Jesus Saves & Grants Full Satisfying Lives

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John 10:1 – 10

10 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

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This parable, or illustration, of Jesus is a good example of how Jesus used the events of every day life to help drive home some deep spiritual truths.  In verses 1-5, Jesus described in very simple terms what life was like for shepherds in the middle east and their sheep in the 1st century.  The listeners are most likely the “blind” Pharisees we read about at the end of chapter nine.

These Pharisees heard this story, and then it says that they did not understand this illustration.  Most likely, due to all their previous encounters with Jesus, the Pharisees knew that Jesus never told “simple” stories, just because they were nice stories.  No, they knew that there was some deeper meaning involved here, and they wanted Jesus to speak clearly as to what meaning He had intended for his audience to get out of this story.

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What is most interesting is that even though Jesus was asked a fairly straight forward question, his response is anything but a clear answer.  He used much of the same figurative language in his response to the Pharisees as He did in the illustration above.  Jesus still used metaphorical language of “sheep”, “gate”, “thieves and robbers”, and then adds “pastures” which suggests that the “sheep” will be well fed and nourished.

We just finished the last chapter where Jesus was basically accusing the Pharisees as being “blind” religious leaders.  This leads right into this story about those who are the “thieves and robbers”.  The leaders believed they were helping the people by imposing all the religious rituals that they thought would “save” them from sin.

Instead, their regulations and rituals kept them further away from a meaningful relationship with God.  And so, what they thought was for the good of the people actually was harmful to the people.  Thus they could be compared to “thieves and robbers” who destroyed true faith in God for the people.

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On the other hand, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, which we will see that more clearly in our next article.  Jesus is the One who truly cares about the people.  He leads them into places of refuge and safety (the sheepfold within the fenced area).  And He will lead them out into “green pastures” (see Psalm 23), where there is an abundant supply of very nourishing food.  Jesus is the source for us as we hunger for spiritual nourishment.  He will meet our spiritual needs.

But note one very peculiar thing here.  Not only is Jesus metaphorically our Good Shepherd, but He is also the Gate, through which all the sheep (which represent us as people) must go in order to find protection and salvation (going in) and find sustenance and nourishment (going out).  Jesus is both the Shepherd of the sheep and the Gate for the sheep.

This should seem a bit odd, that Jesus was referring to himself as both Shepherd and Gate.  And yet, at the same time, it should not be that odd.  For you see, Jesus was both man (formed into a human body) and also God incarnate (the fullness of God living among us).  This seems to be a paradox, but only because the human mind cannot fully grasp the full reality about the nature of God.

And there is one more mixed metaphor that is definitely worth mentioning here as we consider who Jesus was and what He is able to accomplish for all mankind.  Using the picture language again of Jesus being the Gate, it reveals a truth to us that we can only come to God by going through Jesus.  In John 14:6, Jesus said, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

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We know by reading the New Testament that the means by which Jesus was able to save people from sin was to die on a cross to pay the punishment for our sins.  He was the “perfect sacrifice” offered up to God.  But He rose again, and so is still able to act as our mediator between us and God (see 1 Timothy 2:5).  That means that Jesus was and is both the priest who offers up acceptable sacrifice to God, and at the same time is the perfect sacrifice offered to God.

What a great message is contained for us in this passage.  Jesus is both our Sacrifice and our Savior.  He is our Guard and our Guide.  He is our Helper and our Healer.  Wouldn’t you like to get to know Him better and to experience the full life that He can offer?  Please feel free to write back to me if you have any questions about all this.  And may God bless you richly through Christ our Lord.

Where Does Jesus Come From?

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John 9:24 – 34

24 The leaders called the man back and said, “Swear by God to tell the truth! We know that Jesus is a sinner.” 25 The man replied, “I don’t know if he is a sinner or not. All I know is that I used to be blind, but now I can see!”

26 “What did he do to you?” the Jewish leaders asked. “How did he heal your eyes?” 27 The man answered, “I have already told you once, and you refused to listen. Why do you want me to tell you again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 The leaders insulted the man and said, “You are his follower! We are followers of Moses. 29 We are sure that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where Jesus comes from.”

30 “How strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from. 31 We know that God listens only to people who love and obey him. God doesn’t listen to sinners. 32 And this is the first time in history that anyone has ever given sight to someone born blind. 33 Jesus could not do anything unless he came from God.”

