Searchin’, Searchin’, We Gotta Keep Jesus Searchin’ (John 5:30-47)

In the book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Nicholas Carr makes the case that technology is inducing an intellectual decay in our brains.

When you read a book, you take a thimble of information from your working memory and fill your bathtub of long-term memory. Yet when you read on the Internet, we transfer a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source. Our brains don’t assimilate the information in a rich and meaningful way, creating fewer connections between our other memories. We become mindless consumers of data.

There was a search engine in Bible times.

Jesus mentioned it, saying in verse thirty-nine, “You search the Scriptures.” He was addressing the Jewish religious authorities – Scribes, Doctors of the Law of Moses, Pharisees, and the like.

Respectfully, their search habits were making them stupid. Jesus’ full quote was, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

They kept searchin’, searchin’, but it wasn’t drawing them closer to God.

We “search the Scriptures,” placing a high priority on the Word of God.

It is all too possible to search the Scriptures and miss its main subject.

I’ll organize my comments around two questions, #1 Are You Searching For Jesus In Your Bible Reading?, and #2 Are You Satisfied With Jesus In Your Bible Reading?

#1 – Are You Searching For Jesus In Your Bible Reading? (v30-42)

What is the world’s most deadly book?

A strong case could be made for Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Law Enforcement labels it “The Serial Killer’s Book.” One article noted, “Conspiracy theorists have jumped on several ideas including that the book is used by the FBI or by other government organizations to trigger ‘sleeper assassins.’ The book has been associated with the murder of John Lennon and the attempted assassination of then-President Ronald Regan. Lee Harvey Oswald had a copy.
It’s not the book; it’s the readers. They brought all the crazy with them.

We don’t bring the crazy, but we do tend to interpret the Bible through our own biases and preconceptions. The most common example is called Confirmation Bias. Experts define it as “The tendency to selectively search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions or hypotheses.”  Information that challenges the bias is more apt to be ignored or rejected outright. 

Jesus is a Person, not a proof text. It will be easier to overcome Confirmation Bias and other biases if we are looking for the Lord.

Jesus had just revealed that He was equal with His Father. He will call witnesses to attest to His claim.

Joh 5:30  I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

Jesus kept making it clear that although He was God, He had voluntarily set aside the use of His deity to do “nothing” except “the will of the Father” who sent Him. Commenting on this sublime truth, A.W. Tozer writes, “The Man who walked among us was a demonstration, not of unveiled deity, but of perfect humanity.”

Since Jesus only, always, did what the Father told Him, the Jews should have trusted that His works were exactly what God wanted done.

Joh 5:31  “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.

This verse makes sense if you remember that the Mosaic Law required two or three witnesses to resolve a matter. Jesus’ testimony by itself, though true, would need corroboration from other witnesses.

Joh 5:32  There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.
Joh 5:33  You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.

John the Baptist did more than introduce Jesus as the Messiah. He came in fulfillment of prophecy in the spirit and power of Elijah. His was a powerful witness to Jesus’ deity.

Joh 5:34  Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.

John’s witness was important but it is ultimately insufficient in itself since it is “from [another] man.”

Jesus did not need to produce witnesses. He was God. He submitted Himself to it hoping it would help lead to salvation. The Lord is always reminding us that He is not willing that any should perish, but that they would come to eternal life.

Joh 5:35  He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.

There is a distinctly Jewish meaning to this saying. Adam Clarke writes, “The expression of lamp our Lord took from the ordinary custom of the Jews, who termed their eminent [religious authorities] the lamps of Israel.”

These guys fancied themselves “lamps.” They were in the dark, blind leaders of the blind.

If you want to see a real “lamp,” look at John. He was all about Jesus. While these guys were in it for their glory, John gave all glory to Jesus.

They didn’t condemn John, but they didn’t embrace him either. They checked him out but left him alone. They hoped he would fade so they could get their glow back.

What if these guys had believed John?

Joh 5:36  But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

The Jewish Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, predicted that the Messiah would prove Himself by many signs, wonders, and miracles:

When John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus, “Are you the coming One, or do we look for another?”, Jesus answered, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22).
In the Nazareth Synagogue, Jesus preached from the passage in Isaiah that reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has anointed me to tell the good news to the poor. He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set oppressed people free.” Then Jesus proclaimed, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21), claiming that His works identified Him as Messiah.

The massive accumulation of signs, wonders, healings, and exorcisms surrounding the ministry of Jesus was unprecedented. It was His proof.

Joh 5:37  And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.

Immediately we think of the Father’s speaking from Heaven at Jesus’ baptism. Except it says they had never “heard His voice.
The opening verses of the Book of Hebrews provide us with a commentary on verse thirty-seven. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (1:1-2).

