You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Net (John 21:1-25)

My Uncle Dan Romaniello was an accomplished fisherman. In his retirement he and my Aunt Philomena lived in a cabin near Big Bear Lake. Uncle Dan had a boat docked there, ready to set out at a moment’s notice.

His vocabulary did not include the word, ‘limit.’

Ten fish was the limit Fish & Game set. From trout #11 on, the catch was stuffed into seat cushions.

Some day I will tell you about the time I became hypothermic on the boat. Uncle Dan was so in the zone that he didn’t realize I was frozen. Once he did, and understood the urgency, we headed in. I think he might have been trolling on the way.

The apostle John saw fit to close his Gospel by telling a fish story.

After toiling all night, the disciples came up empty. From shore, Jesus told them to drop their nets on the other side of the boat. It resulted in a staggering catch.

Nearly four years prior, the Lord had called fishermen to follow Him, saying, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). The time had come for them to embark upon their calling.

Spoiler alert: They would simultaneously be shepherds.

Jesus tells Peter, “feed My lambs… tend My lambs… feed My sheep.”

The two professions perfectly communicate our mission during the Church Age as we wait for the coming of Jesus:

Fishers of men evangelize unbelievers.
Shepherds nurture believers, equipping and edifying them to themselves go out as fishers of men.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Grace, Not Gear, Is Needed To Fish For Men, and #2 Brokenness, Not Boasting, Is Needed To Shepherd Men.

#1 – Grace, Not Gear, Is What Is Needed To Fish For Men (v1-11)

Hooper arrived in The Flicka. It was outfitted with every modern gadget, all the appropriate gear, that you’d expect on a research vessel.

To eliminate Jaws, however, the Amity City Council hired Quint. His boat, The Orca, well… let’s just say it was barely seaworthy.

Jesus prefers Orcas to Flickas.

Joh 21:1  After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself:

Places get renamed. In 1963, Cape Canaveral was renamed Cape Kennedy. Ten years later, Floridians changed it back. The Sea of Galilee was called the Sea of Tiberias by the Romans to honor the Emperor.

Jesus told the disciples that after being raised from the dead He would go before them to Galilee (Matthew 26:32). They were there, waiting.

Joh 21:2  Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.

Why only these seven? We are not told. We’ve seen that John’s writing style involved groups of seven. It’s fun to discover them.

Joh 21:3  Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.

Were they right to put out the Gone Fishin’ sign? My current attitude is, “Why not fish?” They needed to sustain themselves waiting for the Lord.

More importantly, underline, “that night they caught nothing.” These guys were fishermen by trade, and the Sea of Galilee was teeming with fish.

Their total inability to catch even one fish illustrates the need to depend upon God in their man-fishing.

Joh 21:4  But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

I’ve officiated more than a few open casket funerals. In some cases, the deceased looked strangely different – almost like another person. Imagine how different a resurrected man might look.

Then, too, Jesus enjoyed hiding His identity from disciples before making a big reveal of Himself.

Joh 21:5  Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

“Children” can be translated “friends,” or “lads.” Jesus asked them what you ask any fisherman: “Did you catch anything?”

Joh 21:6  And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some…”

The remains of a first-century fishing boat were not too long ago discovered in the mud of the Sea of Galilee. It is 26’ long and 7½’ wide. The “right side of the boat” was not far enough away to matter.

They didn’t know it was Jesus, but we do. It’s simple: Without the direction of Jesus there was no catch, but with it, there was as great a catch as possible.

Jesus must lead you to your spiritual fishing holes. Once there, don’t trust in your gear, but in His grace.

Joh 21:6  And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Jesus was quite the fisherman:

In the Gospel of Luke, the disciples follow Jesus’ instruction, and their catch was so great that it threatened to sink two boats (5:7-8).
In Matthew, Jesus sent Peter to catch a fish that would have a coin in its mouth so that Peter could pay the Temple Tax (17:27).
Jesus twice multiplied dead fish to feed multitudes.

Joh 21:7  Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.

John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” We are not told why he had this nickname. True, John was part of what some call an inner circle, and was present at many significant events that other disciples were not.

But “Jesus loves me, this I know…”

God is incapable of loving anyone more than someone else. He loves us as He loves His own Son.

King David was… “The man after God’s own heart.” Is he the only one, ever, who was a man after God’s own heart? The Lord has a designation for you, too.

Joh 21:8  But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.

The Lord could disappear as fast as He appeared. Maybe Peter figured the weight of the catch would slow the boat too much.

Joh 21:9  Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread.
Joh 21:10  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

It was the first Boat & Breakfast. Jesus was about to commission them to be fishers of men and spiritual shepherds. We would understand it as an ordination ceremony.

It isn’t exaggerating to say this was one of the most important breakfasts in history. It was informal, with no fanfare or guest speakers, no certificates or wallet cards. No tri-tip.

Joh 21:11  Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

Is the number, 153, significant? Probably, but most of the explanations are allegorical nonsense. One interesting fact: Pythagoras calculated that 153 is the denominator of the closest known fraction to the square root of 3, which as a fraction is 265/153. So what? Well, this is the ratio of a fish shape drawn between two overlapping circles which are centered on each other’s circumference.

When drawn, it looks like the Christian ICTHUS fish that early believers used.

Employing tried and true gear and methods, drawing from years of experience, in a lake teeming with fish, with strong nets, toiling all night, they caught nothing.

Depending on the Lord, in just a few minutes they limited out.

Let’s not overlook the effort Peter made to get to the Lord, and to bring in the catch. They were 100 yards out when Peter put on his outer garment and jumped in. That in itself is a little strange. If you want to swim faster, you remove clothing and equipment that could hinder you.

If you are a strong swimmer, you might not think 100 yards is challenging. But in addition to being fully clothed, Peter had been toiling all night, and this was an open-water swim. On shore, Peter drug (dragged?) the net alone.

Peter’s response to Jesus is nothing less than full throttle. He definitely exerted himself. How does this fit with total dependence on Jesus? It fits perfectly. F. LeRoy Forlines explains,

“It is a misunderstanding of Scripture for us to reduce ourselves to instruments for God to use or channels for God to work through. These metaphors are all right if we do not press them too far. When we press them to the point that we are passively to yield ourselves to God with the idea that we are to do nothing and let God use us like puppets, we are overlooking the truth that God has made us as persons and treats us accordingly in His dealings with us.”

We are both dependent and independent. Our independence is subordinate but not passive. We are told to run the race, press forward, work while there is time, pursue holiness “without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Are you coming up empty in some part of your life? Maybe you can’t get victory over sin; or your relationships are struggling. It could be you are casting your net for wisdom and guidance on the wrong side, listening to the world and not the Word.

The right side – the Lord’s side – is often radical, foolish, in the eyes of men. So be a fool and follow.

#2 – Brokenness, Not Boasting, Is Needed To Shepherd Men (v12-25)

“This day, my God, I hate sin not because it damns me, but because it has done Thee wrong. To have grieved my God is the worst grief to me.”

Charles Spurgeon said that, but it sounds a lot like something Peter could say. His grief comes up in his after breakfast talk with Jesus.

Joh 21:12  Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” – knowing that it was the Lord.

Jesus did a lot of popping-in. The disciples probably alternated between thinking they saw Jesus everywhere, and thinking they wouldn’t see Him anymore.

Joh 21:13  Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.
Joh 21:14  This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

The resurrected God-man remains a servant. Jesus isn’t waiting on you hand and foot.
He serves you by enabling you to walk in obedience and thereby grow.

Joh 21:15  So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
Joh 21:16  He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
Joh 21:17  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

It will help us if we first explain a few things:

This is not Peter being forgiven and restored after his three denials. Jesus had previously appeared privately to Peter (First Corinthians 15:5).

The Lord cannot be reminding Peter of his sin. Forgiven sins are as far from you as the East is from the West, never to be brought up by the Lord again.

The Lord and Peter use two different words for “love,” but it turns out that is of no consequence. Language scholars say, “In John’s Gospel this is an example of synonymous usage, as both agape and phileo are used for the Father’s love for the Son (3:35; 5:20), the Father’s love for the saints (14:23; 16:27), and Jesus’ love for Lazarus (11:3, 5, 36).”

It is a mistake to think that the different Bible words for love are in competition with each other.

Jesus and Peter have agape & phileo for each other. I like that – a lot! It means that Jesus agapes & phileos me. He has the unconditional love of God for me, AND we are friends and brothers who phileo one other.

The three questions are obviously associated with Peter’s denials. He remained “grieved” by them.

Let’s hear that quote from Spurgeon again: “This day, my God, I hate sin not because it damns me, but because it has done Thee wrong. To have grieved my God is the worst grief to me.”

Forgiven and restored, commissioned and sent out, Peter would never forget his denials that had grieved the Lord.

The apostle Paul tells us to forget “those things which are behind and [reach] forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13). Nevertheless, Paul remained grieved by his persecution of Christians, and his struggle between the spirit and the flesh.

Peter was a broken person who had been restored by the Lord. It would encourage him to be a more nurturing shepherd. An overseer, not an overlord.

In his first letter to the church, Peter wrote, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (5:2-3).

Joh 21:18  “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
Joh 21:19  This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

Peter would receive the promise of the Spirit. He would enjoy a great catch man-fishing on the Day of Pentecost, then go on to shepherd those who were saved. He would be the apostle who opened salvation to the Gentiles.

Jesus shared His foreknowledge of Peter’s future. Jesus was describing Peter being crucified as His martyr. Church history records Peter asking to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.

Notice Jesus said, “When you are old.” Peter would be around for a while. Jesus has not shared His foresight of my life. I think all of you would say the same. No worries; He has foresight, and is working all things together for good. I might be surprised when something happens, but Jesus is not.

Joh 21:20  Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”

They were walking, and John was politely hanging back. Peter and John had a special relationship.

We will see them ministering together, in the Book of Acts, healing the lame man. Peter couldn’t help wondering if John would also be martyred.

Joh 21:21  Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

We assume Peter was asking out of some jealousy or rivalry. Why not out of love for John, to give him a glimpse of his future?

Joh 21:22  Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

Don’t compare yourself to other believers. Don’t do it to feel sorry or superior. A servant answers to his master, not to other servants.

Joh 21:23  Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

Christians interpreted Jesus’ words to mean John would not die until Jesus returned. It was true, but not in the way they thought.

As an old man in his nineties, John received the Revelation of Jesus. He was transported to Heaven and in that way he did see the Lord’s coming before he died.

Joh 21:24  This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
Joh 21:25  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. Amen.

We read the Bible literally, but not like Drax. In the MCU, Drax is from a race that takes everything absolutely literal, with no accounting for figures of speech. It makes for great on-screen humor.

John was using hyperbole to express the extent of God’s love for mankind.

You’ve heard the expression, “By hook, or by crook.” The phrase came into usage with the translation of the New Testament into English in 1380 by John Wycliffe. It’s believed that it was derived from our Scripture today:

The hook is the fishhook.
The crook is the staff of a shepherd.

The hook & the crook symbolize evangelism and nurturing.

Perhaps we should adopt a version as a mission statement:

Calvary Hanford
By hook; then by crook.

All We Are Saying Is Peace Is A Choice (John 20:19-31)

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

As far as famous first words go, Neil Armstrong’s moon landing tops any list.

I prefer astronaut Jim Irwin’s lesser known words: “Jesus walking on the earth was more important than man walking on the moon.”

More than 2000 years ago, the voice from Heaven was heard when the Christ Child cried and cooed in a Bethlehem manger. The first words the angel of the Lord proclaimed to the shepherds, watching over their flocks by night, were, “Fear not! For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”

Our text in the Gospel of John features the famous first words Jesus spoke to the assembled disciples after His resurrection:

“Peace be with you.”

Afraid… in hiding… behind locked doors… having each in their own way failed the Lord. You might expect Jesus to issue a stern rebuke. But that only reveals how much we need to grow in grace.

J.C. Ryle puts this in perspective, saying, “‘Peace’ and not blame; ‘peace’ and not fault-finding; ‘peace’ and not rebuke, was the first word which this little company heard from their Master’s lips, after He left the tomb.”

Maybe today you need to hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Believer – God’s Peace Is With You, and #2 Unbeliever – God’s Peace Can Be With You.

#1 – Believer – God’s Peace Is With You (v19-29)

Peace in the Middle East… A peace offering… Blessed are the peacemakers… Speak now or forever hold your peace… Peace in our time… The Peacemaker Colt single-action revolver.

Peace can mean a lot of things. What did Jesus mean?

This wasn’t the first time Jesus talked to His guys about peace:

Joh 14:27  “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Joh 16:33  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Jesus emphasized two things:

The world is filled with tribulation that causes your heart to be troubled.
He gives you supernatural peace to overcome fear and replace it with cheer.

Peace, then, is God’s empowering to rest in, and be content with, our troublesome circumstances. It is a promised permanent possession of the believer. We are, in the truest sense, to Rest In Peace.

Are you resting in peace in this turbulent world?

First, you need peace with God. Men are born enemies of God. Jesus came to reconcile mankind to God by taking our place on the Cross. God makes peace with us at the Cross.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “God cannot give us peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

You are free to reject the idea that you need peace with God, and live your life feeling as if everything is going well. In the end you will face what the Bible calls the Great White Throne Judgment. Apart from believing in Jesus, you will understand that there is no reconciling with God. You will stand there in your trespasses and sins, God’s enemy, and be cast alive into the Lake of Fire for an eternity of conscious torment.

Peace doesn’t come through meditation, or breathing techniques. It isn’t earned or merited. It is already yours. Like so much else in the Christian life, your part is to believe. Charles H. Brent said, “The happy sequence culminating in fellowship with God is penitence, pardon, and peace. The first we offer, the second we accept, and the third we inherit.”

It both is, and isn’t, that simple:

Yes, you can always be at peace. It is your inheritance.
No, you’re not always at peace, because you constantly face new obstacles and agitations.

Joh 20:19  Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When the apostle John references “the Jews,” he means the authorities, not the Jewish people.

They were understandably afraid. The Jews had manipulated the Roman ruler to put Jesus to death. The combined earthly might of religion and government united to crush the followers of Jesus. At any moment, there might be a knock on the door, demanding entrance, leading to arrest and who knows what else.

