” While Jesus and Philip are talking, Andrew is seeking to solve the issue another way. He makes an assessment of the food available and found a young boy. The youngster had five barley loaves. Barley was the least expensive and the least desirable grain in the land. It was the grain of the poor.

Just five loaves. 2 Ki. 4:42-44 tells us of the time 20 loaves of barley were set before a hundred men and it was not enough to satisfy them. A miracle followed that when Elisha said, “They shall eat and have some left over.” 20 loaves could not feed a hundred. Keep that in mind. In addition to the five loaves, there were two fish. These weren’t 600 pound tuna. KJV and NIV add the adjective small to the text. Fish here is from the Greek word opsarion which means small, dried fish most likely sardines or anchovies. It was ready to eat and needed no cooking. It’s interesting that the only one that seemed prepared for the journey was a little kid. The food that was found was able to be carried by a little kid: five junky loaves of bread and two dried little fish. Even as Andrew tells Jesus what he found, you can hear the hopelessness in his voice as he says, “but what are these for so many people?”

Without missing a beat, Jesus tells His disciples, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.” There it is: 5000 men. Five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 men. Matthew tells us that number did not include women and children. Some estimates put the crowd at 20,000. To help you picture that, this sanctuary has a capacity of 220 on the bottom and 150 on the top (370). Our movie theater can seat 1875. The Times Union Center for the Performing Arts can seat 2979. Chris Gillman Stadium has a capacity of 7326. Veteran’s Memorial Arena holds 15,000. Now you have a better understanding of the magnitude of people that are seated in front of the disciples.

To provide food for that many people would have been a monumental task and the disciples were keenly aware of this. Upwards of 20,000 people are sitting on the grass looking expectantly at Jesus and His disciples. Mark tells us they sat in groups of fifty and groups of a hundred. Luke tells us they sat in groups of fifty. Jesus, calmly and confidently, takes, “the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.” Jesus gave thanks. Thanks comes from the Greek word eucharisteo which literally means give thanks. You’ll recognize the English word eucharist which is another name for the Lord’s Supper of Communion. 1 Tim. 4:4 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” He sends His disciples off to feed the people. As the disciples scurry about to give everyone food, were they limiting the amount each person took? Did they have the same confidence in the quantity of food Jesus had? As they went from group to group, did they notice the food in the baskets did not diminish? Each person got as much as they wanted of the bread and fish. “When they were filled.” That phrase literally means satisfied with food having eaten enough. There was no waiting for seconds, they got what they wanted the first time to satisfy themselves. “When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost. So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.” Collect what’s left in the baskets; let nothing go to waste. The disciples gathered what remained and filled twelve baskets so that nothing would be lost. Some say the twelve baskets represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Some argue that nothing being lost is a metaphor for the church. Most every time I preach, I remind you of the central theme of this book found in Jo. 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” When you keep that mind, it makes sense why there are stories included.

“Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” They have come to the conclusion the evangelist wants them to come to. When their physical hunger was satisfied, the nearly 20,000 people gathered knew that it was a sign or miracle. Their conclusion was that Jesus was the Prophet, the Expected One, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Word that became flesh, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. The feeding of the 5000 is a miracle. You can try and explain away that there was a hidden cache of food, but that’s just not true. The only way this could have been done was a miracle had taken place. The disciples had no hope for feeding the people, but Jesus had a plan. Jesus always has a plan that will glorify the Father. Jesus didn’t stay around to hear all the praise that would surely be due to Him and would be entirely okay to do. He knew what would happen. “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” He is the King of kings, but His kingdom is not of this world just yet. He understands the idea of a godly kingdom, but that’s not exactly what the people had in mind and He withdraws to the mountain to be by Himself. Next week we’ll begin to see the true motivation for the people that followed Jesus.

The Confrontation

You can watch the video for this here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us of the controversial healing of the lame man on the Sabbath. 38 years the man lay beside the healing waters of the pool of Bethesda. When asked by Jesus if he wanted to be healed, the lame man told Him that someone else always managed to get to the pool before he did. Jesus told him to pick up his mat and healed him without entering the pool of water and then Jesus slipped away.

Confronted by the Jews, the lame man was not able to tell them who it was that made him well. Jesus sees the man at the temple and told him not to sin anymore and the man told the Jews it was Jesus that healed him. Jesus told the Jews, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” The Jews wanted to kill Jesus because He did work on the Sabbath and said that God was His Father making Him equal with God. This morning, the confrontation between the Jews and Jesus continues.