34 The leaders told the man, “You have been a sinner since the day you were born! Do you think you can teach us anything?” Then they said, “You can never come back into any of our meeting places!”

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This passage is the third segment of this story about when Jesus healed the man who had been blind since birth.  It is easy to see that this seriously rattled the religious leaders, the Pharisees.  It was their job to not only teach the Laws of God, as they were handed down by Moses.  But it was also their responsibility to guard the people from false teachings which could draw them away from God.

Thus, there was nothing wrong for them to start out by saying, “Swear by God to tell the truth!”  Now this is not the same as cursing or using profanity.  Rather, just as it was with legal cases, a witness was to testify under oath by the highest authority, namely God Himself, that his testimony that he would give was in fact the truth.

No, the problem here is that the Pharisees had already made a decision in their minds about Jesus, and they tried to force the man to agree with their assessment.  The leaders, who were so upset about Jesus breaking their religious ritual of not working on the Sabbath Day, made the conclusion that such a man must be a sinner, guilty of breaking a law of God.

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The man who had been healed though would not give in to this religious prejudice.  Instead, he simply stated what were obvious facts.  Before, he had been blind.  After Jesus touched him, then he could see.  And based on all the religious knowledge he had, the only possible conclusion for him is that Jesus had to have come from God.  That is, Jesus had to have the blessing of God and the authority of God to perform such a miracle.

You know, this story is filled with such irony.  The one who was blind could now see clearly that Jesus was a man of God.  And he challenged these leaders who should have been able to see, but were blind to the truth that was right in front of them.  There was a simple man teaching those who were thought of as the “Teachers” of their society the truth about where Jesus came from.

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As amazing as this story is, with all of its irony, I believe we still have people today who are very much in the dark when it comes to understanding who Jesus really is.  There are many people today that say that Jesus was a good man, and he was a very good teacher.  They consider all the good things Jesus did, and the ethical teachings he taught, but they cannot go further to say that He is “from God”.  Or more importantly, that He is God, the second member of the Trinity.

And yet, if we really look closely at all that Jesus said and did, I believe we cannot hold on to the claim that He was “just a good man, and good teacher”.  In the gospel accounts, Jesus claimed more than once that He would rise from the dead after being crucified on the cross.  (See Mark 8:31; 9:31 and 10:34)  He also made claims of being the Promised Messiah, and that in fact He is God.  (Read carefully John 4:25-26; 5:17-18; and 8:53-59)

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Now if you and I were in a courtroom and heard all the testimony which Jesus gave concerning himself, then we would have to agree with some Christian authors who have said that there are only three choices available to us.  Either Jesus was a lunatic, to believe such grand egocentric ideas that he could rise from the dead and call himself God.  Or he was a liar, who has deceived millions of people over the past two millennium.

Or we have to accept him as Lord, the One who truly has the power to overcome death and is in fact God who has come to live among us.  What we cannot believe is that Jesus was simply a “good man”.  For his claims have to be false, making Him a very bad man.  Or they are true, which makes Him God.  The Pharisees could not see this and accept this.  But the man who once was blind, was now coming to see the truth concerning Jesus and where He came from.  How about you?

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Does Jesus Condemn Or Condone Sin?

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John 7:53 – 8:11

53 Everyone else went home, 8 but Jesus walked out to the Mount of Olives. Then early the next morning he went to the temple. The people came to him, and he sat down and started teaching them.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses brought in a woman who had been caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. They made her stand in the middle of the crowd. Then they said, “Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who isn’t her husband. The Law of Moses teaches that a woman like this should be stoned to death! What do you say?”

They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.

They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!” Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground. The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone.

10 Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?” 11 “No sir,” the woman answered. Then Jesus told her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

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This is a very well known passage in the Gospel of John.  In various versions, this passage has been given a title like, “The Woman Caught In Adultery.”  In some ways, this title does summarize the main point in this passage, but I believe that this does not really capture the most important issues that are going on under the surface of this story.