Satan is the ruler of a sinister system in opposition to God. The Bible calls it “the world.” What is Satan’s rule like? A big part of His platform is murder:

California has gone from being the Golden State to being the Abortion State. Governor Gavin Newsom recently launched a disgusting billboard campaign using a Bible verse to support abortion in pro-life states. It reads, “Need an abortion? California is ready to help. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.’ ”

Canada is going to allow assisted suicide for healthy people with mental illness beginning in 2023. This includes depression and personality disorders. Canada euthanized ten thousand people in 2021. One source commented, “Canada is obsessed with human sacrifice like all pagan religions before it, and they REALLY want to off people.”

Abortion was the leading cause of death worldwide for the third year in a row, according to Worldometer, a database that provides real-time global statistics on population, health, energy and a variety of other topics.

Why is there no sanctity of human life? Because the devil is “a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8:44)

Of course his world-ruling system promotes murder on a malevolent scale.

While we must battle on every front – local and national; legal and political – the ultimate warfare is supernatural. It is for the hearts of men. The Gospel remains the power of God unto salvation. Saved people realize the sanctity of life, and they repudiate murder.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

The disciples were huddled together, cowering in secret and in fear, doors fixed shut. It is possible for a church to become like that – closed off to outsiders, content to be ‘safe.’ A.B. Simpson said, “The Christian that is bound by his own horizon, the church that lives simply for itself, is bound to die a spiritual death and sink into stagnancy and corruption. We never can thank God enough for giving us not only a whole Gospel to believe, but a whole world to give it to.”

“Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ ”

The Lord rose from the dead in a physical body, but one that is greatly enhanced. He could either walk through doors or transport from place-to-place.

Believers will likewise be raised in enhanced bodies, oufitted for eternity.

The disciples were ignoring both Jesus’ promise of peace and the power of His resurrection.

When I am not at peace in my circumstances, I am ignoring the biblical fact that peace is already mine through His power.

Joh 20:20  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

I can imagine the Lord saying, “Guys, check it out,” showing His hands (or wrists). Then He may have said, “Now check THIS out,” opening His garments to reveal the place where He’d been speared.

The apostle Paul told the churches of Galatia, “I bear in my body the marks of Jesus” (6:17). He was primarily talking about the many scars from his abundant tribulations. It makes me think of the scene in Jaws where they are showing off their various scars. Chief Brodie at one point sheepishly looks at his appendicitis scar. That would be me in a Christian comparison of sufferings.

You may not have visible trauma, but you do bear invisible, spiritual marks. You are called a bondservant. A bondservant would have their earlobe pierced through. All of us bear at least that mark.

They were “glad.” Some translations have “overjoyed.” What strikes us is the speed of their transformation. They saw the Lord and immediately their joy was overflowing.

Joh 20:21  So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

With that one word, “peace,” Jesus expected them to make a complete turn-around. No time for coddling, or feeling sorry for yourself, or sabbaticals.

There was work to be done. They would be sent out to serve the Lord, in the same manner Jesus had been sent. “Make it go away with work.”

Joh 20:22  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

This wasn’t a pre-filling with ministry power. The disciples would not receive the power of the Holy Spirit until the Day of Pentecost. Besides, there is little, if any, change in them after the Lord breathed on them until Pentecost. In the next chapter, we find them fishing for tilapia, catfish, and sardine – not men.

F.F. Bruce points out something helpful:

The verb used here (emphysaō) is that used in the Septuagint of Genesis 2:7 where, after fashioning the first man from dust, God “breathed into his face the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.”

The disciples would have understood this unique word from Genesis.

God’s breath in Eden included spiritual life which Adam forfeited. Breathing on the disciples was symbolic of their being a new creation with spiritual life in Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote, “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” (First Corinthians 15:45).

A.W. Pink said, “There, man’s original creation was completed by this act of God; who, then, can fail to see that here in John 20, on the day of the Savior’s resurrection, the new creation had begun, begun by the Head of the new creation.”

Joh 20:23  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

When a person presents the Gospel, he or she has the authority to declare that a person’s sins can and will be forgiven at the Cross. Reject Jesus, however, and God’s ambassadors declare, with equal authority, that sins are retained.

The first time we see this exercised is on the Day of Pentecost, in the Book of Acts. Peter presented the Gospel. As the hearers believed and repented, their sins were forgiven, and they were saved. No other mediation was necessary, certainly not private confession to a priest.

Joh 20:24  Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas was a twin, and as a result, the disciples uncreatively nicknamed him, Twin. We’ve pointed out before that these guys were in many ways like any other group of guys. I think what they said to Thomas was to needle him just a little, especially since his personality was given to a certain cynicism.

Joh 20:25  The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

They must have described Jesus showing them His wounds. Thomas’ skepticism, his famous doubt, was genuine. Jesus will call it unbelief. But his insistence on touching the wounds was a way of saying, “If I had been there, I would have touched Him – unlike you sissies.”

Too much speculation? Probably. But so is the usual commentary on Thomas.

He’s portrayed as “missing church,” and thus missing out on Jesus. The exhortation is made to come to church or suffer dire consequences. But no one can say where Thomas was that previous Sunday evening.

Joh 20:26  And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”

This was a common greeting, sure. But think of all the other ways Jesus could have greeted them; all the other first words, e.g., “Grace to you,” or “Joy to you,” or something entirely different. The Lord knew them best, and that they needed, above all, to retain His peace.

Jesus knows whether you need peace, hope, or joy; healing or sufficient grace to endure suffering; really, anything, because nobody knows you like Him.

Joh 20:27  Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Our Lord is condescending, in the most superlative sense of that word. He condescended to come to Earth, to be born a man, so that His body, substituted for you, could be marked by the crucifixion. By those marks, that death, Jesus draws all men to Himself, the Savior of all who believe.

Joh 20:28  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Another stunning, immediate change. The doubter pronounced a doxology. I’d like to think Thomas received a new nickname – The Once-Doubting Doxologist.

“Jesus is Lord” came to mean that He was God. But here it says He is Lord and God. He is our Master to be served on Earth. And because He is also God, we have His empowering, enabling us to do what He commands.

Joh 20:29  Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

That’s us! We do not have a visual, bodily manifestation of Jesus. We have the written Word which presents Jesus to us as the Person in whom we have everything we need to live a godly life.

Three popular Christian clichés capture our common understanding of peace:

No Jesus, No peace… Know Jesus, Know peace.
You have peace with God, and therefore enjoy the peace of God.
There is no peace on Earth without the Prince of Peace.

#2 – Unbeliever – God’s Peace Can Be With You (v30-31)

I came across this quote attributed to Thomas Noble: “We have our faith in [a] Father ‘whose mercy is over all his works,’ a God for whom it is unthinkable to create creatures in order to damn them.” He has made peace by the Cross, offering all who will believe, eternal life.

Joh 20:30  And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;

Director’s Extended Cuts of feature films are popular. The Snyder Cut of Justice League was four hours long. Much to my disliking, they cut my favorite scene.

A lot of good Bible stuff ended up on the editing floor.

John recorded seven miracles, called by him, “signs.” The seven signs are:

Changing water into wine at Cana (2:1-11), called, “the first of the signs.”
Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum (4:46-54).
Healing the paralytic at Bethesda (5:1-15).
Feeding the 5000 (6:5-14).
Jesus walking on water (6:16-24).
Healing the man blind from birth (9:1-7).
The raising of Lazarus from the dead (11:1-45).

The Book of the Revelation was penned by John. In it you find many groups of seven, e.g., seven churches, seven candlesticks, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. My favorite:

Seven times Jesus says He will “come quickly.”

It seems that sevens were John’s writing style. It’s how he edited. It ought to encourage us to be more concise. I’m not saying we need to dumb-down our message to 280 characters. It is easier to ramble on, to be verbose.

Joh 20:31  but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

The man, Jesus, is the unique Son of God Who is equal with God, the promised Messiah of Israel, and the Savior of the world.

Do you believe that? “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

The Gospel has the power to awaken new faith and to revive faith already awakened. Both unbelievers and believers need to be exhorted to “believe.”

Major Ian Thomas said, “Eternal life is not a peculiar feeling inside. It is not your ultimate destination, to which you will go when you are dead. If you are born again, eternal life is that quality of life that you possess right now.”

Eternal life includes the peace of God that we possess right now in Satan’s turbulent world.

Peace be with you…Rest In Peace…Maranatha!

Mary, Mary, Quite Despairing, Where Did His Body Go? (John 20:1-18)

Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, and The Passion of the Christ, perpetuate the belief that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.

People are always surprised to learn that nowhere does the Bible say she was a prostitute.

Maybe The Chosen gets it right. Nope. They depleted all of their creative license on Mary. Here is the backstory they contrived:

Mary lives in the Red Quarter, the worst district in Capernaum. There she was sexually assaulted by a Roman officer. After the encounter, darkness descended on her soul and seven demons possessed her. When the demons controlled her, she would terrorize the neighborhood, going by the name Lilith. One day, the Romans were made aware of Lilith’s possession and ordered a leader of the Pharisees [Nicodemus] to perform an exorcism to drive the demons out, but he fails, witnessing the demons in terror.

In Dan Brown’s 2003 best-selling fictional book-made-movie,The Da Vinci Code, Mary was not a prostitute. It is worse. Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children and that the Holy Grail of legend and lore is really Mary Magdalene, the ‘sacred feminine,’ the vessel who carried Jesus’ children.

Remember the mini-series called The Bible? They did a good job, never once even hinting she was immoral.

Why do we think of her as a prostitute? One word: Pope Gregory I. On September 14, 1591, Gregory gave a homily in Rome pronouncing that Mary Magdalene was Luke’s “woman in the city who was a sinner” (7:37) who washed Jesus’ feet with ointment and dried them with her hair.

Mary is mentioned twelve times in the New Testament. In the majority of them she is at the Cross or the tomb.

Mary Magdalene was the first person to set eyes upon the resurrected Christ. John tells his resurrection story through her experiences with the risen Lord.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Power That Raised Jesus Will Accompany Your Serving, and #2 The Power That Raised Jesus Will Anoint Your Sharing.

#1 – The Power That Raised Jesus Will Accompany Your Serving (v1-10)

David Wilkerson writes, “Often I feel like a drained car battery. If you forget to turn off the lights of your car, all you get the next day is that dreaded noise – urr… urr – the empty clinking sound of dead machinery.”

There are passages in the New Testament that indicate a church, and hence the believers in it, can make the empty clinking sound of dead machinery:

The apostle Paul chided the churches in Galatia. They had started as Christians always do, in the power of the resurrection of Jesus by which we have the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. But they were like a dead battery in that they were trying to live the Christian life in their own power.

The Lord’s beloved church in Ephesus was running like a well-oiled machine; and that was their problem. Jesus let them know they had left their first love and the result was a mechanical representation of what ought to be a loving relationship.

Why think of yourself as a battery that runs out when the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within you?

Romans 8:11 summarizes everything I’m going to say today: “God raised Jesus to life! God’s Spirit now lives in you, and He will raise you to life by His Spirit.”

This is a promise for now and for eternity. Let’s look at the ‘now.’

Joh 20:1  Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

The “first day of the week” is Sunday. Post-resurrection of Jesus, the New Testament encourages us to gather on Sunday:

• Jesus rose on Sunday (Mark 16:9).
• Christians are recorded assembling three times on Sunday after resurrection and before ascension (John 20:19 John 20:26 Acts 2:1).
• The church was born on a Sunday (Acts 2:1).
• The only day ever mentioned when Christians broke bread was on Sunday (Acts 20:7).
• Christians are commanded every Sunday to give to the church (First Corinthians 16:1-2).

Two things to clarify about Sunday worship:

Sunday is not the new Sabbath Day for the church. Jesus is our Sabbath, our rest, every day. We have no ritual Sabbath to keep, whether Saturday or Sunday.
You can worship any day of the week; Sunday isn’t a must.

“Magdalene” is not Mary’s last name. It would be better to call her Mary of Magdala, a city by the shore of the city of Galilee. For the remainder of our talk, when I say “Mary,” I mean Mary of Magdala.

She came “while it was still dark.” Jesus had first come to her when she was still dark. We learn elsewhere in the Gospels that she was possessed by seven demons. She had personally experienced His power by having seven demons cast out of her.

A quick sidebar: We’ve been suggesting that demons are not fallen angels, but their own category of wicked supernatural creatures. They seem to be disembodied spirits that crave a body to inhabit. That doesn’t seem to fit angels or fallen angels.

Mary went to the tomb believing that it had been shut and sealed, therefore not having a way to enter. It teaches us to take one step at a time, to move forward in the Lord’s will, and let Him, as we like to say, open doors… Or in this case, the tomb.

Joh 20:2  Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

“We [plural] do not know where they have laid Him.” There were other women with Mary, as few as two, or as many as four. It is hard to harmonize all four accounts.

Peter had denied the Lord. John was with him, and Mary came to them. Bishop Ryle writes, “The love and tender nature of John’s character come out most blessedly in his affection for Peter, even after his denial of Christ. John clings to him, and has him under his own roof.”

They were living-out what Paul would later advise, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2).

How much more can we do this, post-resurrection, now that God lives within us.

It has been said that the first unbelievers of the resurrection of Jesus were the believers. Mary expected to find Jesus’ dead body. She had no hope in His resurrection.

The action momentarily shifts to Peter and John.

Joh 20:3  Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb.
Joh 20:4  So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

We often wish the inspired writers of Scripture would have included additional details. We have a lot of unanswered questions.

I find it therefore hilarious that John felt it was necessary to point out that he “outran Peter and came to the tomb first.” Seriously, would that have been something you asked about?

Joh 20:5  And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.
Joh 20:6  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there,

Who knows. Maybe Peter shouted, “Don’t go in there without me!”

Peter and John had only the testimony of Mary. They didn’t know what to expect. It isn’t hard to imagine that they thought Mary mistaken and that the body of Jesus was still in the tomb. Or that grave-robbers were in the vicinity.

Joh 20:7  and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

J.C. Ryle commented,

The body was gone from the tomb; the clothes were left behind, and the condition of them indicated that Christ had passed [through] them without their being un-wrapped. If friends had removed the body, would they not have taken the clothes with it, still covering the honored corpse? If foes had removed the body, first stripping it, would they have been so careful to dispose of the clothes and napkin in the orderly manner in which John now beheld them? Everything pointed to deliberation and design, and the apostle could draw only one conclusion – Christ had risen.

Speaking of questions that we wish the Bible would give us the answer to: It would seem that when we are raptured we will go through our clothes, leaving them behind. Secular thrift stores everywhere will profit from our being caught-up. We will immediately be in our new bodies wearing the promised robe of righteousness.