Take the time to read the short passage found in John 5:19-23.

Jesus has just healed the lame man that was that way for 38 years. There is an indication that the man is lame as a result of sin because Jesus told him to stop. But it seems just as likely this refers to some future judgment based on Jesus’ words, “Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” (Jo. 5:14) It looks like there is a fate worse than being lame. In His response to the Jews, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you.” This is one of 25 times we see the phrase “truly, truly” in John. John uses this phrase to get you ready for what is to come and what is to come is very important to understanding the ministry of Christ. But this also represents a shift in the dynamic of the meeting between the Jews and Jesus. There was an accusation that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, told the lame man to pick up his pallet on the Sabbath, and that God was Jesus Father making Him equal with God. This is the accusation and now Jesus enters His defense that will take us to the end of the chapter over the next few weeks.

“Truly, truly.” It comes from the word that means a strong affirmation of what is declared. It is transliterated amen. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says, “The point of the Amen before Jesus’ own sayings is rather to show that as such they are reliable and true, and that they are so as and because Jesus Himself in His Amen acknowledges them to be His own sayings and thus makes them valid. These sayings are of varied individual content, but they all have to do with the history of the kingdom of God bound up with His person. . . The one who accepts His word as true and certain is also the one who acknowledges and affirms it in his own life and thus causes it, as fulfilled by him, to become a demand to others.” That’s a long explanation that we can boil down to, “so be it.”

Jesus is going to give us four statements that are set off by the word, “for.”

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” You can count on this to be true. This is the absolute fact. Jesus declares He can’t do anything on His own. First and foremost, Jesus can only do what the Father tells Him to do. Jesus is so devoted to the will of the Father, that it is impossible for Him to act on His own. There is a sacred, eternal link in the relationship between the Father and the Son. Jo. 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It is impossible for Jesus to act on His own behalf. If Jesus healed, it was because God told Him to. If Jesus walked by someone sick and didn’t heal them, it was because God told Him to do so. Jesus is in constant communication and perfect fellowship with the Father and knows what must be accomplished in accordance with His will. Jesus accomplishes what God tells Him to do, but anything Jesus has seen God do is also allowed.

You’ve likely heard it said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Father is the pattern for the Son. “For whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” Demonstration is a key aspect to learning that we see played out in all aspects of life. Coaches demonstrate how to perform a skill to the players. Teachers show students how to work out a math problem or diagram a sentence. Trade workers serve as apprentices and watch the master work and then put what they see into action. Cooks and bakers learn and then demonstrate their expertise to see how well they can execute what they learned. In the Navy’s nuclear power pipeline, I spent months learning the theory behind how nuclear fission actually works before I ever touched anything in a working power plant. This type of learning is often set off by the phrases, “Let me show you,” “Watch me,” “Do it like this.” Jesus watches the Father and emulates His actions. Paul said, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” (Phil. 3:17) He also said, “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” (1 Cor. 4:16) Again, “Be imitators of me, just as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) The Father is the pattern for Christ and Christ is the pattern for us. If you follow the pattern, you’ll get it right.

The second “for” statement Jesus uses says, “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and all the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.” We should know that the Father has an unending love for His Son. John told us in 3:35 that, “The Father loves the Son.” In Matt. 3:17 we hear God saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In Matt. 17:5 we hear God saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: listen to Him.” Peter refers to Matt. 17:5 in his second letter. (2 Pe. 1:17) Don’t doubt the love the Father has for the Son. One of the most difficult things to comprehend is how God, who loved His only Son so much, was willing to sacrifice Him to reconcile mankind. People have attempted to explain Christ’s atonement by minimizing the love God had for His Son. If you take this approach to God’s love, then His love for humanity in Jo. 3:16 is not understood. What sacrifice is there in offering up something you don’t care for? Is that really a sacrifice? To show you how much I love God, I’m willing to give up olives for Him. That’s no sacrifice for me: it doesn’t show how much I love God. We typically offer up sacrifices to God that are not really sacrifices. We’re willing to give worn out clothes or broken toys to the church in the name of sacrifice. We’ll drop something off that has no value to us, but maybe the church can use it. God loves humanity with a perfect love, but He also loves Jesus with a perfect love and was still willing to make that sacrifice.