The Old Testament is God “speaking” in different ways to various people about Jesus.

Jesus made the Father visible to those who have “neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” Hearing Jesus, seeing Jesus, was hearing and seeing God the Father.

Joh 5:38  But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.

You cannot reject Jesus and say you believe in God. Reject the Son, and you reject the Father who sent Him.

These guys knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards. They dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t.’

Note to self: The Word without Jesus as its main subject makes a person worse, not better. It encourages self-righteous.

I can almost hear a Scribe shouting, “You’re so vain! I bet You think this Book is about you!” It is.

Joh 5:39  You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

The Scribes, Doctors of the Law, the Pharisees were attempting to receive “eternal life” from their own study and subsequent obedience to “the Scriptures.”

I want to list a few of the of ways the Scriptures “testify” of Jesus:

Immediately after they sinned in Eden, God promised Adam and Eve that He would be born of a woman to redeem them and their offspring while simultaneously restoring Creation.

In Deuteronomy, Moses, talking about Jesus, wrote, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (18:15).

Jesus was typified in the rock that gave Israel water in the wilderness (Numbers 20:8-12). The apostle Paul said, “That rock was Christ” (First Corinthians 10:4).

The ministry of Jesus was shown in the seven different offerings that God commanded Israel to bring (Leviticus 1-7).

Jesus and His ministry were shown in the Tabernacle and its service. One place where the New Testament makes this connection is with the word propitiation, which speaks of the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant (Romans 3:25).

The Lord’s ministry on Earth parallels the seven Feasts on the Jewish calendar. He fulfilled four of them in His first coming, and He will fulfill the remaining three.

My absolute favorite “Finding Jesus” Scripture is the near sacrifice of father Abraham’s only begotten son, Isaac. It was on that same spot where, centuries later, God the Father would not spare His only begotten Son, Jesus. I was weeks old in the Lord when I heard it taught and it positively blew my mind.

It is no wonder Jesus could say, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the Book it is written of Me” (Psalm 40:7).

Joh 5:40  But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

You might say that they were worshipping the Scriptures. Or that the Scriptures had become their idol.

One commentator noted, “The Jewish Scribes sought to know the Word of God, but they did not know the God of the Word!”

Novelist Ken Kesey famously hated the film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He was disappointed with the director’s decision not to have the film narrated – as the book was – from the point of view of Chief Bromden, a Native American character thought to be deaf and mute. Kesey said something like, “I wrote about the plight of the Indian, and they made it a story about Hollywood and Jack Nicholson.” Kesey thought that they had missed the subject of his words.

The religious authorities most certainly missed the subject of Scripture. They were content to argue about what constituted work on the Sabbath while the Lord of the Sabbath was in their midst, offering them their Kingdom.

Notice that their unbelief was a matter of their free will. It isn’t that they could not believe; they would not believe. They “were not willing.” They resisted the grace of God in Jesus.

O, yes; grace is resistible, to your own peril.

Joh 5:41  “I do not receive honor from men.

Think of a court trial in which, despite overwhelming evidence to a person’s innocence, they were nonetheless convicted on account of the bias of the jury. To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind.

The witnesses Jesus called upon were overwhelming proof He was the Messiah, the Son of God, the God-man, God in human flesh, the One who was promised. He did not, however, “receive honor from men.”

Shakespeare wrote, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

Joh 5:42  But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.

Ouch. But as much as it is a rebuke, Jesus was sent to resolve this deficiency by manifesting the love of God for them. No one, not Jews or Gentiles, is born loving God. We all must be born a second time, born spiritually, born again. We can be reborn and regenerated on account of Jesus being sent by the Father to save us. Then we will have His love in us.

If you are a nonbeliever, “you do not have the love of God in you.” You can if you will believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Were you the mean person who would ditch others? The religious authorities wanted the Scriptures, but they were ditching Jesus. You can’t have one without the other.

Every Bible exposure ought to have an element of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Walking with two disciples, but keeping His identity hidden from them, the resurrected Lord taught a Bible study where “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

I’ve heard it said, and I’ve said, that it would be wonderful to have that study on tape. But that’s the exact wrong way to think. We have the One who taught that study. It is Jesus. We hear it through the Word, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, if we keep Jesus the main subject.

#2 – Are You Satisfied With Jesus In Your Bible Reading? (v43-47)

How many Bengals hats do you have?

Bill Wilder has more. His impressive array of Bengals memorabilia contains no fewer than 130 Bengals hats. It’s obvious where his loyalties lie.

