Sign-tology (John 4:43-54)

Super rare 100% original Texaco one-piece globe with vented top. Found in the attic of an old building in New Jersey that used to be a Texaco station. It was lying on its side on the floor. There are NO cracks.

If that eBay description got you excited, you are a collector of vintage signs. The rare Texaco gas pump sign sold for just under $17,000.00.

In Provo, Utah, “Sparky” Sparks boasts a collection of porcelain signs on posts that he believes is the largest of its kind in the world. “We’re at 217 and have another four to put up,” Sparks said.

Our verses in the Gospel of John describe a different kind of sign collectors.

Whenever Jesus did signs and wonders, the people wanted to see more of them. It prompted Jesus to say, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (v48).

Signs and wonders did not inspire saving faith in Him. It got so bad that at one point Jesus said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matthew 16:4).

Seeking signs is a ‘sign’ of unbelief.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Don’t Need To See Signs & Wonders, and #2 You Don’t Need To Seek Signs & Wonders.

#1 – You Don’t Need To See Signs & Wonders (v43-48)

Signs and wonders have not ceased in the Church Age.

We are not cessationists. Believers continue to be used by God to perform signs and wonders. Miracles happen. Prophecy and tongues edify the church when appropriately exercised. There are gifts of healing.

These phenomena, however, have a different priority than they did when Jesus was on Earth.

We’ll see what that means as we work our way through the verses.

Joh 4:43 Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee.

Jesus had spent two days in the Samaritan town of Sychar.

He received a word of knowledge while talking with the immoral woman at Jacob’s Well. Stunned by His supernatural knowledge, she was saved.

There were no further signs, wonders, or miracles. Nevertheless, we read, “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (4:39-42).

The word of knowledge Jesus shared was significant. But the Samaritans said it was from hearing Jesus’ words that they believed.

Joh 4:44  For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

Chapter four began with Jesus wanting to avoid attracting attention from the religious leaders.

He retreated to the obscurity of His hometown.

You’d think that Jesus would be a hometown hero. He wasn’t. We read in the Gospel of Matthew,

Mat 13:54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
Mat 13:55  Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?
Mat 13:56  And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?”
Mat 13:57  So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

It’s strange that Jesus’ neighbors admitted His “wisdom” and “works” but were nonetheless “offended” that He could be more than a carpenter’s son. It was familiarity breeding contempt.

Your family and friends see the radical changes in you after you are born again. Rather than applaud you, they’re offended.
The same can be true of your workplace or school.

Joh 4:45  So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.

Didn’t we just read that the Galileans dishonored Jesus? The word “country,” in verse forty-four, means hometown. The majority in Galilee received Jesus, but not in His hometown region of Nazareth.

Galileans had witnessed Jesus overturning tables and performing signs at the recent Feast of Passover. They “received Him” means that they welcomed Jesus. The word isn’t used in the sense we say someone who gets saved “receives” Jesus.

Skip to… Joh 4:48  Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

Albert Barnes writes, “This was spoken not to the nobleman only, but to the Galileans generally. The Samaritans had believed without any miracle… Though He had performed miracles enough to convince them, yet, unless they continually saw them, [the Galileans] would not believe.”

John Gill writes, “[The] Jews everywhere… required signs and miracles to be wrought, in confirmation of Christ’s being the Messiah, and which indeed was but right; and Christ did perform them for that purpose: but their sin of unbelief lay in this, that they wanted still more and more signs; they could not be contented with what they had seen, but required more.”

Adam Clarke writes, “The words are not addressed to the nobleman alone, but to all the Galilean Jews in general; for our Lord uses the plural number, which he never does when addressing an individual. These people differed widely from the people of Sychar: they had neither a love of the truth, nor simplicity of heart; and would not believe anything from Heaven, unless forced on their minds by the most striking miracles.”

The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would perform signs and wonders. That’s the context in which John the Baptist will send his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

Jesus will answer, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached to them” (Matthew 4:4-5).

Signs sign-ify. The first-century signs and wonders and miracles were the signage that Jesus is Who He said He was, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Every so many years, a movement comes along scolding the church for failing because there are not enough signs and wonders and miracles breaking out all over the place.

There is a place for proper encouragement to expect the supernatural. Seeing them, however, isn’t necessary. If you were saved as an adult, was it because you saw a sign, or a wonder, or a miracle? Your salvation experience was probably more like that of the Samaritans. You heard the Word of God and you believed.

#2 – You Don’t Need To Seek Signs & Wonders (v46-54)

A nobleman came seeking a miracle and the Lord used it to show that we don’t need to seek miracles.

Back to… Joh 4:46  So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.

The word “nobleman” describes a position in the civil government. His colleagues would have known his son was sick, then miraculously healed. Thus God would cause the Gospel to infiltrate the government.

Our civil government in California has fallen to an all-time moral low. Gavin Newsom’s 2021-2022 state budget is offering an incentive program for medical students who decide to become abortionists. The $20 million program will either pay off existing student loans for practicing abortionists or be offered as scholarship money for medical students who pledge to become abortionists.

He and many in our state government agree (quote),“California should be a ‘sanctuary,’ helping out-of-state patients seeking abortion.” No longer the Golden State, we will be the Abortion State.

Odds are some elected State official has needs similar to the nobleman. Perhaps it will cause them to reach up to Jesus, and then reach out to their colleagues.

A change in government failed. A change of hearts will not. Pray that the Gospel will infiltrate Sacramento.

Joh 4:47  When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

The nobleman is both asking for something and telling Jesus what to do:

His ask: “Heal my son.”
His tell: “Come with me.”

I may not realize it, but I sometimes ask and tell.
I have my way that I think God should answer me. It’s better to lay out the perceived need and submit it to the Lord.

I say “perceived need” because I don’t know what I need. Not when it comes to bringing glory to God through my life. Or when it involves growing in the Lord to produce fruit.

In late 2018, I was pretty confident I did not need a degenerative neurological disease. It wasn’t something I was praying for. Apparently, I do need it.

Skip to… Joh 4:49  The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”

He assumed Jesus needed to be in the proximity of the sick. He didn’t comprehend that Jesus could as easily raise the dead as He could heal the sick. He acted on what he knew.

It’s nothing for Jesus to heal you. Ah, but you’ll never know His sufficient grace if He always does.

There is a depth of knowing God that can only come through suffering.

A.W. Tozer writes, “It is necessary for God to use the hammer, the file, and the furnace in His holy work of preparing a saint for true sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
Elizabeth Elliot writes, “The deepest things I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things I know about God.”
Job writes, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You” (42:5).

King Nebuchadnezzar threw Daniel’s three friends into the fiery furnace. Jesus was there with them. They were in no rush to exit.

Joh 4:50  Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.

He was the last person you would think would believe Jesus without a sign. He most likely was not a Jew, and he had no previous contact with Jesus.

Nevertheless, his behavior left no doubt he believed. He accepted what Jesus said as truth and headed home at a leisurely pace.

He believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. He was saved.

Joh 4:51  And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”

No one expected long-distance healing.

Joh 4:52  Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
Joh 4:53  So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.

I can imagine the nobleman preaching a sermon to his household. The title: It’s 7 o’clock and I was with the Rock.”

Precious family and servants. Yesterday, at the seventh hour, Jesus spoke, “Your son lives.”

At precisely that moment, my son lived; and now my soul lives, too. Who is a god like Him, Who heals from afar? Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. Will you not believe Him? Will you not receive Him? Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

It’s all speculation on my part, but it is consistent with what happens when Jesus saves.

Joh 4:54  This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

Jesus had performed many signs, and two were in Cana:

Jesus’ first sign in Cana was turning water into wine at a wedding.
This second one would avoid a wake.

Were it not for his son’s illness this nobleman would not have come to Jesus Christ in Cana. He may not have come to Jesus ever. He and his household would have lived comfortably, only to die in their sins eternally.

In Back to the Future, Marty’s improv guitar 🎸 solo as he was playing Johnny Be Goode doesn’t exactly “McFly.” 🪰 It was out of context and for a different time.

Believers need to know the time in which they live to interpret the Word of God correctly.

God never changes, and the Gospel is the same from Genesis through the Revelation, but how believers glorify God does change during different eras of human history.

The first coming of Jesus was a unique time. The God-man promised four-thousand years earlier in the third chapter of the Book of Genesis was on Earth. He was offering Israel the prophesied Kingdom of God on Earth.

We pointed out that the Messiah would be recognized by the signs and wonders He performed.

Signs and wonders, healings and exorcisms, were so abundant during Jesus’ three and one-half year ministry that the last words in this Gospel are, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25).

When Israel’s leaders officially rejected Jesus, the Kingdom of God on Earth was put on hold. The mystery of the church was revealed, and the Church Age began. It is the time from the coming of God the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost until the resurrection and rapture of the church.

The Church Age is another unique era in God’s dealings with the human race.

Let’s talk about healing in the Church Age. There are gifts of healing. However, our experience in the Church Age is that very few we pray for are healed.

Some burden you by saying you lack faith or offer some other such criticism. We need to consult a biblical expert.

The apostle Paul was blessed with gifts of healing. In one strange episode, “handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:12).

Not the norm, however. Paul taught us what is normal in the Church Age when he said to the church in Philippi, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

From his inspired pen we read, “Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick” (Second Timothy 4:20).
Paul described Epaphroditus being “sick almost to death” (Philippians 2:27).

Paul asked the Lord for his own healing and was not healed.

The Lord answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responded, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (Second Corinthians 12:9-10).

In the Church Age, God is magnified and glorified in our weaknesses and infirmities more – and more often – than He is in gifts of healing.

In chapter eight of the Book of Romans, Paul gives a partial list of the suffering Christians can expect in the Church Age: Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, and any other created thing.”

He exclaimed, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (8:37). We conquer through patient endurance.

What does the apostle Peter have to say? “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (First Peter 4:13-14).

We are characters in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, not Foxe’s Book of Miracle Workers.

Pray for healing. Ask for a miracle. Believe that God permits signs and wonders. Desire spiritual gifts, including prophecy and speaking in tongues.

But don’t be a collector of vintage ‘signs’ as if we were living when Jesus was on Earth.

Samaritan Woman, Say What You Heard From Me (John 4:27-42)

Lady and the Tramp had two very different worldviews.

Tramp: “Aw, come on, Pige. Open up your eyes to what a dog’s life can really be. I’ll show you what I mean. Look down there. Tell me what you see.”

Lady: “Well, I see nice homes with yards and fences.”

Tramp: “Exactly. Life on a leash. Look again, Pige. There’s a great big hunk of world down there with no fence around it where two dogs can find adventure and excitement. And beyond those distant hills, who knows what wonderful experiences?”

Jesus revealed His worldview to His disciples after His talk with the Samaritan woman.

She hurried back to the city to proclaim that the Messiah was at Jacob’s Well. Samaritans “went out of the city and came to Him.” Jesus said to His disciples, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (v35).

Jesus viewed the world as a harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Lift Your Eyes To See The Harvest, and #2 Live Your Life To Seed The Harvest.

#1 – Lift Your Eyes To See The Harvest (v28 & v31-38)

One definition of worldview says, “It’s the decision-making filter that we use. It’s the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual filter that helps us to understand and interpret and respond to every reality that we experience.”

Jesus spoke to the Bad Samaritan at Jacob’s Well. There is no doubt she was saved in the encounter. We will point out the evidence as we go. She was the firstfruits of the greater harvest in her city.

We will take the verses slightly out of order, starting with the disciples, then returning to the Samaritans.

Joh 4:28 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”

It was taboo for a Jewish man to speak with a woman in public, much less a Samaritan woman. It was worse than they thought:
She was a serial adulterer, married five times, and currently living with a man.

The disciples wanted to but didn’t ask the woman, “What do you seek?” There is a lesson in it for us.

The disciples assumed she wanted something from Jesus. He was offering to give her something. Abundant life now and eternal life afterward were gifts she would be offered and receive.

We need to be overly careful not to give the impression that we want something from nonbelievers.

Salvation is all grace, no works, and the only ‘profit’ to us is our joy is a person’s transformation from darkness and death to light and life.

The disciples wanted to but didn’t ask Jesus, “Why are you talking with her?” The Message Version of the Bible reads, “No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.” The word that comes to mind is slack-jawed, mouth hanging open from shock or confusion.

Skip to verse thirty-one.

Joh 4:31  In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

They were on their way to Galilee by going through Samaria. It was logical to assume they would have little to no dealings with Samaritans and not linger there. At best, it was a pit stop.

There are places you don’t want to stop when traveling. Like my hometown of San Bernardino. The local newspaper recently ran a story saying San Bernardino and Riverside Counties are the worst places in the US to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Seriously. Researchers scored cities in four categories: the ability to defend against the zombie-bite virus, ability to contain the virus, ability to find a cure, and ability to outlast the epidemic with an ample food supply.

Boston has the highest chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Salt Lake City, Columbus, Baltimore, and Virginia Beach are also well-positioned to fight World War Z.

Meanwhile, back at the well… Your plans often need to be sacrificed when following Jesus. I know that I miss spiritual opportunities because I’ve ‘planned my work and am working my plan.’

Joh 4:32  But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
Joh 4:33  Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
Joh 4:34  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

Let’s refrain from criticizing the disciples for not immediately understanding what Jesus meant. Think of it this way: When you read the Bible, do you immediately understand what is meant? I don’t.

The encounter with the woman started with Jesus being “weary.” He was for sure hungry and thirsty. But He would not let the temporary needs of His physical body overrule a spiritual opportunity.

More than that. Jesus was on a spiritual diet that required doing His Father’s will. We can put it this way:

Serving God nourished Jesus.