God, “shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.” Notice that the word “show” is used twice. There is a significant intimacy between God and the Son. This is an example of a perfect relationship between Father and Son. The Son knows what the Father desires before it’s shared. Think about all the times you have spent with your father working together. You’ve seen the meme that says some of you have never had to hold the flashlight for your dad and it shows. My son and I have done many projects together and it always brought me incredible joy when he did something before I asked him because he knew what I desired. We were on the same page. God loves Jesus and, “Shows Him all things that He Himself is doing.” God works through Jesus and that is difficult for us to understand. What Jesus did is what the Father wanted Him to do. You cannot separate the two desires. What is interesting is that, “The Father will show Him greater works than these.” What those specific works are is not known with certainty, but it could be the miraculous work of healing that we looked at last week. It could be point to the cross. One thing is for certain, the works that the Father will show Him will cause us to, “marvel.” It comes from the Greek work thaumazo where we get our English word amaze. The miraculous work of healing is just a precursor to what is to come.

The third “for” statement says, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” This verse serves as an illustration to the previous verse. In the Old Testament, God is often seen as the life-giver. In Genesis, He formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed life into his nostrils. This is when man became a living being. (Gen. 2:7) In the old covenant, there were special ways to handle blood because life was in the blood. In 1 Ki. 17, when Elijah raised the child from the dead, he said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived.” (1 Ki. 17:21-22) God holds the power of life. In like manner, “The Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” Now don’t freak out of this one. We need to look at the whole counsel of God and not just a verse here and there. Jo. 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” It doesn’t say a few men, or chosen men. Jesus is the Light of mankind. 2 Pet. 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” As we saw in Jo. 3:16, all does mean all. God wishes that all will come to repentance through Jesus Christ.

The fourth “for” statement is, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” The Father has granted the authority of judgment to the Son. It’s interesting that so many people see God as the judge of mankind, but that responsibility has been passed to Jesus. All judgment is by Jesus.

You’ve probably even had someone say to you that it’s wrong to judge anyone and even God doesn’t judge. Matt. 7:1 says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” It seems the world knows this verse and people tend to bring it up when their wrongdoing is brought to light. It would be beneficial to look at the next verse that says, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” If your measuring stick for judgment is the standard found in God’s Word, then you’re okay. But use caution because when you continue in that passage, we are issued this warning, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Many times, when wrong doing is brought up, the normal tendency is to point out the wrong doing in the life of the one that is speaking to you. God has given Jesus the authority to judge. This section started with Jesus saying ‘truly, truly” in verse 19 and it’s finished off here. This entire passage is so that, “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” If you honor the Son, you’ll honor the Father. The opposite is also true: if you don’t honor the Son, you don’t honor the Father. You cannot honor God the Father and not show honor to God the Son.

In our passage today, we looked at four statements that all began with for. We see that all authority is given by the Father to the Son. When it comes to the Father and the Son, we see the wills are the same, the desires are the same, the goals are the same. We saw the love the Father has for His Son. There are far greater works to be done than healing a lame man. We will be amazed at those works that God and Jesus hint at. Jo. 3:18 says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe is judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” In that verse, belief in Jesus determines judgment. In our passage today, we see God as the life giver and in perfect union, we see the Son gives life to whomever He wishes. John is setting us up for what we’ll see next week.

The Rest of the Story

You can watch the service here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us the disciples returned and found Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman and they were amazed that He was speaking with her, but no one said a word to Him. The Samaritan woman took the opportunity to share her encounter with Jesus to the men of the city who wanted to see for themselves. Meanwhile, the disciples encouraged Jesus to eat something and He responded by giving them a mysterious story about reaping and harvesting where they did not sow and spoke of gathering fruit for eternal life. This morning, we come the end of the story of the Samaritan woman and her family and see the results of that conversion and what it meant for the region.

Take a look at John 4:39-45 where we’ll find our passage for today.