Joh 20:8  Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.
Joh 20:9  For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

At that moment he knew that Jesus had been restored to life, but he did not yet fully apprehend that the Scriptures predicted the resurrection of the Messiah. They needed the insights Jesus shared with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Joh 20:10  Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

You’d think an emergency meeting of the eleven was in order. Or that they’d want to be together.Compare and contrast this with the Day of Pentecost. After three thousand pilgrims from all over Judea were saved, they didn’t leave Jerusalem. They hung around to be taught by the eleven and share in daily fellowship with one another.

There is nothing deficient with our worshipping together once or twice weekly. But you will know it is revival when people won’t go home.

It was the first day of the week, and Mary came to be with the body of Jesus, bringing fragrances to minister to His body.

It is the first day of the week, and we have come to be with the body of Jesus on Earth, the church, bringing gifts to minister to His body.

We saw a hint of what ministering to the body on Earth is to be like in the treatment of Peter by John and Mary (and we can assume the others).

We could go a lot of directions here, making comparisons. One will do, to get you thinking. The spices the Jews used were myrrh and aloes. Myrrh was to give the body a fragrance, masking the decay. Aloe helped myrrh and the linen wrappings to stick to the body.

We read in Second Corinthians 2:15-16, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

Get together, especially on Sunday, and get ministered to and minister as “the fragrance of Christ” among Christians. Then “Go,” diffusing Jesus to the saved and the unsaved.

#2 – The Power That Raised Jesus Will Anoint Your Sharing (v11-18)

“Anoint” is one of those vocabulary words we use within the family of believers. We mean by it, I think, to convey that we desire our serving God be in the power of the resurrection by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and not in our own strength.

Obi-wan called Vader “More machine than man.” A Christian, or your church, can become more machine than man when it comes to serving the Lord.

I don’t want to be mechanical; neither do you. I want to be fruitful; so do you. Having begun in the Spirit, we want to continue in the Spirit.

Believe that the power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, providing you all the sufficiency of grace to walk worthy of your Lord. Believe it anoints you.

Joh 20:11  But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.
Joh 20:12  And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

Mary lingered and “saw two angels.” One angel sat at the head, the other at the feet, of where Jesus had lain.

It depicts the Mercy Seat that served as the lid for the Ark of the Covenant which featured “two cherubim [stretching] out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, [facing] one another.” (see Exodus 25)

The Lord said, “And there I will meet with thee… between the two cherubims” (25:22). Jesus Christ is the true meeting-place between God and man.

Joh 20:13  Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

We can speculate Mary felt alone, lost, without purpose, confused, directionless. (Add your own adjectives, from your own times of despair).

When you feel that way, quickly remember that Jesus promised to never, ever, no never, leave you or forsake you. Say to yourself, “Why am I weeping?” That is, weeping as if you had no hope.

You know where Jesus is.

You know that He could come for you at any moment. You know all about the world’s future. As for the present, you are enabled to live by this principle: “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21&23).

Joh 20:14  Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

The last time Mary had seen Jesus He barely looked human. He’d been beaten, crowned with thorns, had His beard plucked out. His abused body had been wrapped. Add to that she had no expectation Jesus was alive, and she was stressing about the location of His body. In addition to all that, she probably had failing eyesight, and there was no LensCrafters on the way to the tomb.

John seems to be stressing that, whether or not you recognize Him working, the Lord is present in resurrection power.

Joh 20:15  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

God is romantic, in the purest sense. While we studiously dig deep into, let’s say, the Doctrine of Redemption, God gives us the Book of Ruth.

It explains our redemption through a romantic love story between Boaz and Ruth. We need the scholarship, but with feeling.

I think Jesus hid His identity on purpose, to be romantic. It reminds me of those scenes where the wife is on the phone with her husband, thinking he’s far away, when he is in the next room, about to reveal himself.

Joh 20:16  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, and that He calls us by name. Nobody knows you like Jesus knows you.

Sorry, Dan Brown. She called Jesus, “My Teacher,” not “My lover,” or “My husband.” How old do you think Mary was? According to Britannica, Mary was approximately 54 to 59 years old when Jesus died – more than twenty years His senior.

Joh 20:17  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”

I found this on

Hugging can be described as a handshake from the heart. The simple action of embracing creates feel-good energy for both the giver and recipient.
Science has been looking into its positive effects, and numerous studies have been reaching the same conclusion – hugging is a crucial part of human development.

Huggers – you don’t hug long enough. When people hug for 20 seconds or more, the feel-good hormone oxytocin is released which creates a stronger bond and connection between the huggers. Oxytocin has been shown to boost the immune system and reduce stress.

Jesus wasn’t an anti-hugger. What He was communicating to Mary was that His relationship with her was changing. He would ascend into Heaven, no longer bodily present with her. Instead, Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to indwell her, and all those who believe in Him and are born-again.

Joh 20:18  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

Joseph Benson writes, “Mary had seen the Lord alive, and He had spoken these things unto her as a message to be delivered to them, and she delivered it faithfully. Observe, reader, when God comforts us, it is with this design, that we should comfort others. And they that are acquainted with the word of Christ themselves, should communicate their knowledge for the good of others.”

Jesus would ascend and send:

• He ascended to Heaven.
• He sent God the Holy Spirit to indwell, empower, enable, and embolden. Indeed, to anoint us.

“God raised Jesus to life! God’s Spirit now lives in you, and He will raise you to life by His Spirit.”

Best Tomb-Mates Ever (John 19:31-42)

Not often, but more often than I would like, I have assisted law enforcement in moving a dead body.

I identify with Joseph and Nicodemus. Theirs was the privilege of moving the body of Jesus from Cross to tomb, and of caring for His body with spiced wrappings.

They were Law-of-Moses-abiding Jews:

• Joseph was “a respected member of the Jewish council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43).
• Nicodemus was a member of the council who openly opposed the treatment of Jesus as illegal according to the Law of Moses (John 7:50-51).

Their compassionate act prohibited them from celebrating Passover.

According to the Law of Moses,

Num 19:11  He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days.
Num 19:12  He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean.

The two Law-abiding members of the council could not participate in the Passover that their Law-breaking colleagues were anxious to celebrate.

But listen: They kept the last Passover.

The death of Jesus marked the last Passover. It was the culmination and consummation of Passover. The lambs slain in Egypt the night of the first Passover, and every lamb sacrificed through the centuries, were placeholders until Jesus came. He was the lamb of God Who once-for-all takes away the sin of the world.

The New Testament tells us, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (First Corinthians 5:7). The annual Passover was a shadow; Jesus is the substance.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Behold Your Lamb, and #2 Be-love Your Lamb.

#1 – Jesus Is Your Lamb (v31-37)

“What does God say to Christians about Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles? The answer is simple: ‘Celebrate!’”

I lifted that quote from a Jewish website. Christians have been gravitating to Jewish feasts in growing numbers.

It isn’t unusual for churches to sponsor Passover Seders.

Be my guest. It is entirely up to you. Remember two things:

• When Jesus said, “It is finished,” that included ceremonial law. It included Passover. Jesus is our Passover.
• The liturgy for the modern Passover Sedar did not emerge until nearly two hundred years after the resurrection of Jesus. It is very different from the simple observance in Exodus. Most of the modern Passover cannot be found in the Bible.

We are the church & we don’t do Judaism.

Joh 19:31  Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Does anybody really know what day it is?

I kept asking that question as I read various commentaries. Scholars sharply disagree on the chronology of events during Passion Week. At issue is a possible conflict between John’s account and that of the other three Gospels regarding the Passover meal Jesus ate with His disciples:

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus eating the Passover with His disciples before He was crucified.

John says that Jesus was crucified at the very moment the Passover lambs were sacrificed in the Temple. If that is true, then Jesus could not have eaten the Passover meal with His disciples.

My head hurt trying to figure it out. One solution rises above the others. It is corroborated by the fact the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal that there were two separate calendars which were used in the calculation of feast days. One was Galilean, while the other was Judean.

If I asked you the date of Christmas, you would most likely say December 25th. Many Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate Christmas Day on January 7th. Their churches use the Julian calendar.

There were two opportunities to officially eat the Passover meal.

The most important thing to keep in mind choosing a solution is that Jesus died at the same time the lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple.

We assume that the Preparation Day was to get ready for Passover. It wasn’t. Preparation Day has to do with the weekly Sabbath. Every week the hours before the Sabbath were filled with preparations.

Calling it a “high day” may indicate that Passover fell on a Sabbath Day that year. This year Christmas Day is a High Christmas. (I’m making that up; there is no such thing as a High Christmas). This year December 25th is a Sunday, so we get to celebrate together as a family. It’s only the sixth time in 37 years that December 25th has fallen on a Sunday.

Breaking the legs with a mallet prevented the victim from being able to push himself up to catch a breath. He would thus shortly die from suffocation.

Joh 19:32  Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him.
Joh 19:33  But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

Roman soldiers who carried out the sentence of crucifixion served as on-scene coroners. They knew death, and could be trusted to know if a man was dead or mostly dead.

Jesus was dead. He was so obviously dead that they didn’t break His legs, even though those were their instructions.

Joh 19:34  But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

Executioners didn’t normally plunge a spear into those crucified. It was another inadvertent fulfillment of prophecy, quoted in verse thirty-seven.

There are a slew of explanations for what exactly happened. We don’t know the medical significance.

There is one theory put forth by opponents of Christianity that Jesus swooned, then revived in the Tomb. End of the day, John was trying to establish that Jesus was dead.

A.W. Pink writes,

“That blood should flow from one now dead, that blood and water should issue together, yet separated, was clearly a miracle. The water and the blood came forth to bear witness, that God has given to us eternal life, and that this life is in His Son.”

Joh 19:35  And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.

John could have inserted this declaration anywhere, so why here? It is super important that Jesus died. Going back to the Garden of Eden, God told our parents that if they disobeyed His one command, if they sinned, they would die. They sinned, bringing death upon themselves and their descendants.

Sin demands death. God promised that He would come as the Seed of the woman to be our substitute in paying the penalty of death.

It would take some time – about 4000 years. In the mean time, God would accept sacrificial animals as temporary substitutes.

Ultimately, it must be the blood of a man, and he must be a perfect, sinless man. Seeing as all men are born with a sin nature, the substitute must be born miraculously. The only possible resolve to this is that God be born to a virgin and become incarnate. Being without sin, He could take our place and thereby save us.

Salvation only comes through substitution.

Joh 19:36  For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “NOT ONE OF HIS BONES SHALL BE BROKEN.”
Joh 19:37  And again another Scripture says, “THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED.”

The verses referred to are Numbers 9:12 and Zechariah 12:10. I like to think of John as a guy who did weekly prophecy updates in church. He said, “Here are two Scriptures fulfilled by Jesus on the Cross.” Fulfilled prophecy is a powerful testimony.

Even more powerful, Jesus fulfilled prophecy while dead!

• He was dead when they decided to not mallet His legs.
• He was dead when they pierced His side.
• He was dead when He was buried among the wealthy in an unused tomb.

I’d like to see Nostradamus try that. I get thoroughly annoyed by the attention so-called educational television pays to Nostradamus and his weird quatrains. He published over 1500 quatrains in 1555. Scholars have found 9 that might be considered prophetic, if you look back on history with creative license.

Did you know that Jesus fulfilled at least 27 Messianic prophecies in one day? Or that He fulfilled 300+ Messianic prophecies through His birth, life, and resurrection? Hugh Ross writes,

“Unique among all books ever written, the Bible accurately foretells specific events – in detail – many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately 2,500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2,000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter – no errors. The remaining 500 or so reach into the future and may be seen unfolding as days go by. Since the probability for any one of these prophecies having been fulfilled by chance averages less than one in ten (figured very conservatively) and since the prophecies are for the most part independent of one another, the odds for all these prophecies having been fulfilled by chance without error is less than one in 102000 (that is 1 with 2,000 zeros written after it)!”

I find it outrageous so many Christians have no interest in future prophecy, just at the time so many things are being set up for the Great Tribulation.

A.W. Tozer writes, “Believing… is directing the hearts’ attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to ‘Behold the Lamb of God,’ and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives.”

We would do well to memorize and meditate on these words of Amy Carmichael:

“From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.”

#2 – Be-Love Your Lamb (v38-42)

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II is the most recent state sponsored celebration for a beloved monarch.

Her body was laid in state for four days in Westminster Abbey. Initial reports say that 250,000 people were able to pay their respects.

The funeral itself was attended by about 2,000 people, including heads of state and royalty from dozens of countries around the world. Four billion watched on television.

Jesus is King of kings, Lord of lords. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in Heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

The attendance for the funeral of Jesus was two; and they were the morticians.

Joh 19:38  After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.

A lot of commentary ink has been used dissing Joseph for believing “secretly, for fear of the Jews.” A couple of things come to mind:

I was privileged to smuggle Bibles into China. While there, we were able to meet a couple of underground believers. I would never even think to criticize them for staying under the communist radar.

We tend to forget that sanctification is a process. We grow in the Lord, we mature. Joseph was growing. There certainly was not anything secret about his actions at the Cross.

There is a catch-phrase that I really don’t think is biblical. It is, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.”

Has there ever been a believer who could honestly say, “Jesus is Lord of all?” Lord of every action and reaction? Lord of every word that comes out of their mouth? Lord of every single thought?

It certainly wasn’t the apostle Paul. Towards the end of his life he claimed to be the chief of sinners.

No one can say “Jesus is Lord of all” with regard to their walk with Him. It leads to legalism, in which I think I am more submitted, and ultimately more spiritual, than you are because of my good works.

Of course Jesus is Lord of all. That includes being Lord of our sanctification – the sometimes slow daily process of making us more like Himself.

J.C. Ryle said, “Let us not judge others rashly and hastily. Let us believe that a man’s beginnings in religion may be very small, and yet his latter end may greatly increase. Has a man real grace? Has he within him the genuine work of the Spirit? This is the grand question.”

The more I thought about it this week, the more heroic these guys became.

Joseph and Nicodemus risked everything:

It would be suspicious in the eyes of Rome, considering there was talk of Jesus being an insurrectionist bent on overthrowing Caesar. They’d be added to the terrorist watch list.

The Jews might excommunicate them, seeing as they had decreed no one should have anything to do with Jesus.

There is no indication that Joseph or Nicodemus had any hope that Jesus was going to rise from the dead.

Joh 19:39  And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.

Nicodemus, too, has been criticized because he “first came… by night” to talk to Jesus. It is assumed that he came under cover of darkness for fear of the Jews. If that’s true, I have no problem with it. You can’t expect Nicodemus to be a mature Christian from the jump, before he was even a Christian. We don’t excuse sin, but we ought to be especially gracious about expectations.