There were no memorabilia to display, but spend a few minutes with the religious authorities, and you’d know that they were obsessed with Moses.
Jesus concluded by telling them that Moses would be extremely unhappy with them.

Joh 5:43  I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.

Think of Jesus as the Father’s ambassador. Reject the ambassador, and you reject the sender.

“Another” might look ahead to the ultimate “another,” the antichrist of the Revelation. In context, it seems to mean that these guys prefer to listen to one another expound minutiae from the Scriptures.

Joh 5:44  How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?

They desired “honor” from each other, not from God. Their attitude is exposed in The Book of Acts when they called Peter and John “ordinary men and not well educated” (4:13). They noted that they had been with Jesus.

That is it in a nutshell. It isn’t how many letters you have after your name. It is about being with Jesus.

I use Grammarly to check my transcripts. It tells me I am writing at a seventh-grade level. Exactly where I want to be.

Joh 5:45  Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you – Moses, in whom you trust.

These guys were looking for a way to murder Jesus (v18). But Jesus wasn’t their problem. Moses was their problem.

Joh 5:46  For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.

For all their claims to honor Moses, especially by their meticulous attempts to keep the Mosaic Law, they did not believe Moses.

Moses is the author of the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch. We listed a few of the ways Moses presented Jesus in the Pentateuch. Moses made Jesus the main subject, but they were missing Him entirely.

Joh 5:47  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

There was an original series Star Trek episode, The Omega Glory, in which the crew of the USS Enterprise discovered the Yangs and the Coms. They were involved in a terrible conflict. Turns out they were misinterpreting a document that turned out to be the Constitution of the United States. The natives read the document as sacred words, saying, “E plab neesta” instead of “We the people.”

The Scribes, Doctors of the Law, and Pharisees were an “E plab neesta” crowd. They were obscuring, rather than uncovering, the Scriptures.

Next time you are looking for a great Christian read, check out A.W. Tozer. I quote him a lot, and here is another gem: “The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word.”

Merchandise websites allow you to refine your searches. You can choose minimum and maximum pricing, buying format, sizes, colors, brands, etc.

Refine your searching of God’s Word by keeping Jesus the main subject.

Don Stewart offers the following summary:

The Old Testament records the preparation for the Christ.
The Gospels record the manifestation of the Christ.
The Book of Acts gives us the propagation of the message of the Christ.
The New Testament letters provide the explanation of the two comings of Christ.
The Book of Revelation documents the consummation of all things in Christ.

Jesus came in the scroll of the book. Don’t miss Him in it.

Sabbath Day’s Alright For Working, Get A Little Healing In (John 5:15-29)

“I am Iron Man.”

Tony Stark introduced himself with those iconic words.

“I am Groot” can mean anything, but when you first meet Groot, he is introducing himself.

“We are Venom” is a creative twist on introductions.

The top two film self-introductions on my list:

“The name is Bond. James Bond.”

Veteran actor Michael Keaton ad-libbed the classic line, “I’m Batman.”

Jesus introduced Himself to the Jewish religious authorities as God.

He did it indirectly but matter-of-factly. He said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (v17), and the Jewish religious authorities understood that He was “making Himself equal with God” (v18).

Jesus invites us to look back, then ahead, to see the work He and God the Father are accomplishing. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Takes You Back To He & His Father At Creation, and #2 Jesus Takes You Ahead To He & His Father At The Consummation.

#1 – Jesus Takes You Back To He & His Father At Creation (v15-18)

Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis (AIG), likes to ask, “Were you there?” about God’s Creation.

Then he says something like, “No, we weren’t there, but we know Someone who was there, Someone who cannot lie, who knows everything, and has always existed. And this One has revealed to us what happened in the past in His history book called the Bible.”

The Jewish religious authorities accused Jesus of doing work on the Sabbath. He responded that He and His Father have always worked on the Sabbath.

Joh 5:15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

In the previous verses, “the man” was among a multitude hoping to be healed at the Pool of Bethesda.
The sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed believed that when the water in the pool stirred, the first one in would be healed.

Jesus singled out this man, infirm for thirty-eight years. He commanded him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” Believing, he did precisely that.

Joh 5:16  For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

The religious authorities ignored the inexpressible joy of the healing and were upset because carrying your bedding was prohibited work on the Sabbath. Mind you, it wasn’t prohibited in the Scriptures. It was an interpretation added to the Scriptures.

Christians ought to be joyous.

The apostle Peter said that you ought to experience and express “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (First Peter 1:8). Each will express it differently, but believers have that joy down in their hearts. (If we did Bible study like a musical, we’d sing now).

