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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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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Jesus Knows Our Hearts Well

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Jesus: Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent

John 1:43 – 51

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”  44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”  48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”  49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”  50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”  51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

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This short passage looks deceivingly simple. One of the first disciples that Jesus called out to follow him, Philip, quickly got excited and went to find a friend of his, Nathaniel. And Philip told Nathaniel that he believed that he had found the Great Prophet, the man whom God had promised that He would send one day. (Read Deuteronomy 18:18)

Nathaniel is sceptical at first, but still comes. Then after a short dialog, he too finds himself putting his trust in Jesus and also believes that Jesus is God’s Son, the one who would usher in the Kingdom of God and bring salvation to all the Jews. Even greater than what Philip said, Nathaniel believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world.

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As I read this, I ask myself this question: what happened and caused this critic of Jesus to become a crusader for Jesus. I think we can possibly see part of the answer in the opinion Nathaniel gives regarding the fact that Jesus came from Nazareth. And Nathaniel can’t believe that someone as Great as the Messiah would come from this unimportant town in the Province of Galilee.

But the very fact of his disappointment shows that Nathanial had in the past held some hopes and beliefs that the Messiah would actually come one day. He just wasn’t prepared to believe at first that this Messiah would come out of Nazareth. And that I think is a clue for why people still yet don’t put their trust in Jesus.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was born in a dirty, smelly barn and shared his first days in the midst of these stinky old barn animals. Then later, when Joseph took his family to Nazareth, Jesus grew up as the son of a carpenter, and he learned that trade. So people today still cannot accept that the God of the Universe could ever have come out of this simple humble beginning.

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But notice what happened when Nathaniel came and met Jesus. Even as Nathaniel is walking up, Jesus makes a statement to show that He has insight into what kind of man was coming to greet him. Jesus said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” This was a rather bold statement by Jesus. But think how amazed Nathaniel must have been if this statement about him was true, that he was an honest and pure-hearted man.

When Nathaniel asked Jesus how He knew him, Jesus said to him, “When you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Now since Nathaniel had indeed been sitting under the fig tree before Philip had called him, then Nathanial knew also that this man Jesus not only was omniscient and knew what was in his mind, but Jesus was also omnipresent, to be able to actually be somewhere else and see the place where Nathanial had been sitting.

Wow!! What a shock to the system! How unnerving! And yet remember, we saw hints that Nathaniel had probably been looking intently before to find the Messiah. Just that in every other case he only found disappointment. But this time was different and with the little knowledge he had about Jesus, it was enough to convince him that Jesus was God’s Son.

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What’s really cool, is that after Jesus demonstrated his ability of omniscience and omnipresence, He goes on to describe to the men how He too is also omnipotent. These first demonstrations of Jesus were fantastic for sure, but He says that the disciples will witness much greater and more powerful things than this. And He was right. As you look through each Gospel, you see Jesus giving sight to the blind, making the lame to walk, casting out evil spirits from people, and even raising people from the dead.

Yes, this is my Jesus. This is the Man whom I fell in love with, just as these early disciples did so long ago. I believe and have seen Him do mighty things in my lives and in others lives too. I know that He is always with me, ready to strengthen and comfort me. And last of all, and just as important. I know that He knows my every thought.

For some, that would be a scary thing. But for me, it is a constant reminder for me to follow the path of righteousness. For I do not ever want my Lord to know my thoughts and see that I am not being fully committed to Him as my Lord. No, I want Him to be pleased with me as I lean on Him, as I follow after Him, and as I allow Him to control me and my inner most thoughts. Thank you Jesus.