It has become popular to think of serving God as depleting you. ‘Sabbatical’ is a word I hear all the time. Ministers are encouraged to go away for extended periods. One organization that promotes sabbaticals said, “When you are busy with your work, family, or ministry, it can be hard to fit in caring for your own soul. This can lead to burnout or becoming spiritually stagnant.”

The prophet Elijah took a sabbatical. After his success against the prophets of Baal, he fled Jezebel into the wilderness. He ended up in a cave. We can call it, The Cave of Blunders, because Elijah complained that he was the only believer doing any work for God. There were seven thousand other servants.

If serving is what nourishes you…Then withdrawing is the opposite of what you ought to be doing.

The Lord sacrificed sleep to spend time with God the Father:

In Mark 1:35, we read that Jesus went out to a solitary place; and there He prayed to His Father during the night.
In Luke 6:12, we learn that He left His followers to spend the night in prayer at the foot of the mountain.

The apostle Paul says bluntly, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

He said something similar to the Thessalonians: “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good” (Second Thessalonians 3:13).

God gave Jeremiah the granddaddy of all “do not grow weary” verses when He said, “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (12:5).

Impossible? God’s Holy Spirit in you is His enabling. He cannot weary.

Jesus said elsewhere that the laborers were few. He suggested we pray for more laborers. What happens at your work when there is a lot of work but fewer workers? You work harder, longer.

Joh 4:35  Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

Albert Barnes writes, “Grain, when ripe, turns from a green to a yellow or light color, indicating that it is time to reap it.” The crowd coming from Sychar to the well would have been wearing white outer garments typical of the culture. Jesus told His disciples to “lift up [their] eyes” and see a harvest of souls rather than a group of Samaritans.

Farming is hard work, year-round. However, in the simplest sense, farmers plant, then wait until the harvest. The crop comes in its time.

Spiritual harvesting is different. It isn’t work followed by waiting. We are to Always Be Sowing or reaping what others have sown.

Joh 4:36  “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.
Joh 4:37  For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’
Joh 4:38  I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

John the Baptist “labored” in the wilderness. He sowed by baptizing Jews unto repentance as preparation for the coming King and His Kingdom.

He found joy in his work, once saying to his disciples, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete” (John 3:29).

John would die a particularly gruesome death, never seeing the harvest on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus’ disciples would reap the harvest. Peter led three thousand to Jesus on that glorious birthday of the church.

Notice, too, that the Lord promised “wages,” “joy,” and “fruit for eternal life.”

“Wages” communicates that our work is not for nothing. It may seem as though all the seed you sow falls on shallow ground, or hard soil, or that the birds eat it. You’ll never know the influence you have on some people.
“Joy” accompanies harvesting. We live in the Church Age between Pentecost and the Lord’s return to resurrect and rapture His church. All over the world, all of the time, condemned people who are a heartbeat away from Hell are getting saved. Thus “We’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts.” The apostle Peter calls it “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (First Peter 1:8).
“Fruit for eternal life” looks forward to our rewards in Heaven and the untouchable investments we make there serving our Lord.

Two worldviews were made apparent at the well:

The disciples returned to the well and saw a despised Samaritan woman interrupting their journey.
Jesus saw a soul in despair and distress, thirsty for God.

Pollster George Barna reported last year, “Only 6% of Americans have a “biblical worldview.” Last September, the Cultural Research Center revealed survey data compiled in January 2020 that showed that 2% of millennials hold a biblical worldview even though 61% identify as Christian.

“Lift your eyes” is an exhortation the church needs right now.

#2 – Live Your Life To Seed The Harvest (v28-30 & 39-42)

The reaped become reapers.

The Samaritan woman returned to Sychar and announced she had met the Messiah.

It is one of several reasons we can safely say she was saved. She couldn’t wait to introduce others to her Lord.

Joh 4:28  The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,
Joh 4:29  “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

Jesus had offered her living water. Leaving her waterpot signified that well water was now secondary to spiritual things. It was indicative she believed Jesus.

If you were saved later in life, you probably had the experience of leaving ‘waterpots’ behind. They may have been habits that no longer controlled you. Or influences and influencers who would hinder rather than help you grow in the Lord.

The woman “said to the men.” In ancient cities, the leading men would hang out in a particular spot. They would be at the gates if the city was big enough to be walled. There they could be approached by the regular folks to hear and settle disputes, answer questions, etc.

It was probably to those men that the Samaritan woman spoke.

It would have been mind-blowing for her to do so. Being seen with her was unacceptable. Spiritually speaking, she was no longer the same woman. There would have been something about her, a spiritual change, that held the attention of the men.

She had come to the well alone at Noon to avoid the other women of Sychar. Now she was speaking to the men.

I submit that the woman at the well is the most overlooked example of boldness in the Bible.

This kind of boldness comes from the Holy Spirit.

Joh 4:30  Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
Joh 4:39  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”

Ten minutes old, a very baby Christian, she shared what she knew about Jesus. It was enough for others in Sychar to believe and receive the Lord.

You know enough to introduce Him

Joh 4:40  So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.

Jesus’ disciples would never have thought that going through Samaria meant staying there for a couple of days.

One of the obvious lessons drawn from their delay is that we ought to be ready for interruptions.

There’s another side to that. Staying in Sychar meant they would not get to their planned destination as soon as expected.

People and things you think you need from the Lord may be delayed or not arrive. You might not get that phone call from a friend or that visit from a minister. It could be that those people are slacking. But it is as likely that God wants to show you that He is your everything.

Later in the Gospel of John, the Lord will hear that His friend, Lazarus, is sick unto death. The Lord purposely delays going to Lazarus. Lazarus dies during the delay.

Of course, in the end, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and uttered the precious promise, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (11:25-26).

BTW: When Jesus said, “whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die,” He was talking about believers who will be alive at His coming to raise the dead. He was talking about the rapture.

God the Holy Spirit lives in you. He comes alongside you as Comforter and Counselor in ways no human can. He is more real than the physical world. God will withhold people and things you think you need to show you that you don’t.

Joh 4:41  And many more believed because of His own word.

After His resurrection, Jesus was with two of His disciples as they returned to Emmaus from Jerusalem. He hid His identity from them.

As they walked, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Just think how much Jesus could share in a couple of days.

It should not be lost on us that one of the Lord’s most exciting, most fulfilling, most successful ministries was to Samaritans despised by Jews. Jesus once said He was “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). He had come to offer Israel the Kingdom of God on Earth. That kingdom was open to any Samaritan and all Gentiles. It is for “whoever will believe.”

The Gospel is a universal call to all men for their universal problem of sin.

All this was challenging but life-changing for Jesus’ Jewish disciples, who had never had dealings with Samaritans and grew up despising them.

Joh 4:42  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

It sounds like a put-down; it’s not. God used the woman to bring them to hear Jesus. Hearing Him, they, too, believed. It’s not unlike inviting your friend or family to church.

Since the spiritual harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, it is incumbent on us to submit our plans to the Lord’s plans. It will mean something different to each of us.

For example, you work to buy food and pay for your life. If there are nonbelievers, where you work is a field “white for harvest.” The harvest includes sowing spiritual seed and possibly reaping someone else’s sowing.

You are to labor in that field as if everyday was harvest until the Lord sends you to another one.

The Lord might have you pass up a promotion.
He might have you promoted earlier than you had planned. He may send you away from Kings County. He may not want you to leave.

Tramp told Lady to “Look again.”

Jesus is telling us to “Lift our eyes.”

Saved By The Well (John 4:1-26)

In July 1975, Erskine Ebbin was knocked off his MoPed and killed by a taxi in Hamilton, Bermuda.

It was the same taxi, with the same driver, carrying the same passenger, that had killed his brother Neville, in the same month, the previous year.

Both brothers were 17 when they died, and both had been riding the same MoPed in the same street.

There are other, even more fantastic, versions of that story on the web, but this was fact-checked. It was an incredible coincidence.

Do Christians think anything is coincidental?

Not really. Theologians call coincidence God’s “particular providence.” Adam Clarke explains, “Nothing is more astonishing than the care and concern of God for His followers. The least circumstances of their life are regulated, not merely by that general providence which extends to all things, but by a particular providence, which fits and directs all things to the design of their sanctification, causing them all to co-operate for their present and eternal good.”

Non-theologians call coincidences God-incidences.

The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is a God-incidence that illustrates “particular providence.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 God Is Above The Circumstances Of Your Life, and #2 God Appoints The Coincidences In Your Life.

#1 – God Is Above The Circumstances Of Your Life (v1-4)

How are you positioned in terms of living with your circumstances? We sometimes say that a person is doing as well as expected under the circumstances.

The Christian does not live under circumstances, but far above them.

We are in Christ and are described as being seated with Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Troubles and trials refine us as fire purifies gold (First Peter 4:12). We can boast in our sufferings and take pleasure in afflictions (Second Corinthians 11:30). Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). We are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). To paraphrase Simba, “We triumph in the face of danger.”

When we started this series we decided to observe Jesus as a man filled with God the Holy Spirit. He was fully God and fully human, the unique God-man. But in His Incarnation, Jesus set aside the independent use of His deity and was wholly dependent upon His Father:

Jesus said of His time on Earth, “I have not spoken on my own authority. Instead, the Father who sent me has himself commanded me what to say and how to speak” (John 12:49).

He said, “the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise (John 5:19).”

Jesus lived above circumstances by obeying His Father.

So can we.

Joh 4:1  Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John
Joh 4:2  (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
Joh 4:3  He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.

John the Baptist preached that the King was coming and the Kingdom of God on Earth was at hand. Jews needed to prepare to become citizens of the Kingdom by repenting of their sin, signified by water baptism.

One glorious day, John identified Jesus as the King who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Afterward, Jesus’ disciples began baptizing Jews for repentance.

The Lord baptized none because, if He had done so, they would have mistaken water baptism for repentance, which was external and preparatory, with Spirit baptism, which is internal and permanent.

The messenger heralded the King; His subjects were preparing themselves to be ruled; His ministry was increasing day-after-day; the Pharisees were taking notice.

Everything seemed to be going great. It was the perfect time to… Leave and go through Samaria?

Joh 4:4  But He needed to go through Samaria.

“Needed” can mean ought, should, must, or necessary. Remember, Jesus only, always, obeyed His Father. Jesus obeyed by leaving Judea, and only then did He understand He ought, should, must, of necessity, “go through Samaria.” Let me support that biblically by reminding us of a similar story.

Philip was involved in a successful Gospel ministry, coincidentally in Samaria (Acts 8). God via angel commanded Philip to leave Samaria and sit along the desert road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza. He went, immediately, obediently. Philip had no idea he would encounter the caravan of the Ethiopian Eunuch, lead him to faith in Jesus, baptize him, so that he could take Jesus back to the court of the Candace.

Both of these circumstances end as God-incidences. They end that way because Jesus and Philip lived above their circumstances. They obeyed God and found themselves uniquely used.

A Christian has the same Holy Spirit in them as Philip and Jesus.

The Holy Spirit will always encourage obedience, and He enables our obedience.

Sit down, next to your Lord, and look down through His eyes upon your circumstances.

He enjoys the view, knowing that He is working all things together for your good and His glory.

#2 – God Appoints The Coincidences In Your Life (v5-26)

“Coincidence” may not mean what we think.

One source said, “The word coincidence is translated from the Greek word synkyrian, which is a combination of two words: sun and kurios. Sun means “together with,” and kurious means “supreme in authority.” A biblical definition of coincidence would be ‘what occurs together by God’s providential arrangement of circumstances.’”

Coincidence is God’s particular providence.

I want to issue a brief disclaimer. Particular providence is not “meticulous providence.”

R.C. Sproul summarized meticulous providence, saying, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.” He meant that everything is foreordained by God to happen, down to the molecular level. I’ll skip to the logical conclusion: If God’s sovereignty means that everything is meticulously determined, it renders God the cause of evil. We believe the Bible teaches that, in His sovereignty, God created man with free will and works out His general and particular providences without reducing us to choice-less automatons.

Joh 4:5  So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

They weren’t the Jets and the Sharks, but Jews despised Samaritans.

After the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722BC, they deported most of the Jews and replaced them with foreigners.
They intermarried with the remaining Jews. Malfoy would call them half-bloods.

Joh 4:6  Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

High noon and a weary, thirsty Jesus sat by the well. Take that in. God was tired and thirsty. Jesus was fully human, understanding all of our experiences and urges, but without sin.

The Father used Jesus’ weariness.

We are taught to be at the top of our game, to give 110%, never to let them see us sweat, always to be ready, to leave it all on the field. Meantime, God uses our weaknesses to glorify Him.

I’m functioning at maybe 45% most days. Are you weary? Tired? Infirm? Unprepared? Great – you are ready to serve. God is guaranteed the credit.

Joh 4:7  A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
Joh 4:8  For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

Had Jesus not been weary, He might have gone into town with His boys. He might have missed this “particular providence” God-incidence coincidence.

Noon was an unusual time for a woman to come to the well. It was a social gathering place for the gals in the early morning. It suggests that our woman’s immoral lifestyle factored into her well visits. She is the Bible’s Bad Samaritan.

Why did all the disciples go into town? We’re not told, so we shouldn’t speculate. We can point out the obvious: Jesus was left alone.

Are you lonesome tonight? A new Harvard study says, “36% of all Americans – including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children – feel serious loneliness. Loneliness appears to have increased substantially since the outbreak of the global pandemic. The potentially steep costs of loneliness [include] early mortality and a wide array of serious physical and emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, substance abuse, and domestic abuse.”

I’d add suicide. A new report by The Well Being Trust released last month found that 75,000 additional people could die from what they called “deaths of despair” because of COVID19.

You’ve got an empathetic friend in Jesus. He’s in Heaven, but He promised you the Holy Spirit would dwell within you. He is the Counselor, the Comforter, coming alongside you. You are never alone.

