Listen Carefully To Jesus’ Words

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John 12: 44 – 50

44 Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

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As I read these verses above a few times, I could almost see Jesus crying out in a loud voice as he spoke.  It hit me that these were the last words that Jesus spoke publicly before He was arrested and put on trial.  It must have been so difficult for him as he realized that there were still many people back then who would reject his message, and so reject him as the One who could bring eternal life to them.

There was so much that Jesus had to offer for those who would accept him and his message.  There is the promise of eternal life with God which I just mentioned.  There is also the spiritual reality and truth that those who come to Jesus will not only see who Jesus really is, the Saviour for mankind, but also will come to know God the Father who sent Jesus to this world to save us.

And there is also the promise that those who accept and believe in Jesus will “not stay in darkness”.  Jesus is the true light for those who desire to be enlightened spiritually.  There are so many man-made attempts to become like God, or become “one with the Universe”.  But in Christianity, it works the other way.  Jesus is the true light who came down from Heaven to live among us and share this light with anyone who will put their trust in him.  So mankind does not need to reach out to try to find God, God has already reached out to us through his son, Jesus.

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There is something else that caught my attention as I read this passage.  It says in verse 47, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.”  I am reminded of a conversation I had with someone in high school as we rode on the bus toward home.  He knew that I had expressed an interest in becoming a missionary one day so I could talk about Jesus to those people who had never heard about him and what he had done for all mankind.

He asked me some very pointed questions.  As background though, he started by saying, “So you want to tell others about Jesus so that they can have a chance to accept him and by that means be able to go to Heaven.”  I replied, “Yes.” to him.  He went on, “But you are saying that if the people hear about Jesus and decide to not accept him, then they will go to Hell.”  And I replied, “Right.”

And then he asked me, “Wouldn’t it be better to leave these primitive native people alone and let God decide out of his mercy to let them into Heaven if they have been good enough?  Rather than go and preach about Jesus and have them reject Jesus and for sure get sent to Hell?  Wouldn’t it be better to just leave them all alone?”

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My friend asked some good questions, at least from a human perspective.  For those of us who really do understand what Hell is really like, none of us would wish for anyone to be sent there.  Even God says in his Word that he wants, “all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”(1 Tim. 2:3-4)  And yet in Jesus’ own words, he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I know how difficult this can be for many people, but the truth is that by our own acts of wrongdoing, in the words we speak, the thoughts we have and the actions we take in life, we find we are unable to stand before a holy God, who cannot allow sinful thoughts and behaviours to exist in his presence.  As Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  And Romans 6:23 tells us that the consequence for all mankind for their sinful nature is death, eternal spiritual death apart from God.

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Praise God though, that Jesus came to tell us that there is a way of escape for all of us.  For those who will accept the death of Jesus to be their substitute payment for their penalty of death, and who believe that Jesus rose from the grave to demonstrate his promise of life after death, then to us, Jesus brings us salvation and the promise of eternal life with God in Heaven.

My friend, listen carefully to the words of Jesus.  Not only from these last words of his in the passage above, but in all the books of the Bible where he speaks to us about putting our faith in him.  Remember, he did not come to judge us of our sins, but to free us from them.  So accept him, and be free indeed.

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How To Break The Power Of Satan

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John 12: 27 – 36

27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

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34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

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Most of us like to do something very special to mark a significant day or event.  Just look at any calendar and you see that there is pretty much one kind of holiday or celebration within every month of the year.  Within the family, we also celebrate events like birthdays and anniversaries.  Some of these events are even more special than all the others and so we go way out of our way to mark them as being special.

I remember when we were in the village and our older son turned 12, the last birthday before becoming a teenager.  We had a group visiting us from the States at that time and we really made a party out of it.  Then we topped it off by giving our son his very own guitar, a really big thing for him.  When our son turned 16 four years later, we found 16 different ways to give him presents, and then I had three important Christian leaders who knew our son well to each individually pray with him and give him good spiritual advice.