The key to this whole passage I believe comes in verse 6 as John perceptively wrote, “they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him.”  We have seen in earlier chapters of John that the religious leaders were becoming more and more antagonistic against Jesus and His teachings and ministry among people.  Catching this woman in an act of adultery gave them the pretext to try to trap Jesus in what He would say about the situation.  Consider what one of my commentary sources says:

If Jesus answered: ‘Moses is right; stone her!’ they would have gone to Pilate and accused Jesus of infringing upon the rights of the Roman authority, which had reserved to itself the ‘right of the sword’ here, as in all conquered countries. If he had answered: ‘Do not stone her!’ they would have decried Him before the people and would even have accused Him before the Sanhedrim as a false Messiah; for the Messiah must maintain or restore the sovereignty of the Law.  (Exegetical Helps on John)

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As I look at the text, there are two other very subtle things that bother me besides the attempt of the leaders to trap Jesus in His words.  First of all, where was the man who also was involved in this act of sexual immorality?  Was he not guilty of sin?  And secondly, is it possible that the Jewish leaders arranged for this man to have sex with this married woman and they were all close by to “catch” them in the act?  Was it all a setup to frame and accuse Jesus of a legal crime by what he said next?

But Jesus, who was granted omniscience by God’s Spirit, knew all along what was going on and remained quiet.  He knew better than to respond to these religious bullies.  I’m sure it must have infuriated them that they could not bait Jesus into a rash response.  (Hmm… can we learn something here from the way Jesus handles those who oppose Him and all that He stood for?  I think so.)

Then Jesus speaks those famous words, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!”  Obviously every person who has lived has committed sin.  From the time of Adam until the present day, every person has fallen short of being perfect and without sin.  And when that realization dawned on these men, they finally all left the woman alone, for to condemn her would be to condemn themselves.

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Here then is the most important question in this passage.  What did Jesus think about this woman?  It is true that she did commit adultery.  So that does mean that she committed sin in God’s eyes.  Jesus himself had not committed sin, and so He alone was in a position to condemn the woman for her actions.  Look at what Jesus said to her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

It is clear that Jesus did not desire to see this woman condemned to die according to the religious rules of that day.  But more importantly, Jesus did not want this woman to continue acts of sin and thus be in a state of sin that would result in God condemning her to eternal death.  So Jesus did not condemn her, but He also did not condone her actions.

This is the crucial application for us today.  We must all be willing to bow in humility before God and admit our sin before Him.  Then we are to choose to no longer follow this path of sin.  This is an act of repentance, a true change of the heart.  And when that occurs, the door is then opened to receive forgiveness of our sin, forever.  I pray that you have made this important decision for your life.

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Power Can Blind People From The Truth

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John 7:45 – 52

45 When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.

47 “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. 48 “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? 49 This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”

50 Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. 51 “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

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It is really sad when we see people in places of authority abuse their power and consider themselves “better” than the average person.  This is the case with the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  These men, who either inherited their positions or achieved them through years of rigorous study of the Scriptures, truly thought they were above ordinary citizens.

For quite a few generations, the religious leaders believed that they were the only ones who really understood what God’s Word had to say and what it meant.  And they reinforced this by creating a myriad of rules that the people were supposed to obey in the hopes that their good actions and their animal sacrifices to God would make them acceptable to God.

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Then Jesus came along and preached a different message.  He talked about loving God and loving people as being the greatest commandments, not the religious rules and rituals that the Jewish officials said were so important to uphold.  In effect, Jesus challenged not only their teachings, but also their very positions of authority.

They had to put a stop to this then and they sent out temple guards to arrest Jesus.  But when the guards heard Jesus cry out, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (vv. 37-38), they found themselves unable to arrest Jesus.  For this was the kind of spiritual message they had always longed to hear, but had never heard before.

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This response of the guards infuriated the Jewish leaders.  They attempt to condemn the average person by calling them all fools, ignorant of God’s laws, and people whom God would curse, meaning they would be destroyed by God’s wrath in the final day of judgment.  In their jealousy and anger, they did not realize that they were condemning themselves to face God’s wrath.

Check out Matthew chapter 23 where Jesus declares that they are all hypocrites, blind guides, white-washed tombs, and snakes who are full of wickedness.  Even though one man, Nicodemus, tried to be reasonable and suggest that they look carefully into this matter of trying to arrest Jesus, the leaders turned on him and accused him of not knowing their own Scriptures.