We begin with the phrase, “From that city.” That city is the one that Jesus traveled to from Judea where Jesus rested at the well that Jacob provided. This is the city of Sychar in Samaria. “From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him.” Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus. Believed is from the Greek word pistis where we get our English word faith. It means believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance, but those words fall a bit short in a complete understanding of believe. We’re often told to believe, or to have faith, or to trust someone or something. Our friends will say, “Trust me.” Trust your instincts, trust your gut people tell you. We’re encouraged to have a little faith. We’re supposed to believe that our detergent will make the colors brighter and the whites whiter, our toothpaste will prevent cavities and make our breath fresh, our deodorant will prevent body odor, and our hair products will provide long lasting hold even in high wind. What happens when your friends fail you, your gut is wrong, your colors are dingy, your whites are yellow, you have cavities and bad breath, you stink, and your hair is a mess? The Greek English Lexicon says, “Real trust, confidence, and reliance can only be placed in someone who is believed to have the qualities attributed to such a person.” It’s fruitless to put your faith in people or things that cannot live up the to impossible claims that are made.

“From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him.” Believing in Jesus is something entirely different than believing in a friend or a product. In the biblical system of belief, you often see the parallel of believe with the relationship between man and God. Our belief in Jesus causes action. Fundamentally, Christianity is a missional endeavor. Belief in Jesus provides the door to an intimate personal relationship with God the Father. We believe the words of Christ are true by faith. We have complete confidence in the Jesus of the Bible by faith. We read the words of Scripture knowing they are inspired by God and written down through the hands of man by faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. We walk by faith not by sight. Heb. 11:1 reminds us, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This chapter in Hebrews tells us of a myriad of people that walked by faith. It speaks of the worlds being created by the Word of God. It speaks of men of old and how they gained approval. It speaks of Abel and Enoch and Noah. Of Abraham and Sarah. They died without receiving the promises of God, but could see them in the future. It was by faith that Abraham was tested knowing that God would raise Isaac from the dead because of a promise made by God. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph. By faith Joseph, on his death bed, shared the truths of the Exodus from Egypt. By faith Moses was placed in a wicker basket and floated down the river. Moses grew up and by faith chose to suffer ill treatment at the hands of a godless Pharaoh alongside his countrymen, he kept the Passover and walked through the Red Sea on dry land. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish after hiding the spies. Look quickly at Heb. 11:32-40. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6)

Early in Jesus’ public ministry Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen. Jo. 2:22 says, “So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” The words of Jesus matter and we need to remember them. “From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” The people in that city believed because of the testimony of a woman. Do not underestimate the power of your testimony. Do not dismiss the journey of where you came from and how you got where you are. In Jo. 4:25, “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called the Christ): when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” She had the background to know to look for a Messiah and with the realization that this man might be the One, she ran to tell others Who she had found. She reasoned that He was able to tell her all about herself. Jesus knew that she had five husbands and the man she currently was with was not her husband. The prophecy she knew was being fulfilled before her very eyes and she had to tell someone else. The normal and natural response to the truth and belief in the gospel is to share that truth with others and that is why Christianity, at its core, is a missional endeavor. Show me someone that has belief in Christ without a desire to share that truth with others and I’ll show you someone that does not fully grasp the significance of the cross. Show me someone that professes to believe in the things of Jesus and does not share them, I’ll show you someone that has not been made new in Jesus. How do you have a personal encounter with Jesus and have no desire to share that truth with others? How do professing believers strike up a conversation with strangers about their grandchildren, pets, sports, or the price of gas, but can’t seem to talk about Jesus? This woman, despised by the Jews told her family and friends about someone that could provide water that would quench their spiritual thirst; she told them about the One that is called the Christ.

The townspeople heard the incredible words of the woman with five husbands and who was living with another man not her husband. “So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.” I find this verse has incredible significance. Notice the townies did not discount her words because of who she was. Too often, the message can lose significance because of the perceived inauthenticity of the messenger. Have you been told something that you discount because of the who’s sharing it? “Don’t believe a thing they say,” you’re told because, “You can’t trust them.” Someone who lies over and over again is going to have a difficult time being trusted. The people of the city did not ignore what the woman told them about the man she met at the well. They wanted to see for themselves and they went to Jesus in what looks like a large group of people some would call a mob. This mob was different than a mob whipped into a frenzy by anti-religious activists. This was a mob of people that also seemed to be looking for the long-awaited Messiah who is called the Christ.