A “hundred pounds” of “myrrh and aloes” was worth bank. This wasn’t your basic DIY Messiah funeral hack. It was extravagant.

Believers struggle with giving, especially monetary giving. The amount you give isn’t the critical issue. Giving materially to the Lord is a matter for the heart to determine and not some Old Covenant percentage.

Think about love at its best. Does love withhold? Is love stingy? Does love cut corners? No. Is love sacrificial? Yes.

Love is more like Mary, breaking an alabaster jar of costly fragrant oil and pouring it on Jesus’ feet.

When you talk to the Lord about giving, He’s talking to you about loving.

Was Jesus generous? Was He a giver? “Yes” & “Yes,” and so will His disciples be generous givers.

Joh 19:40  Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

First century Hebrew culture was a rush-to-bury bunch. Shemuel Safrai, Professor emeritus of History of Jewish People at Hebrew U. says, “The traditions about the customs of Jerusalem report that ‘One should not keep the corpse through the night,’ but rather bury it on the very day of death.’ ”

Leaving a corpse unburied through the night was permitted only if more time was needed for the preparation of the body. If you were, for example, waiting on FedEx to deliver a shroud from Turin, Italy, perhaps you could put off burial for a short time.

Think about how funeral conscious these people would be. They had to drop whatever they were doing and throw together a funeral before nightfall.

Joh 19:41  Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

The Jews in first century Rome practiced what is called second burial. Archaeologist Ronny Reich says:

The process of Jewish burial in the Second Temple period took place in two stages:

First, the dead person was buried on a ledge of a rock-hewn tomb.

Then after about one year, when the body had decomposed, family members of the deceased returned to the tomb, gathered the bones and put them into a small box of stone or wood called an ossuary.

Have you made the preparations necessary for your funeral and interment? Jesus did. He made them as far back as eternity past, and they are recorded by Isaiah. “And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth” (53:9). It was another prophecy Jesus fulfilled after He died.

Joh 19:42  So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

This funeral was on a strict schedule. Jesus dismissed His spirit at 3pm. The Sabbath began at sundown, only a few hours later.
We’re not told the ages of Joseph or Nicodemus. We think of them as old, but that is a bias. They were at least 40 in order to serve on the council. They could have been in their forties or fifties.

Their lives changed dramatically in a few hours. Their bold-score was off the charts. They cared nothing about action the council might take against them, or the reaction of Rome. They unashamedly identified with Jesus in His death and burial.

Are you somewhat of a secret disciple? It could change in a short time. Joseph and Nicodemus are role models. They went from secret to spiritual, from cowering to courageous. He is working tirelessly, 24/7, to grow you. Cooperate by believing that the indwelling Holy Spirit empowers and enables you to submit to the Lord of all.

One last look. Two men of stature, leaders and teachers, were pressed into serving as morticians. Jesus might tap you any time to do what needs doing in serving Him. Stay ready, and develop a greater sense of spiritual awareness.

Let Me Start Off With One Word: It Is Finished! (John 19:16-30)

Sleeps with the fishes…

… As a euphemism for death goes as far back as Homer’s Iliad. It was popularized and became a part of our collective culture when the Corleone’s received a package containing a fish wrapped in the late Luca Brasi’s bulletproof vest. Luca slept with the fishes, and the Corleone family went to the mattresses without forgetting the cannoli.

There are hundreds of euphemisms for death.

Bite the dust, croak, pass away, kick the bucket, six feet under, pushing up daisies, take a dirt nap, and bought the farm.

The most consequential death in the history of the universe was the death of Jesus on the Cross.

The Lord gave the Cross a unique description in the Gospel of John. He said, “If I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (John 12:32-33).

“Lifted-up” is borrowed from the Old Testament. The Israelites sinned during the Exodus, grumbling against God in the wilderness. God sent poisonous snakes into camp; many were bitten and died. The people asked Moses for help. God told Moses, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they look at it!”

Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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” (3:14-16).

The bronze snake lifted-up on the pole illustrates Jesus being lifted-up on the Cross.

• An Israelite who was bitten need only look to the pole, believing God that they would be saved.
• Anyone who looks to the Cross believing God will be saved.

With that in mind, there are two possibilities around which I will organize my comments: #1 You Are Drawn To The Lifted-up Lord, or #2 You Are Born To The Lifted-up Lord.

#1 – You Are Drawn To The Lifted-up Lord (v16-24)

H.A. Ironside writes,

“Those of us who are saved can look back and recall how the work of the Holy Spirit began in our souls. We remember the time when we were just part and parcel of the world around us, and then there came an awakening. Perhaps at first we could not understand what was happening to us. We became unhappy and dissatisfied; we desired something we had never known before; we became conscious of our sinfulness and guilt; and we cried out in our hearts for cleansing and purity-that was the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.”

No one can come to Jesus unless God draws them. Thankfully, Jesus draws all men to Himself. He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.

Joh 19:16  Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.

John omits Simon of Cyrene carrying the Cross for Jesus, refusing the wine offered to Him at the beginning, the taunts, the three hours of darkness, the cry about forsaken, the earthquake, the tearing of the Temple veil, and the centurion’s comments.

John includes some things not in the other Gospels: The witness of the inscription, the details and significance of the dividing of the garments, the prophecy fulfillment citations, giving His mother to John, the final cry, and the piercing of His side.

John wasn’t writing as a journalist or a historian. He chose events carefully to serve the overall theme of his Gospel.

When sharing Christ, we might need to edit ourselves and get to the point. Be concise. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ most prolonged talk. It is shorter than a Ted Talk – taking only fifteen minutes to recite.

Joh 19:17  And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,
Joh 19:18  where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.

All four Gospels are united in condensing the violence perpetrated upon Jesus. They weren’t looking to be R-rated or TV-MA.

Let’s agree crucifixion was gruesome. We don’t need to go into detail beyond what they chose to include.

Condemned men would carry the crossbeam on their shoulders to the place of crucifixion. Golgotha may have gotten its name from the fact that the hill, from a distance, resembles a skull.

Crucified with Jesus were two criminals. The scene would point Jews to Isaiah 53:12, which says the suffering servant is “numbered with the transgressors.”

Joh 19:19  Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Joh 19:20  Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Every criminal wore their charges around their neck as they made their way to Golgotha.

Think of the charges against you before you were saved.
Every evil deed for sure, but also the meditations of your heart and mind. The placard noting our charges would be so heavy that we would be crushed by it.

Joh 19:21  Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.” ’ ”
Joh 19:22  Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

Pilate’s perfectly parsed, purposely pithy placard was a diplomatic insult. What he wrote was accurate, but it slandered the Jews.

Pilate was being used by God, inadvertently, to prophesy. God did the same thing earlier when Caiaphas said one man should die for the nation.

The Lord uses unbelievers to suit His purposes.

They act of their own free will but in ways that glorify God and further His purposes.

The Lord is probably using the unbelievers you are around. Not to prophesy but, for example, to challenge your claim that knowing God makes you a new creation, indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.

Joh 19:23  Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic…

Think of this as asset forfeiture. Whatever criminals had in clothing was distributed among the executioners, a squad of four soldiers.

The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled Bible prophecy. In Psalm 22:18, David wrote, “They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Jesus didn’t ask the soldiers to divide His garments and cast lots. This was supernatural providence.

Joh 19:23  … Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.
Joh 19:24  They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “THEY DIVIDED MY GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.

Jews knew these verses. They ought to have been awed to see prophecy fulfilled before their eyes.

The birth of Israel as a nation in 1948 was a prophecy fulfilled before the eyes of the world.

We can identify specific means by which you may be drawn to the lifted-up Jesus:

• Fulfilled Bible prophecy can draw a person. I know that is what initially drew me to the Lord.
• The compassion of Jesus as He instructs John to care for His mother – a widow about to have her eldest son die. In a cruel world with so much abuse, pure compassion draws.
• We see the authority of Jesus throughout John’s account. He was in charge. It is the kind of righteous authority for which our hearts hunger.

God uses people. He uses blessings and buffetings. He uses your circumstances. He can speak through visions and dreams.

Jesus draws all men to Himself – and we emphasize all, whosoever, whoever. Some cannot reconcile God’s sovereignty with mankind’s free will. They conclude that for God to remain sovereign His grace in salvation must be irresistible. It sounds feasible until you realize that it means God only irresistibly draws a small, elect group, leaving the majority of the human race to perish eternally.

Would Jesus consign most of the human race to eternal, conscious torment without giving them a way of salvation?

I can conceive of no crime against humanity greater than condemning billions of people to the Lake of Fire for eternity who by God’s own design could not respond to the Gospel and be saved.

Besides, the Bible tells in us that grace is resistible. As Stephen was being stoned, he said to the Jews, “You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51).

It is biblical to believe God has given man free will and He remains sovereign.
Philip Melanchthon said, “We do better to adore the mysteries of the deity than to investigate them.”
This doesn’t mean that we can ignore unpleasant truths in the Bible. But if we come to a conclusion contrary to the nature of God revealed to us by Jesus, we are wrong. Let us adore the ever-living God.

#2 – You Are Born To The Lifted-up Lord (v25-30)

Even though he was the only Gospel writer present, John recorded just twelve English words Jesus spoke from the Cross:

• “Woman, behold your son!” “Behold your mother!” (19:26-27).
• “I thirst” (19:28).
• “It is finished” (19:30).

Joh 19:25  Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

An overlooked argument as to why we can believe the Bible to be true is that no human author would name several major characters Mary. Nor would there be two Judas’.

Joh 19:26  When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”
Joh 19:27  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

The “disciple Jesus loved” is code for John. Along with Peter and James, John was part of what commentators call the ‘inner circle.’ They accompanied Jesus at times the others did not. You cannot, however, see this as spiritual bragging by John or favoritism by Jesus.

The disciples, at least some of them, had nicknames. It’s common when you hang out with guys. John and his brother James were called, Boanerges – Sons of Thunder. This James was also called James the Less. It can mean younger or smaller in stature.

He is not to be confused with James, the half-sibling of Jesus.

There was Simon the Zealot. Not to be confused with Simon Peter. Peter is translated from petros, meaning Rock or Rocky in English. Jesus renamed him petra. Not to be confused with Peeta in The Hunger Games.

Petros was used to signify a small stone; petra referred to a large boulder.

There was the infamous Judas Iscariot, but another Judas who they called Judas not Iscariot.

Thomas was also called Didymus, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Thomas, both meaning twin. Scripture does not give us the name of Thomas’ twin.

Jesus telling Mary that John was now her son, and telling John that Mary was now his mother, is quite remarkable beyond its compassion. Jesus had male siblings: James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude. He had unnamed sisters, too. They were the offspring of Joseph and Mary after the Lord was born.

The responsibility of caring for their mother should fall to these adult children. Jesus circumvented convention and gave John the responsibility.

We know from the Gospels that His brothers and sisters did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection. Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of a believer over that of His birth family.

It speaks to us of what the Scriptures call the “household of faith.” It is a metaphor for the Church that the Lord is building between His first and second comings. It is a clue to the reader that this is a new economy, a new dispensation, in which those born-again constitute a single family in God’s household. We, spiritually, are each other’s brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers.

In First Corinthians 10:32, we find a distinction that only became true after the resurrection. Paul the apostle recognizes three different classes of persons: “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.”

• Jews are the physical descendants of Abraham.
• Gentiles are anyone not descended physically from Abraham. If you are not a Jew, you are a Gentile.
• The Church is an entirely different entity. It is spiritual and supernatural, comprised of both Jews and Gentiles, relating as a family of those who have been born-again.

You are either a Jew or a Gentile whom Jesus is drawing to Himself, or you are born into the family of God, the Church. Those are your only options.

Joh 19:28  After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”

I mean absolutely no disrespect by saying that Jesus was able to check off every item on what we would call a bucket list. His list was not about bungee jumping or about retiring anywhere but California.

It was about coming as God in human flesh, setting aside the independent use of His deity to live as a man among men.

It was to be tempted by the devil in a sort of re-creation of the temptation of Adam and Eve. Not in a beautiful garden with fruit everywhere, but in a wilderness while fasting 40 days.

It was about being our substitute and sacrificing Himself on the Cross to draw all men to Himself.

Joh 19:29  Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.

There are several potential causes of death when a person is crucified: Suffocation, cardiac rupture, heart failure, something called hypovolaemic shock, respiratory acidosis, asphyxia, and pulmonary embolism, to name a few.

Did you know it is medically possible for a person to die of a broken heart? It is called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Otherwise known as death by broken heart, “it is an emotional stress or anxiety-induced surge of adrenaline and norepinephrine that creates a toxic environment for cardiac tissue. The victim’s arteries tighten to such a degree that it stuns the heart into a rapid rise of blood pressure, the consequence of which is congestive heart failure.”

Dehydration was a potential COD. Jesus, dehydrated, received some sour wine. It is not to be confused with the “wine mingled with myrrh,” Jesus refused when offered to Him on His arrival at Golgotha (Mark 15:23). That was a sedative. Think morphine drip. Jesus resolved to die unmedicated. He had business to conduct and wished not to be impaired.

The mention of “hyssop” reminds us that at the first Passover, when the nation of Israel left Egypt, the blood of the sacrificed lamb was applied to the doorpost with… Hyssop, dipped in blood (Exodus 12:22).

Jesus is the final Passover lamb, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

Joh 19:30  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

“It is finished” is one word: tetelestai.

You’ve heard that tetelestai can mean ‘Paid in Full’ and that it has been found written on ancient receipts. Not exactly, according to Biola University. The receipts archaeologists discovered have only tetel written on them, not tetelestai. On the Cross, Jesus paid the debt owed for sin. But tetelestai means “It is finished!”

The total number of things that were “finished” grows every time you think about this most beautiful saying of Jesus. J.C. Ryle writes, “The finishing of all the known and unknown sufferings which He came to endure, as our Substitute – the finishing of the ceremonial law, which He came to wind up and fulfill, as the true Sacrifice for sin – the finishing of the many prophecies, which He came to accomplish – the finishing of the great work of man’s redemption, which was now close at hand – all this, we need not doubt, our Lord had in view when He said, “It is finished.”