Joh 4:9  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

I wonder, did she hesitate on her approach when she saw a Jew? Be like when you spot someone at the grocery store and duck down an aisle.

One commentator writes, “Imagine a white man in the South years ago, where they had separate drinking fountains for whites and ‘coloreds,’ asking a black woman if he could have a drink from her canteen.”

Joh 4:10  Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

You could study this encounter as a primer on personal evangelism. Jesus started where this woman was at – drawing water from a well. He compared her physical thirst to her spiritual thirst.

We deduce that everyone is thirsty for God.

He has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and has scattered people around the globe for the express purpose that they seek after Him and find Him (Acts 17:26-27). Creation declares His glory.

“Living water” means running water. Jesus wanted to establish that what He was offering could not be depleted and would bring unending satisfaction.

Joh 4:11  The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?”

Commentators suggest that the Samaritan woman became cynical, rude, even hostile. It seems to me that she was genuinely baffled. She did not yet realize that she was in a spiritual conversation.

Joh 4:12  “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

This was a rhetorical question. She was disputing Jesus’ claim because she thought He could not be greater than the patriarch from whom both Jews and Samaritans descended.

Joh 4:13  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
Joh 4:14  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

With Nicodemus, Jesus used birth as a metaphor. With the woman, He used thirst.

Nicodemus and the woman were at opposite extremes. But their need for Jesus was equal, and so was His offer of salvation.

Drawing well water was hard work, and it was repetitive since the water drawn would run out. Religion is hard work and repetitive. I can’t calculate how many “Hail Mary’s” and “Our Father’s” I prayed growing up Roman Catholic.

Joh 4:15  The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

She lived in the first century, oppressed by Rome, despised by Israelites and Samaritans. Her circumstances were awful. If Jesus could help her avoid the well, why not let Him?

Jesus made it clear that He was talking about more than well water.

Joh 4:16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
Joh 4:17  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’
Joh 4:18  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

Jesus, the God-man, as a man, received a supernatural word of knowledge. The Holy Spirit told Him something about the woman He could not have otherwise known.

In a gentle but firm way, the Lord confronted her sin.

Eternal life is a free gift that cannot be earned or deserved, but there must be the acknowledgment of, and repentance from, sin.

She was a serial adulterer, currently committing fornication. God’s Word is pretty clear about what constitutes sexual sin. All of the stuff going on in the world to promote aberrant sexual values does not supersede God’s Word.

There are two genders, male and female.

Sexual behavior, apart from the benefit of the covenant of marriage, is sin. Homosexual sin is not worse than heterosexual fornication and adultery.

Marriage is one biological male, and one biological female, in a monogamous, heterosexual, covenant of companionship that lasts a lifetime.

Joh 4:19  The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”

Nicodemus had said, “We know you are a teacher come from God” (John 3:3). The woman’s statement is along those same lines. It isn’t sarcasm; it is quite complimentary. She may have thought Jesus was the Prophet predicted by Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy, who would have God’s words in his mouth (18:15-19).

Joh 4:20  “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

This is something about which a Samaritan would wonder. A contemporary example might be confusion over so many Protestant denominations or the Reformation vs. Catholicism. Believers must find agreement in evangelism on the essential doctrines.

It’s like an Italian Soda in our Café. There are lots of different flavors, but the essential ingredients are always the same – soda water & flavor.

Joh 4:21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Joh 4:22  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.”

The Samaritan religion was false. It was established by human decision, contrary to the commands of God. All religions are false.

The apostle Paul explained, “salvation is of the Jews” when he said, To Israel “pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:4-5).

Joh 4:23  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
Joh 4:24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus dismissed the controversy, explaining that neither will be a prescribed place to worship very soon. One commentator writes, “The woman had talked about the worship of her fathers, but Jesus directs her to the worship of the Father, which suggests a personal relationship as opposed to ritualistic ceremonies.”

In the Church Age, your body is the Temples of God, and when gathered, collectively we are His Temple.

“In spirit” refers to our human spirit, made alive by God when we believe Jesus. It is made alive so we may connect with God, whose nature is spirit.

“In truth” means we worship God as He has revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ and in His inspired Word, the Bible. We uphold the character of God against all who would demean it.

“For the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” Don’t think for a moment God needs worshippers. He doesn’t. The Tri-une God is perfect. The need is ours.

Adam and Eve sinned; they hid from God. He sought them out and promised to restore them and their descendants. He promised to bring them back to fellowship, for their sake, to worship Him.

Joh 4:25  The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

The Samaritans recognized only the first five books of the Bible. It was enough to believe Messiah was coming.

You might not know much, but if you are saved, you have a testimony.

Joh 4:26  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that, “Normally in His ministry in Galilee and Judea, because of political implications, Jesus veiled His office and used the title “Son of Man.”

It is, therefore, exceptional that Jesus spoke with greater revelation to this sinful woman. In the end, she was thirstier than the religious elite.

If you are not saved, God has been talking to you. Not only this morning, but also in other God-incidents. Are you thirsty? Come to the fountain.

There are coincidences in the truest, biblical understanding of the word. It might be fun to think back and recall some of the more notable ones in your walk with the Lord.

Do so, then realize God is appointing them all the time.

Please Decrease Me, Let Me Go (John 3:22-36)

Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters.

Lord of the Rings fans know the answer to the riddle from Bilbo’s game with Gollum. The answer is Wind.

How about this one:

Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.

The answer is Fish.

We can make a riddle from our text:

Ever the groomsman,
Never the Groom.
Increasing never,
Decreasing ever.

The answer is John the Baptist:

He calls himself the “friend of the Bridegroom,” i.e., the groomsman (v29).

He says of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease“ (v30).

We will concentrate on decreasing and increasing. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Find Joy In An Ever Decreasing Life, and #2 You Find Joy In Ever Increasing The Lord.

#1 – You Find Joy In An Ever Decreasing Life (v22-31)

“Downsizing” is described as moving out of a larger home and trading it for a smaller space.

Christians are using the word to encourage living more minimally. One site said,

Our culture celebrates excess, so as Christians we need to think counter-culturally. Whether we are candidates for the television show Hoarders, or simply surrounded by too much stuff, there are advantages and blessings in downsizing our possessions.

Like so much advice we get, it concentrates on physical and material changes, not spiritual ones.

“Decreasing” is spiritual downsizing for the sake of people seeing Jesus increase.

Decreasing can be best understood by observing the man who invented “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Joh 3:22  After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.
Joh 3:23  Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.

In chapter four, we will learn, “Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples” (v2). John the Baptist had identified Jesus as the One who would baptize “with the Holy Spirit” (1:33). The baptizees might have concluded that being dunked by the Lord was Spirit baptism.

It was not. Their baptism was for repentance, to prepare to receive the Holy Spirit and enter the Kingdom of God on Earth.

“There was much water there” indicates total immersion. They were immersed to signify a complete cleansing of the whole person through repentance and faith.

John the Baptist’s example of decreasing starts with a person recognizing that they must repent and acknowledge they are sinners in need of a complete supernatural cleansing by God.

(Quick note: None of the baptisms in these verses is Christian immersion baptism commanded by Jesus following your receiving Him).

Joh 3:24  For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

This is a timestamp. It helps harmonize the Gospels. These baptisms took place before any events recorded in the other three Gospels.

Joh 3:25  Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.

Translators say that “Jews” is singular. It was “a certain Jew” disputing about “purification.” The certain Jew may have argued along the lines that there were already plenty of purification rituals in Judaism.

Outward rituals, rites, and rules cannot cleanse your heart or add to your righteousness. We shouldn’t think of Jesus as our coach, trying to bring out the best in us. He doesn’t blow a whistle and say, “Drop to your knees and give me 20 minutes of prayer.” You might start the day that way, but it doesn’t add to your righteousness if you do.

Jesus is all your righteousness.

When you pray, make sure it is because you want to talk to your Friend, not to achieve a spiritual milestone.

Joh 3:26  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified – behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

John the Baptist was not a trained “Rabbi.” It was a title of respect. His theology had been forged in the desert, waiting with the Lord.

Typically we accuse the disciples of John the Baptist of jealousy. Maybe, but I don’t think so.

John’s ministry was fading; it was ending. They would close up shop, dissolve the corporation. His disciples had the very natural reaction of wondering if it had been worthwhile.

It is not uncommon to wonder if your service means or meant anything. The great apostle Paul had doubts about his work in the city of Corinth. The Lord appeared to him, encouraging him to endure by telling him, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).

Christians like to cite the phrase, “as unto the Lord.” It is a paraphrase for something a more encouraged Paul wrote to the Colossians, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (3:23-24).

You cannot measure your spiritual service for the Lord from the physical results.

Jeremiah’s ministry spanned the rule of five kings of Judah. The Jews persecuted him.

He apparently had only two converts: Baruch, his scribe, and Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian eunuch who served the king. Do we consider him a third-rate prophetic hack?

Many of the prophets were failures if you judge them by their results.

You are going to be measured by things unseen to anyone besides Jesus. Turn your evaluation inward, not outward. Don’t judge the success of others.

Joh 3:27  John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from Heaven.

Our description of decreasing isn’t following an alliterated outline. We are not getting a list of successive steps; we see it in action, lived out by the man who mastered it. John the Baptist’s statement is a pillar of decreasing.

What have you been given? The answer is, Everything. The very breath in your lungs is a gift from God.

We must recognize there is nothing about ourselves that makes us deserving; serving God is mercy extended to us by grace.

Joh 3:28  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’

John the Baptist created the popular meme, “There is a God, and you’re not Him.”

I don’t particularly like ministry descriptions. John the Baptist had a simple one I do like: “I have been sent before [Jesus].”

We have been sent after Jesus to share the Gospel.

Joh 3:29  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.

The church will be called “the bride of Christ,” but it did not exist before Jesus’ resurrection.

Israel is the bride in this illustration. John the Baptist described the promised Kingdom of God on Earth as a wedding feast. It was the best way he knew to convey the absolute “joy” he felt serving the Lord. He took the fact his service was ending as a good thing.

John the Baptist was “the friend of the Bridegroom.” We’d call him the best man. Not the modern best man who plans a degenerate bachelor’s party.

The Jews have a name for the role of best man; it’s shoshben. One site described him saying,

The shoshben would carry messages back and forth from bride and groom, and would also man the gate where the bride would be. He would be the one trusted to be with the bride and then listen at the gate for the groom to come. When he heard the groom’s voice, he’d let him in. He was the best, closest friend of the groom, which would also make him the most trusted friend of the bride aside from the groom.

There are so many precious illustrations in the Bible to help us understand what it means to be a believer in Jesus and walk with Him. Today we add to that list the understanding that you are the Lord’s shoshben. Not only in your duties, but in your joy.

John the Baptist rejoiced with joy. He focused only on increasing the Groom.

Joh 3:30  He must increase, but I must decrease.

Churches often, as they say, “cast vision” for what they want to accomplish. Christians choose what they call a “life verse,” either for life or life in the new year.

“He must increase, but I must decrease,” was the visionary life verse of John the Baptist. It would be good for us to cast vision by adopting it ourselves.

There are riddles to resolve in your walk with Jesus:

You must decrease to increase Him.

“Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for [Jesus] will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (First Corinthians 1:25).

“He who is least among you all will be great” (Luke 9:48).

Lightning McQueen balked at Doc’s advice that on a dirt track, “If you go hard enough left, you’ll find yourself going right.”

Lightning sarcastically replied, “Thank you. Or should I say ‘No thank you,’ because in opposite world that really means ‘Thank you.’ ”

Our new life in Jesus is meant to be radical. To decrease, you must embrace God’s opposites. We don’t live in opposite world, but the world does oppose us. Jesus does not increase if we act like the world.

Joh 3:31  He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from Heaven is above all.

John the Baptist may have said this, or it may be a commentary by the apostle John.

Either way, it is good to remember God has a much better vantage point.

When the dwarves were lost in Mirkwood Forest, Bilbo climbed a tree to get a better look from above. We can’t see the forest for the trees. We need God’s look from above.

Jesus “comes from above… from Heaven.” We, like John the Baptist, are “of the Earth.” The Lord sees ahead if the signage along the path you are on is “Bridge-out,” or “Hairpin Turn,” or “In Case of Rapture this Car will be Unmanned.”

Joh 3:32  And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.

“No one receives His testimony” in the MSG version reads, “No one wants to deal with these facts.” The apostle John was referring to the official rejection of Jesus by the leaders of the nation. They refused to deal with the fact that Jesus did the works of the promised Messiah.

Decreasers must deal with the “Deadly D’s” – discouragement, defeat, difficulty, depression, downheartedness, disappointment, dejection, despondency, despair, demoralization, etc.

Consider this exhortation when you find yourself crushed under the weight of a Deadly D. You are forgetting your position and are like a shoshben grumbling and complaining that he does not get more attention at the wedding than the Groom.

The “D’s” a decreaser faces are met by living to please the Lord, not other men. It is in Him we find our joy.

John the Baptist was a decreaser and a downsizer:

For a time before his ministry launch, and afterward, he lived in the desert.

He wore rough clothing

He ate locusts dipped in wild honey.

Going farther back in his life, he was a Nazarite from birth.

The Nazarite vow restricted your life in various ways, e.g., you could not partake of anything related to grapes, and you could not cut your hair.

Do you need to downsize? Maybe. Jesus sees ahead.

We all need to be decreasing.

#2 – You Find Joy In Ever Increasing The Lord (v33-36)

John the Baptist believed that he could increase Jesus. You can’t add anything to Him. You can give testimony about Him, telling the world Who He is and what He has done.

Joh 3:33  He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.