There is some dialogue between the townies and Jesus and they ask Him to stay on in town. Jesus the Jew was going to remain with them, the despised Samaritans, for a couple of days. It seems that the religious schism that was hanging over their heads that the woman raised earlier in the chapter was of little to no concern to Jesus. The message of living water needed to be shared with everyone because God does indeed love the world so much that He was willing to give humanity the gift of His only begotten Son. The work of the community was that, “Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” That is quite the work. The word of the woman compelled the town’s people to seek out Jesus for themselves. The people of the city most likely knew who she was yet that did not dissuade them from seeking the truth out for themselves. I hope my words and my testimony and that of your other pastors and of our leadership here would cause you to seek truth for yourselves. Our messages are not intended to stand alone in your walk of faith. They are intended to whet the appetite of hungry and thirsty souls to know the only One that can eternally satisfy your spiritual desires.

I love how this verse reads: the townies told this lady who we know only as the woman at the well, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” I long for the day that people will tell me, it’s not your words Pastor Ian, that cause me to believe. It would do my heart so good for you to tell me, I know the word for myself. I long for the day that you will tell me like the Apostle Paul told Timothy, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12) The people of that city believed because they knew the truth. We have spoken with the One you told us about. We have listened to His words. He has shared to the truth about what this living water means and its implication for eternal life. I believe they likely jumped and danced around hollering, “We understand! We understand!”

Their conclusion is life changing, “This is the Savior of the world.” This is the confession of the fish or ichthys symbol. Followers of Christ have been using the symbol of the fish for a very long time. The symbol of the fish has dual meanings.

First, it indicates that followers of Christ are fishers of men. Second, it is an acrostic in Greek: it is spelled i ch th y s.

      • I is for Jesus.
      • Ch is for Christ.
      • Th is for theos meaning God.
      • Y is for Son.
      • S is for soter or Our Savior.

Put it together and you get exactly what the people of that Samaritan city concluded: Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, our Savior. Remember what John said in 1:29 when he saw Jesus approaching, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus was and remains the answer for the world’s sin problem and the people understood that truth.

And the work continues. Jesus’ time in Galilee comes full circle. Verse 43 says, “After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee.” That’s pretty straight forward and gives reference to the two days mentioned earlier. As John has done previously, he joins different stories by linking verses together that help with time and or geography. If you remember from a few weeks back, critics of the text sometime focus on these linking texts instead on the main point of the stories. They are sometimes referred to as saddles or seams in the Gospel. Some think these linking texts are a work of a first century editor that was familiar with other texts and would make adjustments so the reader has a better understanding of what’s happening. The last two verses that we look at today have been likened to a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. They don’t seem to fit into the previous story or the next one that Pastor Zane will tell us about next week. After leaving Samaria to travel into Galilee, “Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.” This seems to be a random verse thrown between two stories. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and household.” (Matt. 13:57) Marks quotes Jesus as saying, “A prophet is not without honor in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4) Luke quotes Jesus as saying, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” (Lu. 4:24) Each of these refer to the rejection of Jesus in the Synagogue in Nazareth. But the next verse says, “So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast.” Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea which would be a different region than Samaria. John 7:42 mentions Jesus being born in Bethlehem, but it’s by people critical of Him. In this gospel in general, Jesus is referred to as Galilean. He’s also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth. (Jo. 19:19) His own country could be a reference to Israel. In Jo. 1:11, there is mention of His own people not receiving Jesus, but that’s not everyone included in that verse. Verse 12 goes on to talk about those that believed in His name were given the right to be called children of God so there are those that did not believe. There is also mention in 4:45 of the feast in Jerusalem first mentioned in Jo. 2:23. The people of Galilee saw the things Jesus did because they were there and saw for themselves. What’s the point? The point of the miracle at the wedding in Cana is belief. The point of the story of the woman at the well is belief. These are in complete harmony with the central theme of this book found in Jo. 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

For John, it’s about believing who Jesus is and then acting on what you know.

The woman at the well inquired of Jesus and believed. She told the townies who wanted to know for themselves. You may not be able to trust the claims of the products you use, but you can always trust Jesus. No matter how many times they improve your favorite soap, you will never be as clean as when you are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Put your trust in Him today.

The Woman at the Well

You can watch the message here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us about John trying to clear up the confusion surrounding his baptism. John seemingly spoke in riddles talking about one coming from above and one coming from earth. The one from above is over all and has the testimony of what He has seen and heard. We learned God sent Him and He speaks the words of God and gives the Holy Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and we were left with, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” This morning, we’ll take a look at the first part of a very critical story that gives us some insight into prejudice and how to deal with un-Christlike thinking.

