Got Trouble?

If I were to ask everyone this morning do you Got Trouble? I would expect that most of us would say yes. At this particular moment in time that could be a loaded question. But we’ve always had trouble, haven’t we? Even before we ever heard the word coronavirus we had troubles. We had stress, anxiety, busyness, sorrow, fear, depression, sickness, and loneliness. We were troubled about climate change, the government, unemployment, our country, our world, and technology. We had physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial troubles. We had trouble at work and at school, etc.

Then coronavirus hit and all our troubles were amplified. ​​ We now have more stress and anxiety, more loneliness, more fear, more uncertainty, more unemployment, etc. We’ve also added troubles that come from living isolated from others and from teaching and learning online.

So got trouble? Yes, of course, we do. Trouble has been around since Adam and Eve sinned and all of a sudden were troubled by their nakedness. They were troubled by their sin and shame. Humans have had trouble for a long, long time. But I believe the key is how do we respond to our troubles? Do we hide ourselves from God like Adam and Eve did or do we confront our troubles and pursue the cure for them? Maybe this morning you can admit to having troubles but don’t know how to properly respond to them. Or maybe you have troubles and know how you should respond but are struggling with that response. No matter how you are struggling with your troubles this morning, I want you to know that God’s word gives us the cure. I hope and pray that you will take some next steps this morning in response to your troubles.

In our passage this morning, we see that the disciples also had troubles. They were troubled by many things. They were mainly troubled emotionally and were struggling in how to respond. Jesus tells them that his presence, his person and his power would help them to properly respond to their feelings of being troubled. But before he explained how his presence, person and power would calm their troubles, there was one thing they needed to do first and that was believe. The same is true for us today. The cure for our troubles is the same as the cure was for the disciples back then. John wants us to understand this morning that “Belief in Jesus Christ is the cure for our troubles.” That is our big idea this morning. If we first don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God, as God incarnate, then we will never believe in his presence with us, in his person to save us and in his power to answer all our prayers asked in his name. Before we dive into our study of God’s word this morning lets humble ourselves in prayer.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for your Holy Spirit to fill us, to fill our hearts and minds wherever we are worshipping you this morning. Thank you Lord that our worship of you is not reliant on a building but is reliant on a heart. A heart that is open and receptive to your spirit. I pray that your thoughts and words would penetrate our hearts and minds and that even in this time of isolation you will give us ordained opportunities to share your word with people this week. I thank you that your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. May your word encourage us, guide us and convict us where needed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point this morning is Christ’s Presence. Belief in the presence of Jesus Christ is the cure for our troubles. Follow along as I read from the gospel of John 14:1-5. This is what God’s Word says, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”

The first thing we see in this passage is that the disciples are troubled in their hearts. They are emotionally troubled. What were the disciples troubled about? Well first of all, Jesus had told them in the week leading up to this moment that he was going to die. This troubled the disciples because they must have been thinking how could a dead Messiah set up a kingdom and rule the world. It didn’t make any sense. Just with that piece of information it must have seemed as if their world was crumbling and crashing down around them. Then in the Upper Room Jesus washes their feet coming on the heels of the disciples arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest among them. The shame they probably felt then added to their emotional turmoil. Then Jesus tells them that one of them was going to betray him. Think about what their emotional states must have been like.

But just as they thought their troubled hearts couldn’t take anymore, Jesus again says he is leaving them and they cannot follow him and that Peter is going to deny Jesus three times in one night. We saw this in Pastor Stuart’s sermon last week. Peter has just asked why he couldn’t follow Jesus now. He said he would follow his Lord and Savior anywhere. Peter said he would even lay down his life for him. In John 13:38, we see these words, Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times!” The disciple were probably thinking that if Peter couldn’t stand against the coming trial then what chance did they have.

I also think that the disciples were troubled because they could feel that Jesus was troubled. Have you ever become troubled for no other reason then someone close to you was troubled? Jesus was troubled and that must have added even more to the disciples’ troubled hearts. Fear, sorrow, uncertainty, loneliness, stress, anxiety and possibly even depression was probably setting in by now.

So in the midst of all these troubles, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Wow. Did Jesus really say those words with a straight face? They were emotional wrecks at that moment and Jesus knew it. We have seen this word “troubled” before which means to “stir up” or “to shake.” We saw it in the story of the crippled man beside the pool at Bethsaida in John 5:7 where the water would be “stirred up” and in John 13:21 when Jesus was thinking about going to the cross and was “troubled” in his spirit. When Jesus told them to not let their heart be troubled, he knew they were already troubled. He understood their fears, their anxieties, their confusion and concerns. And being a compassionate Savior he sympathized with their sorrow and grief. In Hebrews 4:15, it says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus tells them to stop being troubled but he didn’t end there. He was getting ready to tell them how to not be troubled. He was going to give them the cure. Thank God that Jesus didn’t end it with verse 1a. Have you ever had a problem and was troubled about something and someone says to you, “just move on” or “get over it” instead of giving ideas or ways to accomplish the “moving on?” It is probably because they don’t know how to “move on” or “get over it” themselves. But guess what Jesus does know and he says to the disciples, “Believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus clearly states his deity here but he was also commanding them to believe in him just as they believed in God. The Jews already had a strong belief in God whom they could not see. The disciples needed to have that same kind of faith in Jesus when he was no longer physically present with them. He was calling them to an ongoing trust, belief and faith in himself. Though they genuinely believed in Jesus and who he was, as they would see him arrested and crucified their faith would be at an all-time low.

Jesus wanted the disciples to believe that even if he was not with them physically, his presence was always with them. Puritan John Owen in the “The Forgiveness of Sin” noted, “A sense of God’s presence in love is sufficient to rebuke all anxiety and fears; and not only so, but to give, in the midst of them, solid consolation and joy.” Do you believe that this morning? Do you believe that the presence of God is with you at all times, even at times when your heart is troubled? It’s hard to do, especially in the midst of the uncertainty and fear of the Coronavirus world we live in. We don’t know if it’s safe to go to the store or safe to be around friends and family we don’t live with or even when it’s safe to come back to church.

But Jesus this morning is saying to us all, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in me, have faith in me, trust in my presence.” So if you are having trouble this morning sensing Jesus’ presence around you, this first next step may be for you, which is to believe that the presence of Jesus Christ is the cure for my troubled heart. ​​ 

This next step is not easy because even though God is ever-present with us, as we let the world creep in we draw ourselves away from his presence. We need to focus ourselves on God and not the world in order to feel him with us. That means being in God’s Word and being in prayer. Maybe for you it means listening to Christian music or being around Christian friends, etc. Now maybe you say I have tried all that and I still don’t feel God’s presence. I would say continue to focus on Jesus until you do. By focusing yourself on Jesus 100% and focusing on your troubles 0%, sooner or later you will begin to feel the presence of God. And remember God does not promise to take our troubles away from us but he does promise to always be with us through them. This next step is not easy but it will definitely be worth it.