Joh 5:17  But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”

“Answered” means that they confronted Jesus. He was answering their accusation about green-lighting work on the Sabbath.

The Message Version reads, “My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.”

I’ve never thought about God working on the Sabbath. If He doesn’t, “Why does the world keep on spinning? Why does the sea rush to shore?”

Seriously. Who relieves Him to hold the universe together? The rabbis say that it isn’t work for God to sustain what He created. It seems like it would be more worth, if you ask me. Genesis clearly states God “rested from His work” (2:2-3).

Philo of Alexandria writes, “Moses does not give the name of ‘rest’ to mere inactivity. [God] never ceases to work all that is best and most beautiful. God’s ‘rest’ is a working with absolute ease, without toil and without suffering.”
Joh 5:18  Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

They were already seeking ways to kill Jesus, and now they doubled down.

The essential confession of faith for Israelites is found in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy. It begins, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (v4). They repeated it morning and evening.

You might expect the religious authorities to be confused that God is One but more than One. Don Stewart writes, “The Doctrine of the Trinity is not plainly revealed in the Old Testament. Without the teaching of the New Testament we would not be aware of this truth.”

Have you ever heard the word “Godhead?” Theologians sometimes use that term to refer to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as three divine Persons in one God.

In its simplest form, “We believe that the one God eternally exists in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that these three are one God, co-equal and co-eternal, having precisely the same nature and attributes, and worthy of precisely the same worship, confidence, and obedience.”

We believe it because the Bible teaches it.

Many false teachings arise at just this point. It was proposed in the second and third century AD that God was one Person instead of three Persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were different ‘modes’ of the same divine Person. God can switch among the three different modes. This heresy continues today in Oneness Pentecostalism and other groups that deny the Trinity.

Maybe you’ve tried to explain the Godhead by using the three forms of water. Water can be liquid, steam, or ice, but it is still water. It is an excellent example… of modalism.

We can only wonder how many Sabbaths Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before they disobeyed God. Their sin was met with God’s promise to redeem and restore both them and His Creation.

The Father and Jesus constantly worked to keep that promise. It began at once with the revelation that God would come to Earth as the Seed of a woman. He would add humanity to His deity and walk among us. Their work is chronicled progressively in the Bible. Verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book, the promised redemption and restoration is providentially furthered by Jesus working with His Father.

#2 – Jesus Takes You Ahead To He & His Father At The Consummation (v19-29)

Starlord told the other Guardians of the Galaxy he had 12% of a plan. The only good thing that could be said was, “I am Groot,” meaning that it was better than 11% of a plan.

The way things are going, nonbelievers might doubt God has even 12% of a plan.
We know He has 100% of a plan.

The remaining verses look ahead, into the future, past our own time, to “all who are in the graves [hearing Jesus’] voice” (v28).

Joh 5:19  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

Jesus is equal with God the Father. How did that play out during His incarnation?

In His first coming as the God-man, Jesus never once acted independently of His Father. He determined to “do nothing of Himself.”

The apostle Paul writes, “though He was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6 ESV). He didn’t hang on to His equality but trusted His Father.

When Jesus said, “the Son can do nothing of Himself,” it was not to say He was less than God, but that He voluntarily subordinated Himself to His Father for the sake of their plan. He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:7).

Joh 5:20  For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “We usually think of the Father’s love for the lost world, as in John 3:16; but we must also remember the Father’s love for His dear Son.” If you are ever in doubt about God’s love for you or plans for you, think about the Father’s love for His Son. He spared not His Son for you. He gave Jesus for you.

More wondrous works than the healing of an infirm man were coming. Jesus seemed genuinely excited that His Father was going to “show Him greater works.” We ought to be excited to discover things in our daily walk with the Lord.

Is geocaching still a thing? It is a GPS treasure hunt in which participants hide and find hidden caches.

There are caches for us to discover every day walking with the Lord.

“That you may marvel.” It can mean astonished or amazed. One paraphrase says, “You haven’t seen the half of it!”

These guys accusing Jesus had forgotten how to “marvel” at God and His works.

We’re talking about healing a man infirm for thirty-eight years, but it’s in the little things that we can most marvel. For example: I marvel at our fellowship.

Joh 5:21  For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.

Jesus was letting them know that He was going to raise people from the dead. Not only that, He was going to give life by raising people from the dead never to die again. We will see that in just a minute.

Joh 5:22  For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,
Joh 5:23  that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Why mention judgment? Jesus is looking ahead, to the end of the ages. His accusers don’t have the big picture.

We need a big-picture worldview. We’re playing the long game and are enabled to endure.