Spurgeon adds,

“All the types, promises, and prophecies were now fully accomplished in Him… All the typical sacrifices of the old Jewish law, were now abolished as well as explained. They were finished – finished in Him… When He said, “It is finished,” Jesus had totally destroyed the power of Satan, of sin, and of death… Children of God, ye who by faith received Christ as your all in all, tell it every day of your lives that ‘It is finished…’ Sinner, there is nothing for God to do. “It is finished!” There is nothing for you to do. “It is finished…” Every stumbling-block is rolled out of the road; every gate is opened; the bars of brass are broken, the gates of iron are burst asunder. “It is finished! Come.”

Let me end with two words: “It is finished, O Lord, come!”

Tetelestai Maranatha!

John 18:28-19:15 – Ladies And Gentlemen, This Is Your Pilate Conceding

Are you a religious professional who no longer believes in any God or gods? 

Have you remained in vocational ministry, secretly hiding away your non-belief?

Are you struggling over where to go from here with your life and career?

If this is you, we invite you to join The Clergy Project!

I wish I could say I was making it up.

The Clergy Project aims to provide a safe and secure online community for religious leaders who no longer believe. According to them, “The largest and fastest growing religion in the US isn’t a religion, it’s the absence of one.”

Shocking, but predictable. The Bible, in passages like Second Timothy 3:1-5, predict the End Times falling away from the faith.

The Jewish authorities who pressured Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus made a shocking statement:

“We have no king but Caesar!”

Shocking, but predictable:

John made it clear from the start, “[Jesus] came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).

The rejection of Jesus was anticipated in the Old Testament. One reference will do. Psalm 118:22 says of the coming King, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.”

We follow Jesus from Annas to Caiaphas, then to Pontius Pilate.[1] The Jewish authorities blaspheme, rejecting King & kingdom.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Expect People To Reject King Jesus, and #2 You Endure Patiently For The Return Of King Jesus.

#1 – You Expect People To Reject King Jesus (18:28-40)

The Kingdom of God means different things to different groups. We characterize it three ways:

1. God is King from everlasting to everlasting, and from Genesis through the Revelation. David sang, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations” (Psalm145:13).

2. God promised the nation of Israel that the ancestor and descendant of King David would rule over a Kingdom on Earth. In the many passages promising it, there is no disputing it is a material kingdom, a flesh-and-blood, stick-and-stucco kingdom.

3. There is, right now, an invisible, spiritual aspect to the kingdom, in the sense that Jesus rules as King over the lives of believers.

Philip Graham Ryken writes, “Theologians sometimes describe this… as the already and the not yet. God’s kingdom has already come, but it is not yet here in all its glory. Christ has already come, but He has not yet come again.”

We speak of furthering the Kingdom of God, or bringing souls into the Kingdom of God. It isn’t wrong to speak of the Kingdom of God as if it’s already here, as long as you realize it’s not, but it is coming in the future.

BTW: The terms, Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are interchangeable.

Dr. Charles Ryrie wrote, “What would [the Jews of Jesus’s day] have understood the kingdom to be? The Messianic, Davidic kingdom on this Earth in which the Jewish people would have a prominent place.”

Jesus came to Earth as the ancestor and descendant of King David Who would rule over the Kingdom of God on Earth.

He was decisively rejected by the Jewish authorities, reaching its pinnacle when they claimed that their only king was Caesar.

Their rejection of King Jesus cannot overthrow God’s unconditional promises for a Kingdom of God on Earth.

Their rejection postponed the Kingdom of God until Jesus’ Second Coming to Earth.

Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘BLESSED is HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ” (Matthew 23:37-39).

In His first coming, Jesus would have “gathered” Israel into the kingdom, as promised. Instead, His own rejected Him, resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem. BUT they will receive Him next time He comes.

Joh 18:28  Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.

The Praetorium was the place where the Roman governor heard and decided cases. The Jewish authorities were faced with the task of convincing Pontius Pilate to execute Jesus for them.

Any number of things could “defile” a Jew, excluding from full participation in Passover festivities. For example, removing all leaven from your house was necessary at Passover. Gentile dwellings were off limits since they would not be cleansed of leaven.

They thought that killing Jesus was necessary since He was, to them, a blasphemer. Granting them that, they went about it illegally.

The Law is an all-or-nothing taskmaster. You can’t pick and choose.

Joh 18:29  Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”
Joh 18:30  They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.”

“Evildoer” is bad doer. My paraphrase: “Pilate, Jesus is a bad dude, guilty of bad-dudery.”

Joh 18:31  Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,”
Joh 18:32  that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

The Romans thoroughly delighted in executing people. Methods included beheading, being lashed to death, being burned alive, strangulation, being cast from a great height, being buried alive, drowning, death by beast, and crucifixion.
If you killed a parent there was a special type of capital punishment, the Punishment of the Sack. The offender was placed in a leather sack with a rooster, a dog, a snake, and a monkey, then thrown into the sea, lake, or river.

Jesus not only predicted His death, but the method of it. Throughout this account, we are reminded that He was in charge despite being in custody.

Joh 18:33  Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

John omitted the Jewish authorities accusing Jesus of three things: (1) subverting the nation, (2) opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and (3) claiming to be “Christ, a King.” These protests peaked Pilate’s professional prosecutorial priorities.

Joh 18:34  Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

Answering questions with a question was the Jesus-style.
The steward of the Gospel ought to be the one guiding the conversation. We are the ones who know the way, the truth, and the life.

When you go to the doctor, is it to diagnose yourself? No, you listen to him or her.

Pilate was relying on the testimony of unreliable men. Unbelievers today do the same. For example, many reject God out of hand because unreliable scientists tell them Darwinian Evolution is fact, when the facts fit better in a special creation theory.

Joh 18:35  Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”

As the narrator of the series, Cops says, We are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Nevertheless, we tend to decide on guilt or innocence based on reporting prior to any trial. Pilate assumed Jesus was guilty.

Joh 18:36  Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

In the ISV, it’s a lot clearer: “But for now, My kingdom is not from here.” The Jewish authorities rejected the King. The material kingdom is on hold, “for now,” until the Second Coming.

Jesus wasn’t overruling the unconditional promises to Israel that they would have the Promised Land and a kingdom. They will – but not now.

Joh 18:37  Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

The Lord was evangelizing:

Jesus said, For this cause I have come into the world.” He came from outside the world, from Heaven to Earth.
Jesus said, “for this cause I was born.” He was sent from Heaven to Earth via the virgin birth.
Jesus bore witness to the truth about God, Himself, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, and salvation.
“Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” as the Gospel is spread and men are saved.

Joh 18:38  Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.”

There was no fault to find in the sinless Son of God. Pilate would, however, punish Jesus, then sentence Him to death.

“What is truth?” It is what God has revealed in the inspired Word of God. Mankind would rather ignore God and conduct their own search for truth. King Solomon conducted a search for truth on a plane far beyond that which anyone else has. In the end he discovered God’s truth is truth. With the benefit of the New Testament, we can say that Jesus is the truth. He is the truth every man and woman needs to be saved and safe eternally.

Joh 18:39  “But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
Joh 18:40  Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Barabbas had quite the rap sheet. The other Gospels describe Barabbas a robber, murderer, and insurrectionist. He was a badder-duderer.

There is quite a lot of symbolism in the comparison of Jesus with Barabbas. For example, he represented the kind of Messiah they were hoping for. One who would overthrow the government of Rome.

Allow a quick devotional application. It’s an election year. What kind of people are we looking for to lead us? A Barabbas can certainly effect change. But it is righteousness, not expediency, that exalts a nation.

A few months ago, I mentioned several ‘prominent’ Christian leaders who have outright rejected the Lord. When I say it should not shock us, I don’t mean it won’t hurt.
We need to toughen up. Apostasy will get worse. We do not resign ourselves to despair… we prepare.

#2 – You Endure Patiently Waiting For The Return Of King Jesus (19:1-15)

Most of you know the story of Senator John McCain’s ordeal as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Despite the lack of food, recurring dysentery, his various injuries, and the uncertainty of when his next beating might occur, McCain managed to stay alive. “Three things kept me going,” he said. “Faith in God, faith in my fellow prisoners and faith in my country.”

What kept Jesus going?

Jesus saw you, perishing, consigned to Hell, and refused to break.

Joh 19:1  So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.
Joh 19:2  And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.
Joh 19:3  Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands.

I wonder if some of this torture was intended by Satan to ‘break’ Jesus. If the Lord were to suddenly say, “That’s enough, Father. I can’t drink this cup of suffering. I’m done,” mankind would perish eternally.

This strategy continued on the Cross. The crowd tormented the Lord, challenging Him to save Himself.

Joh 19:4  Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”
Joh 19:5  Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”

William MacDonald writes, “It is difficult to know whether he said this in mockery, in sympathy, or without any particular emotion.”

It is a beautiful sight. That’s right – Beautiful. There is some indication in the original language that Pilate sat Jesus on his throne. He is on the throne, with all the trappings of a King. But He is simultaneously a mere man, bleeding and suffering in the stead of others. “Behold the God-man,” the true King having come as a man for this purpose.

Joh 19:6  Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.”

He gave them license to crucify Jesus. He wanted to shirk any responsibility or accountability. We can’t. My sin, and your sin, put Jesus on the Cross.

Joh 19:7  The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
Joh 19:8  Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid,

What was Pilate afraid of? Albert Barnes suggests, “It was probably the alarm of his conscience.” Never forget that God is always at work, not willing any should perish, but that all would come to faith in Jesus.

One of the whosoevers Jesus died for was Pilate.

Joh 19:9  and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

“Where” can mean, origin or source. Maybe the Holy Spirit was opening Pilate’s spiritual eyes to see that the Lord was not from the Earth.

Why didn’t Jesus answer Pilate? A person needs to respond to the light he receives before more is given. You don’t interrogate God, satisfying all your curiosities before exercising faith.

Job tried to interrogate God:

Job 38:1  Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
Job 38:2  “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
Job 38:3  Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
Job 38:4  “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Job 38:5  Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
Job 38:6  To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, [etc., etc.].

Joh 19:10  Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
Joh 19:11  Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

Those who delivered Jesus to be crucified were responsible for their decisions even while God was providentially moving behind the scenes. We see no incompatibility between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. In fact, allowing mankind free will exhibits a greater sovereignty than making man a puppet.

Joh 19:12  From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”
Joh 19:13  When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.

D.A. Carson writes, “In order to execute Jesus, the Jewish authorities make themselves out to be more loyal subjects of Caesar than the hated Roman official Pilate is.” The Jews have lowered themselves about as far as they can go.

Joh 19:14  Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
Joh 19:15  But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Again quoting Carson: “By vehemently insisting they have no king but Caesar, they are not only rejecting Jesus’ messianic claims, they are abandoning Israel’s messianic hope as a matter of principle, rejecting any claimant, and finally disowning the kingship of the LORD himself.”

We could sing, Ain’t No Kingdom While He’s Gone. God is building His church. We are His spiritual Temple on Earth – both individually, and corporately.

I’ll close with this quote from Derick Bingham:

“I gave Him a crown of thorns, He gave me a crown of righteousness. I gave Him a cross to carry, He gave me His yoke which is easy, His burden which is light. I gave Him nails through His hands, He gave me safely into His Father’s hands from which no power can pluck me. I gave Him no covering, stripping His clothes from Him. He gave me a garment of salvation. I gave Him vinegar to drink, He gave me Living Water. I crucified and slew Him on a tree, He gave me eternal life. It was my sinfulness that put Him there. It is His sinlessness that puts me here.”


1 John omits Pilate sending Jesus to Herod – Luke 23:7ff

John 18:1-27 – Arrested Divinity

“That’s not a knife. This is a knife.”

Paul Hogan, aka Crocodile Dundee, & Linda Kozlowski were confronted by a mugger threatening them with a switchblade. She said, “Give him your wallet… He’s got a knife.” He chuckled, pulled out his own knife, and calmly said in his irrepressible Aussie accent, “That’s not a knife. This is a knife.”

The knife he brandished is 16” in overall length with an intimidating 11” blade.

There are numerous blades in the account of the arrest of Jesus.

The Jewish Temple police, with an assist from the Roman Army, came “with lanterns, torches, and weapons” (v3).
Peter had a blade, with which he cut off the ear of Malchus.

In the midst of all this, something incredible happened. Jesus asked the men sent to arrest Him, “Whom are you seeking?” (v4). They said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” The Lord answered, “I am He,” [and] they drew back and fell to the ground” (v6).

They were supernaturally pushed back, then fell to the ground, by the Word of God.

Jesus will display that Word-power with greater potency at His Second Coming. In the Revelation the apostle John describes Jesus, saying, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations… [they] were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (19:15 & v21).

The Word of God is our sword to wield.

The apostle Paul urged believers to put on the entire ‘spiritual armor’ of God, not least is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (6:17).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Stepped Forward To Save You, and #2 Jesus Steps In To Keep You.

#1 – Jesus Stepped Forward To Save You (v1-11)

The words in this text that spoke to me the loudest are, “Whom are you seeking?”

Jesus knew that men were coming to arrest Him. He did not run, or attempt to evade. He went to a place well-known to Judas. When the authorities arrived, Jesus stepped forward.

Simultaneously, He demonstrated that He possessed supernatural power sufficient to eliminate the threat.

He established that He was in charge, not they. He commanded them to let His disciples go free, and they obliged.

The confrontation is replete with illustration and symbolism:

Jesus stepped forward from the garden. In the Garden of Eden Jesus promised to step forward to be God in human flesh, to save us.

Jesus stood before His enemies. Imputed & inherited sin makes us the enemies of God. You’ll find the word enmity in Scripture, meaning hatred or animosity. Jesus died for us while we were at enmity with God.

There were Jews and Gentiles in the posse. He was the Jewish Messiah, but Jesus came to save whosoever will believe in Him, Jews and Gentiles.

They came for Jesus, but it was Jesus who had come for them, from Heaven to Earth, to save whosoever will believe in Him.

J.C. Ryle wrote,

To suffer for those whom we love, and who are in some sense worthy of our affections, is suffering that we can understand. To submit to ill-treatment quietly, when we have no power to resist, is submission that is both graceful and wise. But to suffer voluntarily, when we a have the power to prevent it, and to suffer for a world of unbelieving and ungodly sinners, unasked and unthanked – this is a line of conduct which passes man’s understanding. Never let us forget that this is the peculiar beauty of Christ’s sufferings, when we read the wondrous story of His cross and passion.

The authorities were “seeking” Jesus. Although they were seeking Him for harm, it reminds us that sinners do seek the Lord.

Don’t take my word for it. The apostle Paul said, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

Joh 18:1  When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.

Jesus & Co. bedded down in the garden during Passover Week. The property was probably owned by a supporter. There were other faithful followers besides the eleven and those who travelled with Jesus.