In verse 2, Jesus further comforts his disciples, by letting them know their physical separation from him was only temporary. He mentions “his Father’s House” and that there are “many rooms” there and he assures them it is so. He also gives them a reason for his leaving which is to prepare a place for them in the Father’s house. The “Father’s House” refers to heaven and the “many rooms” as MacArthur says, “are not to be seen as a giant housing facility in heaven but rather a father building additions onto his house for his sons and their families, as was done in Israel.” “If it were not so” means there is not the slightest doubt about it.

We need to remember that most Jewish people really had no thought of an afterlife, no idea of a place of going when they die. But Jesus assures them that there is a place called heaven where all who believe in Jesus will go when they die a physical death and that there will be room for everyone there. Jesus also says he is preparing a place for the disciples there but the preparing can’t happen unless he goes away, unless he dies, is raised again and returns to the Father. ​​ 

In verse 3, Jesus confirms that his absence is temporary by telling them he will come back and take them to be with him where he is in heaven. Now what did Jesus mean here when he said he was coming back for them? Did he mean his resurrection in three days or when the Holy Spirit would come upon them at Pentecost? Or did he mean the Rapture or the Second Coming? I don’t know and the commentaries are all over the place as well. The important thing to remember is that if are a true believer in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior then you will spend eternity in the presence of God and his son, Jesus. It is sufficient for the believer to know they will be with their Lord forever.

Then in verse 4 we see that Jesus tells the disciples that they know where he is going and the way there. He has told them time and time again he is returning to the Father. He just told them he is going to the Father’s house to prepare a place for them there. Five times in verses 3-4, Jesus uses “I” or “me.” He wanted the disciples to trust in him personally.

Then Thomas speaks up and voices the same concern that all the disciples have at that moment which is “We have no idea where you are going so how can we know the way?” Honestly, that was profound because how can we know the way somewhere if we don’t know the destination. But Jesus had just told them they did know the way but they couldn’t comprehend it and would have trouble accepting that the cross was the way that Jesus would return to his Father.

That brings us to our second point this morning which is Christ’s Person. Belief in the person of Jesus Christ is the cure for our troubles. Follow along as I read verses 6-11. This is what God’s Word says, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? ​​ Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.

Now John 14:6 is my favorite Bible verse of all time and one of my favorite Christian songs by the group Disciple is about this verse. In fact I told Judy she needs to get Disciple to come to my funeral and play that song. But this verse is a stumbling block to many people, in fact, to most people outside of Christianity. When Jesus says, “he is the way and the truth and the life the emphasis is on the word “way.” Jesus himself was the answer to Thomas’ question. Access to the one true God is only through believing in the person of Jesus Christ and no one else.

The exclusivism of this statement cannot be diminished. This is why Jesus as our Lord and Savior is essential to Christianity. Jesus, as God incarnate, is the only way to God. Acts 4:12 says, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Jesus alone is the way to God, but he is the way for all. No one is excluded no matter their religious background or even lack of religion. Jesus in his grace welcomes everyone to the Father if they will come through him.

But this is where all other religions fall short. They believe that Jesus was just a good man or only a prophet. They don’t believe that Jesus and God are one. They don’t believe that Jesus died on a cross for the sins of humanity so they could be saved, reconciled to God and spend eternity in heaven with God. Jesus was also the truth because he is the authoritative representative and revealer of God the Father. And he is the life because he is both life and the source of life to us. Burge says, “God’s truth and God’s life is incarnate in Jesus.”

So, the question is what do you believe about Jesus? Do you believe that he is the only way to God? Do you believe that the person of Jesus Christ is the cure for your troubles? That he is the cure for your lost heart. Romans 10:9-10 says, If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. ​​ So do you believe that he died on a cross for your sins and rose again? If not the second next step this morning is for you which is to believe that the person of Jesus Christ is the cure for my lost heart and accept his salvation.

In verse 7, Jesus tells the disciples if they really knew him, they would know the Father. They had spent three years with him and he had taught them everything the Father had spoken to him. They had seen the miracles that Jesus performed that could have only come from the Father. But the truth is they did not know Jesus fully because if they did they would have known the Father as well. Until now all had been preparation for them to know Jesus fully and to understand that Jesus and God were one. Jesus said, “From now on you do know him and have seen him.” “From now on” probably means after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit they would realize that because they had seen and known Jesus they actually did see and know God. The more we know Jesus, the more we know God. That was why God came down to earth as Jesus. It was to show us what he was like and what he was about. As a result of what Christ was going to do on the cross his followers would know God and how much he loved them. God loved the world and wanted so much to be a relationship with us that he died on a cross as Jesus Christ in order to save us from our sins and spend eternity with us.

The disciples believed that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, but they never fully grasped the truth that he was God in the flesh. Knowledge of the Father can only be obtained as we more fully know and understand the Son. This was hard for the disciples to grasp and it can be hard for us today as well, but we grasp it through faith. If we truly know Jesus we would believe that his presence, person and power is the cure for our troubles.

The disciples’ understanding that Jesus and God were one was lacking, and Philip asks Jesus to now show them the Father and they would be satisfied. He probably thinks if they can just see the Father that will put an end to their troubled hearts. Philip was one of Jesus’ first disciples but even he didn’t realize that he had literally been in the presence of God for the past three years. This question from Philip gives Jesus the opportunity to teach his disciples about the intimate relationship between himself and the Father. The fact is, Jesus says, the Father and I are so closely connected that anyone that has seen me has seen the Father. I and the Father are one.

In verse 10, Jesus reminds them that the words he spoke to them came directly from the Father and that the miraculous works that he had performed in their sight should prove to them that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. Jesus used the same argument with the Jews in John 10:37-38. Jesus is talking, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” The proof that he and the Father were one was established by his words and his works, which were the miracles he performed. Surely no one but God could perform the miracles Jesus did in the presence of the disciples. Gangel says, Jesus’ words reflected his deity much more than his works did. They had been fascinated by his works but had not listened carefully enough to his words.” Tenney says, “The way that Jesus made known the character and reality of the Father was by his words and works. The truth of God filled Jesus’ words; the power of God produced his works.”