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This passage is relevant for us today, for there are leaders even within our churches today who would place religious rituals ahead of having a living relationship with Jesus.  We must choose carefully those whom we would place in positions of authority in the church.  But it would also be very good for leaders today to remember that Jesus said to His followers, “The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

But let me suggest that this attitude of “spiritual elitism” can be found in any person of any church, whether they are in a position of authority or not.  It is very dangerous for any one of us to think that we are more “spiritual” than anther brother or sister in the faith.  We can easily fall into the trap of being like the person who has a wooden plank in their own eye (i.e. sin in their life), but who tries to remove the speck of sawdust from their friend’s eye.  (Matthew 7:1-5)

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Let me go one step further here and ask what attitudes we have about Christians in other denominational churches.  Ouch!!  This can reveal some bad attitudes and prejudices that might not be very godly.  Do we have the grace of God enough to be able to work with, even fellowship with others who genuinely are seeking God, but do not do it the same way that we do?

I know this can be difficult.  And I do not want in any way to water down the Gospel or compromise my core beliefs in God and Jesus.  Consider the choice that our family had when we worked in that small village in Papua New Guinea for five years.  At that time, the only church present there was a little Catholic church, overseen by a few national men who had been taught to lead people in some songs, read a few Scriptures and make a short comment on how it could help us in our walk with God.

We easily could have just stayed in our house and had our own family worship time and kept well away from that village church.  But what message would that give the people?  So in addition to our personal worship time, we would often attend the village church to support the idea of public worship of God.  I do know that a few of the people were sincere believers in Christ, and I believe our presence encouraged them in their faith.  Please, let us all accept our brothers and sisters as equals, wherever we may find them.

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Could Jesus Be The Messiah?

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John 7:25 – 36

25 Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? 27 But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”

28 While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. 29 But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.” 30 Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.

31 Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”

32 When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus. 33 But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. 34 You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.”

35 The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! 36 What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?”

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This passage in John 7 is a continuation of the confusion among the Jewish people with regards to who Jesus is, as well as the rising confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. In verse 20 of this chapter, the people appear to be shocked when Jesus suggested that there were people who wanted to kill Him.  But now we see in verse 25 that many in the crowd have heard and believe that this threat to kill Jesus is real.

The fact that the religious leaders were not arresting Jesus gave second thoughts to the people. Since the leaders were not moving against Jesus, that perhaps meant that they in fact had condoned Jesus’ actions.  This carried the implication that perhaps Jesus could be the great Messiah, the One who would come to save the people from their enemies and rebuild the Jewish Kingdom on earth.

Some people though, who were quite aware of Jesus’ origin and His family, knew that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, raised up in Nazareth and was known simply as “the son of the carpenter”.  That made Jesus look too ordinary for them.  How then could Jesus be the Messiah?  Others though, who had seen His miracles, felt that only One sent from God could perform such miracles and they believed He was the Messiah

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The Jewish leaders though would not listen to any of this.  They saw Jesus as a threat to the rules and regulations of their religious ways of life and they did in fact want to arrest Jesus and ultimately to kill Him.  What is fascinating to read is that twice in this passage, and again later, we will see the leaders try to have Jesus arrested, but they are unable to do it.

In John’s gospel, in the first eight chapters, twice Jesus said the words, “My time has not yet come,” (2:4; 7:8) and John commented twice saying, “His time had not yet come,” (7:30; 8:20)  There could be a number of things that Jesus (or John) is referring to when He says this.  It could refer to Him revealing His true nature or His time to die on the cross.  But it most likely means in this context, it was not time yet for Him to be arrested.  He still had some important things to teach as we will see in the next few chapters.

Jesus’ next words really confused the Jewish leaders when He said they will not be able to go where He was going.  Undoubtedly this does refer to the time after His resurrection when Jesus would return to His Father in Heaven.  The leaders think Jesus will slip away to some other geographical area.  They don’t realize the spiritual implications that they would not follow Him to heaven when they would die.

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Let’s consider what this passage has to say to us now today.  What do you think about who Jesus is, what He taught while on earth, and where He went to be after His death and resurrection?  Are you as confused and offended as some of the people were when you hear the story of how Jesus came to earth, born to a poor family inside of a stinky animal shelter?  Do you think that God is supposed to reveal Himself suddenly with divine miraculous powers rather than show up among us in the form of a man?