Nonbelievers think God the Father is a wrathful, short-fused, judgmental deity who can’t wait to “rain fire” upon Earth. They understand Jesus to be a kinder, gentler version, who went around saying, “Judge not.”

Check Him out in the Revelation. The Father gives Jesus the seven sealed scroll. Jesus is the Person who opens it one seal at a time to pour out the wrath of God upon Earth.

Joh 5:24  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

We looked back to Creation and noted the fall of man. The Godhead’s 100% plan to redeem and restore was for God to come in human flesh. God must become flesh and die in order to pay the penalty of sin for mankind.

Whosoever “believes” will receive everlasting life. Believing is the one thing we can do that isn’t work.

Joh 5:25  Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

This is getting to be quite the prophecy talk. “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live,” sounds to us like the resurrection and rapture of the church. “For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (First Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Talking about the resurrections is like giving CPR: You can’t quit once you’ve begun.

You noticed I said “resurrections,” plural. The first thing to grasp it that there is not one, general resurrection of believers and non-believers at the end of the ages.

There are a series of resurrections.

The Bible describes two categories of resurrections, called the First Resurrection and the Second Resurrection:

The First Resurrection is the permanent raising from the dead for believers in Jesus Christ. You could also call it the Resurrection of the Righteous.

The Second Resurrection is the permanent raising from the dead for all nonbelievers. You could also call it the Resurrection of the Wicked.

Here is what throws people: The First Resurrection doesn’t occur all at once. It started with Jesus, and it will conclude just before the new heavens and new Earth are created.

Of course it started with Jesus. He was the first person to be raised never to die again. There would be no resurrections if He did not raise from the dead. Jesus is called the “firstfruits of those who have [died]” (First Corinthians 15:20). Others would follow as the harvest continued.

There are resurrections in the Gospel of Matthew that are sometimes overlooked. “Graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (27:52-53). These were the first “firstfruits.”
The next resurrection of believers is the resurrection and rapture of the church. It hasn’t happened. It is imminent.

Old Testament saints are in Heaven but have not received their resurrection bodies. Their resurrection happens at the end of the Great Tribulation (Daniel 12).

The Tribulation saints are the next to be resurrected. They are raised as the One Thousand Year Kingdom of God on Earth begins.

There will be believers alive at the end of the thousand years who will need resurrection bodies for their stay in eternity.

Those six events are the First Resurrection, the Resurrection of the Righteous.

For all nonbelievers from all of time, to be absent from their body at death is to be present in Hades. Their resurrection is the Second Resurrection. The Resurrection of the Wicked does occur all at once and is described in chapter twenty of the Revelation.

They rejected Jesus and are thrown into the Lake of Fire, where their resurrection bodies can and will endure eternal conscious torment.

Joh 5:26  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,
Joh 5:27  and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.

Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” eighty-eight times in the New Testament. It is the primary title Jesus used when referring to Himself.

Daniel saw glory, worship, and an everlasting kingdom given to the Messiah, whom he called the “Son of Man.” Jesus took the name for Himself. There was no doubt He was claiming to be the Messiah.

Joh 5:28  Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
Joh 5:29  and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Not one general resurrection, but the two we described.

Verse twenty-nine has confused some over what appears to be the significant role of works. Later on in the Gospel of John, Jesus will be asked what must be done to do the works God requires. He will answer, “This is the work of God: to believe in the one who sent Me” (6:29).

Believers go on to discover the good works that Jesus has for them. We don’t do them to maintain salvation but to delight our Heavenly Father.
Nonbelievers continue to do “evil.” The word “evil” translates to worthless things.

I have had the privilege of officiating at many gravesites and memorial services. (It’s another marvel). It is so sad when every indication is that the deceased did not receive Jesus Christ. Well-wishers who give eulogies struggle to find the things that would be considered worthwhile.

One memorial in particular I can’t shake. A neighbor mentioned that the deceased always maintained the best yard on their block. Person after person touted his meticulous landscaping.

I can’t joke about it. It was so, so sad. “Worthless.”

This passage reads like a Father-Son outing. The Father loves His Son, and the Son is bursting with joy and excitement on what they will accomplish together.

Jesus was the unique Son of God. When you are born again, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (First John 3:1).

You are on a long outing with God. Your ‘God-cache’ will have blessings and buffetings. Either way, you can be bursting with joy and excitement for what Jesus will accomplish in you and through you as you await the rapture.

The Lord has 100% of a plan for you.

.38 Special (John 5:1-16)

How many times have you heard, “There are no stupid questions?”

There are. Lawyers ask witnesses stupid questions. Here are five that are on the record:

“Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?”