That brings us to our third point this morning which is Christ’s Power. Belief in the power of Jesus Christ is the cure for our troubles. Follow along as I read verses 12-14. This is what God’s Word says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

In verse 12, Jesus makes an amazing promise to those who believe in him. “He that believes on me” stresses personal commitment. The person who really trusts and believes in Jesus will do the works that Jesus did and even greater works than Jesus. The greater works did not mean greater in power, but greater in extent, in that their words and works would reach to all corners of the earth. Jesus’ earthly ministry was limited in time and space. He never went outside of Palestine to teach and preach and perform his miraculous works. The disciples on the other hand would take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The power to perform those greater works would only be possible because Jesus was going to the Father. Only then could the Holy Spirit come and fill each believer and empower them to do these greater works. Even though Jesus would not be present with the disciples, the Spirit would provide them with all the power they needed to extend the gospel to all the world. Morris says, “The things that they do are not necessarily the miracles but the mighty work of conversions that we see in the book of Acts. On Pentecost alone more believers were added than throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry.”

In verses 13-14, Jesus talks to the disciples about another benefit of leaving them to go to the Father. That was prayer. They had seen how important prayer was to Jesus as he would go off to a quiet place to pray to his heavenly Father. Now, he was empowering them to use prayer in order to see his power. Prayer would bridge the gap between their needs and his abundant, limitless, resources. The power of prayer would cure the disciples’ troubles. But it was more than that in that this power of prayer would enable them to do the “greater things.” But there was a rule to seeing the power of Jesus in prayer and that was, it had to be asked in his name. What does it mean to pray and ask in Jesus’ name? ​​ To ask in Jesus’ name means to ask in accordance with all that Jesus’ name stands for and to recognize that the only approach to God is through his son. It also means to ask in accordance with the character, will and purposes of Jesus. The Jewish culture took names very seriously. They equated one’s name with the character, spirit and power of that person. That is why the Jews never spoke the name of Yahweh. If we are not going to pray for the will of Jesus or God to be done we shouldn’t ask in Jesus’ name or even at all.

The asking in Jesus’ name was paramount for two things. One, we must ask in his name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father and two, we must ask in Jesus’ name so that our prayers would be fulfilled. ​​ Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth as a baby and dying on the cross for our sins and being resurrected was all for the glory of God. That would not change after his resurrection and ascension into heaven. ​​ Jesus did not do anything and will not do anything that does not bring glory to the Father. Carson says, “He enables his own to do “greater things” in order that he may bring glory to the Father.” Jesus said that if you ask “anything” in my name I will do it. “Anything” makes this promise very wide indeed. There is no limit to the power of prayer asked in the name of Jesus. But we can’t forget the believing. We can pray in Jesus’ name without believing that Jesus has the power to cure our troubles. Our belief is important. Which brings us to our third next step this morning which is to believe that the power of my prayers asked in Jesus’ name is the cure for my troubles.

In closing I want to read this account which is confirmed by Mike Riches, senior pastor of Clover Creek Bible Fellowship, Tacoma, Washington.

It was a phone call one never wants to get. A friend called from Ohio to say that our mutual friend, Debbie, was dying of leukemia and was at a cancer center in Seattle. Later, Debbie's husband called, telling me that Debbie had slipped into a coma. The doctors had given her two to three days to live. Debbie's two adult children had flown in to say their good-byes. He invited me to come and pray.

I admit that this was a huge stretch for my faith. But I asked a friend to go with me, and we set out for Seattle. As we drove, John 14:12–14 ran through my mind: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

Now was my chance to prove that I really believed those verses. Could we really do the things Jesus did? Would he really do the things we asked in his name? At the hospital, we introduced ourselves to Debbie's family and then approached her bed. I silently asked the Lord what to pray. Luke's account of Jesus rebuking a fever came to mind. Debbie, however, was a sad sight. By all outward appearances, what I was about to pray seemed impossible.

Nevertheless, I prayed, "Lord, I come to you based on the authority and power you have given me because of Jesus. Jesus, you said we would do even greater things because of your power in us. You told me in John 15 that if I abide in you and your words abide in me, I can ask anything and it will be granted. So, right now, in the name and authority of Jesus in me, I rebuke the cancer and death. In Jesus' name, I pronounce healing and abundant life."

My prayer was simple, based on Scripture, and spoken in faith and in the authority of Jesus' name. Nothing happened at the moment, though, so my friend and I said good-bye.

Debbie continued to be on my mind, but I also knew the Lord had heard my prayer. It was all in his hands. A week later, my phone rang. It was Debbie. She had awoken from her coma and asked the medical team to unhook her life support! She had heard that I had visited her several days before and had prayed for her. "Would you please come back?" she asked. So the next day, I drove back to Seattle to see with my own eyes what the Lord had done.

What an amazing time that was. Debbie—alert and smiling—told me the story. For three days after we prayed for her, while still in a coma, she sensed that an angel was standing by her bed. On the third day she woke up and knew in her heart that the Lord had completely healed her. The doctors' tests showed no sign of any cancer whatsoever. We rejoiced!

We were then able to share the gospel with her family. As a result of Debbie's healing, her son and his wife received Christ and are now joyfully serving him. And, to this day four years later, no cancer has returned.

I wanted to read that story to you because it directly talks about praying in the name of Jesus and in accordance to the will of Jesus and for the glory of God. But I want you to know that every prayer prayed in Jesus’ name is not going to be that dramatic. God is sovereign and he knows what is best for us. But guess what? Belief in Jesus’ presence, person and power brings the cure for our troubles because it brings us peace.

We may have anxiety, depression, fear and uncertainty but we still believe that the presence of Jesus Christ will bring us peace in the midst of our troubled hearts. We can pray for the spiritual healing of our friends and family but then the ball is their court. We still believe that the person of Jesus Christ can cure the lost heart and we can have peace that Jesus will always be there waiting for our friends and family to accept his person as the way to salvation. Finally, we and our loved ones may still get sick and possibly die but we still believe in the power of a prayer prayed in Jesus’ name and we have peace that God is sovereign and in control of all things. Belief in Jesus Christ is the cure for our troubles.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn this morning, let’s pray: Dear Sovereign Lord, I praise you for your Word. I praise you for your son, Jesus. I thank you that you love us with an everlasting love. Continue to walk with us through all our troubles and give us peace as we believe in your presence with us, your person to save us and your power as we pray for all things in your precious name. In Jesus’ Amen.



A (Not So) Secret Society

The definition of a secret society is a club or an organization whose activities, events, inner functioning, or membership are concealed from non-members. The society may or may not attempt to conceal its existence, but beliefs or practices are concealed from the public and require an oath of secrecy to learn. The exact qualifications for labeling a group a secret society rely on the degree to which the organization insists on secrecy, and might involve the retention and transmission of secret knowledge, the denial about membership or knowledge of the group, the creation of personal bonds between members of the organization, and the use of secret rites or rituals which solidify members of the group. The group's membership is in some way restrictive, such as by race, sex, religious affiliation, or invitation only.