Is it possible that you may be so religious (like the Jewish leaders) that the form of how you are supposed to worship God is more important that the Person whom we are to worship?  Are you certain that after this life you will be accepted into God’s presence to live in Heaven forever?  Have you based that hope on the things that you have done to earn God’s favor?  Or are you trusting in what Jesus did for you on the cross?  Keep these questions in mind as we move forward in John’s gospel.

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God Looks On The Inside

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John 7:14 – 24

14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

16 So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. 17 Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. 19 Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”

20 The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. 22 But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) 23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? 24 Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

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In the section of John chapter 7 just before this passage, we saw that Jesus was trying to keep a low key profile.  As some would say today, it looked like he was trying to “fly under the radar”.  It must have been difficult for him seeing as the annual “Feast of Tabernacles” was meant to be a joyous time for all Jews, and especially in Jerusalem.

And then suddenly during the middle of the week of celebration, we see Jesus marching straight up to the Temple and beginning to teach.  I wonder what was going on in his mind.  Could it be that he saw the shallowness and superficiality of the faith of many of his countrymen and he wanted them to come to know his Father like he did?  Or more probably, he could no longer stand the hypocrisy and the abuse of religious power that the Jewish leaders exercised over the people and Jesus finally had to speak up against this.

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The encounter that followed was very dramatic.  Jesus taught with great boldness concerning God and His Kingdom and the people were amazed at this.  They saw that his message was full of spiritual power, but they had always been led to believe that a person had to go through the Rabbinical schools (their form of theological seminaries) to have such power and authority to teach and preach like Jesus did.

But Jesus points out that religious pedigrees and positions are things that are important to men, but not to God.  What is really important is to lead people back into a living relationship with God.  Even if it means pointing out the sin in one’s life that is keeping that person away from God.  Jesus knew that his teachings struck at the hearts of those selfish hypocrites of his day, and he calls them out to the table by stating that they even have it in their heart to kill Jesus, and thus kill his message that would convict them.

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The truth is laid bare when Jesus revealed their hypocrisy over actions done on the Sabbath.  They claimed that no one could do any work of any kind on the Jewish day of rest.  And yet they had the command of God for circumcision, which was older than the Law, that they said allowed them to break the Sabbath rest.  In other words they used one law to break another law.  And they felt quite justified in their rigid legalism.

On the other hand, Jesus did a tremendous act of compassion by healing a lame man on the Sabbath.  But rather then praise Jesus for his action, they accused him of breaking a religious law.  To God, this is so absurd!  To allow a religious rule to overshadow meeting the needs of hurting people goes against the very nature of God.

Jesus pointed out what the real issue was when he said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”  Whenever we put the focus on conformity to external behavior (which is what legalism is all about), we lose sight of what is really important, the true condition of the person’s heart.  It is not difficult for a person to do “all the right things” and still be miles away from God in his heart.  But if a person’s heart is pure and open and receptive to God and His grace, then all his external actions will match the inner beauty of his heart.

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And that brings us to some important application here.  Let us be very slow to judge and condemn another person simply on the external behaviors that we might see.  We must instead take the time to get to know that person and what is going on in the inside of him or her.  We do not need to promote conformity to rules to be the basis of thinking that person is right with God.  We need to help nurture a person’s relationship with God.  That is a heart issue.

In closing, let me remind us all that Jesus gave a stern warning to us in his analogy that we might have a plank sticking out of our eye (metaphorically speaking) while we judge someone else’s sin (which he compared to as a speck of dust in their eyes).  Let us clean up our own heart before we think we can help clean up someone else’s heart.

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God’s Timing Can Be Confusing

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John 7:1 – 13

7 1 After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. 2 But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

6 Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. 7 The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. 8 You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” 9 After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.

10 But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. 11 The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. 12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13 But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

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As we read the opening verses of chapter seven, we can see that things are just about to come to a head between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jews.  We see clearly in verse one that the Jewish authorities have made up their minds to kill Jesus.  They just need a good reason to arrest him to make it possible to lay the grounds for Jesus to be executed.  But the Jewish leaders are not the only ones who are not too pleased with him.