Joh 18:2  And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples.

Judas had insider information on where to find the Lord. He was a paid informant. He was the mole.

Joh 18:3  Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.

Each of the other Gospels calls it a “multitude.” We’re talking hundreds, at least.
It’s like a “how many” joke. “How many armed men does it take to arrest God?” You finish it…

Joh 18:4  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”

Being fully God, Jesus was omniscient. As a man, He set aside the independent exercise of His deity. Perhaps God the Holy Spirit gave Jesus a word of knowledge to know “all things that would come upon Him.” It does not reduce His deity.

Robert Clark puts this in perspective, saying, “As to His deity Christ had no mother, and as to His humanity He had no father.”

“Went forward” are powerful words:

Jesus “went forward” in eternity past, volunteering for Incarnation.
Jesus “went forward” in His baptism to embark upon His mission.
Jesus “went forward” at His arrest, volunteering to be our Substitute.
In the Revelation, Jesus will go forward as the only Person in Creation worthy to take the seven-sealed scroll from God the Father (5:7).

All His going forward was for you, to save you.

Joh 18:5  They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.

It speaks to us of how ordinary Jesus looked. The high priest didn’t say, “He’ll be the one glowing in the dark.” Judas was there to make the identification.

In some Bibles, “He,” is italicized. It indicates it was not in the original text, but added by translators to help the sentence flow in English. What He said was, “I AM,” claiming equality with God.

Then this happened:

Joh 18:6  Now when He said to them, “[I AM] they drew back and fell to the ground.

They “drew back.” It was as if they had been shoved. All of them, at once.
They “fell to the ground.” All of them, at once.

Jesus didn’t shout. He didn’t talk at a certain frequency. The more nonchalant, the more the power is attributed to God and not gimmick.

One unarmed God-man versus hundreds of trained security and soldiers. It was no match. Jesus demonstrated He could not be taken by force. He would go with them willingly.

Joh 18:7  Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Joh 18:8  Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,”

I wonder how many of them dug-in, expecting another push. Especially the Romans, whose footwear featured short nails underneath, for traction in battle.

“These aren’t the disciples you are looking for.” No, it wasn’t a Jedi mind trick. The Lord’s words, “Let these go their way,” were a command, not a negotiation or a request.

Joh 18:9  that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”

Jesus’ concern was more about the eleven than Himself. He must suffer at the hands of persecutors, but they need not – at least, not on that night.

Joh 18:10  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

Malchus was there to represent the high priest. Before I forget, John doesn’t tell us, but Jesus healed the ear of Malchus.

Commentators describe Peter being groggy from sleeping through prayer, suddenly awakening, and swinging his sword wildly.

Cutting-off an ear, cleanly, would be a one in a million hack for a sleepwalker. I suggest Peter was skilled with a blade.

This wasn’t Excalibur or Narsil. It wasn’t a Roman broadsword. Peter didn’t walk around strapped, sword at the ready. It was illegal for a Jew to be armed. This must have been a much smaller blade.

A chef is skilled with his blades. A surgeon is skilled with his scalpel. A fisherman by trade, Peter was skilled with knives to flay fish.

The disciples were always expecting Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God, probably by force. Peter may have thought this was the kerfuffle that would begin the downfall of Rome.

Joh 18:11  So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”

The “cup” is His suffering and death on our behalf. Jesus drained it.

In the past, or maybe right now, has God “given” you a “cup” of suffering? If so, how would you describe your drinking it? Are you trying to sip it?

Is it a cup half full? Have you tried spilling it? Or maybe you’ve put additives from the world, seeking to sweeten it, or to dull its effect.

Drain it.

Peter fought the world using a weapon of the world. He struck a blow, sure; but in the long run he would have been undone by the swords of hundreds. You can’t fight the world with its weapons.

When you unsheathe manipulation, or guilting, or pressuring, or intimidation, or anger, or abuse, or craftiness, or lying, or fear, etc., etc., you are wielding the swords of the world, while all the while ignoring and thereby dulling the Sword of the Spirit.

Humble yourself and let God show His resurrection life through you.

#2 – Jesus Steps In To Keep You (v12-26)

A ‘perp walk’ is the American tradition of parading a suspect before the media. It serves as a form of public shaming.
The Jewish leadership wanted Jesus shamed as much as possible. It started with His arrest and subsequent ‘perp walk.’

Joh 18:12  Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.

There was no need to bind him, except to cause Him shame.

Joh 18:13  And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.
Joh 18:14  Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

A high priest was supposed to serve for life. The occupying Romans did not like the concentration of power in one person so they frequently pressured the Jews to change high priests. Annas was succeeded by five of his sons, and at that time, by his son-in-law, Caiaphas. Despite Rome’s efforts, Annas remained the real power.

Caiaphas seemed bent on killing Jesus, thinking it would benefit the nation. It would – just not in the way he thought.

Joh 18:15  And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.
Joh 18:16  But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in.

Nine of His disciples skedaddled. Two followed Jesus – Peter and “the other disciple,” probably John being humble. John had some pull and was able to get Peter in to the courtyard where they had taken Jesus.

Peter will fail momentarily, but kudos for following when nine colleagues fled. You’ve heard of “fight or flight?” For a disciple the choice can be “follow or flee.”

The rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus.

He was living a life of piety and discipline. Jesus told him to divest himself of his wealth, then follow. He fled.

Joh 18:17  Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

Bold-to-cold in record time. J.C. Ryle wrote, “If Peter’s fall has made Christians see more clearly their own great weakness and Christ’s great compassion, then Peter’s fall has not been recorded in vain.”

Joh 18:18  Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.

Undoubtedly some of those around the fire had been part of the posse. Why did Peter chance being recognized?

I speculate that, even though he had already denied the Lord once, he figured no way would he do it again.

Maybe you have some kind of life-dominating sin. You fall into it, repent, thinking that’s the end of it. If you keep falling, find a new strategy.

Joh 18:19  The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine.
Joh 18:20  Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.
Joh 18:21  Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.”

The authorities were required to produce witnesses to substantiate any accusations against Him. Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. There were no witnesses

Joh 18:22  And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?”
Joh 18:23  Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”

No matter the reaction of this Temple officer, Jesus could not disrespect the office of the high priest. Even after being struck, He kept His composure, and asked a penetrating but appropriate question.

Joh 18:24  Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Taking Jesus first to Annas was a nod towards the real power in the priesthood. Jesus is our great high priest. Note the contrast between He and Annas, then Caiaphas. They were men who were not even saved, let alone qualified to serve as high priest.

Joh 18:25  Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not!”
Joh 18:26  One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?”
Joh 18:27  Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.

Peter insisted he would be cock-a-doodle-don’t, but cock-a-doodle-do he was. He fell hard.

Jesus kept all of the disciples. Not Judas; we saw in a previous study he was an unbeliever from the start, and was never saved.

Jesus keeps you, Christian.

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (First Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Something Thanos said to Dr. Strange got me thinking. He said, “You never once used your greatest weapon.”

The Word of God, wielded by those yielded to the Lord, is our greatest weapon. I can’t tell you precisely what that means in your circumstances. But if you believe it is true – and you should, having all the examples in the Bible – the indwelling Holy Spirit will counsel and guide you.

An anonymous quote reads, “It is by prayer that the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is effectively unsheathed.” While that refers to prayer generally, I think we ought to specifically ask and keep asking, to believe our weapon is superior. We too easily default to the things we learned in the world, pulling out our fish-flayer, while the world is ready to launch its nukes upon us.

It sounds campy, but if it helps to remind us to use our greatest weapon:

Yield, then wield.

One Is The Onliest Number That You’ll Ever Know (John 17:20-26)

I know what you are wondering: Why don’t Anastasia and Drizella recognize Cinderella?

Or her step-mother? Why doesn’t the prince recognize Cinderella?

Her transformation was so dramatic, so fantastic, that they did not make the identification.

Every Christian tells a Cinderella story.

Christians go from rags to riches. Before a person is saved, they are described in the Bible as dressed in “filthy rags,” inappropriately for Heaven. When you are saved, the Lord takes away your filthy garments, replacing them with a robe of righteousness. Incredible, eternal riches await us.

We will make a dramatic, fantastic, entrance in the future: “When [Jesus] comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (Second Thessalonians 1:10).

“That Day” is the Second Coming of Jesus to Earth, ending the Great Tribulation. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “Jesus will be glorified through the lives of believers whom He has transformed by making saints out of sinners.”

Jesus finished His prayer for the disciples by looking forward to the success of their mission. He prayed “for those who will believe in [Him] through their word.” All those who have believed until now, and those who will believe until His Second Coming.

That includes you and I…Jesus prayed for you.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 One Day We Will Be One, and #2 Today We Are Won To Win.

#1 – One Day We Will Be One (v20-24)

It is common to apply these words of Jesus to Christian unity.

One very excellent commentary says, “Jesus requested unity for future believers. He was praying for a unity of love, a unity of obedience to God and His Word, and a united commitment to His will.”

Scan verses twenty though twenty-six. Which verse uses the word, “unity?” That’s right; it’s not there.

Let’s talk about unity for just a moment. Take a guess how many times it occurs in the Bible.

In the NKJV, it is used three times, once by David in the Psalms, twice in the New Testament.[1] Both of those are in the Book of Ephesians:

• The apostle Paul said that we should “[endeavor] to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3).
• He said we will “all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:13).
• In the verses in-between, he described the local church being equipped for the work of the ministry by its members serving harmoniously together in the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Christians don’t make unity. We “keep” it in “the bond of peace.” We are bound together by the Holy Spirit indwelling each of us.

Temperament, theological outlook, worship style, personality conflicts, and so on, are things that can undermine unity.

J.C. Ryle writes, “How often Christians have wasted their strength in contending against their brethren, instead of contending against sin and the devil! How repeatedly they have given occasion to the world to say, ‘When you have settled your own internal differences we will believe!’”

As much as it is possible, be at peace with your brothers and sisters, thereby maintaining unity.

Scan the verses again. What word is repeated? “One.” Being “one” with God is different from the unity of believers.

Joh 17:20  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;

Jesus called the Gospel “their Word.” Once they believed, it became theirs to share with others.

The message never changes. We are saved by grace, through faith, plus nothing. Old & New Testament saints were saved by grace through faith.

Many of you have traced your ancestry. Do you wonder who your spiritual ancestors might be?

We all trace back to Peter, in that he preached the first sermon that produced born-again believers. They shared with others, who shared with others, until the Gospel was shared with you. I’d like to know the particular people through whom the Gospel came to me.

Jesus prayed for you. He continues to pray for you. Add to that the indisputable fact that the Father always answers Jesus’ prayers and you can conclude that all things are working together for good in your life, to bring glory to God.

Joh 17:21  that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

“One,” “one,” “one,” “one,” “one.” Twice here, then three more times, Jesus referred to “one.” Must be important.

A.W. Pink declared, “Who is competent to define the manner in which the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father! As this wondrous prayer stretches forward into eternity, only in eternity will it be fully understood.”

Before we begin to define or describe “one,” glance at verse twenty-three, the phrase, “that they may be made perfect in one.” Now glance at verse twenty-four, the phrase, “[that they] may be with Me where I am.”

You will be “one” with God the Father and Jesus when you are “perfect…with [Jesus], where [He is].”

Jesus was looking to the future, when believers will have been made “perfect.” It is then that we will be “one” with Him and God the Father.

What we will be in the future impacts how we live in the present.

Again quoting A.W. Pink, “Though the actual bestowment of the glory be yet future, it is presented for faith to lay hold of and enjoy even now.”

The apostle Paul understood this impact when he said,

“Whom [God] predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

These inspired words tell us that God looks at us as already being “glorified,” even though we won’t be until we are with Jesus. Knowing that I am predestined to be glorified, I want to cooperate with God the Holy Spirit in transforming me day-by-day to be like Jesus.

A quick word about predestination. No one is predestined to be saved, or to perish. After you are saved, you are predestined to be made like Jesus, until you are glorified. H.A. Ironside explained, “You will note that there is no reference… to either Heaven or Hell, but to Christlikeness eventually. Nowhere are we told in Scripture that God predestinated one man to be saved and another to be lost. Men are to be saved or lost eternally because of their attitude toward the Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Throughout His prayer, Jesus emphasized He was “one” with God the Father. So much so that He told Phillip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father… I am in the Father, and the Father in Me” (John 14:10-11). Today we might say that Jesus and the Father were perfectly ‘in synch’ with one another.

Illustrations fall short, but maybe this will help. Pairs figure skating is defined by the International Skating Union as “the skating of two persons in unison who perform their movements in such harmony with each other as to give the impression they are one.”

When Jesus was on Earth, He voluntarily set aside the use of His deity and lived as a man. The whole time, He was perfectly in synch with His Father. By doing what His Father told Him to do, and saying what He wanted Him to say, the world saw God the Father.

Since God the Holy Spirit is in you, you are capable of being in synch with Jesus and with the Father. Just as Jesus revealed the Father, so can you.

Have you ever tried to watch a movie whose sound was out of sync?

We can become out of sync with our Savior.

It can be on account of sin, or spiritual sleepiness, or something else. I think it is often because we refuse to believe. When we read a command in the Bible, often our first question is something like, “How do I do that?” We tend to default to our own energy rather than yield to the indwelling Holy Spirit.

“That the world may believe that You sent Me.” “World” is the unbelievers who inhabit Earth. “One” with God is what He is making us. Unbelievers ought to be able to look at a believer and conclude that we are so different in Christ, Jesus must have been sent by God from Heaven.

Joh 17:22  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:

We defined “glory” earlier in this chapter as ‘making the invisible God visible.’ It’s what Jesus did, and it is what we are empowered to do.

The apostle Paul said something that simultaneously terrifies me and inspires me. “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (First Corinthians 11:1). If you’ve seen Paul, you’ve seen Jesus.

I can imagine someone saying, “If you’ve seen Pastor Gene, you’ve seen Bozo the Clown.” Or maybe Barney Fife. Super Chicken?

Who do nonbelievers see you as?

God, in His grace, covers for us as He is working on us. This does not mean we do nothing. “Let go and let God is not accurate. F. Leroy Forlines writes,

“In our relationship with God, we are both dependent and independent. We are dependent in the sense that we need His help and cannot be what we should be without His help. We are independent in the sense that, even though we cannot be what we should be without God’s help, in a real sense, our actions are our own. God does not treat us like puppets. We have latitude for obedience and disobedience.”

Joh 17:23  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

“Perfect in one” comes later. The first application of these words is for the future.