We’ve all heard of secret societies. One of the most famous ones are the Freemasons. 13 of the 39 men who signed the U.S. Constitution were Masons. Founding Fathers like George Washington, James Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere all counted themselves as members of the fraternal order. The rituals around becoming a freemason are shrouded in secrecy. Another secret society is the Order of Skull and Bones that was founded at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut in 1832. Each year, 15 seniors at Yale are tapped to join Skull and Bones. Their names are published in the Yale newspaper, though what happens behind the closed doors of their windowless meeting space, called the Tombs, where Bonesmen gather twice a week, is under wraps: Members take an oath of secrecy. Graduate members are referred to as “patriarchs,” while those undergoing initiation are called “knights.” Outsiders of the group are “barbarians.” Famous Skull and Bones members include Presidents William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush; founder of Time magazine Henry Luce; former secretary of state, John Kerry, and members of the CIA.

Of course, pop culture has brought secret societies to light, such as in the movie, the Da Vinci Code and has even made fun of them in different TV shows such as the Simpsons. As I was researching for my introduction I remembered one of these secret societies on a TV show growing up and when I looked it up I found these others societies in popular shows I had not remembered. Maybe you remember some of these and can guess which TV show they were from: The Fraternal Order of the Bass. That was from Laverne and Shirley. At the lodge, Lenny and Squiggy perform the secret greeting — puckering your lips in a fishy manner while wiggling your fingers beside your face like gills. The Knights of the Scimitar. That was on Cheers. The Leopard Lodge. That was on Happy Days, where Howard Cunningham is the Grand Poobah of Leopard Lodge No. 462 in Milwaukee. The Loyal Order of Raccoon Lodge. That was on the Honeymooners. The Regal Order of the Golden Door to Good Fellowship. That was on the Andy Griffith Show. Of course, Goober is the Keeper of the Door and the secret password is "Geronimo!" The Royal Order of Camels. That was on Petticoat Junction. And finally, the one that got me started researching these others is the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo, which was on the Flintstones. A lot of these secret societies whether in real life or in fiction had secret oaths, secret handshakes and secret rituals.

This morning we are going to be studying God’s Word in John chapter 13 verses 1-17. We are going to see Jesus do something that shocks and probably embarrasses his disciples. It is just before the Passover feast and Jesus is going to show how much he loves his disciples. We see that the devil prompts Judas to betray Jesus which makes what he is about to do even more shocking to us. A lot of us know the story. Jesus gets up from the table, wraps a towel around his waist, pours water in a basin and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. We see that Peter objects and Jesus tells Peter he doesn’t realize what’s is going on now but he will later on. Then Peter, in typical Peter fashion, tells Jesus to give him a bath. Then after washing their feet, Jesus explains why he washed their feet and what they were to do about it.

I want to put forth to you all this morning that in the three years Jesus was with his disciples teaching them and showing them how they were to advance the kingdom once he was gone, he started his own “society.” Not a secret society with a secret oath, secret rites and a secret handshake but a “not so” secret society called the Order of the Towel and Basin. Of course I am jesting but in looking at this passage and knowing the Gospels, I can see elements of a society, such as, in an oath of “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ and love your neighbor as yourself.” And rituals such as communion and baptism which remind us of what Jesus did for us and of course the handshake, which we are going to study this morning, which is the washing of each other’s feet.

That evening, when Jesus established the Order of the Towel and Basin, he demonstrated a great humility. He challenged his followers to think about what he had done, and to consider it in the light of their understanding of his identity. That brings us to the big idea that John wants us to understand this morning which is they Will Know We are Christians by our Serve.

Before we begin to unpack what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples and us today, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, as you prepare our hearts to hear your Word this morning, I pray that they would be open and receptive to what you want to say to us and to what you want us to learn. Thank you for the opportunity to share what I have learned from your Word with others. Give us all boldness to share the insights from your Word with others this week. We thank you for the power of your Word in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



Chapter 13 is the beginning of another section of the book of John that shifts our focus to the last week of Jesus’ life and to the hour of his glorification on the cross which has been promised in the first twelve chapters. His public ministry is over and he turns from the people who have rejected him, even after urging them to believe in the “Light” while the “Light” was still among them. He now turns his attention to a more “private” ministry focusing on the twelve disciples who have followed his for three years and have truly believed in him. Jesus knows he is getting ready to go back to his Father and he needs to give some final instructions to them. He needs to say goodbye to “his own” whom he loves, and give a practical demonstration of his continuing love for them. Chapter 13 begins a lengthy teaching of Jesus that explains the final miraculous “sign” that he will do, which is his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. Whereas we saw in the first 12 chapters, light and life, were the keywords, now love, agape love, the self-sacrificing love of Jesus, becomes the key word for the next five chapters. ​​ 

Our first point this morning is Love Exemplified and we see this in John chapter 13 verses 1-5. This is what God’s Word says: 1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

The first thing we can notice is that the events that follow are described as happening “before the feast of the Passover.” The Feast of the Passover was the annual Jewish festival commemorating God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt and the angel of death passing over the houses of the Hebrews and killing the firstborn of the Egyptians. This would be the last Passover Jesus would celebrate. This would be important to John who will go on to describe Jesus as the Passover Lamb who will be slaughtered for the sins of the world at the same time the lambs are being slaughtered in the temple on Passover. The second thing we notice is that John does not record the details of the last Supper as the other gospels do. He doesn’t show us the meal where Jesus broke the bread and passed the cup signifying his body that was to be broken and his blood that was to be shed.

This section also reveals that Jesus is all-knowing. He had full knowledge and was in full control of everything that was happening to him. He was never a victim of circumstances or the evil schemes of the devil or of man. The first thing Jesus knew was that his “hour” was near and John records it as the hour he would be leaving this world and returning to his Father in heaven. John also talks about Jesus loving “his own” which are the twelve disciples and how he would love them to the very end while he was on the earth. Even though Jesus was very much looking forward to returning to his Father he never forgot his own and how much he loved them. “To the very end” means Jesus loved his own completely and perfectly. Nothing would come between the disciples and his love for them.

Paul in Romans 8:38-39 says, 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from God’s love and in our passage this morning even the imminent arrival of his own death could not separate the disciples from his love.

The second thing that Jesus knew was that he was going to be betrayed and he knew who was going to betray him. The third thing Jesus knew was that God the Father had given all things into his hands. Lastly, Jesus knew who he was. He knew he was the Son of God and that he had come from God and was now going back to God to sit in his rightful place at the right hand of the Father.