Our passage today comes from John 4:1-14. I hope you take the time to read it.

I always find it interesting when people miss the point of a story and this is no different. John tells us, “Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria.” This is more than a geographical update. John typically links passages together. He’s creating a narrative that reminds his readers of the central theme of the book found in Jo. 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” John is providing clarification because there was a misunderstanding the Pharisees had about Jesus. The Pharisees heard something and ran with it. I’ve been on the receiving end of Pharisaical people. It’s not a lot of fun and sucks all the energy out of you. I’ve had things said about me that were not true, but it’s way easier to share the gossip then to find out if it’s true or not. I am still learning to ignore that kind of nonsense.

The Pharisees thought Jesus was baptizing more than John and I love how John casually says, “Although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were.” John is known as the Baptizer, and Jesus is not like John in that way. Remember back to the first chapter, the Pharisees sent Jews from Jerusalem to question John about baptism and what it meant. They wondered if John was the Christ. They asked if he was Elijah. The Pharisees were concerned from the beginning about who John was and who he represented. From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, it seems they were bent on destroying or damaging the message of Christ regardless of the cost. The Pharisees were self-proclaimed keepers of the truth. They were not open for conversation: if you did not agree with them, they deemed you a blasphemer. It seems the only bright spot in their group was Nicodemus. Remember from a few weeks ago when Pastor Mark shared how Nicodemus went to Jesus under the cover of night to seek guidance from Jesus. Nicodemus left Jesus confused because the things Jesus said were so contrary to the way he was raised. Don’t give up on Nicodemus; we’ll see him again.

So, Jesus’ disciples were baptizing and even if the Pharisees didn’t get it exactly right, the growth of this movement was very concerning to them. Jesus was gaining followers through the work of His disciples. People were believing the message that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16) This reference to the disciples baptizing will be the last reference in John to baptism. I make this point to counter those that say baptism is required for salvation because it is not. Baptism is a demonstration or representation in our life of what Christ did in His life, His death, and His resurrection. It is a picture of our new life in Christ.

Jesus leaves, “Judea and went away again into Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria.” At first glance, you might think, “Why doesn’t He stay and fight? Why doesn’t he confront those that accuse him?” We know He is God, after all, and could smite down these troublesome, evil attackers. If you spend more time defending yourself than you do sharing the message, then it might be time to move on. Matt. 10:14 says, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust of your feet.” Jesus had work to do and it was not the time to hang out and waste time fighting. Jesus leaves, “Judea and went again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria.” Jesus is on a mission and His destination was Galilee. He had friends there, work there, and the area was presumably free of Pharisees that would hinder the work His Father sent Him to accomplish.

In order to get to Galilee from Judea, “He had to pass through Samaria.” The quickest way to get from Jerusalem in Judea to Galilee is the main ridge road that goes through Samaria. This route takes about three days walking. There is another route that many Jews would prefer to take because it avoids Samaria. The longer route takes you down the Jordan River and you get into Galilee at Beth Shan. The route could add a couple of extra days of travel, but you would avoid Samaria. Jews and Samaritans have a troubled past. About 700 years earlier, Assyria took the ten northern tribes of Israel captive. 2 Ki. 17:6 says, “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Harbor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” It only got worse. For some history on the Jew – Samaritan issue, read 2 Ki. 17:24-41. Throughout the years, those Assyrians intermarried with the remaining Jews. Those exiled Jews lost their identity and became less Jewish with each generation. Ezra would enact policies that separated out the people of Samaritan descent. The Samaritans would enact their own measures including building a false temple on Mount Gerizim. The hatred for the Samaritans ran deeply even though centuries have passed. I’m reminded of what Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” In that incredible promise, Jesus included the very path He had taken to arrive in Samaria.