We also made sure to celebrate and honor our younger son when he had a significant moment in his life.  Turning 21 is a big thing for young people, as that marks the day of becoming recognized as an adult.  I still remember his great joy when we gave him that special leather jacket he had wanted, but was too expensive.  But with the right sunglasses, he looked just like an Air Force bomber pilot.  (Except of course that he wanted to join the Army, not the Air Force.)

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So what do we see as being significantly special in our passage above?  Jesus spoke to God, His Father in heaven, wanting to praise God for being so wonderful (the root idea of “glory”).  And guess what?  God spoke back, and received the honor given to Him by His Son.  Others heard God’s voice, but they thought it was like thunder.

This was now the third time that God had spoken out loud to Jesus, His Son.  God first spoke out loud to Jesus at His baptism at the beginning of His ministry on earth, and then at His transfiguration on the mountain, when Jesus talked with Moses and Elijah about His upcoming death and resurrection (read Luke 9:28-36).  God made Himself known at these special and critical moments in the life of His Son Jesus.

Just a few days before this event, crowds of people had celebrated the entrance Jesus made on a donkey riding into Jerusalem.  They thought He had come to take His place as the coming King who would rule over all Israel and free them from their enemies.  They were partly right about the purpose of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, but what they did not know is that Jesus would win the victory over Satan by dying on the cross to break the power of sin and Satan.

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Even though the people did not know that Jesus only had a few more days to live before being crucified, Jesus knew what was about to happen.  He who was the “Light of the World” would lose His life at the hands of evil men.  And so Jesus warned the people that they needed to put their trust in Him before it was too late.

Praise God, Jesus did not stay buried in the tomb, but rose again three days later in majestic power and supreme authority over death, and Satan and sin.  In this way, it is never too late for any of us to put our trust in Jesus, the Creator of Life, and the Victor over Death.  None of us would like to be floundering in life in total darkness, and in a similar way, in spiritual terms, if people would truly understand that without Jesus they are in spiritual darkness, then I think more people would entrust their lives to Jesus.

And that is how we can break the power of Satan today in our lives.  We do not have the spiritual strength or authority to conquer our nature of sinfulness and the attacks of Satan upon our lives.  But if Jesus lives within our hearts, then His Light of Life will shine brightly in our lives and lead us along the path of forgiveness for sins and the power to overcome our enemy, Satan.  Take heed my friend, for you do not know when your time is over and it might be too late.  Come to Jesus now.

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What Would Jesus Do?

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John 11: 54 – 57

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

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Verse 53, the last verse before this section, clearly marked the “point of no return”.  It reads, “So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”  The religious leaders had had enough.  It was undeniable that Jesus had worked a miracle (no one disputed the fact that Jesus had caused Lazarus to rise from the dead).  Clearly God’s power was behind all that Jesus did, but the religious leaders could not tolerate the competition nor the threat that he posed.

Jesus was aware of this plan to kill him, and so he moved northward out of the Judean province and into a remote area on the edge of the province of Samaria.  He still had some final teaching and preparing of his disciples to do.  They did not know that Jesus would only have a few more days with them, but he knew.  And so he withdrew from the region around Jerusalem.  It was not his time to die yet.

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The story then moves toward the time of the Jewish Passover.  This was the time to remember how the blood of a pure young lamb sprinkled over the doorposts of their houses when they were slaves in Egypt 1500 years prior to this, caused the “Angel of Death” to pass over their houses and bring death only to the first born sons of the people of Egypt.  Their freedom from slavery to Egypt was bought by the blood of that lamb.

This event, the Jewish Passover, contained within it the hope of a new freedom for the people of Israel at that time, for their country had been conquered and ruled by the Roman Empire for some time.  They longed for freedom once again, and with the Old Testament promise of a coming Messiah/Savior, many people at that time were wondering if perhaps Jesus was that man.

While their hopes were justified, the expectations were not.  The people had the wrong idea about the role and character of their coming Messiah.  He would not come on a human level to free people just from slavery to other humans.  No, much more imporant than this (in eternal terms) was the need to free people from slavery to sin, and its consequences, namely an eternal separation from God and punishment as the penalty or payment for their sins.