In these verses, we can imagine Jesus looking at his disciples, as they are talking about who is the greatest among them. He must have felt like haven’t they heard a single word he’s said for the past three years. Then his eyes land on Judas, who the devil had already put into his heart to betray him. “Put” literally means “cast” which accurately describes Satan’s way of operating. He uses suggestion as one of his chief tools, as he did with Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the heart of the unbeliever is the ground where he sows (or casts) his evil seed. Judas was infected by the devil to betray Jesus.

The thing is all the disciples were infected by the devil, they were all infected with sin, but only Judas was going to betray Jesus. Likewise, all of us have been infected by the devil and sin as well. In essence we all have betrayed Jesus and caused him to be crucified on the cross because of our sin. The question is what will we do with that infection? Will we confess our sin, seek God’s help, and strive to become more like Jesus? Or will we do what Judas did and give in completely to the devil?

We can also see Jesus thinking about his Father, who had given all things into his hands. This meant that the cross was the plan the Father had put into place to redeem his people to himself. God was not an idle spectator in the crucifixion of Jesus. It is where the Father’s plan and will would be worked out. It also signified the way that Jesus, who came from the Father would return to the Father. By reiterating and stressing that Jesus is going back to God, John reveals the depth of Jesus’ humility in what he was to do next.

The Creator and Ruler of the universe was about to wash the disciples’ dirty feet – a menial task reserved for only the lowest of slaves. Even Jewish slaves were not required to wash feet, only Gentile slaves. Jesus is about to do something that will take him to the lowest place, but he never forgets that the highest possible place, at the Father’s right hand, is his by right. But he was also going to wash the feet of the one who would betray him. Jesus was going to meet the greatest injury and insult with the humblest expression of love he could show. He was going to personify Matthew 5:44, which says, 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus showed the same love for Judas, his enemy, that he showed to his friends.

Tragically, even after Jesus showed Judas how much he loved him, he still betrayed him. The same act that drew the other disciples to Christ repelled Judas and showed his heart. We can only wonder what opened Judas’ heart to the devil’s influence. Maybe it was greed or ambition or the fact that Jesus didn’t fit into the box Judas had for him. Anders says, “Jesus knew Judas’ true nature from the beginning but yet gave him every opportunity to repent and follow Jesus wholeheartedly. John pulls no punches in his description of Judas the betrayer and his evil master. Judas was a willing perpetrator whose assassination plot originated with supernatural sources.” Carson quotes Schlatter as saying, “Judas is responsible for his betrayal because “a heart incited by Satan, actually wills what the devil wills”. Carson goes on to say, “The devil and Judas are now in a conspiracy of evil to bring Jesus to the cross.”

So, why did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet? It seems that it had not been done when they first came into the upper room for the Last Supper. If you remember Jesus sent two disciples ahead of the group to secure the place for them where they would spend their final night together. There was no servant assigned to the room. One of the disciples should have taken it upon themselves to do it even though it would not have been acceptable for peers to wash each other’s feet. But instead of humbling themselves they were debating about who was the greatest among them.

We see this in Luke 22:24-27. 24 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. 27 For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. We can only wonder if the disciples were all thinking that it needed to be done but “let someone else do it, I am not going to do it.”

In a stunning display of humility and possibly a rebuke of the disciples, Jesus takes on the posture of a slave and starts to wash their feet. If it was unacceptable for peers to wash each other’s feet it was even more unacceptable in that culture for a superior to wash the feet of those under them. The disciples would have been embarrassed and shocked and probably sat in awkward silence as Jesus started to wash their feet. Burge says, “Jesus’ decision to wash the disciples’ feet is anchored in his assurance of his relationship with God. He knows his origins and his destiny and understands the authority he has been given. This gives him the courage to do something his followers never expected.”

But this action of love and humility was more than a rebuke in that it foreshadowed the cross. The fact that Jesus washes their feet during the meal and not when they first arrived, which was when it was normally done, shows that it was a deliberate action taken by Jesus and not just the usual act of courtesy. It is was parable in action, showing the disciples the principle of humble service and was to be an example of what his followers were to do for others. Philippians speaks to us about this in chapter 2:5-8. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

That brings us to our second point this morning which is Love Explained. I will be reading verses 6-11. Follow along as I read God’s Word, 6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

We don’t know exactly when he approached Peter. He may have been first or last or anywhere in between. If he wasn’t first can you imagine the silence and embarrassment as Jesus knelt at the feet of the disciples one by one washing their feet and drying them with the towel wrapped around his waist? We knew that if anyone was going to speak up it would be Peter and true to form he does. Peter’s objection is probably well-intentioned as he asks Jesus if he was really going to wash his feet. We don’t want to think about Jesus stooping down to wash our feet. He is the Almighty God. We don’t mind being humble before an Almighty God but we don’t want him to humble himself before us. It’s embarrassing to us. But Temple says, “man’s humility does not begin with the giving of service; it begins with the readiness to receive it. For there can be much pride and condescension in our giving of service.” We need to be serving others but at times we also need to let ourselves be served as well.

Peter never stopped to consider that Jesus was doing something more important that just washing his feet. Tasker says, “Peter resists the attempt of Jesus to wash his feet, precisely because he failed to associate what his master was doing with his death, but regarded it merely as an act which any slave might perform before a banquet.”

Jesus knowing what is going through Peter’s mind tells him that right now he won’t understand what is happening but later on he will. This is where it gets interesting. Peter’s objection seems to get louder and more insistent now. We can see his devotion to Jesus by the strength of his objection. He emphatically tells Jesus “NO, that he will never wash his feet.” Peter is too humble to have Jesus wash his feet but not too humble to tell Jesus what to do. We have seen this before where Peter rashly presumes to tell Jesus what to do. In Matthew 16:21-23 we see these words, 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Peter may have thought he was just doing his part as a follower of Jesus, who was his teacher and more importantly his Lord. But again Peter seemed more concerned with human concerns instead of the concerns of God. Jesus again patiently answers Peter. He simply says that if he doesn’t wash Peter’s feet then Peter will have no part with him. It was not a question of washing, but a question of “who” was doing the washing. Peter, the disciples and all of us lack the cleansing that only Jesus can supply.

Jesus’ reply served two purposes. One, it corrected all the disciples misunderstanding of his messianic mission. They needed to accept the reality of Jesus’ humiliation not only in the Upper Room as he washed their feet but more so as he went to the cross in a most humiliating way to die. Second, he was telling them that only those who have been cleansed by Jesus can be in relationship with him. Washing is a common metaphor in the Bible for spiritual cleansing. Only those who by faith confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God has raised him from the dead will be saved. The challenge is personal with us, as it was with Peter – “unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” The question this morning is “have you been washed by Jesus?” If not, then this first next step is for you, which is to be “washed” by Jesus and be saved. If you’ve made that decision for the first time this morning, let Pastor Stuart and I know and if you are on Facebook, let people know it in the comments, so they can rejoice with you.