“He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” This is the area near Shechem that Genesis tells us was given to Joseph by his father and where Joseph’s bones are buried. This is a very important area not only because Joseph’s bones were near there, but “Jacob’s well was there.” Wells were an important part of the day-to-day affairs of the people of that time just as they are important today. Not everyone can simply open the tap and get water. Even today, people rely on wells to provide their drinking water. This well has been reported to be 75 to 105 feet deep and nine or ten feet across with solid masonry walls. Even in our modern assessment, that is quite a well, but for back then, that is an extraordinary accomplishment. “So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.” Jesus has walked the road from Judea into Samaria. He was tired and needed a break from the hot dusty road and sat down by the well. It was the sixth hour and if John used Jewish time keeping, the sixth hour would make it noon. If the sixth hour is from Roman time, that would make it 6:00 am. It seems more likely the time is noon because of what follows in the story and it’s unlikely that Jesus and His disciples journeyed through the night to arrive at the crack of dawn.

The meeting at the well. Jesus is sitting on the edge of the well resting from His journey. The Word was in the beginning with God and the Word was God. Jesus, according to John, is the Word made flesh and John frequently points out the humanity of Jesus. God in the flesh is wearied from His journey – a human condition. God in the flesh is thirsty – a human condition. Jesus is thirsty following his journey. I want you to really get the idea of what’s happening here. Like many things in Scripture, it’s hard for us to place ourselves in the context of the story. If we’re tired, we take a break. If you go on a journey, you take water and snacks and activities for the kids. If you don’t prepare, you can simply pull off the road and go to one of the stores at the exit. Jesus and His disciples are not walking for pleasure or exercise; they’re walking for transportation. “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her. “Give me a drink.” The well here is like Walmart. Not only can you get what you need there, you can mix and mingle with people from the community. It would not be unusual for an encounter to take place at the town’s well. Jesus’, “disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” It is certainly possible that John remained with Jesus and watched this whole scenario play out. It’s possible Jesus related this story to the disciples when they returned. We do know this story is included here because the Holy Spirit of God wants us to know it happened and learn from it.

Jesus is by the well and a woman of Samaria came to draw some water and we find ourselves in a dilemma. The woman says to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” It is obvious to the woman that Jesus is a Jew. She knows the Jews hate her and her kind. She has done nothing that we know of that would generate such hatred for  her. But she does know the history between the Jews and the Samaritans. What she doesn’t know is who she is talking to. Just because there are other Jews that hate Samaritans doesn’t mean every Jew hates Samaritans. Just because despicable things have been done to Samaritans in the past doesn’t mean that Jesus will do despicable things to her. Will there be condemnation in the present for the actions in the past? This chance meeting for the woman of Samaria and Jesus is going to upend her previously held beliefs about Jews. Perhaps Jesus is all by Himself because you know His disciples would likely have something negative to say about Jesus talking to the woman. Why are you talking with her? Don’t you know where she’s from? You know she’s a Samaritan, right? Jesus was different. He saw beyond prejudices. He looked beyond previous actions. He understood how hatred in the past can influence hatred in the present. I’m glad the disciples were out getting food and not the other way around. The conversation that takes place next is incredible. Have you ever been in a conversation where you lead someone to a truth that you know like the back of your hand, but they miss the point altogether? Is the Jew she is talking to going to be like other Jewish men she has encountered? Even to have a conversation with a Samaritan would be culturally wrong.

Jesus answered her question with a question, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” For the Samaritan woman, this is a weird statement. How could she possibly know who she is talking to? She was going to the well to draw water and had to do it herself, she didn’t even have a servant in the house to do it so she was a woman of humble means. The conversation turns from physical need to spiritual need. “If you knew,” Jesus says. It’s a conditional clause. If she knew that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” If she knew the gift of God and understood who was speaking with her, she would not have asked the question that follows. “She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water?” Water is essential to sustain life. But Jesus is no longer talking about drinking water. Just like the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, there are two meanings here: one is physical and one is spiritual.

“You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” The Samaritan woman knows some things. She knows about Jacob and the well they’re at and how they came to have that well. She knows the physical importance of the well and Jesus lays on the spiritual truth that will rock her world. “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Jesus talks of the need to continually satisfy one’s physical thirst. That’s the water the woman can provide, but that need for physical water will have to be repeated over and over again. The water Jesus provides is a spiritual water that bursts forth from within that satisfies the spiritual thirst. The living water Jesus provides is never ending: it is eternal.

The stage is now set. Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the well where He wanted to satisfy His physical thirst. He broke the customs and traditions of the Jews by engaging with that Samaritan woman. How can living water satisfy spiritual thirst? What will happen to this woman? Will she drink from the never ending cup of living water? Join us in two weeks to find out.