We mentioned our return with Jesus at His Second Coming. We will be perfect, and all unbelievers who survived the Great Tribulation will realize Jesus was the Heaven-sent Savior. They will see what God intended for them, to be made perfect. But it will be too late to be saved.

Joh 17:24  “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Those whom the Father “gave” Jesus are the church – all the believers of the Church Age, which began on the Day of Pentecost and ends with the resurrection and rapture.

I see nothing in the giving that limits the Gospel when it is preached. Jesus draws all men to Himself, and whosoever will believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. God is not willing that any perish, but that all come to salvation.

Jesus is the Savior of all men, but you must believe to be saved. God provides the grace to enable you to receive or reject Jesus.

Being “one” with the Tri-une God is in your future. I’m sure there will be a mystical component to it, but we can only begin to understand what it means. Only in eternity will we fully know.

We are like the pairs figure skater who executes the jump in synch with his or her partner, but falls to the ice upon landing. He or she gets up, and back in synch.

Maybe you can’t stick the landing; you’ve fallen, or keep falling. Get up, get back in sync.

#2 – Today We Are Won To Win (v25-26)

“Sent” is another important word in Jesus’ prayer for the eleven and their spiritual descendants. Jesus was “sent” into the world to show humans God the Father. Those who believe are “sent” into the world to tell nonbelievers God “sent” Jesus to save them. Once saved, He sends them. And so it goes.

Joh 17:25  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.

Jesus would shortly go to the Cross. He described His Father as “righteous”:

Jesus’ death on the Cross satisfied the penalty for sin demanded by the righteous, thrice-holy God.
His death on the Cross enabled God to declare believing sinners “righteous,” to save you, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Another way this is put is to say that God is both just and the justifier of all those who are in-Christ.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes, “The world failed to see God revealed in Jesus. But a few disciples did, and they believed that God had sent Jesus.”

A “few” in each generation will likewise respond to the Gospel and be sent, and scattered, into the world of unbelievers.

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. God’s plan of salvation cannot fail to find its successful completion.

Joh 17:26  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus “declared to them” for three and one-half years. His words and works were the words and works of the Father. They saw in Jesus the perfect expression of the Father.

He said that He “would [still] declare it.” Jesus ascended into Heaven. He still declares the Father by the Holy Spirit Whom He promised to send after He returned to Heaven.

His “I will declare it” should not be limited to the current dispensation, the Church Age. Jesus will continue to declare the Father to us for eternity.

Everyday forever you will learn more about the grace, mercy, love, and justice of God. It is an inexhaustible well of discovery.

Jesus ended His prayer by emphasizing “love.” The same love that the Father has for the Son, He has for you, if you are a son or daughter by the new birth.

Think of it this way. Jesus prayed, asking the Father to love His followers as much as He loved Jesus. The Father can’t say “No” to the Son. You are so, so loved.

Jesus prayed, “I in them.” He is “in them,” in believers, by God the Holy Spirit taking up residence in our hearts.

God the Holy Spirit’s fingerprints are everywhere in the Gospel of John. Typical of Him, He isn’t always named, and doesn’t draw any attention to Himself.

I am often critical of Pentecostals. Truth be told, I admire their passion for the Lord. It wouldn’t hurt any of us to express more genuine joy. We must cautiously guard against drifting towards a cessationist attitude regarding the Holy Spirit and His gifts.

We identify the church in the city of Corinth as Pentecostal. In his letters to them, especially the first, the apostle Paul encouraged their enthusiasm, but wanted their expression of the gifts to be brought under control. He did not, for example, forbid them from speaking in tongues.

He taught them how to do it so it would minister to others as it was meant to do. Dr. Michael Svigel reminds us, “Spiritual gifts are not simply what the Spirit gives to you. They are what the Spirit gives to the church through you.”

We can’t commend the overly excessive exercise of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It draws attention away from Jesus, and that is something that God the Holy Spirit will not ever do.

Maybe you’ve been at a service when a missionary was prayed for because they were being sent out.

You are sent out no less than a missionary.

God has ‘sent’ you to the places that comprise your world of unbelievers. You are there with the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus is “with you always” because the Holy Spirit is in you.

Don’t stop believing that our individual bodies, and our corporate body of believers, is the Temple of God the Holy Spirit.

Christians do forget. The churches in the region of Galatia forgot. Paul had to exhort them to quit trying to live the life of Jesus in their own energy. They must return to life by the Spirit.

Go back before Jesus’ prayer, to chapter fourteen, and read to 17:26. Read it more than once. Underline or highlight everything that you ought to believe.

Once you have a list, ask yourself of each thing on your list, “Do I believe it?”

Then – Believe it.


1 In some translations, “unity” can be found once in Colossians and once by Peter.

John 17:1-19 – The Never Ending Glory

The Battle of Stalingrad…the Battle of Britain…Pearl Harbor…Guadalcanal… Midway…D-day.

Historians say any one of them could legitimately be considered the decisive turning point of WW2.

We are defining “turning point” as the point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment.

There is a decisive moment in the history of the world…A single turning point that changed everything for everyone, forever.

“Jesus… lifted up His eyes to Heaven, and said, “Father the hour has come.”

The decisive “hour” that all human history turns upon was the six hours Jesus spent on the Cross.

All history before Jesus died on the Cross looked forward to it.
All history after Jesus died on the Cross looks back to it.

Jesus explained that it marked the fulfillment and replacement of God’s Old Covenant with mankind when He said, “This is the New Covenant in My blood, which is poured-out for you” (Luke 22:20).

Jesus’ last words from the Cross were the triumphant shout, “It is finished!” No longer would mankind perform temporary rites and rituals, follow religious rules and regulations. God would give believers new hearts – hearts of flesh, not stone.

“It is finished,” but it is not over.

The apostle Paul wrote, “He defeated the rulers and powers of the spiritual world. With the Cross He won the victory over them and led them away, as defeated and powerless prisoners for the whole world to see” (Colossians 2:15 ERV). The same apostle also told us to put on the full armor of God as soldiers in the ongoing spiritual warfare.

After the decisive, turning-point WW2 battles, the war continued. Even though Jesus was victorious over Satan, sin, and death, our cosmic battles in World War Spiritual continue.

Jesus talked to His Father about coming to “the hour,” and about what would happen after.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Makes The Father Visible To You, and #2 You Make Jesus Visible To All.

#1 – Jesus Makes The Father Visible To You (v1-5)

You are moved when, at the end of Braveheart. William Wallace screams, “FREEDOM!”

He was defeated and being disemboweled, but he went out in a blaze of glory.

That isn’t glory, or glorious.

“Glory” is a word that should only be used of God.

You’ll notice as we read that some form of the word, “glory,” is used five times. What is “glory,” and how does one go about giving God “glory?”

Glory happens when the invisible qualities, character, or attributes of God are displayed in a visible way; in short, glory is the invisible God made visible.

Jesus told Philip, “he who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus made the invisible God visible.

Joh 17:1  Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,

I find it interesting that He “lifted up His eyes to Heaven.” Christians tend to bow their heads, praying with eyes closed. God hears you in any posture, but think about Jesus’ example and it’s symbolism.

There is nothing in Jesus’ prayer telling you what to do. No instruction; no steps. It isn’t a model for our praying. It is all Jesus, praying for you.

To be accurate, He first prayed for the eleven. Then, in verse twenty, He prayed for us, their spiritual descendants.

Jesus often told His disciples, “My hour has not yet come.” He meant His crucifixion. It had been long anticipated and planned. God promised our parents, Adam and Eve, He would come as “the Seed of the woman” to win the decisive victory over the devil. The Old Testament progressively reveals the details of His coming.

There is even a passage that calculates “the hour.” The prophet Daniel was given the prophecy of the 70 Weeks.

Daniel 9:24-27 is a detailed prophecy that accurately dated the first coming of Jesus Christ.

You know who looked forward to “the hour?” Lambs, bulls, goats, and birds that were sacrificed by the tens of thousands from the time of Adam and Eve until Jesus. They were placeholders, temporary substitutes, for the final Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

Father and Son would “glorify” each other at, on, and after, the Cross. It was a “Glory Back-atcha,” a Mutual glorifying. For example, there was a Centurion present at the Cross. After taking in all the things that happened, he said, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Deity was made visible through Jesus’ humanity.

Thomas Boston wrote, “In our redemption by Christ we have the fullest, clearest, and most delightful manifestation of the glory of God that ever was or shall be in this life. All the declarations and manifestations that we have of His glory in the works of creation and common providence, are but dim and obscure in comparison with what is here. Indeed the glory of His wisdom, power, and goodness, is clearly manifested in the works of creation. But the glory of His mercy and love had lain under an eternal eclipse without a Redeemer.”

Joh 17:2  as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
Joh 17:3  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Jesus has the “authority” to save. “Eternal life” is given as a free gift to any and all who “know” Jesus, and through Him, God the Father.

“As many as You have given Him.” Nothing in that phrase indicates that the Father limited the atonement on the Cross to “give” only a chosen few. Jesus was not, at that moment, praying for the world. He was praying for His eleven disciples. If I pray for a person to be healed, it doesn’t mean I am excluding anyone.

Joh 17:4  I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.
Joh 17:5  And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

The plan of salvation predates Creation. “Before the world was,” Jesus knew He’d die on the Cross to save us.

He rose from the grave, ascended into Heaven, and is seated there in splendor. He remains God and man forever, the God-man, in His glorious resurrection body.

I can imagine Jesus saying to His Father, “I showed them your grace and mercy when they brought that adulterous woman. The Law demanded she be stoned, true, but I was able to show them that, but for grace, they all deserved death.”

I can imagine the Father saying to Jesus, “How about that guy they let down through the roof? We were always going to heal him, but first I told you to forgive his sins. It showed them where My true priorities lie”

I could have shortened the Bible study by quoting Hebrews 1:3, where we read that Jesus is “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact likeness of his being” (ISV).

“Glory.” Making the invisible God visible.

#2 – You Make Jesus Visible To All (v6-19)

June 6, 1944.

An Allied force of more than 150,000 troops, 5,000 ships, and 800 aircraft assaulted 50 miles of northern France’s Normandy coastline. More than 4,000 Allied troops die, and 6,000 were wounded, but the Allies succeeded in breaching Hitler’s coastal defense of France.

D-day effectively ended the war in Europe. The war, nevertheless, went on another eleven months before General Eisenhower accepted Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945.

Jesus “finished the work” His Father “gave [Him] to do.” It is finished, but He is not done.

Neither are disciples “done.” Until He returns for His Church, we are here to make Him visible.

Joh 17:6  “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

After a night praying to His Father, Jesus chose twelve men to be His closest disciples. I guess you could say it was His Father’s fault. J.C. Ryle writes, “No one can read the four Gospels with attention, and fail to see that never had a great master such weak servants as Jesus had in the eleven apostles. Yet these very weak servants were the men of whom the gracious Head of the Church speaks here in high and honorable terms.”

Having received His disciples from the Father, Jesus submitted to the selection. There was never any talk of replacing them. No ultimatums to straighten up or leave. No threatening. “Not a word against His people,” W.S. Rainsford writes, “no allusion to what they had done or were about to do – forsake Him.”
How very sad when church leaders treat believers that way. For that matter, no Christian should treat anyone that way.

Jesus wasn’t done doting on the disciples. He said, “They have kept Your Word.” How generous is our Lord. He credits them for their perseverance, even as they were scattering. The Pulpit Commentary says, “To Christ’s eyes they have already come out of their fiery trial faithful and true.”

Joh 17:7  Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.
Joh 17:8  For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.

For all of their confusion and misunderstanding of Jesus, they realized His words and works proved He was sent from God as the Messiah.

Joh 17:9  “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
Joh 17:10  And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.

There are those who seem anxious to prove Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world, but only for a limited group. They say, “See! See! Jesus did not pray for the world, only those God gave Him.”

Once again, we point out that this is Jesus’ prayer for these specific eleven guys. It doesn’t cancel the words, “God so loved the world,” or that Jesus said that through the Cross He would “draw all men to Himself” as “the Savior of all men, especially those who believe”

Jesus considered Himself “glorified in them.” Certainly not that night, when they would scatter. In fact, Jesus was probably not talking about specific instances, but was revealing that the work He had begun in them would come to completion. There would be a time, and an eternity, in which you look upon a saint and see Jesus glorified in what He accomplished with so little to work with.

In Iron Man, Obadiah Stane grew frustrated when Stark Industry scientists and engineers could not duplicate the arc reactor. He growled, “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave. With a box of scraps!”

It must frustrate the devil to see what Jesus does and will do with us. Broken, lost, weary… Jesus makes us beautiful in His time.

Joh 17:11  Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

Jesus was still speaking of the eleven. They were about to be scattered, ashamed of the Lord. If that tells us anything, it is that they could not “keep” themselves. The Father kept them, for Jesus’ sake.

God keeps you. You cannot fail so much that He will forsake you.

Joh 17:12  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

People compare a difficult task with “herding cats.” (You might remember a series of commercials featuring cowboys herding cats. They are hilarious. They are what the internet was meant to be).

It was no small task to keep the disciples ‘discipling’ for three and one-half years. Especially in anticipation one of them would be lost.

We took a look at Judas in a previous study. His betrayal was supported by Scripture, but not in the sense that he, and he alone, was predetermined to betray the Lord. To say that is to go beyond what Scripture says. He was not a believer, but he could have been. In that case, the Scripture would have been fulfilled another way.

Joh 17:13  But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

“I speak in the world” reminds us that the Lord was praying in the presence of the eleven. In their time of forsaking Jesus, they ought remember that Jesus secured the help of God the Father to bring them back in joy.

Joh 17:14  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Joh 17:15  I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
Joh 17:16  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “Satan, the evil one, as head of the world system, seeks to do everything possible to destroy believers, but God’s plan will prevail. Christians must not take themselves out of the world but remain in contact with it, trusting in God’s protection while they witness for Jesus.”

For the first time ever, more people are leaving California than are coming to live here. I can only hope the newcomers are missionaries. The plight of the State is a Golden opportunity for the Gospel.

Joh 17:17  Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

“Sanctify” means set apart for special use. A believer is sanctified, set apart for God, the moment they are saved. It is called positional sanctification. Afterwards, we mature, we grow, in our walk with Jesus. Theologians call this progressive sanctification. We make incremental progress towards the goal of becoming more-and-more like Jesus.