“Any suggestions as to what prevented this from being a murder trial instead of an attempted murder trial?”

“Were you alone or by yourself?”

“How far apart were the vehicles at the time of the collision?”

“Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?”

Asking an infirm man who was waiting by a healing pool, “Do you want to be made well?,” sounds like a stupid question. It can’t be, however, because it was asked by Jesus.

Jesus told him to do something that was impossible – “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

Jesus is always telling us to do things that are impossible.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Are Commanded To Do The Impossible Made Possible, and #2 You Are Capable Of Doing The Impossible Made Possible.

#1 – You Are Commanded To Do The Impossible Made Possible (v1-8)

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).

“Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20).

Three things that are impossible on our own, and we haven’t even left the house.

C.S. Lewis, answering whether the Christian life was hard or easy, writes, “It’s hard as death in the beginning, and then as Jesus’ life begins to work within us and transform us, it is relatively easy, because He does the work of transforming us. He lives within us and helps us to do impossible things.”

Another quote I came across: “The Christian life is not hard. It is impossible. We can no more live the impossible Christian life on our own than we can get to Heaven on our own.”

Joh 5:1  After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

John doesn’t mention which “feast.” It is one of many unanswered questions scholars have in this encounter. Don’t get sidetracked trying to figure out things that can’t be figured out. Concentrate on what is revealed.

Joh 5:2  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.

The Sheep Gate was the entrance for sheep entering into the Temple compound from the sheep markets.

The pool had several names, but we’ll stick with “Bethesda.” One source writes, “Archaeologists located the pool, excavated it, and found that it was more than 300 feet long – almost the length of two Olympic-size swimming pools. A series of columns ran along each side and along a partition in the middle, which explains the mention of five porticoes. Stairs were built in the corners of the pool.”

Joh 5:3  In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water.

Beggars we encountered on short-term mission trips haunt my memory. I recall nearly stepping on a few, lying on their mats of cardboard, and almost tripping over a Filipino man ‘walking’ with his arms and hands, having no legs.

Joh 5:4  For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

I read an article this week titled, Who Took Verse Four Out of My Bible? There is scholarly disagreement about whether the end of verse three and all of verse four are the genuine, inspired word of God, or were added later for clarification.

It has to do with the manuscripts we have, and which are considered “best” and “earliest” by translators of various versions.

In verse seven the infirm man does mention the stirring of the water. That much is true with or without the omitted words. At issue is who stirred the water and if the healings were genuine. It might help to know more about the pool itself.

Based on historical and archaeological evidence, the pool was almost certainly a healing center called an Asclepion after the Greco-Roman god, Asclepius. Over 300 are known to have existed.

In mythology, Asclepius was the son of the god Apollo and a mortal woman named Coronis. Call him “Dr. Demigod.” He was taught healing arts by Chiron, a centaur.

One Jewish source I consulted said, “The god’s mythical daughters included the goddesses Hygeia and Panacea. We can hear in their Greek names our modern words for “hygiene” and “panacea,” concepts associated today with medicine and health.”

Asclepius was the son of the union of a god and a mortal woman. He could heal people, and raise the dead. He was a satanic counterfeit to Jesus. Second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr writes, “When the Devil brings forward Asclepius as the raiser of the dead and healer of all diseases, may I not say that in this matter likewise, he has imitated the prophecies about Christ?”

Who stirred the water? We are not told, and don’t know if it was a “Who?” or a “What?”

We know from accounts that the waters of Bethesda “stirred” when a priest of Asclepius would open the underground pipes.
Others propose it was a hot spring that bubbled every so often. (No evidence exists that the water was hot).

“Angel” is the translation of messenger. It need not refer to a heavenly angel, or to a supernatural creature. Maybe it was referring to a priest.

Did genuine healing occur? I can only say that the sick who went there believed the stories, and they were not dissuaded if no one was healed.
Four million people visit Fatima annually because they believe the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in 1917. The Roman Catholic Church reports the occasional miracle at Fatima, as well as at the other eight sites where Mary is believed to have appeared. Only a few maybe-healings, yet people continue to flock to these sites.

We don’t know, either, how often the water was stirred. If it was from the activity of the priests, it could have been often. But it might have been weeks or months or more between stirrings.

Medicine was ineffective at best. The chronically ill in Bible times were clinging to a thread of hope.

Joh 5:5  Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.

I have to think that in those nearly four decades of infirmity he had sought other healings. I’ve known sick people who become healing-chasers, going to meetings and crusades. They will try almost anything. We encountered more than one person who was traveling to the Philippines to receive ‘psychic surgery.’