You sometimes need a certified copy of a document to attest to its genuineness. Typically it is done with a seal of some kind. When you receive Jesus, He ‘certifies’ you by giving you His “seal.”

The apostle Paul said, “having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Spirit-sealing is invisible, but you make it visible by your testimony and your changed life.

Joh 3:34  For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

The word “sent” reminds us that a few verses earlier, we were told, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever/whosoever/all/anyone who believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (v16).

On Earth, Jesus had God the Holy Spirit in a “measure” unlike anyone before. Jesus promised to baptize us with the Holy Spirit in full measure:

The baptism of the Holy Spirit places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the body of Christ at the moment of salvation (First Corinthians 12:12-13).

Simultaneously, God the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in you as His Temple on Earth (First Corinthians 6:19).
You can ask for, and receive, His enabling at any time (Luke 11:9-13).

I probably need to brush up on my Green Lantern memory, but I remember that periodically they need to recharge their power rings.

Christians think that way about God the Holy Spirit. They think they need to pray, or fast, or give, or come forward, to get recharged.

God the Holy Spirit is a Person and as deity He cannot diminish.

Joh 3:35  The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.

That sentence provides a concise summary of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Joh 3:36  He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

The apostle John is an evangelist. This is his challenge, his altar call. He calls upon his readers through the centuries to receive or reject Jesus:

Believe, and you are guaranteed “everlasting life,” in quantity and quality.
Do not believe, and the “wrath of God” abides on you.

The wrath of God is His just judgment upon sin. We are all sinners. God’s wrath is upon us and will remain unless we believe Jesus to take it upon Himself for us. Do not believe and you face judgment for your sin all alone.

I’ll leave you with an easy riddle to ponder:

A heavenly Father,
No heavenly mother.
An earthly mother,
No earthly father.
Born older than my mother
And as old as my Father
Who am I?

Not That It’s A Competition, But God Loves Me 3:16 (John 3:16-21)

“I’d break out in hives if I had to sing that song in every show.”

The singer – Robert Plant, quoted in 1988.
The song – Stairway to Heaven.

In 1975 Mick Jagger told People magazine, “I’d rather be dead than sing Satisfaction when I’m 45.” He’s 78, and though he might be dead and not know it, he continues to perform it.

You are likely unfamiliar with Henry Moorhouse.

He was a young minister D. L. Moody met in England. Moorhouse introduced himself by saying, “I’ll preach for you in America!” Moody politely said, “If you should ever get to Chicago, come down to the church, and I will give you a chance to preach.”

Months later, Moorhouse telegrammed Moody to say he was in Chicago. Moody agreed for Moorhouse to preach when he was away. Upon returning, Moody asked his wife how the young preacher did.

“Oh, he is a better preacher than you are,” his wife said. “He is telling sinners that God loves them.” “That is not right,” said Moody. “God does not love sinners.”

“Well,” she said, “you go and hear him. He has been preaching all week and he has only had one verse for a text. It is John 3:16.”

Moody went, heard Henry Moorhouse preach on that one verse and afterward said it was on that night that he first clearly understood the Gospel and God’s great love. Moody said, “I have preached a different Gospel since, and I have had more power with God and men since then.”

According to pulpit lore, every sermon Moorhouse preached was from John 3:16.

He did not, however, preach the same recycled sermon. They were different.

John 3:16 is the inexhaustible declaration of the love of God for the loved of God.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Believe In Jesus & You Are The Loved Of God Who Will Not Perish, and #2 Don’t Believe In Jesus & You Are The Loved Of God Who Will Perish.

#1 – Believe In Jesus & You Are The Loved Of God Who Will Not Perish (v16)

Herschel Hobbs called it “the Gospel in superlatives.”

Martin Luther called it “the Bible in miniature.”

A. T. Robertson referred to it as “the Little Gospel.”

Jerry Vines calls it “The Gospel in a nutshell” and says, “If all the other verses in the Bible were lost but this one, we would nonetheless still have them since all the rest of the verses of the Bible are contained in John 3:16.”

A little child can understand it even though all the scholars of the ages cannot fathom its depth.

Your Bible may have these verses in red, but verses 16-21 are John’s comments about Jesus’ words that end at verse fifteen:

First, in John 3:16, the Cross seems to be a past event.

Second, Jesus never refers to Himself as God’s “only begotten Son.”

Joh 3:16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The translators of the NKJV from which I am reading made a good choice adding a comma:

The words before the comma declare the love of God for the world by sending Jesus.

The words after the comma describe the response of the loved of God to the invitation of Jesus.

We start in the heavenlies, with, “For God…”. It reads, “For The God.” He is the Almighty God of the Bible, Creator of the universe.

God desires to have a relationship with His creation. He doesn’t need it, but He desires it.

I came across this worth-sharing quote: “Unless the universe created itself, the ‘natural’ revelation of God through creation is supernatural revelation” (Michael Svigel).

The description of Christians as Evangelicals is tainted, associated with behaviors unbecoming of a believer. It has become a media slur. It’s shameful because The God we serve is evangelical, not willing that sinners perish.

“For God so agape…” We are talking about pure, spiritual love. It is a love that desires to give. It does not depend on the worthiness of the one loved but on the nature of the the one who loves.

There is more than agape. “God so loved…” The little word intensifies the pure, spiritual agape of God. God’s agape is “so agape.”
Jerry Vines describes the scope of it:

There was never a time when God began to love you. God’s love reaches to eternity past, before you were born. Before the Earth was created and before the sun, the moon, and stars existed, God loved you. God’s love reaches to eternity; there will never be a time when God will cease to love you. When the heavens roll away like a scroll and the stars fall from their sockets like chunks of coal, God will still love you.

“For God so loved the kosmos…” John uses the word seventy-eight times in his Gospel and twenty-four times in his three inspired letters. It can refer to the world system organized in antagonism to God, but most often, the word refers to the realm where human beings live and the people who live in that realm. In other words, the plain meaning of kosmos, translated as “world,” is anyone, anywhere, at any time.

You may have friends who insist that “world” does not mean anyone, anywhere, at any time. They limit the word to those God chose in eternity past that He foreknew He would save.
His choosing excludes the majority of human beings He created, condemning them to the Lake of Fire for a decision they did not and could not make.

John’s use of “world” does not in any way suggest God’s love was or is limited.

Listen to three verses. Does God’s “so agape” seem limited?

In his first letter, John says, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:2).
John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
“We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (First Timothy 4:10).

Jesus’ death was sufficient for “the sins of the whole world.” He saves any and all “who believe.” The Cross has the power to “draw all to Him.”

Biblical proof is foundational to any discussion. It is also good to see the broader moral context.
Our theology should not lead us to conclude something untrue of God.

I came across the following illustration:

An off-duty fireman rushes into a burning orphanage to save the children. They cannot escape by themselves and can be saved only if he rescues them. He comes out bringing three of the thirty children.

Rather than going back in to save more children, the fireman goes over to the news media and talks about how praiseworthy he is for saving three children.

What about the other twenty-seven children? He had the means to rescue the children and was the only one who could. Do we view the fireman as morally praiseworthy? I suggest that we would not. Probably he would be charged with depraved indifference.

If we do not find that praiseworthy in humans, why would we find it praiseworthy in God?

God cannot be guilty of depraved indifference. He can’t be indifferent. He so loved the world. Not everyone will be saved, but everyone can.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”

“Begotten Son” is better translated, “unique Son.” In the first two chapters, John told us that Jesus is uniquely God incarnate, God in human flesh, fully God and fully human. He was always God and added humanity to His deity to be the one and only God-man.

R. G. Lee said, “Jesus was the only One ever born who had a heavenly Father, but no heavenly mother; an earthly mother, but no earthly father. The only One ever born older than His mother and as old as His Father!”

As man, He could step in as a substitute for the death we all deserve as wages for sin.
As God, His sacrifice was perfect. It satisfied God’s holiness. The Father can declare “righteous” everyone who believes in His Son.

God “gave” Jesus. Quoting Jerry Vines again: “The eternal God confined Himself to the narrow dimensions of a woman’s womb. When Jesus was born, God was born. The Infinite became an infant, the Creator became a creature, and God was in a cradle.”

The physical circumstances of His birth were not what you’d expect for the Messiah. Don’t overlook the moral circumstances of His birth and life. Jesus was thought to be illegitimate.

God incarnate lived an obscure life. When He was directed to begin His ministry, He never once used the prerogatives of His deity. He endured life as we do.

He was despised and rejected by His own people; falsely accused, illegally tried, convicted, beaten, scourged, and crucified. God “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever…” You Greek scholars will be able to verify the accuracy of the following quote:

The transliteration of [the word “whoever”] is the Greek word pas. It is used 1,228 times in the New Testament. It is translated as “whoever,” “all,”“whosoever,” and “every.” It is a pronominal substantival adjective:

As an adjective, it modifies the participle pisteuon (translated “believes”).
As a substantive, it fills the noun slot.
As a pronominal, it functions as a pronoun.

Pas with the participle pisteuon occurs four times in John’s Gospel (3:15,16; 6:40). It carries the idea of totality. It means a totality and inclusion of all individual parts.

Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” The six-year-old explanation of what I quoted is this, “The addition of pas before the participle generalizes it to every single person. The best translation is: ‘Anyone who believes.’ The idea is non-restrictive. The idea is anyone… anywhere… anytime” (David Allen).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him…”

The “world” is not limited, and “whoever” is anyone. We conclude that God has given every person a capacity to believe.

Theologian Norman Geisler describes our capacity to believe by saying it has been “effaced, not erased; limited, not lost; damaged, not destroyed.” The best way I know to put it is that God the Holy Spirit frees our will, enabling us to receive or reject Jesus.

Earlier in the Gospel of John, we read, “As many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (1:12). You “believe,” “receive,” and then God regenerates you.

Gerald Borchert reminds us:

God is the initiator and principal actor in salvation, and we should never think salvation originated with us. God, however, has given humanity a sense of freedom and requires us to make a choice. Accordingly, people are responsible for their believing. It is unproductive theological speculation, therefore, to minimize either the role of God or humanity in the salvation process. The Bible and John 3:16 recognize the roles of both.

There must be an element of freed will. Love cannot be forced and remain love. “So agape” must be believed and received.

Talking about love can reduce it to something academic. It can take away its beauty the way dissecting a flower to understand it mars it.

Augustine said, “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.”

God’s love is personal. If you have a paper Bible, take the liberty to write in it, above the word “world,” your name. If the Bible is God’s love letter to you, as preachers often say, then John 3:16 is the message in miniature. Everything else expands upon those few words.

#2 – Don’t Believe In Jesus & You Are The Loved Of God Who Will Perish (v17-21)

I said nothing about “should not perish but have everlasting life.” John comments on perishing in verses sixteen through twenty-one. “Condemn, “condemned” (2x), and “condemnation” jump out at you.

In the original Ghostbusters, the guys were looking at a building for their headquarters. Harold Ramis said, “I think this building should be condemned. There is serious metal fatigue on all the load-bearing members, the wiring is substandard and completely inadequate for our power needs, and the neighborhood is like a demilitarized zone.”

You could make a case that mankind ought to be condemned.

There have been close to 40mil abortions worldwide in 2021.

Chicago is your kind of town if you are a murderer. Cook County has reported over one thousand murders so far this year in the Windy City.

Murders will set records in at least twelve US cities in 2021.

Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide into various types of slavery.

Twenty-two countries are currently at war.

In July, the US named seven nations committing genocide or other atrocities.

God remains evangelical.

Joh 3:17  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Jesus saves:

He saves in the Church Age in which we are living.

He will continue to save during the seven-year Great Tribulation that will follow the resurrection and rapture of the church.

He will continue to save during the thousand-year Kingdom of God on earth that follows the Great Tribulation.

There will be no more saving after the Millennial Kingdom.

All of mankind from all of time will have either received or rejected the love of God. Those who would not believe will be condemned.

Perish does not mean annihilated. Everyone lives forever. To “perish” is to be raised from the dead to suffer eternal, conscious torment in the Lake of Fire.

Joh 3:18  “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t hold in Heaven. Humans are born guilty and condemned. Believe in Jesus, and God declares you, “Not guilty.”

Joh 3:19  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Atheists and agnostics throw up obstacles to believing Jesus:

For some, it is the problem of pain. Why would an omnipotent, loving God allow suffering?

For others, it might be science. They hide behind the failed theory of evolution; or they subscribe to the science fiction theory of an infinite number of universes.

The actual problem is their love of “darkness” so that they might remain “evil.” You don’t have to be a serial killer to be evil. Skip straight to the Tenth Commandment. Have you ever coveted anyone or anything belonging to someone else? You’re evil.

Joh 3:20  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” Indiana Jones dropped a torch into the pit, and the asps scattered.

Jesus is the light dropped into the world of men whose god is that serpent of old, the devil. The Word of God exposes sin. We can either run or repent.

Joh 3:21  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Believers have been born of God, born again, born from above. Our spirit has come to life, and God the Holy Spirit is in us. We can see spiritually, and respond biblically.

God the Holy Spirit living in us ought to make a difference in how we live that “may be clearly seen, that [our deeds] have been done in God.”

When Henry Moorhouse fell ill and was on his deathbed, he looked up and told his friends, “If it were the Lord’s will to raise me again, I should like to preach from the text, God so loved the world.”

You & I preach John 3:16 everyday.

Think about this personal paraphrase of verse twenty-one: “I know the truth and have come to the light and thus it ought to be clearly seen that I am walking in the enabling of God the Holy Spirit.”

The Born Again Ultimatum (John 3:1-15)

“No matter how much you claimed to love me, you could never have a Frost Giant sitting on the throne of Asgard.”

It is the painful moment in the MCU Loki realizes he is the son of Laufey, King of Jotunheim (Yodenheim), the realm of the Frost Giants. His natural birth disqualified him from ever becoming king of Asgard.