Consider how Jesus’ brothers speak to him.  They basically challenge Jesus to get himself seen publicly and display his “miraculous” powers and so become famous and popular with the people.  It is very possible as we read their words, that they said this to Jesus in a condescending and sarcastic way, seeing as “even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

And then there are the general population within Jerusalem, Judea and Galilee who have critical opinions about Jesus.  There were some though who wondered if Jesus was the man whom God had sent to help the nation, or simply that he was a “good man”.  But it would appear from our passage that many more people were now considering that Jesus was just some religious freak, “a fraud who deceives the people.

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And so we see that nearly everyone was upset at Jesus for all kinds of reasons.  His brothers believed that Jesus should take the situation forcefully into his hands and make people believe in him.  The crowds of people simply wanted some kind of sign or confirmation that all their waiting and hopes for a promised Saviour was not in vain.  But could Jesus be this Man?  And the Pharisees wanted Jesus to play by their rules, or not at all.  And since Jesus didn’t follow all their traditions, then killing him was their answer.

What was not understood by anyone of all these participants in this event, was that no one could make Jesus fit into their mold, not could they push him into doing any action if it had not been first ordained and directed by God the Father.  That is what it means when Jesus said, “my time has not yet come.”  Jesus had not come to make himself known, nor to gain glory for himself.  Jesus came to teach people the truth concerning God and His Kingdom.

Pretty much everyone then went up to Jerusalem to celebrate one of their greatest Festivals.  The “Feast of Tabernacles” had become a reminder of when the Jewish people had wandered the desert and had to live in tents (also called tabernacles).  It was a reminder of how God had taken care of His people during a very difficult time.  And when Jesus did come later, after first avoiding public appearance, He would late in the week of the Feast talk out about how He was the source of living water to people who believed in Him.

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So what can we learn from this passage?  It’s clear that almost everyone is upset with Jesus, and yet He does not seem to let this bother him.  Actually, his delay in coming and revealing himself to people primed the people so that they would truly take note of him and what he said when he finally did stand up publicly.  You see, as he said, his time “had not come yet”.

How often do we have the similar thoughts in our heads, when things are getting tense and life is full of challenges and unknowns.  We know that God exists, and that the Son (Jesus) is there at the throne of God asking for help on our behalf.  But God’s hand of help or healing seems to be delayed.  What do we think about that?

Don’t we challenge God at times to “show Himself” to us, and resolve the situation we are in?  But God’s understanding of the big picture and His sense of timing of things is so much greater and wiser than our own ways and thoughts.  So then, even though we may not fully or ever understand God and His ways, we must learn (from Scripture and experience in life) that God is never early when He does something, but He is also never late.  Let us allow Him to do all things “when the time is right”.

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Witnesses Who Tell Us Who Jesus Is

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John 5:31 – 47

31 If I speak for myself, there is no way to prove I am telling the truth.32 But there is someone else who speaks for me, and I know what he says is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he told them the truth. 34 I don’t depend on what people say about me, but I tell you these things so that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that gave a lot of light, and you were glad to enjoy his light for a while.

36 But something more important than John speaks for me. I mean the things that the Father has given me to do! All of these speak for me and prove that the Father sent me. 37 The Father who sent me also speaks for me, but you have never heard his voice or seen him face to face. 38 You have not believed his message, because you refused to have faith in the one he sent.

39 You search the Scriptures, because you think you will find eternal life in them. The Scriptures tell about me, 40 but you refuse to come to me for eternal life.

41 I don’t care about human praise, 42 but I do know that none of you love God. 43 I have come with my Father’s authority, and you have not welcomed me. But you will welcome people who come on their own.44 How could you possibly believe? You like to have your friends praise you, and you don’t care about praise that the only God can give!

45 Don’t think that I will be the one to accuse you to the Father. You have put your hope in Moses, yet he is the very one who will accuse you. 46 Moses wrote about me, and if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me. 47 But if you don’t believe what Moses wrote, how can you believe what I say?

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Jill and I enjoy reading books.  We do have slightly different tastes in the stories we read though.  I’m much more of the science fiction intense espionage kind of guy, while Jill likes to read a good suspense legal thriller with lots of courtroom drama.  So I will read about aliens and distant galaxies or a book by Tom Clancy, and Jill might read an Agatha Christie or John Grisham novel.  But I can appreciate a good legal thriller too.  And that is partly what we have here in these verses of John.