When Jesus said that Peter needed to be washed or he would have no “part” with him, the Greek word he used for “part” would have conjured up this idea of tribal land that the Israelites would inherit when they got to the Promised Land. The land that was promised to Abraham and his descendants. This land was one of the principal gifts of the covenant. But the gift of God was no longer land but abundant life with Jesus. Peter answers Jesus by wanting him to give him a bath. Again, Peter misunderstands but on some level he must have realized that what Jesus was talking about was more than just the washing of feet. He wanted whatever Jesus was offering. He concluded that if a foot washing gained him an inheritance with Jesus, then what would a washing of his whole body gain him? Jesus answers Peter by saying he didn’t need a bath because he had already had one. Physically speaking, his body was clean, now he just needed to have his feet washed. In Palestine, guests at a feast would bathe before leaving their house and when they got to the feast they would only need to have their feet washed.

Spiritually speaking, the once-for-all and complete cleansing Jesus did at the cross never needs to be repeated, only the daily cleansing of sin through confession needs to happen. I John 1:9 says, 9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Greene says, “We do not need to be saved or born again everyday, but our feet get dirty as we travel this earth and they need to be cleaned by confessing our sin daily.” This was the significance of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. They were already clean because of their faith in and fellowship with Jesus, they just needed the daily cleansing from their sins.

But it was not true that all of the disciples were clean. Jesus knew who was going to betray him and knew that that person was not clean. By mentioning Judas again, John indicates that even with Jesus washing Judas’ feet it did not change his heart. Judas had not by faith accepted Jesus as his Lord and Messiah. Imagine what it took for Jesus to wash Judas’ feet. I think Jesus was hoping that that act of pure love might change his heart. It was a last appeal to Judas to come to him and give his life over to Jesus. It showed Jesus’ patience and love for his followers even to the one who would betray him. But Judas was in the grip of Satan’s darkness and would not be persuaded from betraying Jesus.

As I said earlier we all have been infected by sin and at times have betrayed Jesus. Jesus wants to wash our feet and cleanse us of those sins that fracture our relationship with a holy God. That brings us to our next step which is to “confess the times that I have been like Judas and betrayed my Savior and repent of my sins.” This is something we should do daily. We don’t want to wait to confess our sins. We don’t want to give the devil a foothold to overtaking our heart from Jesus. I encourage everyone myself included to take that next step today.

Our third point this morning is Love Exhorted and we see this in verses 12-17. This is what God’s Word says, 12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

After Jesus had showed them the example of how much he loved them by washing their feet and had explained why he had washed their feet he challenges them to understand the significance of it. He wanted them to learn an important lesson about how they were to treat others. How they were to humbly be in service to others. There was no reason why they shouldn’t wash each other’s feet and every reason why they should. There was no conceivable reason for refusing to do it. They were to imitate Jesus by showing the same love to others that he showed to them. Love is the defining mark of a Christian. They will know we are Christians by our love. They will know we are Christians by our serve.

They needed to learn this lesson now before he was gone as they were seemingly worried about who among them was going to be the greatest. They needed to follow Jesus’ example who was not only their teacher but their Lord. He was the Messiah sent from God to save the sins of the world and he had just washed their feet. To refuse to follow his example was to put themselves above Jesus.

He wanted them to learn that they should never refuse to do anything for others that Jesus their Lord and Savior had done for them. In fact, the Greek is emphatic meaning “it is your duty and debt, you are now under obligation to do it to one another.” There was now no task that was too low or too menial that they should not do for each other. Jesus had just set the standard for serving others and there was no room for pride in followers of Jesus. Hughes says, “The power, the impetus, and the grace to wash another’s feet is proportionate to how we see ourselves. Our Lord saw himself as King of Kings, and he washed their feet. Recovery of a consciousness that we serve Christ the King will also compel us to service.”

What does it mean to wash each other’s feet? First, it means humility. We need to live humbly with each other, not thinking we are better than anyone else or thinking too highly of ourselves. It means serving others, which can be praying for each other, bearing one another’s burdens, comforting each other and giving hope to each other especially during this season we are in. Honestly, there is nothing that is off the table. It’s about doing for others whatever they need. It means putting the needs of others in front of our own needs. And it also means serving others with the right motives. We can’t have selfish motives when we serve. We need to serve others because Jesus served us by sacrificing his life on the cross to cleanse us from our sin. They will know we are Christians by our serve. By the way we serve, humbly, putting others first and by being willing to do for others whatever they need done. That brings us to our last next step this morning which is to “follow the example of Jesus and wash the feet of others.”

Finally, after Jesus exhorted them to follow his example and do the same to each other, he ends this section of teaching by saying “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” “If you know these things” implies that they now know them. They can’t plead ignorance. But it is one thing to know what to do and it is another to do it. It is now imperative that they are to follow Jesus’ example just as we are today. ​​ Jesus also says we will be blessed if we do these things. We will have joy if we follow the example of Christ. We will be happy if we live our lives, as Christians, in a way that forgives, loves and serves one another.

I am going to conclude this morning with a story from The Preaching the Word Commentary series on John by R. Kent Hughes:

In 1878 when William Booth’s Salvation Army had just been so named, men from all over the world began to enlist. One man, who had once dreamed of himself as a bishop, crossed the Atlantic from America to England to enlist. He was a Methodist minister, Samuel Logan Brengle. And he now turned from a fine pastorate to join Booth’s Salvation Army. Brengle later became the Army’s first American-born commissioner. But at first Booth accepted his services reluctantly and grudgingly. Booth said to Brengle, “You’ve been your own boss for too long.” And in order to instill humility into Brengle, he set him to work cleaning the boots of the other trainees. And Brengle said to himself, “Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to polish boots?” And then as in a vision he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough unlettered fishermen. “Lord,” he whispered, “You washed their feet: I will polish their boots.” Of course, there are many ways we can serve others and heed our Savior’s exhortation, we only have to be willing to pick up the towel and the basin.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn this morning, let’s pray: Dear Holy God, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who became a human being and dwelled your people. We thank you that he was willing to lower himself and become a servant and wash our feet and die on a cross for our sins. I pray that we would follow his example as we live our daily lives and be in humble service to all that we come in contact with. In Jesus’ name, Amen.