It can be hard (believe me, I know) to resign yourself to your infirmity without resigning yourself to despair. The chase for the cure can keep you occupied.

It’s better to take the approach of the apostle Paul. He resigned himself to his “thorn in the flesh,” and said he took “pleasure” in it and “boasted” of it.

Adversity doesn’t necessitate despair we can have the joy of the Lord in any affliction.

Joh 5:6  When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

“Lying there,” paralyzed, he had no hope of getting to the water first. I can’t even begin to speculate about his logic.

“Do you want to be made well?” The word for “well” is hygiēs (hoog-ee-ace’). Earlier I mentioned that one of the daughters of Asclepius was Hygiea, and that it is where we get our word hygiene. The use of this particular word gives additional credibility to the assertion that the pool was an Asclepion.

Seems obvious that an infirm man at a healing center wanted to be “made well.” Think of it like this: When you share Jesus with someone, aren’t you asking them, “Do you want to be made well?”

Sadly, they mostly say “No.” They offer some lament, or excuse, or complaint, or argument. They do not want to receive the Lord and “be made well.”

I’ve counseled couples over the years who don’t really want their marriage to be made well. They offer lame excuses. They act as if the living water of God the Holy Spirit is unattainable for them. They accuse their spouse of crippling them.

Joh 5:7  The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

Public pools always have posted rules: No running, no diving, supervise your kids, toddlers must wear swim proof diapers. They may as well just have a sign that says, “If you haven’t thrown-up from the smell of chlorine, there is way too much bacteria in the pool from toddlers wearing regular diapers or going commando.”

I wonder how filthy the water was in the Pool of Bethesda? It wasn’t filtered. You might get a worse sickness from the water.

Are tourists still kissing the Blarney Stone in the age of COVID? I feel obligated to share my research. More than one travel blog insists, “The Blarney Stone was once the deflector stone at the bottom of a toilet.”

What a pitiable site it must have been to see multitudes of sick, lame, blind, and otherwise infirm beggars crawling or stumbling, tripping over and stomping upon one another, to reach the water.

Do you see the world of nonbelievers in those terms? Jesus does. He’s still asking them, “Do you want to be made well?” He’s doing it through you and I, and through the church, His Temples on Earth.

Joh 5:8  Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

To quote the church father Vizzini, “Inconceivable!”

Jesus commands the impossible. It may sound mystical, but once you realize the Christian life is impossible, it is possible.

#2 – You Are Capable Of Doing The Impossible Made Possible (v9-16)

We are always talking about God’s Word being His enabling. If He commands you to do something, you better believe it is something you can do. Not in your strength; never. It is all Him enabling you in your weakness. I can think of no better example of the Lord’s command containing His enabling than this infirm man by the Pool of Bethesda.

Joh 5:8  Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

These three things are not steps or a formula. They are more like principles that shed light on enabling.

“Rise.” Everything in the Christian life depends upon the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He rose from the dead and is the firstfruits of all those who will follow in His resurrection. Because He rose, and we are in Him, we are already spiritually risen. Among lots of other things, it means we are enabled to “rise” above any circumstance. The resurrection eliminates lame excuses.

“Take up your bed.” The infirm man was done with the Pool of Bethesda. He had a new way of life.

When a person is saved, they enter a new life with its new way of living. It springs forth from within. It is a by-product of being saved. Your motivations are different. You have an appetite for spiritual things. Habits and addictions of your flesh are gone. You are a new creation.

“Walk.” Forget the man’s infirmity. What about atrophy? Nevertheless, he immediately was restored and could walk.

By far the most common phrase Christians use is some variant of “walk with the Lord.” When born again, your dead human spirit comes alive, and God the Holy Spirit comes within.

There is fellowship, communion, relationship. God is in you, with you, upon you. It’s like taking a pleasant walk with God.

The part we play is the decision to believe and obey. Our believing is not work. It is all of grace. In Romans 4:5 Paul said, “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”

Believing is the only thing you can do that’s not counted as work.

Joh 5:9  And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Consulting all four Gospels, Jesus performed healing on the Sabbath five times. He took the initiative all five times. It was deliberate.

Joh 5:10  The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”
Joh 5:11  He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ”

Can we please agree to quit saying, “He threw me under the bus?”

Commentators say that the now-healed man threw Jesus under the cart. All he did, however, was answer their question.

There are few rules in Scripture for ‘keeping’ the Sabbath. We read, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20). Elsewhere Jews were told not to “kindle a fire”(Exodus 35:3), and to not carry a burden through the gates of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 17).

The Jewish teachers wanted to codify exactly what constituted “work.” They proposed thirty-nine categories, and categories within categories. Their rules are ridiculously complex and convoluted.