When we watch a legal fiction story on TV today, we all watch as the sleuths and the police search to find the one witness who will “make the case” and put the bad guys away for good.  Sometimes, the most important piece of evidence is not even a person, but an item which ties the criminal to the crime.  And now in our modern scientific world, all that is needed sometimes is just a tiny bit of DNA to close the case.

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That is not what it was like though in first century Judaism.  When someone was accused of wrong doing, it was very clear in the Law of Moses what standards needed to be applied in the case.  Deuteronomy 19:15 tells us what that was: “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  This standard for gathering solid evidence of something needs to be kept in mind as we look briefly into John 5:31-47.

Now we all realize that Jesus is not actually standing in front of the court and facing accusers at this time.  (That would come later.)  But in many ways, with the persecution of the Jewish authorities heating up, Jesus was being put into the court of public opinion.  Some people were believing that He was in fact the Son of God, and that He had the authority of God Himself to do all the miracles which He did.  On the other hand, there was a growing opposition arising against Jesus, what He did, and what He taught.

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So Jesus challenges his “accusers” in this passage and lays down some pretty solid evidence with regards to who He really is.  First of all, Jesus mentions the testimony of John the Baptist.  Go back to John chapter one and read how John declares that God sent him baptizing people for the express purpose of discovering and revealing who Jesus was.  He saw the Holy Spirit come down upon Jesus at the baptism and then declared, “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

As much as John the Baptist was respected as a great prophet, Jesus then goes on to say that there is a greater witness than John.  He basically says, “Look at the works (i.e. “miracles”) that I do, and they will tell you exactly who I am.”  And in fact, God Himself is called upon as a witness.  God declared openly, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.”  (See Mark 1:11)  And further, many of the Jews knew that only a person approved by God Himself could do the kinds of miracles that Jesus did.  Remember what Nicodemus said in John 3:2?  “For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

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Jesus has already given three key witnesses which clearly show Jesus to be “one sent from God.”  But the Jewish leaders might not accept these testimonies.  So then Jesus hits them right where they lived.  He claimed that the Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament), and even Moses in his writings could back up Jesus’ claim of being the great Messiah and the One promised by God to be the Savior of the world.  How much more evidence did they need to believe in Jesus?

And I now ask this question to all who read this.  Look at the wondrous universe we live in.  Look at the new born baby.  Remember when you “could have been killed” in a near-accident.  Look into the lives of really alive Christians who used to be not so nice people, but God changed them.  How much evidence do you need to know that what the Bible proclaims about God, about Christ, and those who follow Him in loving obedience are all true as well.  Think on that my friend.  Don’t be closed like these Jewish leaders were.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Jesus, The One Equal To God The Father

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John 5:16 – 30

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

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In this passage, we see the open hostility of the Jewish leaders that broke out against Jesus.  It was bad enough in their opinion that Jesus had performed a miracle on the Sabbath, the holy day of rest for the Jewish people.  (See my last article on “Christian Compassion vs. Religious Criticism“.)  But now they hear Jesus utter words that show that He equated Himself with God the Father.

As I reflected on the blindness of the Jewish leaders, I realized that they did not have the benefit of living in the period of “post-resurrection”, nor the hundreds of years that the Church has had to understand the implications of Jesus Incarnation, His death, and His resurrection.  The Jewish people were all waiting for the Promised Messiah, the One whom God would anoint and bring salvation to His people.

I do wonder though, what exactly they expected to see when they would meet the Messiah.  Would He just suddenly appear, without having any background of a birthplace or a family such as Jesus had?  Was the Messiah going to just appear as some super human and lead the nation to victory against their enemies in this world?  We know that is partly what they thought.  What caught them off guard was that Jesus was rather ordinary, being born in Bethlehem and raised as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth.

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And then Jesus elevated Himself high above all other humans by making claims of being equal with God Himself.  In this passage we see a number of ways in which Jesus is equally compared to God the Father.  We see these similar things:

  • God is always at work in the world, and so is the Son (implying supernatural activities)
  • what the Father does, He shows to His Son, and the Son also does the same things
  • the Father and the Son can both raise the dead and give them new life
  • God gives the authority to judge all men into the hands of the Son
  • people will honour the Son just as much as they honour the Father
  • the Son is the source of Life just as the Father is also the source of Life for all people

That is quite a list of qualities that Jesus attributes to Himself.  No wonder that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him.  They were actually right to challenge Jesus, for no ordinary man could claim these things.  But Jesus was no ordinary man.  Twice Jesus refers to God as “the One who sent Me”.  As people who now live after the Resurrection, we know that Jesus’ claim to be God the Son was validated by Him rising from the dead.