“Unless [you are] born again, [you] cannot see the kingdom of God” is the painful moment Nicodemus learned that his natural birth disqualified him.

Jesus explained, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (v6). Elsewhere in the Bible, we read, “Flesh… cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (First Corinthians 15:50). Nicodemus must receive a spiritual birth.

Being born spiritually is a favorite topic of John’s. The apostle speaks of being “born of God” seven times in the letter we call First John. If my search was accurate, John is the only Bible writer to use that phrase.

Language scholars point out that “born again” is interchangeable with “born from above.”

When you believe God, you are “born of God.” From an Earthly perspective, you are “born again.” From Heaven’s perspective, you are “born from above.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points, #1 You Must Be Born Again To Enter God’s Kingdom, and #2 You Must Be Born From Above To Express God’s Kingdom.

#1 – You Must Be Born again To Enter God’s Kingdom (v1-7)

Was Nicodemus conscientious or a coward? It is common to suggest that Nicodemus “came by night” because he was a coward who did not want to risk being seen with Jesus. While possible, the Bible never says that.

Of course he came by night. It was Passover, and as a “teacher,” he would be busy all day. Jesus was likewise working all day doing “signs.” At night they could sit, relax, and talk.

Joh 3:1  There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.

“Pharisees” were the hyper-spiritual Jews. They believed their places were secure in the coming Kingdom of God for two reasons:

They were born God’s chosen people. They meticulously kept God’s Law.

We like to point out that the Pharisees started with good intentions. They wanted to honor God in everyday actions. It led, however, to self-righteousness. It will lead us there, too, if having begun in the Spirit we attempt to be made perfect by our flesh (Galatians 3:3).

Nicodemus was a “ruler of the Jews,” thus a member of the Sanhedrin. According to one source (and I quote),

“There were two classes of Jewish courts called Sanhedrin, the Great Sanhedrin, and the Lesser Sanhedrin. A lesser Sanhedrin of 23 judges was appointed to sit as a tribunal in each city, but there was only supposed to be one Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges, which among other roles acted as the Supreme Court, taking appeals from cases which were decided by lesser courts.”

Nicodemus was kind of a big deal among Jews. Today we’d call him an influencer. His podcast, Nic at Night, would have been the most popular in Israel.

It’s easy to elevate individuals based on their outward achievements. Keep in mind that any of the five disciples following Jesus at the time were more ‘spiritual’ than Nicodemus. You, too, if you follow the Lord. How smart can a person be if they haven’t received Jesus?

Joh 3:2  This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

His words seem sincere. Nicodemus acknowledged the “signs” Jesus was doing as evidence He was “come from God” and that God was “with Him.”

The Scriptures predicted that the Messiah would perform the signs Jesus was performing.

Nicodemus might have been giving Jesus the opportunity to identify Himself as the Messiah. The Messiah would establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. Nicodemus assumed he was ready for it.

Joh 3:3  Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The Kingdom of God is first an earthly Kingdom to be ruled by a descendant of King David. In Second Samuel, the Lord promised David, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (7:12-13).

David’s son, Solomon, was a partial fulfillment of this promise, but that word “forever” indicates the physical Kingdom of God coming in the future.

Whatever “born again” might mean, Nicodemus wasn’t. It was incredible to him to think he wasn’t ready for God’s Kingdom.

Joh 3:4  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Commentators accuse Nicodemus of antagonism or sarcasm, but you can’t conclude that from his words. Have you written to someone or sent a text that was misunderstood? Have you been the victim of spellcheck altering what you meant to say into something embarrassing? We don’t have enough information to accuse Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was understandably confused. Jesus explained what He meant:

Joh 3:5  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

“Water and the Spirit” has dozens of complex scholarly interpretations. It has one biblical interpretation. Jesus may have been giving Nicodemus, and us, a clue where to look for it.

The Bible had no chapter and verse divisions until they were added in 1227AD to make it easier to reference passages. Before that, you had to know where a passage was from its key words.

Listen for the words “water” and “spirit” as I read Ezekiel 36:25-27.

Eze 36:25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
Eze 36:26  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Eze 36:27  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

The teacher of Israel should have immediately remembered the Ezekiel passage. Jesus was, in effect, teaching Nicodemus from God’s Word.

The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible.

God promised Israel new spiritual life by transforming them from within:

God would cleanse them from sin. (We’ll see in a moment that He can cleanse you because Jesus died on the Cross to take your sin upon Himself).

God would regenerate their dead “spirit,” bringing them to life spiritually.

God the Holy Spirit would come to live within them.

Joh 3:6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

“Flesh” in this context means your natural state as a human being. You inherit a sin nature. It is fiction, a fantasy, to think there is anything good or godly within you or that you can improve yourself enough to be right with the Lord. God must give you a new “heart,” a new nature, a spiritual nature.

Being born again is not a New Testament mystery belonging solely to the Church. It was promised to Israel as a prerequisite for citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Jews and Gentiles must be born again.

Nicodemus was a deeply religious person. He had risen through the ranks to be a respected leader. He represents the finest person any religion can produce.

Religion cannot save you. Neither philosophy nor psychology or politics; not mysticism or meditation. Jesus saves because He is the unique God-man who can take upon Himself your sin and give you His righteousness.

His coming at night metaphorically suggests darkness. Without Jesus, human beings are groping in the dark.

Joh 3:7  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

Nicodemus could have discerned from the passage about water and the Spirit, and getting a new heart, that a total regeneration was necessary to hold citizenship in God’s Kingdom. He would not have used the language “born again,” but hearing it could have been an “Aha!” moment when things fell into place.

You are born of God the moment you believe. You are in the Kingdom right now, but the literal, physical, on-earth Kingdom won’t be established until the Second Coming of Jesus.

#2 – You Must Be Born From Above To Express God’s Kingdom (v8-15)

The discussion continued with an emphasis on being “born from above.” Jesus points to “heavenly things” and coming “down from Heaven” (v12-13).

Joh 3:8  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I like to think that Jesus and Nicodemus were, as was the custom, sitting on a rooftop patio enjoying an evening breeze. “Wind” is invisible, but it creates effects that can be seen, e.g., “the sound of it.”

The Holy Spirit in us is invisible, but we can see His effects in our lives. He encourages joy, self-sacrifice, Christ-likeness. He enables obedience to the Word of God.

Joh 3:9  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

Nicodemus had all of his life been taught that he was a saved Jew who must strive to be righteous by keeping God’s Law and all of the minutiae added by rabbis. Jesus’ words were a hard pill to swallow.

Nicodemus was in some respects not unlike the apostle Paul, who wrote:

Php 3:4  … If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:
Php 3:5  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;
Php 3:6  concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Php 3:7  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
Php 3:8  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
Php 3:9  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…
It was hard for Nicodemus to wrap his mind around the thought that his Pharisaical Jewishness was insufficient.

You might use filters on your pictures when you upload them to social media. It changes the way you look.

Many things can act as filters through which we interpret God’s Word. They can change its meaning. I love to read systematic theologies, but there can never be one system devised by a man or men that can account for every nuance in God’s Word without changing the plain meaning of certain verses that don’t ‘fit’ with the system. The Bible is true, not the system.

Joh 3:10  Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?

Some of what Jesus was revealing was knowable. One of the ‘filters’ was that the majority opinion among Jews was that the Messiah would be a military man. Israel assumed the Messiah’s first accomplishment would be to free them from Rome. Next, he would establish God’s Kingdom.
Their filter was physical and material, even though passages like those in Ezekiel made it clear that inward change must first occur.

Joh 3:11  Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.

In verse two Nicodemus said, “we know,” and included his fellow Pharisees. Jesus’ “we” were His disciples thus far: Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. Those knuckleheads were already more qualified to give testimony than any Pharisee.

The signs Jesus were doing should have spoken for themselves that He was the Messiah.

Joh 3:12  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
Joh 3:13  No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from Heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in Heaven.

One scholar makes sense of this:

“The Judaism of Jesus’ day circulated many stories of bygone saints who had ascended into Heaven and received special insight into God’s ways and plans. Jesus insists that no-one has ascended to Heaven in such a way as to return to talk about heavenly things. Jesus can speak of heavenly things, not because He ascended to Heaven from a home on earth and then descended to tell others of His experiences, but because Heaven was His home in the first place. He is the one who came from Heaven.”

Joh 3:14  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

The Book of Numbers is set between the second and fortieth years of the wandering of the Israelites. It records a lot of grumbling and complaining about their circumstances. At one point, when the Israelites expressed their disapproval of desert life, we read,

Num 21:6  So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
Num 21:7  Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Num 21:8  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”
Num 21:9  So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Odd incidents in the Old Testament illustrate New Testament truths so we can grasp them. When Abraham was told to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, he obeyed. God stayed his hand. Later you discover that the site of the almost-sacrifice is exactly where Jesus was crucified. God the Father did not spare His only begotten Son. It was a type.

Jesus pointed back to the serpent on the pole as a simple illustration having two components:

First, to be saved and given physical life, all an Israelite had to do was look at the serpent. It was an act of grace on God’s part.
Second, the serpent must be lifted up so all could see it.

Nicodemus was challenged to believe Jesus for spiritual birth in much the same way as the ancient Israelites were commanded to turn to the bronze snake for life.

To be saved and given spiritual life, all a person has to do is ‘look’ to Jesus. Salvation in Him is an act of grace on God’s part.
Jesus must be lifted up. He tells us what that means later in the Gospel of John, saying, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (12:32-33).

Joh 3:15  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Nicodemus’ marveling makes it seem as though what Jesus was teaching is too deep to comprehend. It was and is too simple.
The new heart promised Israel, and all mankind, is received by believing Jesus. It’s available to all men everywhere.

People always seem to know if you are from California. Maybe it’s because you’re not worried about earthquakes, or that you talk about getting a Double-Double the minute you land.

Believers are from Heaven. We haven’t been there, but the Lord is there, and we are described as being seated with Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6).

The Lord has seated you right next to Him.

The more you see yourself there, and set all your affections there, the more you will express the Kingdom to those who are groping in the dark for the light of the world.

Take A Whip Down Merchandise Lane (John 2:12-25)

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to remove the Berlin Wall.
Two years and five months later, the wall separating West and East Berlin for twenty-seven years came tumbling down.

Jesus said, “[Tear down] this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Jesus made His declaration in the breathtaking remodel of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. He was zealous for the purity of the stick and stone structure. Worshippers came there to meet with His Father. Merchandisers and money changers were defiling it.

The religious leaders questioned Jesus about the tearing down of the Temple. They did not know He “was speaking of the Temple of His body,” predicting His flesh and bone resurrection from the dead.

You and I are likewise God’s Temple.

In First Corinthians 6:19, we read, “[Your] body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God…” Your individual body is the Holy Spirit’s Temple.

In Ephesians 2:19-22, we read, “You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy Temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” The corporate body of believers who comprise the church is the Holy Spirit’s Temple.

Jesus is zealous for you, the Temple “not made with hands” (Acts 17:24).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Is Zealous To Safeguard You, and #2 Jesus Is Zealous To Save You.

#1 – Jesus Is Zealous To Safeguard You (v12-22)

Indiana Jones was seven years old when he saw a whip-act in a traveling circus. Later, when he accidentally fell into a wagon transporting a lion, he noticed a lion-tamer’s whip and grabbed it to fend off the animal. The rest is, as they say, fantasy.
Jesus was an accomplished whipster. Or would it be whipper? He could make a whip from “cords” and use it when the need arose.

Jesus brandishing a whip is unexpected. I never picture Him that way. Let’s take a look.

Joh 2:12  After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.

The apostle John provides a few travel notes:

Capernaum would serve as Jesus’ ministry base.

His travel team consisted of His mother and brothers, born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus. They were James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude. He also had sisters, though their number and names are not recorded (Matthew 13:56).

Also on the team were five disciples: Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

Joh 2:13  Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Adult male Jews made an effort to attend Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Jesus had been in Jerusalem many times in His life, but not like this. He had been identified as the Messiah by John the Baptist, and He would act like it.

Joh 2:14  And He found in the Temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.

Animal sacrifices went on from morning to evening. On Passover, thousands of additional lambs were slain. Merchandisers sold pre-inspected animals that were guaranteed “unblemished.”

Male Jews over the age of 20 were required to pay a Temple tax. Since it had to be paid in the Temple coinage, a currency exchange was necessary.

Before we criticize, let’s understand that providing animals was a terrific convenience. Think, for example, of traveling with your sacrificial lamb 80 miles from Capernaum to the Temple. A lot could happen to your unblemished animal along the way, rendering it unfit on arrival.
You would have no sacrifice. Having animals on hand to purchase was a big help.

Money changers were equally convenient. I can’t tell you what an absolute hassle it was to exchange money on trips to the Philippines in the 1980s.

The issue was how and where this was being done:

The money changers were charging exorbitant rates. They were like store owners who hike the prices of essential goods in a crisis.
The sticker price on the animals was sky-high.
The money changers and merchandisers were both doing business in what was called the Court of the Gentiles. It was a special place non-Jews could come for prayer. The business being conducted interfered with praying.

Joh 2:15  When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.

We’re never told Jesus whipped anyone, not even animals.

You’ve heard the crack of a whip. A whip 8’ long is preferred today if you want to make it crack, but a 6-footer will do with practice.

The crack of the whip was enough to scatter the animals and have them wreak havoc. If not the crack of the whip, the sight of it would inspire animals to obedience.

On walks, I carry a flashlight that is a one-million-volt stun baton. The noise is enough to strike fear into the unleashed dogs that sense my fear and perceive me as a quick bite.

John puts the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The other Gospels have it happening at the end. Most scholars agree Jesus cleansed the Temple twice.