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And so the words that kept on being whispered all over Jerusalem were, “What will Jesus do?  Will he come (to save us) or not?  What will Jesus do?”  As much as many people truly wanted Jesus to come, they were also fearful of what would happen if he came, for the word was out from their religious leaders that they wanted any and all citizens to cooperate with them and report it when Jesus would come, so that they could arrest him.  (And we know from the bigger story, that an arrest would only be the preliminary step to his death.)

And this is a good question at the end of chapter 11 of John.  This was the pivotal point in Jesus’ life and ministry.  He had done many great things over the previous 3 1/2 years.  He had taught the truth of God’s Word, revealed the heart of a loving Father God, and gave us all great insight into the nature of God and His rulership over those who love and obey Him.  Jesus had certainly touched many lives, by kind words, acts of compassion, and incredible healing miracles.

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But we will need to turn the page over (check our next article), to see just exactly what Jesus chose to do.  For those of us who are familiar with the Gospel story, we know that Jesus chose to come back to Jerusalem and square off against his enemies, challenging them face-to-face, knowing the whole time that it would lead to his death.

But Jesus knew, even as He would make that decision to turn to Jerusalem and die there, that his death would not be an empty death.  Just like the spilled blood helped to protect the people of Israel so long ago and bought them their freedom, so also Jesus would spill his blood to be the human sacrifice who would pay the penalty of death for sins for all people.  It would be through his voluntary act of sacrifice that would buy for us the choice to accept Jesus as our representative who died for the sins of each and every one of us.

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That leads us to a final obvious question, considering that Jesus would let himself die in order for God to be able to forgive you all of your sins, and thus be acceptable in God’s sight: what kind of response should you give towards Jesus?  He doesn’t ask you to “do” anything to earn your salvation.

He wants you to be sorry for your sins (to repent of your sins), to accept that Jesus death was enough to pay off your sins, and to accept Him into your life by faith, calling on Him to be your personal Lord and Savior.

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Jesus Must Die To Save People

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John 11: 45 – 53

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

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49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

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They say that “seeing is believing”.  So it is not surprising that some people “believed in Jesus” after He caused Lazarus to come out alive from a tomb, who had been dead and buried for four days.  But notice what some other people did – they ran to Jerusalem (about 2 miles) to inform the religious leaders there of what had happened in Bethany.

This immediately caused the religious leaders to convene an emergency council of the highest ecclesiastical body of leaders called the Sanhedrin.  Consisting of 70 elders of Israel, they were like the religious Supreme Court of their day.  All final decisions for the Jewish people, both religiously and some times politically were determined by this group of men.

These leaders had not personally seen the miracles that Jesus had performed, but they certainly had enough eye witnesses come to them to know that Jesus was a man who performed “great signs”.  This is another way to say that Jesus was filled with supernatural power to accomplish the miraculous.  This should have led these men also to come to a point of believing in Jesus.

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It’s interesting to see that they did not deny the facts that Jesus was able to perform miracles, “Here is this man performing many signs.”   But rather than praise God for the miraculous deeds that Jesus was doing, they saw His actions as being a serious threat to them.  Religiously, they were concerned that many more people would “believe in Him”.  Politically, they were afraid that the Romans would come in force and threaten to destroy their Temple and their nation of Israel.

To understand these fears, it would be necessary to study the 200 years prior to Christ to see what was happening religiously and politically within Israel and within throughout the Roman Empire.  After Alexander the Great had conquered most of their then known world, from Greece to India, Israel was made subject to them. But some rebel Jews rose up, brothers whom we call “the Maccabees”, who won their freedom from Greece.

But rivalries over who would become the next leaders of Israel led to more fighting and a chaotic period resulted.  As a pretence, the Romans who were now subjugating countries under the new Roman Empire, came into Jerusalem to help establish “peace”.  This peace was a fragile thing and required an “occupying force” of Roman garrisons of soldiers.  The Jewish king, like King Herod, had to be appointed by Rome, and the religious leaders had to agree to keep the people in line to not form a rebellion against Rome, or suffer the “Fist of Rome” by having their people captured and made into slaves, and their cities and their Temple smashed into the ground.