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And it was the will of the Father that caused Jesus to leave Heaven and come down to earth.  He in fact was the awaited Messiah.  And the promise here is that for anyone who will accept Him as the One who is equal with God and who was sent by God the Father, that person is able to come to God by means of Jesus (like walking across a bridge) and will no longer be under the penalty and curse of death, but will receive the gift of eternal life with God forever.

It really is too bad that the Jewish leaders did not have all the information and insight that you and I have today.  So it is easy to criticise them as being so blind that they could not see Jesus for who He really is.  But I wonder if we would have done much better ourselves?  The key thing right now is for us to not miss the point, namely that Jesus really is the One who is equal to God the Father, the Author of Life, and the One who saves us from death and brings us into eternal life.

Christian Compassion vs. Religious Criticism

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John 5:1 – 15

5  1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 

9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

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In this story which records for us how Jesus heals a man who had been an invalid for 38 years, we get our first glimpse in John’s Gospel of the tension between Him and the Jewish authorities which ultimately led to His crucifixion.  In this event, we see the compassion that Jesus has for those who suffer.  On the other hand, we see the Jewish leaders lack of concern for the sufferer who had been healed as they criticize Jesus for breaking their religious rules and regulations.

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To more fully understand this story, let me first unpack some of the cultural and religious aspects that are going on here.  The story opens with Jesus leaving the province of Galilee and going up to Jerusalem.  (The city of Jerusalem is situated on the top of a mountain ridge, so almost all biblical writers talk about going “up” to get to Jerusalem.  There were three major Jewish festivals that occurred in a year that caused many thousands of Jews to come to Jerusalem in order to celebrate and worship God.)

We don’t know for sure which festival this was here in chapter five, but in any case, we see Jesus coming to attend, partly I think to fulfill the requirement to come to Jerusalem for this festival, but also I’m sure to continue doing God’s Kingdom work among His people.  What we do know from this text is that many sick and disease stricken people were also there lying beside a pool of water which was near one of the large entry gates into Jerusalem.

(The footnote in some versions, which is considered to be verse four, states that when the water was stirred up for some reason, the people believed that an angel had come down and was causing this and that by going into the water, a person could be healed.)

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So when Jesus entered the city, even though He would have been surrounded by thousands of people, His attention was immediately drawn toward this man who had been paralyzed for so many years.  Jesus went over to him and then asked him, “Do you want to be well?”  Now that might seem like a dumb question to ask a paralyzed man, but really, I think that Jesus was basically asking the man if he wanted Jesus to help him to be healed.

The man misunderstood Jesus, thinking He was offering to help him get down into the water once the water would begin to stir.  But Jesus was going to bypass the use of an intermediary agent and by His own authority He healed the man.  He then basically asked the man to trust His word by standing up (something he hadn’t done by himself in 38 years), picking up his mat and walking away with it.  When compassion and Divine Will come together, amazing and miraculous things happen.

But then religious ritualism reared its ugly head.  When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath (the day set apart to only worship God), they accused him of doing work on the Sabbath, which they proclaimed to be forbidden by God in their laws.  (In reality, this was their narrow human interpretation regarding this law which we know to be part of God’s “Ten Commandments”.

The problem is that the Jewish leaders were so zealous to observe religious rituals that they could not see the hand of God working in this man’s life.  They thought that “proper” human behaviour took precedence over the needs of the human soul which needed deliverance from the curse and bondage of extreme physical sickness and disease.

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We must all remember that God’s compassion extends itself to mankind in order to bring honour to Him and freedom to us to willingly return our love and submission back to Him.  Rules will never save a person from sin and bondage.  If that was true back then, it is still true for us today.  Let us now be careful not to impose religious ritualism on fellow believers in hopes to make them more “acceptable” to God.  God already accepts us just as we are, if we have turned to Him in faith.

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