There have been many conquerors over the span of history that people have called “king of the world.” These people were rulers who brought about change in the entirety of society, in their day. They literally changed the world around them with their leadership abilities, more often than not, in battle. A great ruler is known by his actions which may create a peaceful society and or gain victory over other nations. There have been uncountable rulers in world history, but only some of them can be categorized as the “greatest ruler” or “King of the World.” Some of those who would fall into that category would be the following:

Akbar was a ruler of India who was beloved by his people. He ascended the throne at the age of 13 and within two decades, he conquered the entire northern and central areas of India. He was a powerful and intelligent man who was known to be fair and equitable. He was a great admirer of art and culture and was known as the military genius of his time. He formed a strong and unshakable army by using war elephants, metal cylinder rockets, swivel guns and cannons. His great military tactics and liberal ideas made him one of the most popular Indian rulers.

Napoleon Bonaparte of France was one of the best known emperors of the world. He brought vast advancements in the political and judicial foundations of the country at the time of the French Revolution. A legal reform known as the “Napoleonic Code” was a great influence worldwide. He was a great military and political leader who conquered the entirety of Europe in his reign.

Alexander the Great was the emperor of Macedonia and the first known conqueror of the Persian Empire. He was an intelligent military leader who was never defeated in battle. He fought various armies that had vastly different tactics, but was able to adapt quickly. He was very charismatic enabling him to conquer much of the world by himself and sometimes even made entire nations surrender to him without killing a single man. By the age of 30, he developed a great empire stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. His great military tactics are still taught in military academies throughout the world.

Caesar Augustus was the founder and first Emperor of the Roman Empire. He was primarily responsible for the Pax Romana, a 200 year span of relative peace in the Roman Empire. Augustus is credited with ensuring that durable peace through his administrative genius and reforms which brought stability and prosperity. He transformed the appearance of Rome with massive building projects and instituted police and fire-fighting forces which brought order and protection to Rome.

Suleiman the Magnificent was the greatest and the longest serving Turkish King. He conquered parts of southeastern Europe and won control of the entire eastern Mediterranean Sea and conquered North Africa as far west as Tripoli. He also was an excellent leader and helped to transform the Ottoman Empire into an economic powerhouse. He reformed the law in his country and created a single legal code.

Cyrus the Great, the greatest expander of the ancient Persian empire, created the first multi-ethnic empire in the Near East. Cyrus was one of the best generals of the ancient Persian world. By the time of his death, he was the ruler of the largest kingdom the world had ever seen. Not only was he almost unbeatable on the field of battle, his political leadership is also evidenced by the fact that his empire, which spanned three continents, would live on for a long time after his death because of the infrastructure he put in place.

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “King of the World?” ​​ I think of the game we used to play as kids called “King of the Mountain.” This was a game where one person was on top of a mound of ground or snow and everyone else was trying to race up the side and knock the “king” off his throne and take over as “king of the mountain.” Maybe you think of that label in terms of sports. When I was younger the best basketball player at the time was Michael Jordan. For me he was the “king of the world” in terms of basketball if not all sports. No matter who you think of when you hear the term “king of the world,” that person was probably very successful and reached the pinnacle of society, sport, etc.

Our scripture this morning comes on the heels of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people flocked to him waving palm branches and shouted Hosanna. They called Jesus the “King of the Jews” as their long waited Messiah. They were expecting Jesus, as the Messiah, to come into his kingdom on the earth, overthrow the Romans and elevate the Jewish people to their expected place over the rest of the world. As we study our scripture this morning, we are going to see that they were partially correct. Jesus was going to come into his kingdom just not the kingdom they were expecting. We’re going to see that Jesus’ kingdom would include the whole world, hence he would be the “King of the World.” But unlike what we read about in the accomplishments of the “kings” or “rulers” in our introduction, Jesus was going to rule in a different way. He was not going to go to war with the Romans and overthrow them and set up his throne. He wasn’t going to build roads or complete massive building projects. He wasn’t going to enhance the arts or stabilize the financial institutions of the day. He was not going to do any of the things that Alexander the Great or Cyrus the Great did. The way that he was going to become the “king of the world” or in other words, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, was going to be through his death. He told the people that they had it wrong when it came to the Messiah. Where they were looking for a political and military leader, Jesus said he was going to live and conquer through his death and he told them that if they were going to follow him they would have to do the same. Which brings us to the big idea that John wants us to understand this morning which is “only if we are willing to die to ourselves can we truly live for Him.”

As we ponder what that means for each of us and before we dive into our text let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we ask the Holy Spirit to come down upon us to illumine and open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn this morning. I thank you that your word is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. I pray that this morning it will penetrate our souls and will judge our thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen

This morning our text is found in John chapter 12 verses 20-36 and the first thing we are going to see is the transition of Jesus from being only the “king of the Jews” to being the “king of the world.” I will be starting with verses 20-23. This is what God’s Word says, 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

This story is a curious for a couple of reasons. First, is was unusual to see Greeks in a story about important events in Jerusalem, such as the Passover. Two, it’s only found here in the book of John. The other gospels don’t mention it, but it makes sense that John would include it because he wrote to present the truth of Christianity in a way that the Greek people would appreciate and understand. It wouldn’t have been strange to find Greek people in Jerusalem during Passover. They were seekers of truth and they wandered around looking for new things such as new religions and new teachers. These Greek people were probably God-fearers and not proselytes. The difference being that God-fearers were men who were attracted by the lofty morality and the monotheism of Judaism, but did not want to become full proselytes by circumcision. They could visit the temple in Jerusalem for the great feasts but could not pass beyond the court of Gentiles. Also, they would not have necessarily come from Greece. At Passover, worshippers came from widely scattered places throughout the Roman Empire to join in the festivities.

But how did they hear about Jesus? Maybe they were there in the Court of the Gentiles the day Jesus cleansed the temple. When he overturned the money changers’ tables and scattered the people selling sacrifices at outrageous prices which kept worshippers from being able to pray and worship God the way they should. I can imagine they would want to meet the man who would do that. Their curiosity was probably stirred by all the conversation and controversy surrounding him. This seems to be the first mention of non-Jewish people showing interest in Jesus and wanting to meet him and spend time with him. This was the first hint of a gospel which was to go out into all the world.

Why did they come to Philip? We don’t know for sure but it may have been because Philip is a Greek name and they thought he would be able to get them to see Jesus. John says they requested to see Jesus and the tense of the verb is continuous meaning they kept requesting to see Jesus. They were intent on meeting with him with the idea of wanting to spend time with him and get to know him. Philip didn’t take them right to Jesus but first to Andrew and then they both took them to Jesus. We have seen Andrew taking people to Jesus before. John 1:41-42a says, 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. And John 6:8-9 says, 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” It would make sense that Philip would go to Andrew because he was the disciple we see over and over again taking people to see Jesus.