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The threat to the Jews was very real.  But these leaders took this threat personally, “the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”  Notice the pronoun “our” in their statement.  So Jesus’ popularity was seen to be a threat to this fragile peace, so he was a threat to them.  If Jesus was being hailed as the “coming Messiah” it would lead to people wanting Jesus to be their political king who ruled over a religiously free Jewish state.

Therefore, in the minds of the religious leaders, there was only one way they could see to save themselves and to save, in their opinion, the people and their religious ways, was to have Jesus killed.  If He were removed out of the picture, then no uprising or open rebellion would be presented against Rome.  They would be safe, or so they thought.

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They believed that Jesus’ death would be the end of His ministry among the Jews.  But they were wrong, oh so wrong.  We have the privilege to look forward and know that Jesus would rise again from the grave.  Jesus would demonstrate that He had the power to conquer death, and by His example, give us hope that we too will one day be resurrected from death.

But much more than that, we know from Scripture that when Jesus died on the Cross, He accepted this penalty of death for the sins that every man and woman have committed against God.  He opened up the way for men to be reconciled back into a relationship with God.  So even though the  High Priest was acting out of selfish motives, He was still used by God to declare a deep spiritual truth, “one man [must] die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Let us always be thankful that Jesus was willing to die, so that we who believe in Him will be able to live with Him forever.

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Please Tell Us, Is Jesus The Messiah?

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John 10:22 – 30

22 It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. 23 He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

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There are twenty one chapters in the Gospel of John.  Our study today is in the middle of chapter ten.  By the law of averages, you might think that we are about half way done telling the story of the life and ministry of Jesus.  But that is not true.  Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his public ministry.  It lasted about 3 1/2  years long.  This festival that Jesus attended would have been about four months before he died.

We will see when we get to the start of chapter 12, that the majority of the second half of this book deals with the final week of Jesus’ life.  Those last ten chapters cover the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, his arrest, trial and crucifixion, his burial and resurrection and his final appearances to the disciples.  Suddenly, a lot happened in a very short time.

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But notice what the people are saying to Jesus in verse 24 of our passage above.  For three years Jesus had gained quite a reputation with all of the miracles he had performed and the incredible teaching and preaching tours he had gone on throughout the provinces of Galilee, Samaria and Judea, and on the far side of the Jordan River.

You would wonder how the people could have asked this question, “If you are the Messiah, then tell us plainly.”  It is kind of like many people today I think that ask the question, “Is there really a God?”  One of my answers is, “Open your eyes and take a look all around you.  The vast beauty of the created Universe, the odds of life happening at all here on earth, and the intricate design of the human body calls out to me that there must be a Grand Designer behind it all.

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Listen then to how Jesus replied to their question: “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.”  Now you may be thinking similarly to these Jewish people long ago, “What is this proof you are talking about?”  I believe that if we have been listening well to all that has happened and all that Jesus taught in the first ten chapters of John, we would know the answer.

In one of my commentary helps on John, called “The Translators Handbook,” it has this excellent summary that I would like to quote.  It says:

The Festival of Dedication is the last in the series of four important Jewish holy days mentioned in John’s Gospel, beginning in Chapter 5 (the Sabbath, Passover, Shelters, and Dedication). By healing the lame man on the Sabbath day, Jesus indicated his superiority over the Sabbath; by the teaching given in connection with the healing (5.17), he identified himself and his activity with God and with God’s work.

During the Passover Festival Jesus fed the multitude and so revealed that he was the life-giving bread that God had sent down from heaven. And at the Festival of Shelters, Jesus revealed himself as the life-giving water and the light for the world, thus fulfilling the meaning of the water and light ceremonies connected with that festival.

Now, at the Festival of Dedication, Jesus affirms that he is the one whom God has dedicated and sent into the world.

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To those who are really paying attention and are spiritually searching for the Truth, they will find it.  And they will recognize Jesus for who He really is.  And He in turn will recognize them as His people.  This leads us to one very ticklish doctrine that can trip up many people.  In verses 28–29, Jesus states that these people who do believe in Him cannot be snatched out of His hands, nor out of the Father’s hands.