Joh 2:16  And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

Jesus ‘cracked the whip,’ overturned tables, and gave verbal commands. It was a mini-riot. It went unchallenged. Seriously, where was security?

Jesus is always the highest authority. No one challenged His authority to drive-out the defilers.

The Lord has delegated His authority to us. We declare that a man can have his sins forgiven, be born-again, and enter Heaven. That is real authority.

The apostle Peter warns believers in the current Church Age that false ministers will, “In covetousness… with feigned words make merchandise of you” (Second Peter 2:3 RV).

This doesn’t mean you cannot buy or sell Christian merchandise or collect offerings.

It describes a person who covets money taking advantage of believers as a source of income for furthering their gain and not God’s Kingdom

Churches should not have the motivations of the unsaved.
They must not use the methods of the world.

We try to abide by the modern proverb, “Where God guides, God provides.”

We should not think, “Where I guide, I will manipulate and pressure God’s people to provide.”

We fall into worldly thinking about the church. If more people come to your services, and you have bigger, more modern facilities, you are seen as successful. Since success is equated with spirituality, God is blessing you. You must be special to Him. Perhaps you are more gifted than other, lesser ministers.

No; not true. Numbers and facilities are a matter of God’s grace that we cannot fathom. God looks upon the heart in a way we cannot. We can discipline ourselves not to judge by outward, physical criteria.

Joh 2:17  Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE HAS EATEN ME UP.”

Jesus’ disciples are criticized for failing to see simple spiritual truths. This time they hit a home run. The quote is from Psalm 69:9. It was understood to be a prophecy that zeal for the Temple would characterize the Messiah.

Joh 2:18  So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”

You could paraphrase this, “If by your zeal for the Temple you are claiming to be the Messiah, prove it to us by doing a miracle.”

Jesus performed a miracle in Cana, turning water into wine. He would perform more miracles, culminating in raising a man from the dead. The Jewish leaders won’t believe. With each miracle, they hate Jesus more until they plot His death.

Miracles, signs, and wonders followed the believers after Jesus rose from the dead. Miracles, signs, and wonders have not ceased.

You must admit, however, that they are fewer and farther between. They are as scarce among Pentecostals and Charismatics as they are among conservatives and cessationists.

Jesus came to Earth and performed the signs the Old Testament said would identify the Messiah.

Israel’s official rejection of Jesus as their Messiah put God’s program for Israel on a temporary hold and ushered in the mystery of the Church Age.

The Church Age is characterized not by signs as much as by sufferings.

The apostle Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Paul understood his sufferings, and ours, were the visible reenactment of the sufferings of Jesus so that people will see the Lord’s abounding grace.

One commentator said, “God really means for the body of Christ, the church, to experience some of the suffering He experienced so that when we offer the Christ of the Cross to people, they see the Christ of the Cross in us.”

Joh 2:19  Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Why not just say, “You’re going to kill Me, but after three days I will rise from the dead by My own power.”

It’s better for us that we discover spiritual truth through prayer and Bible reading. Jesus is a romantic and wants you to seek Him for answers and insights.

Joh 2:20  Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

God provided Moses with plans to construct a moveable Tabernacle in the wilderness.

Approximately 500 years later, Solomon built a permanent Temple from the plans and provisions his father, King David, had left behind.

Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians when the Jews were taken into a 70 year captivity.

The Persians conquered the Babylonians, and King Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem. They did, and over some time completed a second Temple.

Rome was their next oppressor, with Herod ruling them in the time of Jesus. He was a fantastic builder. He remodeled the second Temple into the structure we’ve all seen in mock-ups.

The bulk of the construction was completed in 10 years. The decorative work, however, was not finished until 64AD. Six years later, in 70AD, the Romans burned and destroyed the Temple.

Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jesus predicted a third Temple would be in operation during the future seven-year Great Tribulation.
There will be a Temple in Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom.
The Revelation declares that there will be no Temple in the future heavens and Earth because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple” (21:22).

Joh 2:21  But He was speaking of the Temple of His body.

Jesus was fully man. His physical body was the Temple of God the Holy Spirit, same as us.

We are drawn to the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering Jesus’ miraculous works. There is something first, more fundamental. As God’s Temple, Jesus walked in perfect obedience to His Father. From womb to tomb, the Lord never once strayed from the will of God. Not one time did Jesus act independent of His Father and use the prerogatives of His deity.

Jesus did no miracles for His first thirty years. He did, the Bible says, learn obedience.

The Holy Spirit empowers our obedience.

We ought to value obedience over every comfort, every advantage, every success, every desire, over our health and wealth. For example: Married believers too often value their personal happiness over their vows before God and obeying His Word. God is not against happiness, but He knows it can only be genuine if it is grounded in holiness.

Joh 2:22  Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Paul Little wrote a book called, Know What You Believe. You don’t know very much at the time of your conversion. You discover what you believe.

Jesus braided a whip and cleansed the Temple.

He did it to safeguard the worshippers.

Sadly, there are congregations that become spiritually unsafe. You can tell when, as Jesus’ dear sheep, you are being fleeced instead of fed. Get out!

#2 – Jesus Is Zealous To Save You (v23-25)

Sebastian the crab might comment, “Jesus was under a lot of pressure down here.” Everyone tried to influence Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth:

Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world.

The crowds tried to make Him their king before it was time.

The disciples continually pressed Jesus to establish the Kingdom.

The Kingdom would be nothing without its saved citizens. The Cross must come first.

Joh 2:23  Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.

There is a kind of belief that isn’t saving faith:

High-ranking Anglican cleric Dr. John Shepherd said in an Easter sermon in 2008, “It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event, which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body. The resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality.”

A survey in 2017 in once-Great Britain revealed that 25% of people who describe themselves as Christians do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

Here is a quote that answers that belief: “The claim of Jesus’s bodily resurrection is central to the Gospel message. Without his bodily resurrection, Jesus’s claims to divinity would be empty, and the Gospel’s claim to be the power of God for salvation would be false.”

Joh 2:24  But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,

The Lord would not let anyone, either supernatural or human, deter Him from His commitment to His Father to die on the Cross as the last lamb.

“He knew all men” is explained in verse twenty-five:

Joh 2:25  and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

One commentator says, “Jesus was realistic about the depth of trust in those who were now following Him. Some would endure; others would fall away. Jesus was discerning, and He knew that the faith of some followers was superficial. Some of the same people who claimed to believe in Jesus at this time would later yell, ‘Crucify Him!’”

Did Jesus know this because He was God and saw each individual’s heart? Maybe, but that gives us no example to follow as mere humans.

Jesus, as a man, “knew what was in man” the same way any of us can. We take the Word of God for it that every human is born dead in trespasses and sins and has a sin nature.

Jesus is the exception. He was virgin-born to receive a sinless human nature so He could take our sins upon Himself and give us His righteousness.

The writer to the Hebrew Christians expressed Jesus’ zeal for our salvation: “[Jesus] for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

You are the joy that was set before Him.

In the Church Age, we read that Jesus has torn down the “wall of separation” between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14). Everyone who is saved becomes a living stone in the Temple on earth.

We are being individually fashioned so that when we come together, we are a building pleasing to Jesus.

Vintage Jesus (John 2:1-11)

Over one million Americans homebrew beer.

Homebrewing supplies have been in high demand nationwide during the pandemic. A major supplier of homebrewing equipment says business has increased 50%.
Home wine-making kits start at under $100.00.

Before you throw back a cold one to fight depression from COVID19, consider this news from England:

1mil additional people have become addicted to alcohol as a result of lockdowns.

The lockdowns fueled a 20% spike in alcohol-related deaths in 2020.

Jesus turned water into wine.

The Lord wasn’t a homebrewer. He was attending a wedding, and the host ran out of wine.

The lack of wine had nothing to do with drunkenness. It wasn’t like Captain Jack Sparrow wondering, “Why is the rum gone?” Wine was associated with joy:

The psalmist said, “wine… makes glad the heart of man” (104:15).
Putting it negatively, we read in Jeremiah, “Gladness and joy have been taken away… I have made the wine cease from the winepresses; no one treads them with shouts of joy” (48:33).

“Why is the wine gone?” was a social blunder from which you might never recover.

One minute there was no wine, and the next, there was new wine. It was a miracle, touted by the apostle John as “the beginning of signs Jesus did” (v11).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 There Is No Wine For You In Religion, and #2 There Is New Wine For You In Regeneration.

#1 – There Is No Wine For You In Religion (v1-6)

You can probably name several movies whose opening scene is the end of the story that will be told. Saving Private Ryan is a particularly good example.

The opening scene of Jesus’ ministry anticipates the end of a significant portion of the Bible’s story.

Jesus will return to Earth in His Second Coming as a Bridegroom with His bride. A wedding feast follows. In the Revelation, we read, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (19:7 & 9).

Turning water into wine at the wedding anticipates the future marriage supper.

Joh 2:1  On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

One commentator said the following about “the third day”:

The strong connection to Genesis, and specifically to creation, thus far in [John’s] Gospel suggests that the first six days of Jesus’s ministry are to be seen as parallel to the first six days of creation. Jesus, the one through whom all things were created and by whom new creation takes place, is beginning His creative activity in human history.

John only, always, calls Mary “the mother of Jesus.”

He respects her among women but never above women.

Jewish weddings followed three well-known stages:

First was the betrothal. It was a legally binding engagement that took place nine months to a year before the wedding celebration. Betrothal could not be broken except by divorce.

Second was the procession. The groom and his friends would go to fetch the bride and joyously lead her and her friends back to the house he had prepared for them.
The third stage, which is described in our text, was the wedding feast. The celebration could last for as long as a week. It was a major social event for both families and the community.

Joh 2:2  Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

We have met five disciples: Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. We will meet the rest of the gang later in the book.

Joh 2:3  And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Mary is not to be referred to as the mother of God.

Mary was the human agent through whom the eternal Son of God took on a human body and a human nature and entered the world. She is never to be revered.

The mother of Jesus evidently had a role in the feast. She stepped up like a wedding coordinator. Joy was about to turn into sour grapes.

Beginning with the mother of Jesus telling Him, “They have no wine,” the dialog between them is odd. It causes scholars headaches.

Joh 2:4  Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

“Woman” is not disrespectful. It’s equivalent to calling her, “Ma’am.” It is less intimate than “Mom.” I suggest that it has to do with something Jesus explains in Matthew’s Gospel:

Mat 12:46  While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him.
Mat 12:47  Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
Mat 12:48  But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”
Mat 12:49  And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!
Mat 12:50  For whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus did not disrespect His mother or family. When it came to salvation, however, they were no different from everyone else. “Woman” is the perfect way to address His mother to emphasize her spiritual condition. She carried baby Jesus to term, but she needed to be born-again.

“What does your concern have to do with Me?” is the English translation of the saying, “What to me and to you?” It is apparently what Jews said when something was not their responsibility. In my family, we say something attributed to Gollum: “Not its business.”

Jesus didn’t walk around doing random miracles. He hadn’t performed a miracle because John calls this the “beginning of signs” (v11). Bottom line: It is unclear what His mother expected.

“My hour has not yet come,” or similar words will occur four more times. The fact that His time had come will be mentioned three times. It puts us on notice that God has perfect timing, despite our fears to the contrary.

If His hour had not yet come, why did Jesus perform the sign?

The Expositor’s Commentary sheds some light by saying, “The whole phrase might be rendered, ‘Mother, you must let Me act here in My own way.’ ”

Jesus called her “Woman,” and now He let her know that she could not influence what He would do going forward in His ministry. He would perform His first sign, not because of His mother’s request, but because of His Father’s leading.

Joh 2:5  His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
The mother of Jesus did not take Jesus’ words as a refusal. She seems to have understood that Jesus was no longer under her authority. She left it up to Him to do what He was going to do or not do.

Since we’ve pointed out before that Jesus only did what His Father told Him to do, we can with confidence say that He sought the Father for guidance.

Her comment has served saints for centuries as a wonderful rule of life. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said that he always wanted to preach a Mother’s Day sermon on these words.

Whatever Jesus says to you as His servant, do it.

Joh 2:6  Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.

“The purification of the Jews” were ritual washings. They weren’t for hygiene. They were added to God’s Law by Rabbis and passed down orally from generation to generation.
Listen to these instructions about hand washing, quoted from a Jewish resource:

This may sound strange, but before washing your hands, be sure that they are clean.

Remove your rings – unless you never remove them, in which case they are considered “part of your hand.”

Fill a cup with water and pour twice on your right hand. Repeat on the left. (Left-handers reverse the order).

Pour three times on each hand making sure the water covers your entire hand until the wrist bone with each pour. Separate your fingers slightly to allow the water in between them.

After washing, lift your hands chest-high and say the prescribed blessing. (Say this blessing only if you intend to eat more than two ounces of bread).

Rub your hands together and then dry them.

Be careful not to speak or get involved in anything else until you’ve recited the blessing on your bread and swallowed some.

The Jews knew these steps like the back of their hand. At first hand, ritual washings did not seem so bad. They meant well, but purification had gradually gotten out of hand. Ordinary Jews had their hands full with extra-biblical rites and rituals. Taking matters into their own hands led to self-righteousness. The religious leaders were heavy-handed and refused to lend a helping hand. They were on-hand to criticize.

The waterpots were monuments to ritual religion.

There is no wine, so to speak, in religion, philosophy, psychology, or any of the vain pursuits of man that exclude God. They may seem to satisfy for a time, even a long time. In the end, you’re left thirsting for the joy of salvation.

Ritual religion never leads to regeneration.

#2 – There Is New Wine For You In Regeneration (v7-11)

Gimli the dwarf challenged his elf companion, Legolas, to a drinking game.