Believers in the Church Age have no obligation to ‘keep’ the Sabbath.

In the Book of Acts a church council was convened to discuss what was required of non-Jews (15).

No requirement, or even suggestion, to observe Sabbaths was said to be necessary for non-Jews. Jews either, for that matter.

All you need to know about how keeping the Sabbath can go horribly wrong is that these guys were more interested in the healed man breaking a man-made tradition than they were about his being inconceivably healed.

Joh 5:12  Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”
Joh 5:13  But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.

His Father in Heaven didn’t tell Jesus to heal everyone, just this one guy. It had been a surgical-strike healing.

Joh 5:14  Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

There are plenty of examples and explanations in the Bible that indicate suffering and sickness are not God punishing you for sin. Job is the quintessential example that the righteous suffer.

However, God can punish sin. We conclude from Jesus’ warning that the healed man had been made infirm as a direct result of his sin.

D.A. Carson writes, “The two clauses, ‘Stop sinning’ and ‘something worse may happen to you,’ cannot be interpreted independently. They are tied together: the meaning is ‘Stop sinning lest something worse happen to you.’ The unavoidable implication is that the bad thing that has already happened was occasioned by the sin which the person must not repeat.”

Should we sin so grace will abound? Perish the thought. But we cannot fear emphasizing grace.

Joh 5:15  The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Was he an ungrateful snitch? Spurgeon argues that the man was saved. Good enough for me.

Joh 5:16  For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

We will see mounting tensions as our journey through the Gospel of John continues – Lord willing.

On another occasion Jesus commanded a man with a withered hand, “Stretch out your hand” (Mark 3:5). It inspired hymn writer Albert Benjamin Simpson to write the following lyrics:

When Christ of old with healing pow’r
Went forth through all the suffering land,
His word so oft was wont to be,
“Stretch forth thy hand, stretch forth thy hand!”
And though the palsied arm might shrink
And tremble at the strange command,
The healing touch was only felt
While stretching forth the withered hand.
O suffering one, stretch forth your hand,
Upon His promise take your stand.
At His command stretch forth your hand,
    And Christ shall make you whole.

Read the Bible believing that you are enabled by it to do what it says.

Sign-tology (John 4:43-54)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking signs is a ‘sign’ of unbelief.

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

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

Signs and wonders have not ceased in the Church Age.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He retreated to the obscurity of His hometown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one expected long-distance healing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lady and the Tramp had two very different worldviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skip to verse thirty-one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serving God nourished Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two worldviews were made apparent at the well:

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

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

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

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

The reaped become reapers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This kind of boldness comes from the Holy Spirit.

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

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

You know enough to introduce Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tramp told Lady to “Look again.”

Jesus is telling us to “Lift our eyes.”

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

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

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

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

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

Do Christians think anything is coincidental?

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

Non-theologians call coincidences God-incidences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus lived above circumstances by obeying His Father.

So can we.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Coincidence” may not mean what we think.

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

Coincidence is God’s particular providence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Father used Jesus’ weariness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We deduce that everyone is thirsty for God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two genders, male and female.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about this one:

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

The answer is Fish.

We can make a riddle from our text:

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

The answer is John the Baptist:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is all your righteousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have been sent after Jesus to share the Gospel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are riddles to resolve in your walk with Jesus:

You must decrease to increase Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John the Baptist was a decreaser and a downsizer:

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

He wore rough clothing

He ate locusts dipped in wild honey.

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

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

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

We all need to be decreasing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are likely unfamiliar with Henry Moorhouse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herschel Hobbs called it “the Gospel in superlatives.”

Martin Luther called it “the Bible in miniature.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I came across the following illustration:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerald Borchert reminds us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twenty-two countries are currently at war.

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

God remains evangelical.

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

Jesus saves:

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

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

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

There will be no more saving after the Millennial Kingdom.

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

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

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

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

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

Atheists and agnostics throw up obstacles to believing Jesus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You & I preach John 3:16 everyday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicodemus was understandably confused. Jesus explained what He meant:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible.

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

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

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

God the Holy Spirit would come to live within them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One scholar makes sense of this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord has seated you right next to Him.

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

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

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

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

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

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

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

You and I are likewise God’s Temple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The apostle John provides a few travel notes:

Capernaum would serve as Jesus’ ministry base.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The issue was how and where this was being done:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit empowers our obedience.

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

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

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

Jesus braided a whip and cleansed the Temple.

He did it to safeguard the worshippers.

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

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

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

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

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

The disciples continually pressed Jesus to establish the Kingdom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are the joy that was set before Him.

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

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