This has led to a doctrinal idea of “eternal salvation”, the idea of “once saved, always saved”.  I really do not want to discuss this doctrinal idea as it has caused more arguments among Christians than it ever ought to have.  I do have one comment that may be helpful, which is based on the text as we have it.

We cannot comment on the will and action of the person who has put his life into the hands of Jesus and the Father, such as, will he/she remain faithful to God or not.  What this passage does say, is that there is no power greater than God Himself which can pull a devoted follower away from God.  My prayer is that all people might come to realize that Jesus is in fact the promised Messiah, and remain in that state of belief.  The promise is that no external force or person can steal that relationship with God away from the believer.  Praise God for that.

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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.

The Truth Will Set You Free

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John 8:31 – 38

31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”

34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 37 Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”

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As we begin to look at our passage above, we must remember that this portion is one small part of a larger section.  To find the extent of the larger context, we would have to go back to chapter 7 beginning with verse 14 when Jesus first stands up in the middle of the Temple courtyards and starts to teach the people during the Festival of Tabernacles.

This festival was also known as “The Feast of Lights” as people lit torches and lived in tents to remember God’s protection and providence during the time of living as nomads for the forty years as they wandered in the wilderness.  Jesus used this background and in the early part of chapter 8, He declared, “I am the Light of the world.”

Jesus’ message is not received by the religious leaders, as we saw in chapter 7.  When Jesus turns and teaches further in chapter 8, it is now to the common Jews whom He was speaking to.  He challenged His audience in verse 24 to believe in Him, or they would die in their sins.  And we see in verse 30, that “many who heard Him say these things believed in Him.”

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Now in verse 31, Jesus turned to those who believed in Him and He extended a challenge to all of them.  Notice how He says, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.”  This statement implies that there was a difference at that time between “those who believed in Him” and a “disciple”.  That causes me to ask the question, “What is it within this context that the people believed? And why did that not automatically make them a disciple of Jesus?”

I believe if we are very careful to understand the whole flow of these two chapters in John, what Jesus first presents to people is His claim to be God, the “I AM” of Exodus 6:2-3, the Jewish Messiah, the Anointed One who would come to save His people.  That is an important truth statement which must first be accepted for someone to start on the path to discipleship.

But accepting this truth statement only without a change in one’s being and behaviour is not enough.  Look at what James 2:19 says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”  We all must go one step further to becoming a disciple of Jesus: we must “be faithful to His teachings”.  This means that we will not only seek to understand what Jesus tells us, but we will put into practice what He is telling us to do.

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All this will help us to understand properly the famous saying of Jesus in verse 32, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  The biblical word here for “know” does not mean just to have knowledge about a certain fact, but to be fully engaged in doing that which we know to be true.  It is the difference between theoretical knowledge and experiential knowledge.  And it is the daily experience of having Jesus active within our lives that keeps us safe from the grip of sin that we once were experiencing.

Unfortunately the Jewish people do not understand that Jesus is talking about this experiential knowledge of truth that would keep them free from the power that sin has on people.  Ironically, they say they had never been slaves to anyone, when in fact, they were being dominated by all the forces of Rome in that day.

Instead, the Jews looked backwards to their bloodline inheritance of being descendants of Abraham to save them from their sin.  This is still a fallacy for people today.  They say they were “born into a Christian family”, and that automatically makes them a Christian.  But as some people jokingly say, “Well, if someone was born in a barn, would that make them a horse?”  Of course not.

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You see, what it really comes down to is this: if we want to truly be a disciple of Jesus, then we must not put our trust in some external factor, such as lineage, inheritance, rituals or behaviours.  We must look to the inner person of our soul and find out if we have submitted ourselves in obedience to make Jesus Lord of our lives.

The “truth that sets us free” is not mental assent that Jesus is the Messiah, God in the flesh.  Rather, it is the experiential knowledge that Jesus is Lord, and this can only be obtained by submitting in obedience to Him in our lives.  Then, and only then, will we be truly set free from bondage to sin.

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