About the time the dwarf went unconscious, the elf said that he was feeling “a slight tingling sensation.”

Yes, Jesus created fermented wine. There is an argument that it was merely grape juice. Before you scoff, turning water into grape juice would be a miracle. It would bypass the natural process of grape production. The Pulpit Commentary writes, “The vine, with all its wondrous processes – the vineyard, the wine press, and other appliances – have all been dispensed with, and the same power which said, ‘Let there be light,’ called these additional elements together, originated them by His will.”

What the grape juice argument fails to consider is the fact that most often when wine is mentioned in the Bible, the context cautions that it could cause drunkenness. It is also true that the Jews diluted their wine 3-to-1 with water to avoid drunkenness.

This passage is not about whether or not a Christian can or should drink alcohol, and I don’t want to get into it. “Have it to yourself and to God.”

My only comment is a (hopefully) judgment-free observation. When I was saved in 1979, drinking alcohol was the exception, not the rule, for believers. Quite the opposite is now the case. I sincerely hope it isn’t evidence that we are becoming more like the world.

Joh 2:7  Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

I explained at some length last week that we attribute Jesus’ walk and works on Earth in His first coming to His being submitted to His Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They are not works of His deity even though He was fully God and fully human. If they were performed from His deity, Jesus could not have promised, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).

Have you ever been in a think-tank kind of meeting in which each person must suggest a solution to the problem? Foolish plans usually get overruled if they are brought up at all. God will ask you to do things that might seem foolish.

It is comforting to know that God the Father asked Jesus to do things that seemed foolish

Filling waterpots with water makes no sense if your problem is wine-lessness. The servants would also seem like fools. Nevertheless, they obeyed Jesus.

Joh 2:8  And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.

We aren’t told when the water was wine. Knowing God’s perfect timing I’d guess that it was the moment “the master of the feast” tasted it.

Joh 2:9  When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.

Everything in this miracle shows no collusion between Jesus and any of the persons at the feast. This wasn’t a magician’s illusion.

No hocus pocus, only Holy Ghost-us.

Joh 2:10  And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

A proficient “master of the feast” had a refined palate for foods and beverages. He recognized a superior vintage when he tasted one.

Having “well drunk” doesn’t mean they were drunk. Quite the opposite. It may mean when they had drunk as much as they judged proper or as they desired. Did a guest drink too much at your wedding? He (or she) was not “well drunk.”

It strikes me odd that in a culture so stressed about hospitality that any host would plan to serve inferior beverages at any time.

Maybe the master’s saying was a maxim – a short, easily remembered expression of homespun wisdom. An example in English would be, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Interesting thing about maxims: For most of them, there is a contrary maxim. “Birds of a feather” may “flock together,” but we also say, “Opposites attract.”

“The bigger the better” & “Good things come in small packages”

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” & “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”

“You’re never too old to learn” & “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

A competing maxim to the master’s “You saved the best for last” would be, “You put your best foot forward.”

No matter how we take the master’s statement, the wine he tasted was the best he would ever taste again in his life. I remember bumper stickers that said, “God don’t make no junk.”

Joh 2:11  This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Saying the sign was a “beginning” puts us on notice that there is a specific set of them.

“Beginning” with turning water into wine, there are six miracles that the Gospel of John specifically identifies as “signs” (2:1-11; 4:43-54; 5:1-18; 6:1-15; 9:1-41; 11:1-57).

A “sign” makes what it stands for more evident than words. In this case, they make evident Jesus’ “glory.” Jesus performed the signs that the Jewish Scriptures attributed to the coming Messiah. His identity, His “glory,” was manifested by signs.

“His disciples believed in Him” doesn’t mean that they did not believe before the miracle. What the Lord did in Cana strengthened their belief in Him.

Jesus said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). It will bring Him joy. We could go so far as to say we are His joy.

We wait for our heavenly Bridegroom. While we wait, we have, in a spiritual sense, new wine in the person of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit goes hand-in-hand with wine in the Bible:

The disciples received the promised gift of God the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and were so full of joy that they were accused of being drunk.
In the churches that were afterward founded, believers are reminded, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:18-19).

You and I in Christ are vessels filled to the brim with new wine.

We’ve been getting encouraged about our relationship with the Holy Spirit in these studies in the Gospel of John.

Regardless if you are a charismatic or a cessationist, the following is true for all believers:

The moment you believe and receive Jesus, you are baptized, or plunged, into the body of Jesus Christ (First Corinthians 12:13).

God the Holy Spirit indwells you (First Corinthians 6:19-20). Since He is a person, not a force, you can’t have only a part of Him. He is present in His abundance.

The empowering of the Holy Spirit was unconditionally promised you as a gift to be received, not achieved (Acts 2:28).

God says to us that He is a good, good Father who will “give” the Holy Spirit every time you ask Him (Luke 11:13).

Believe the promise… Receive the gift… Ask your Father for His Spirit.

Recruits & Ladders (John 1:35-51)

“Everything you need”

That is the promise made by a parachurch organization that offers to help you plant a church.

Their website says, “With [our] church planting [program], you’ll get personalized coaching, practical training, relevant resources, and tested strategies that work in the community in which you plant. You’ll be able to implement proven systems that will help increase the long-term success of your church plant.”

They identify three stages: Prelaunch, Launch, and Post Launch. During prelaunch, “We will outline partnership details [that’s double-speak for how much they’ll charge], discuss your salary, and explain what church planting grants you will receive. We will teach you how to raise funds [and] recruit your launch team. We can even help with the creative aspects of your church plant, such as naming, branding, and logo development.”

Welcome to the weird and wacky world of 21st-century church planting.

Answering the question, “How much money should it cost to plant a new church?” the estimate from several experts is between $300,000.00 and $500,000.00 to be raised in prelaunch.

When we came in 1985, there was $4,000.00 in the bank. Adjusting for inflation, that translates to a whopping $10,000.00 in today’s money. No wonder we were 18 years at the YMCA.

As for me and my house, we would not attend a church planted using those methods.

John the Baptist pointed his disciples to Jesus indicating to them that He was “everything they needed.”

True, Jesus wasn’t planting the church, not at first. His initial mission was no less monumental. He offered Israel the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Jesus had one nonmaterial resource. John told us verse thirty-three that God the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus from Heaven and remained upon Him.

We are baptized with the Holy Spirit at our conversion into the body of Jesus on Earth. We have the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit in abundance if we ask our Father for Him.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Says To You, “Come & See,” and #2 You Say To Everyone, “Come & See.”

#1 – Jesus Says To You, “Come & See” (v35-42)

John the Baptist and Jesus had extremely long pre-launches. Nothing mush is recorded beyond a few miraculous events surrounding their births and Jesus’ youth. Suddenly about thirty years later, in 29AD, John launched his baptism for repentance ministry:

He put on a camel’s hair garment and a leather belt.
He went out into the wilderness.
He fed on locusts dipped in wild honey.

By word of mouth, Jews from surrounding villages and towns heard about it. They flocked to John, repented, and were water baptized to prepare for the arrival of the Messiah who would baptize His followers with the Holy Spirit.

John’s only resource was the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ ministry launch was more dramatic, but only slightly. John shouted out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The Holy Spirit lighted upon Jesus in the form of a dove and remained on Him.

It was all very supernaturally natural. Maybe I can illustrate. Don’t bother watching Jesus Christ Superstar. The title is enough to inform you it isn’t going to be biblical. Judas is portrayed as a confused supporter of Jesus, an anti-hero with the Lord’s best interests in mind. (BTW: Any representation of Judas in a heroic light is just nonbiblical nonsense).

At one point, Judas sings,

Now why’d you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?
If you’d come today
You could have reached a whole nation
Israel in 4BC
Had no mass communication

Mass communication would have overshadowed the supernatural.

Joh 1:35  Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.

Multitudes were coming out to be baptized. There would be a lot of logistics involved. People would need assistance, have questions. Some of those John baptized stayed and served as his disciples. They picked up the slack so John could baptize more people. There was no plan, only servants.

Joh 1:36  And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

God sent John to identify to Israel their Messiah who must first be slaughtered as a substitutionary sacrifice. He was on message, even though it was not a popular one.

He didn’t look at any demographic studies or poll people to hear what they wanted in a preacher.
He wasn’t concerned that there were no facilities or services of any kind where he’d be baptizing.

Imagine how ridiculous if John had applied for a grant.

Joh 1:37  The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

I want to think that John was excited to see these two disciples follow. These disciples had heard his message had received it. The apostle John would write in his third letter, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (1:4).

Joh 1:38  Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”

It’s common in movies to have a follow-on-foot scene. Often the person being followed will turn and confront the follower.

“What do you seek?” are the first recorded words of Jesus in this Gospel. Humans are seekers because God has put eternity in our hearts. Nothing and no one other than Jesus can satisfy us. God wired us that way. What we seek is to fill the void only God can fill.

Their response seems off base. “We’re stalking You and want to know where You live!”

Joh 1:39  He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).

Jesus showed them spiritual hospitality, and they talked until 4pm. The Lord started His ministry by serving people His Father brought to Him.

Unless you are a hermit (which I’m guessing you are not since you are here!), serve people and you will discover your gifts and the works God has planned for you. Don’t plan to serve potential people in the future. Serve right now those who seek Jesus. It’s really that simple. Why do we hesitate? There’s no safety net.

Joh 1:40  One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

It’s almost certain that the other guy was John, the writer of this Gospel. He refuses to draw attention to himself.

Joh 1:41  He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).

Family’s are weird. You know what I mean because it’s almost Thanksgiving. Conan O’Brien tweeted, “If you want to avoid seeing your family this Thanksgiving, be sure to book a flight on American or Southwest.”

Nonetheless, your family is typically your first ministry. Especially if you were saved later in life. The people who know you best will see the transformation within you thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s as if Jesus puts you in front of them to say, “ ‘Come & see’ what I’ve done for Gene. It is what I will do for you.”

Joh 1:42  And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

We tend to follow the interpretive path that leads to why Cephas, who we know as Peter, was called “A Stone.”

If you were Jewish, your first instinct would be to recall men and women in the Scriptures that had their names changed for the better by God:

Abram was renamed Abraham.
Sarai was renamed Sarah.
Jacob was renamed Israel.

A name change announces that God Who has begun His good work in you will complete what He started.

Jesus says to us, “Come & see that I have a new name for you.”

In the Revelation, Jesus says, “To him who overcomes… I will give… a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’

“Him who overcomes” is synonymous with being a Christian. I don’t mind my name. My parents lived in a simpler era where no one was named Apple or Blanket. I am excited to hear Jesus call me by my new name. It will be perfect.

Nonbeliever, Jesus is calling you to “Come & see” Him on the Cross, dying in your place for your sin as the Last Lamb.

Believer, keep coming. Don’t veer off; don’t stop short. “Come & see” the good works God has prepared for you.

#2 – You Say To Everyone, “Come & See” (v43-51)

Lauren Faulkner was my co-worker in 1979. God used him to bring me to salvation and point me in the right direction.

By far, most conversions involve the witness of a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a stranger. Someone we would call a nobody, a “whosoever.”

That’s me; that’s you. We are somebody’s nobody.

Joh 1:43  The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”

When He was born, Jesus added a sinless human nature to His deity. Jesus is fully God and fully human in a union we cannot understand.

His unique God-man status confuses us. One scholar writes, “He knew people’s thoughts (Mark 2:8), was able to distinguish true believers from nonbelievers (John 6:64), knew “from the beginning” Judas would betray Him (John 6:64), and knew “all things” (John 16:30). On the other hand, He “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52) and did not know the day or hour of His Second Coming (Mark 13:32).”

We need to adopt a perspective going forward. Let’s survey a few verses that can give us insight:

Joh 5:19 “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” Jesus never acted independently. He was fully God and fully man but acted on Earth as a man submitted to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Joh 14:1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). If Jesus did His works as God, if they were works of His deity, we would not be able to do them.
Joh 14:16  “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever…” Jesus was promising to send the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower His followers in the same manner the Holy Spirit empowered Him.

Jesus did His “works” as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit for our example. He set aside the independent use of His deity. If He did His works employing His deity, how could we ever hope to do them as mere humans? We couldn’t.

Jesus “found Phillip” means He was led to find Phillip, acting in concert with His Father. Likewise He wanted to go to Galilee because His Father was prompting Him.

Joh 1:44  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

Jesus will pronounce judgment on the people of Bethsaida because they reject the witness of His miracles and do not repent of their sins (Matthew 11:21). These three men represent God’s grace in salvation. He called them out from a wicked town. He would have saved any in Bethsaida who repented and received Him.

Joh 1:45  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.”

Moses told Israel to look for the coming of a great Prophet.
The other prophets of the Old Testament said He would be the One upon whom the Holy Spirit remained.

Philip shared the Lord with Nathanael, but he was wrong in the details:

Although Jesus grew up in Nazareth, He was born in Bethlehem.
Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father.

You and I get it wrong sometimes when sharing Jesus with others. God is limitlessly gracious. He covers for us time and again. Share what you know.
Joh 1:46  And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Nazareth was an obscure, off-the-beaten trail village. It is not once mentioned in the Jewish Scriptures. Surely someone as famous and powerful as the Messiah would not be associated with such humble beginnings and background.

Jesus invited Andrew and John, “Come & see.” Philip invited Nathanael, “Come & see.” In both cases, there was a responsibility to act on what they’d been told.

Joh 1:47  Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”

Jesus made a statement that showed He knew Nathanael’s inner thoughts. Jesus was omniscient, but we’re understanding Him acting as human walking in dependence upon His Father in the Spirit’s power.

Jesus was exercising what will later be labeled “the word of knowledge.” It is the Holy Spirit giving you knowledge you cannot otherwise acquire.