The indwelling God the Holy Spirit is primary in our progressive sanctification. His #1 tool in our growth and maturity is the Bible. The Spirit teaches us the Word, guides us to the truth, and uses the Word to give us a clear vision of Jesus and inspire us with a deep desire to be like our Lord. We cooperate with the Spirit’s work in our lives when we believe He enables us to do what it says in the Bible. Like Jesus, we learn obedience. Everything we need for life and godly living is in the Bible. We can do it because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Joh 17:18  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
Joh 17:19  And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

Jesus sanctified Himself means He voluntarily set Himself apart in order to die on the Cross, thus offering the world salvation by grace through faith.

He would set them apart, and send them into the world just like He was. Only there would be a lot more of them!

A Christian has been called out from the world by the Gospel. Hopefully we realize that we are a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that [we] may proclaim the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (First Peter 2:9).

We are very special. We can say it without pride because we haven’t earned it or deserved it. It is because Jesus said, “Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine,” and we are all together.

Show & tell was a highlight of elementary school. Like everything, however, there are fails:

A teacher reported, “Someone brought their pet bird, dead, in a box, that was going to be buried when they got home later that day.”

“A kid I went to high school with brought a hand-grenade his grandfather had to school for use in a drama production. He thought it was deactivated. The bomb squad confirmed that it was certainly still active.”

Christians are show & tellers. We “tell” others about Jesus, and we “show” Him. We thereby make the invisible, visible.

The originals seemed to be show & tell fails. F.F. Bruce writes, “With the Father’s enabling grace and the guidance and illumination of His Spirit, they would fulfill the mission with which they were now being entrusted and bring glory to their Master in fulfilling it. So confident of this is Jesus that he speaks in the perfect tense – ‘I have been glorified in them’ – as if it had already come to pass.”

We will be show & tell fails. Jesus is confident that He will complete the work He began.

Our Hero didn’t “go out in a blaze of glory.” He is the blaze of glory.

He is coming back in glory:

Rev 19:11  Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
Rev 19:12  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
Rev 19:13  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
Rev 19:14  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

That is us, by the way, on the horses, coming back from Heaven with Jesus to Earth. Elsewhere the Bible says Jesus will be “glorified in us” (Second Thessalonians 1:10).

William MacDonald explains, “Amazed onlookers will gasp as they see what He has been able to do with such unpromising human beings!”

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t, Soon You Will, Then You Won’t (John 16:16-33)

Former Department of Military Instruction Director at the US Military Academy Colonel Robert “Tex” Turner famously said, “I woke up in a cold sweat. I had a nightmare that I was still in Ranger School. Thank God that I was in Vietnam. Compared to Ranger School, combat was easy.”

Each month hundreds of Army Ranger candidates report for their chance to face the toughest physical, mental, and emotional challenge they will likely ever encounter. Only a small number make the cut.

Navy SEAL training is not designed to get you in shape. You must arrive in excellent physical condition and pass the rigorous physical screening test before you can be considered a SEAL candidate. A majority wash out.

2nd Lieutenant Jake Jensen, West Point graduate with honors, was being considered for the elite international force, MIB. Answering future Agent J’s question, Jensen said, “We’re here because you want the best of the best of the best, sir!” He failed.

There is no easy way to say this: Jesus’ twelve disciples failed.

They completed three and one-half years of rigorous training, during which they were, all the time, with Jesus. He taught them many things, e.g., how to pray. They participated in two-by two missions, returning with stories of spiritual success.
They often spoke, either openly or secretly, about their readiness to serve the Lord in the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Then came Thursday night prior to Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday:

Philip expressed his uncertainty as to who Jesus was.
As Jesus was sharing the bread and the wine at the Last Supper, Luke tells us that the disciples began to fight over who was the greatest.
Judas betrayed Jesus to the religious authorities. He would afterward hang himself.
Jesus asked them to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. They repeatedly fell asleep.
Peter denied the Lord three times under very little pressure to do so.
With the exception of John, who was at the Cross with the women, the disciples scattered, leaving the Lord alone.
Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem. Instead, they went back to the Sea of Galilee and returned to their fishing business. 

If this were Ranger School, or SEAL training, or the MIB, all of them would have failed to make the cut.

They made God’s Kingdom Cut.

Jesus said to them, “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy… And in that day… I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you… These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Have you felt like you have betrayed or denied the Lord? Maybe you have. Failed to pray? Sure, we’ve all been there. Been puffed-up with pride? O yeah.

It sounds to me as if Jesus will restore you, refresh you, and reiterate His love for you.

Keep this perspective as we go through the text. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 When You Sorrow, Jesus Encourages You To Rejoice, and #2 When You Scatter, Jesus Expects You To Return.

#1 – When You Sorrow, Jesus Encourages You To Rejoice (v16-24)

The Lord is coming in the year 2060.

That is the prediction of Sir Isaac Newton. When he was not inventing calculus, or formulating the theory of universal gravity, he was commenting on the Bible. His contemporaries considered him a theologian. The historical jury is out on whether or not he was a believer, on account of his rejecting the Trinity, and secretly holding to a few other heresies.

I mention him now only to point out he spent half his life muddling with alchemy. He was looking for the mythical ‘Philosopher’s stone’ that would turn base metals into gold.

God turns your sorrows into gold.

Job, the chief sufferer in the Bible, said, “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (23:10).

Jesus has not held back in this, His final talk to the eleven before His death. Trouble would follow them like Pig-Pen’s dust cloud. They would be the Lord’s solid gold servants.

Joh 16:16  “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”

For “a little while,” the eleven would not see the Lord as His body lay in the tomb.

They would see Jesus for another “little while” after He rose from the dead in His heavenly body. Then He would ascend to Heaven, to remain there until He comes to resurrect and rapture the Church.

Joh 16:17  Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?”
Joh 16:18  They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”

To them, it sounded like a “Who’s on first?” skit. Cut them slack.

Even with the completed Bible, and the Holy Spirit, contemporary commentators disagree on the exact interpretation of some of the things Jesus said the last night before He died.

Joh 16:19  Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’?

Jesus was God, and so we think, “Of course He knew what they desired to ask Him.” Really, in this case, you didn’t need to be God in order to know what they wanted to ask. It was obvious.

If it was supernatural knowledge, it was what we call a word of knowledge. We’ve been pointing out that Jesus was God from eternity and took upon Himself a body when He came to Earth. He was God, but voluntarily set aside the independent use of His deity. He relied instead on His Father and God the Holy Spirit. This knowledge about what the disciples were thinking would be a word of knowledge, from the Holy Spirit.

Joh 16:20  Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.

“Be turned into” expresses our Lord’s amazing capabilities. It isn’t alchemy, but from sorrow, He produces joy.

Joh 16:21  A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Childbirth seems painful. I wouldn’t know; not just because I’m a man, but back in my day, men waited. In a special waiting room. Eating donuts & drinking coffee. Talking to other manly men. Away from the shrieking and the carnage of birth. Clean up that baby and then I’ll hold him. As Archie and Edith Bunker sang, Those were the days.

The childbirth illustration has a lot to do with Israel and her Messiah and the promised Kingdom of God on Earth.

In His prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compared the future seven year Great Tribulation to birth pangs. The Earth and those who inhabit it with be in a seven year labor. Their birth pangs start slow then accelerate. That awful time of intense suffering will give way to incredible, lasting joy when Jesus comes in His Second Coming.

As for us, in the current Church Age, the world will get worse-and-worse. I feel like that old Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?”

Where is the joy?

Joh 16:22  Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

David Powlison writes, “In the hands of a loving God, sorrow and suffering become the doorways into the greatest and most indestructible joys.”

They would not “see” Him before suffering and dying for Him. But He would see them. Catch that. Jesus emphasized He would see them. He can never not see you.

He saw them as they were martyred:

Five of the eleven would be crucified.
James, son of Zebedee, was decapitated.
Bartholomew was decapitated, too, but first he was skinned alive.
Thomas was speared to death.
Matthew was stabbed to death.
The other James was stoned, and when he didn’t die, clubbed to death.

Edward Klink writes, “The definitive and permanent nature of the disciples’ joy is not based upon the absence of any future grief and affliction but by the placement of all grief and suffering into the larger context of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Rejoicing is encouraged by our knowledge of the future of the world:

We live in the Church Age.
The Church Age will end with the coming of Jesus in the clouds to resurrect dead believers and rapture living ones.
At some point after the rapture, the Great Tribulation begins.
Jesus’ Second Coming occurs at the end of the seven years.
In fulfillment of what has been promised to the physical descendants of Abraham, Jesus rules the Kingdom of God on Earth for one-thousand years.
Final judgments on the wicked, final resurrections of the righteous, and eternity, round-out the future.

More exciting still, you know your future:

You were saved, and placed into the spiritual body of Jesus. You were born-again, and God the Holy Spirit now indwells you.
He guarantees you are going to Heaven at the resurrection and rapture, before the Great Tribulation.
Jesus will complete the work He has begun in you.
He will present you faultless in Heaven.
You’ll live in your mansion, in the city of gold, the New Jerusalem, hovering over a restored Earth in the restored heavens.
For all eternity you will enjoy perfect fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Don’t forget that you will experience reunion with your believing loved ones.

Your future ought to stir-up your joy regardless your sorrow in this world.

Joh 16:23  “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.
Joh 16:24  Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

“Ask Me nothing” means that they will have access to the entire God-head and not Jesus only. Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross and His resurrection bring us into a greater fellowship with God.

On Earth this was represented by the tearing in half from top to bottom the veil in the Temple that separated God from sinful men. We might say that God has an ‘open veil’ policy insofar as contacting Him anytime, 24/7. As Glenn Campbell sang, It’s knowin’ that His door is always open.

It is pointed-out, from these two verses, that (technically) we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. A.W. Pink writes, “Consequent on Christ’s exaltation, the Spirit in and with believers would draw out their hearts in prayer, teaching them to present their petitions to the Father in the all-prevailing name of the Son.”

We should, however, quit parsing everything into a formula or method. This isn’t a prayer template. It is encouragement to talk to God all of the time, from an intimate love relationship.

What about receiving whatever we ask for if we ask in Jesus’ name? This cannot mean that I can ask for a Ferrari and expect to have the keys delivered to me at my convenience. It is simply not true that I can ask for anything I want and expect to receive it.

Start with the words, “that your joy may be full.” Fullness of joy is what we can confidently ask for and receive.

I have a disease. I can pray God heal me. He can; He sometimes does.
But what I really require, as His servant who has the treasure of the Gospel in my perishing body, is to have supernatural joy that is full of the glory of God.

In my new relationship with Father, Son & Spirit, I can have that supernatural joy. In fact, I do have it, since the Holy Spirit is in me. I believe that it comes from the Lord, and I simply ask for it.

Why doesn’t God give without asking? For one, I might not want it. I might insist that He get me out of my sorrow, rather than produce joy in it.

Christians can get stuck on wanting God to answer a certain way, not wanting to be joyful in sorrow, but by being delivered from it.

It is from our weakness God is shown strong in the dispensation of the Church Age.

Walter Cradock said, “Take a saint, and put him into any condition, and he knows how to rejoice in the Lord.”

There are a lot of resources that give you 5, or 7, or 10 steps for having joy.
We promote a no-step program. The apostle Paul was confident that joy was a fruit of the Holy Spirit. He is in you; you can have joy.

#2 – When You Scatter, Jesus Calls You To Return (v25-33)

J.C. Ryle writes, “The Savior of sinners will not cast off those who believe in Him, because they are babes in faith and knowledge. He can see reality under much infirmity, and where He sees it, He is graciously pleased. The followers of such a Savior may well be bold and confident.”

The disciples would scatter, abandoning Jesus. He assured them that He would be alright, and that He would make things right between Himself and them. He was, every moment of that awful night, pondering them, protecting them, praying for them. He does no less for you.

Joh 16:25  “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

Figurative language was, in part, intended to confuse folks who kept hardening their hearts in unbelief that Jesus was Messiah.
Figurative language, to the believer, could be an aid to understanding. Parables and proverbs and signs and the like could make principles and precepts come alive.

I don’t think Jesus was telling them He had deliberately kept them in the dark. The problem was that they could only know and understand so much without the aid of God the Holy Spirit to teach them. He had not yet been given. Afterwards, they would be enabled to know and understand “plainly about the Father.”

Joh 16:26  In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;
Joh 16:27  for the Father Himself loves you…

Jesus emphasized again that they would have immediate access to the throne of God. It was “in His Name,” meaning on account of what He did by dying on the Cross. The Father sees us as being in Jesus. He can thus lavish upon us His love. He can justify sinners while remaining just.

Joh 16:27  … and have believed that I came forth from God.
Joh 16:28  I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”

They “believed” Jesus was the Messiah predicted in their Scriptures. It was a basic, introductory belief. There were many things they could not yet believe. His returning to “the Father,” instead of establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth, left them dizzy. But it was necessary.

Joh 16:29  His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech!
Joh 16:30  Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”

You might say to the disciples, I feel ya. They wanted so much to understand. They wanted so badly to shine as the Lord’s disciples, in whom He had invested so much of Himself.

By saying Jesus was talking plainly, they were assuming that His promise in verse twenty five was fulfilled. But it couldn’t be until they received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They were misunderstanding Him.

Joh 16:31  Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?
Joh 16:32  Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone…

Their belief, however informed or uninformed it might be, would be challenged. They would fail in the trial, scattering like sheep without their shepherd.

The scattered sheep illustration comes from the Old Testament Book of Zechariah. It has at least three prophetic applications:

First, Jesus applied it to His disciples scattering.
Second, the scattering of the sheep refers to the scattering of the Jewish nation when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.
Third, it will be fulfilled in the last half of the future Tribulation period, as antichrist seeks to exterminate all Jews.

Joh 16:32 … And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.

“It’s OK, guys. The Father can’t let Me down. And neither can I let you down!”

Are you, in some way, scattered? Not walking with the Lord as you once did? He calls you to return, and to rejoice. Yes, you failed Him. But you made the Kingdom cut when you were born-again, and the Lord desires your restoration.

Michael Keaton was the keynote speaker at a Kent State graduation. He ended his talk, by telling the graduates he had two words for them. Two words that would summarize everything he had said. Two words to inspire them. After a dramatic pause, he leaned into the microphone and said, “I’m Batman.”

One verse, the last verse, summarizes this entire talk.

Joh 16:33  These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I don’t think that it requires much commentary. What it calls for is much believing. Jesus has “overcome the world.” To the extent I believe He has, I will “be of good cheer,” having His “peace” in my “tribulation.”

Do you believe that?