Joh 1:48  Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Messianic Jews studied under the shade of fig trees because the tree was the symbol of the nation of Israel and because of God’s promise to bless Israel in the future. Zechariah 3:10 says, “In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.’ ”

Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart and his habits. Jesus was omniscient, but this is the Holy Spirit giving Him knowledge.

Joh 1:49  Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus’ exercise of the word of knowledge brought glory to God.
Our gifts are not, as Warren Wiersbe says, “Toys to play with.” They are for ministering to others.

Nathanael’s reaction seems extreme. Someone may have told Jesus that Nathanael had the reputation of being without deceit.

It was a good guess that he read under fig trees. The following two verses put the entire scene into perspective.

Joh 1:50  Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
Joh 1:51  And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see Heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

“Deceit,” or “guile,” as some Bibles translate it, is the word for “Jacob.” Jesus knew the very portion of Scripture Nathanael was reading under the fig tree. It is from Genesis: “[Jacob] dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to Heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (28:12).

Jesus quoted the passage, even giving the correct order of the words “ascending and descending.”

Putting it all together you see why Nathanael’s mind was blown.
Jesus knew his heart, saw him under a fig tree, and told him what he was reading. Then He revealed that it was a message to Nathanael, a prophecy of things to come. To top it off, Jesus was claiming that the ladder represented Him.

O, yeah, this is the Messiah!

Jesus used the term “Son of Man” of Himself more than eighty times. It underscores Jesus’ identifying with us as human beings. He is the Son of Man in that He is our example of a man upon whom the Holy Spirit remains.

As far as church planting, we say this: You’re the church, and God has planted you in your life and its circumstances. Tell others to “Come and see” Jesus and watch what happens.

This Lamb Is Your Lamb, This Lamb Is My Lamb, This Lamb Was Sent For You And Me (John 1:29-34)

Boxers boast some of the fiercest nicknames in professional sports.

“Iron” Mike Tyson… Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns… Rubin “Hurricane” Carter… Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini… “Merciless” Ray Mercer… James “Bonecrusher” Smith… “Raging Bull” Jake Lamotta… “The Brockton Bomber” Rocky Marciano… Hector “Macho” Camacho.

Fictional fighter Apollo Creed was “The Master of Disaster,” “The Dancing Destroyer,” “The King of Sting,” “The Prince of Punch,” and “The Count of Monte Fisto.”

Compare these nicknames; and, yes, they are real:

“The Punching Postman” (Tony Thornton).
“Wimpy” (Jerry Halstead).
“The Ding-a-Ling Man” (Darnell Wilson).

Those nicknames don’t quite have the same effect.

Announcing Jesus to the world, John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

“The Lamb of God” may not sound fierce. Consider this: The last book of the New Testament, the Revelation, describes the spiritual warfare by which Satan, sin, and death are once-for-all defeated. Jesus is called “The Lamb of God” twenty-nine times in the Revelation.

Satan boasts the title, “The Roaring Lion,” who goes about seeking those he can devour (First Peter 5:8). Lamb versus Lion and the Lamb wins easily.

Properly understood, “Lamb” is the most powerful title in the universe.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 John Baptized The Lamb And He Received God The Holy Spirit, and #2 The Lamb Baptizes You And You Receive God The Holy Spirit.

#1 – John Baptized The Lamb And He Received God The Holy Spirit (v29-31)

The Roaring Lion has other powerful titles: “The Ruler of This World,” “The Prince of the Power of the Air,” “The Dragon,” “The Murderer,” “The Accuser,” and “The Devil.” He masquerades as an “Angel of Light” (Second Corinthians 11:14).

Jesus will first incarcerate him, then cast him into the Lake of Fire, where he will suffer eternal conscious torment (Revelation 20:10).

As Apollo Creed once said to Rocky Balboa, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”

I think we are sufficiently convinced that “The Lamb of God” is quite a title.

Joh 1:29  The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

This is another masterful, carefully crafted verse. It is at once simple and sublime. It’s best to start with the rich meaning of “The Lamb of God.”

The Jews coming out to hear John preach grew up sacrificing lambs. The shedding of innocent blood was necessary for a sinful man to approach the holy God.

The person offering the sacrifice lay his hands upon the animal to symbolize that it was taking his place. 
Then the person making the sacrifice had to kill the animal, which was usually done by cutting its throat with a sharp knife. It was brutal and bloody.

Priests slaughtered two sacrificial lambs every day in the Temple, morning and evening.
Whenever necessary, a Jew could bring an animal for a sin offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering, or a trespass offering.
Annually the Jews were to celebrate their Exodus from Egypt by each family sacrificing a lamb at Passover.

It’s anybody’s guess how many animals were offered during the years that the Temple was in operation. Not to mention animal sacrifices for the 2500 years between Adam and Moses.

When John identified Jesus as “The Lamb of God,” it was a stunning pronouncement:

It meant that all the lambs previously sacrificed anticipated His coming to be the Last Lamb.
It told that Jesus would be slaughtered as a sacrificial lamb.

Jesus is “The Lamb of God.” God the Father sent Jesus, He gave Jesus to the human race to be our Lamb. He is the only Lamb God has provided. Believing in His substitutionary death and resurrection is the exclusive way you can be saved.

In Avengers: Infinity War, Peter Parker asks his best friend to cause a distraction so he can exit the bus without being seen. Easy-peasy, because when Ned looks out the window, he is startled to see a spaceship and yells out, “We’re all gonna die! It’s a spaceship!”

When John the Baptist says, “Behold!” it has that kind of impact. Only in the case of Jesus, it’s because those who receive Him are “all gonna live!”

Jesus’ sacrifice will “take away the sin of the world.” “Sin” is singular, meaning all sin, including the sin nature we inherit from our original parents, Adam and Eve. The death of The Lamb of God solves the universal problem of sin.

Animal sacrifices were never meant to be sufficient to “take away” sin once-and-for-all. They were a temporary fix.
My Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon started leaking radiator fluid. It was Christmastime in the 1980s, and we were leaving SoCal to return home. My brother put Stop Leak in it. We limped home on that temporary fix. What it needed was a new radiator.

Jesus’ sacrifice was permanent. On the Cross, at the precise moment thousands of Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!”

Every person, everywhere, for all time, is included in “of the world.” Let me put it another way. Can you imagine Jesus saying to anyone, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t die for you?”

Not everyone will be saved. Only those who believe and receive the Lord’s sacrifice on their behalf and in their place are saved.

Joh 1:30  This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’

John was older than Jesus, but he said Jesus was “before me.” He may have spoken more than he knew, but this is a declaration of Jesus’ preexistence. A Person called the Word was with God and was God. The Word was Jesus.

This is the third time John has said Jesus “is preferred before me” (v15, 27, 30). He was all about people beholding Jesus. John did nothing to call attention to himself. His was genuine humility. He did not care what others thought about him or how he was treated.

John the Baptist knew that God didn’t need him. There was nothing special about him that caused God to choose him to be Jesus’ forerunner.

I’d rather know that God wants me than needs me.
Were you ever the last person chosen in a schoolyard pick? God doesn’t need me, but He wants me. I am always His first pick. And somehow, so are each of you.

I’m an absolute zero but God saved me, and wants me to partner with Him in the Gospel.

Joh 1:31  I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

John did not know that his cousin was the Messiah until God identified Jesus to him.

John baptized “with water” hints that the Messiah would baptize using another medium.

Did you know that there are around eight hundred people who consider themselves religious Samaritans?

After Solomon’s death, Israel split:

The nation in the north was called Israel. Their capital was Samaria. They set up a system of Temple worship on Mount Gerizim.
The nation to the south was called Judah. They continued to worship in the prescribed way in the Jerusalem Temple.

The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, and those tribes were scattered.

The eight hundred Samaritans claim their direct descent from those Jews who remained.

According to National Geographic, “They consider themselves the true observers of Israelite religion, and view Judaism as a religious practice corrupted during the Babylonian exile.” At their annual Passover, dozens of lambs are sacrificed.

There is a strong movement in Israel to rebuild the Temple and reinstate animal sacrifice.

Guys, that is all over for now, in the current Church Age we are in. “Behold!” Jesus, God’s Lamb, Who takes away sin once-for-all for those who believe and receive Him.

#2 – The Lamb Baptizes You And You Receive God The Holy Spirit (v32-34)

The Fellowship of the Ring were forced by evil circumstances to go through the Mines of Moria on their way to Mordor. They came to a place where Gandalf must choose from several different paths.

On your journey through the rich veins of spiritual wisdom and insight in the Bible, you come to places where you must choose from different interpretations of certain nonessential (but nevertheless important) positions.

One of those places is what is called “Spirit baptism,” or “the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.”

We’re going to talk about the controversy a little in a moment. First, we want to keep beholding Jesus because whatever you choose to believe about the Spirit and baptism, Jesus is the Baptizer.

Joh 1:32  And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.

There was a visible manifestation of the Spirit that looked like a dove to John and those who saw it.

Jesus was not without the Holy Spirit before His baptism. The Spirit of God came upon Him in a special empowering for the earthly ministry He was embarking upon.

John was “sent” to connect Jesus to the prophecies of the Messiah. One commentator writes,

Jesus is “the coming Davidic king” upon whom the Lord promised to pour out his Spirit in Isaiah 11:1-9; He is the servant/elect one upon whom God will put His Spirit in Isaiah 42:1; He is the prophet who announces, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” in Isaiah 61:1.

Our text is not a teaching on the baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is a testimony that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, and part of the evidence is John’s testimony that the Holy Spirit remained upon Him.

God the Holy Spirit was not resident in Old Testament believers the way He is in the Church Age:

King David writes, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).
Samson is an example of a believer who had the Spirit taken away from him for a time.

The Messiah would bring a new relationship with the Holy Spirit. He would abide with us, in us. For example, Ezekiel writes, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh…” (11:19).

Joh 1:33  I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

John did not know Jesus was the Messiah until the day He presented Himself to be water baptized.

John’s water baptizing was a physical illustration of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit. Jesus received the Holy Spirit, and He would baptize His believers with the Holy Spirit.

The apostle John is the only gospel writer that does not call John “the Baptist.”

Jesus is the true “baptist,” baptizing with the Holy Spirit, not water.

Joh 1:34  And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

The human cousin that John pointed out and identified, Jesus, was simultaneously the unique “Son of God.” A commentator writes, “While believers are children of God through the new birth, Jesus is the eternal Son of God. He stands in a unique relationship with the Father. The Jews recognized that when Jesus called God His own Father, He was making Himself equal with God (John 5:18).”

Jesus is the promised baptizer with the Holy Spirit. Not too much else here to help us decide what we believe about the Doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

If you haven’t discovered it, the Blue Letter Bible is a terrific online resource. It’s available as an app and at blueletterbible.org.

They identify several positions on when a believer receives what the Bible labels the baptism with the Holy Spirit:

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is received once at the moment of your salvation.
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit may be received when a person is saved, or there may be a delay.
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is always received after a person is saved, and there will be an outward manifestation of Him.

We can dismiss #3. It is altogether contrary to the teaching of the Bible. Our answer, if we can call it that, is one of the other two positions.

We read about Spirit baptism in First Corinthians 12:12-13, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

The moment you are saved, God the Holy Spirit “baptizes” you. He places you in the body of Christ. It is a spiritual immersion. You become spiritually connected to every other believer.

It is, therefore, true that a Baptism with the Holy Spirit happens the moment you are saved.

Those who hold that the baptism with the Spirit happens once at conversion nevertheless teach that a believer needs fresh “fillings” with the Holy Spirit.

Charismatic scholar Gordon Fee writes,

[The early church] simply did not think of Christian initiation as a two-stage process. For them, to be Christian meant to have the Spirit. To be “spiritual,” therefore, did not mean to be some kind of special Christian. For them, to be spiritual meant to be a Christian – not over against a nominal or carnal Christian, but over against a non-Christian, one who does not have the Spirit.

It sounds like we have chosen the first position. Not so fast. Gordon Fee goes on to say,

What we must understand is that the Spirit [is] the chief element, the primary ingredient, of [our] new existence. [It] is not merely a matter of getting saved, forgiven, and prepared for Heaven.

It [is] above all else to receive the Spirit, to walk with power.”

Ideally, you are saved and begin walking in the empowering of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I said “ideally” because that isn’t always the case. Giants of the faith like D.L. Moody and R.A. Torrey speak of further experiencing the Holy Spirit in their lives. Moody wrote,

I think it is clearly taught in Scripture that every believer has the Holy Ghost dwelling in him. He may be quenching the Spirit of God, and he may not glorify God as he should, but if he is a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost dwells in him… Though Christian men and women have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, yet He is not dwelling within them in power; in other words, God has a great many sons and daughters without power.

What if you are saved but are not experiencing the Holy Spirit powerfully in your life? Consider the following:

Jesus spoke to His disciples of a coming, further baptism with the Holy Spirit, calling it “the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4).
Twice in the Book of Acts, this baptism is called “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38, 10:45).
In the Gospel of Luke, we read, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).

Promises are kept by the Promiser. They don’t depend upon the promisee. You have been promised the power of the Holy Spirit to live your life.
Gifts are given freely to be received by the giftee with no prerequisite.
Asking God for the Holy Spirit is always answered, “Yes.”

The baptism with the Holy Spirit for empowered living is a promised gift your Heavenly Father does not withhold when you ask.

It is normal to be enabled to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit from Day One of being immersed into the body of Christ. If you’re not experiencing that power, you can experience it.

The best ‘position’ to take is summarized by Moody: “The Holy Spirit in us is one thing, and the Holy Spirit on us is another.”

God the Holy Spirit is a promised gift that the Lord cannot withhold if you simply ask for Him.

Ask…Believe…Receive…Repeat when if and when it is necessary.