Now we don’t know if these Greek people actually got to meet Jesus. John only records what they say to Philip and then they disappear from the story. Morris says, “John clearly regards their coming as significant but does not treat their presence as important.” John’s gospel teaches that Jesus is the Savior of the World and this group of Gentiles symbolically represents the world seeking its salvation from Jesus. These are the “scattered children of God”, or the “other sheep” of John 10:16, which says, 16 “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

John next records Jesus’ supposed reaction to the Greeks wanting to meet him. His response is surprising in that he doesn’t seem to acknowledge them at all or even make reference to them. His words seem to be addressed to the crowd which probably includes Philip, Andrew and the Greeks. Jesus recognizes the fact that their coming to him meant that his mission on earth was coming to a close. The arrival of these “God-fearers” triggers “the hour”, the “hour” that the Son of Man or the Messiah would be glorified.

This “hour” was what Jesus was destined for; it was why he came to the earth and lived among us. The verb “is come” is in the perfect tense, meaning “the hour is come and stays with us”; there is no going back on it. The “hour” refers to Jesus’ death but it speaks of it as a triumph not as a tragedy. The title, the “Son of Man” was Jesus’ way of referring to himself especially in connection with his mission and through it he would not be dishonored but would be glorified.

At least five different times in John, Jesus’ hour is mentioned in the negative, as in his “hour” has not yet come. Now all of a sudden the “hour” is come. What’s changed? Maybe it’s that for the first time non-Jewish people are seeking Jesus out and want to know what he has to say and what it is he has to offer. We saw in our final verse last week that the Pharisees said, “Look how the whole world has gone after him.” Now that was an exaggeration on their part but it was true. The “world” as reflected in these Greek men have “gone” after Jesus and with the coming of these Gentiles, Jesus is not only the “King of the Jews” but “King of the World”, as well.

It was always God’s plan for Jesus to be the Savior of the World. The Jewish people were to be the catalyst that God wanted to use to make that happen but they misinterpreted, misunderstood and were misguided as to who the Messiah was and what he came to earth to do. Now that the Greeks had come to Jesus, his “hour” was here and it was time for him to go to the cross and be glorified so that all who looked upon him would be saved. Morris in his commentary says, “The fact that the Greeks had reached the point of wanting to meet Jesus showed that the time had come for him to die for the world. He no longer belonged to Judaism, which had rejected him but now the world awaits and seeks him.” By Jesus not meeting with the Greeks they would be taught that salvation was not through his works or life but by faith in the crucified Savior. They needed to see him as the slain Lamb of God not as the Jewish Messiah.

Next in verses 24-26, Jesus begins with a parable that explains the “law of the kingdom of God” that will show them how he was going to become the “King of the World” and to show them what they would have to do to be his followers. Follow along as I read verses 24-26. This is what God’s Word says, 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

This passage probably came as a shock to those who heard it or read it for the first time. It starts out making sense but ends with a series of statements that would have made no common sense to them at all. In fact it turned their idea of the Messiah upside down and made those thinking of following him want to run for the hills.

​​ “Very truly I tell you” or “Verily, Verily” as some versions have it, introduces a statement of importance meaning “listen up” to what is said next. Jesus gives a one verse parable of the kernel of wheat that introduces us to a paradox. He says the way to get more wheat is to plant it or “bury” it in the ground because unless the kernel of wheat “dies” in the ground it will not bear fruit. It is only through the “death” of the kernel of wheat that it can bear the fruitfulness of a harvest. Of course, in that agrarian society, this made sense. If you want anything to grow, you first have to plant it in the ground. This was a general truth but Jesus used it to refer to himself. Just as a seed must “die” in order to give life, Jesus must die in order to give birth to many seeds. Augustine points out that “Jesus was the grain that had to die so he would be multiplied. He would suffer death through the unbelief of the Jews and be multiplied in the faith of many nations.” The way the kingdom of heaven would grow and be fruitful was through the death and burial of Jesus Christ.

But Jesus goes on to apply this truth to his followers then, and to us today, as well. What Jesus said next was probably not the best way to encourage people to follow him. He said those who love their life will lose it but those who hate their life will keep it. Not a very motivational type speech. But Jesus planned to change the world by bringing people together who were selfless and who had their priorities in his kingdom. The key to participation in Jesus’ kingdom is to have an attitude of love for the things of God, so much so, that all interest in the things of this life, appear by comparison, as hatred. Which reminds us of our big idea this morning which is “only if we are willing to die to ourselves can we truly live for Jesus.”

If you love your life on this earth it means you love this life with all its appetites, desires and affections which seek gratification without caring for the will of God. Carson says, “It is the fundamental denial of God’s sovereignty. It is paramount to idolatry which is at the heart of all sin. That person will lose their life eternally.” ​​ “Loses” means “destroys” as in “the one who loves his own life will destroy it.” Loving one’s life is a self-defeating process as it destroys the life it seeks to retain.

In contrast, the one who hates their life, the one who denies himself and takes up their cross daily, will have eternal life. This is a spirit of self-sacrifice which says there is nothing in this world that I would not give up to be in obedience to God’s will. “Hating your life” means to prefer Christ over one’s family, possessions, goals, plans, desires and even one’s life. Luke 14:26 says, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” This was one of Jesus’ hardest teachings, but Jesus is to be number one in our lives and we need to submit everything to him. Which brings to our first next step which is to “hate my life” by “dying to self” and sacrificing everything to be in obedience to the will of God.

Next, verse 26, is to be understood in light of the previous one. Jesus says the outcome of hating your life in this world is not only eternal life but a life that is in service to Christ. It is a personal relationship with Jesus that totally submits to him and follows and obeys him completely. We, as servants of Christ, must follow him even if it means suffering and at some point it probably will. This means losing our lives, figuratively or possibly literally, for his sake. When we live a life in service to Christ he gives us two great promises. One, he promises that his servants will be where he is, which is in heaven with him and two, they will be honored by his Father. Those are awesome promises from Jesus to us.

Next, Jesus seems to change topics abruptly. He starts to think about his crucifixion that is coming and he has a conversation with God. God audibly responds and we see the reaction of the crowd. Follow along as I read verses 27-30. This is what God’s word says, 27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.

John doesn’t record Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before he is arrested. This is probably John’s equivalent of the garden scene where Jesus prayed, “not my will but yours be done” that we see in the other gospels. Jesus’ soul is deeply troubled. “Troubled” literally means “to shake” or “to stir up.” This is a strong word used for severe mental or spiritual agitation; of being disturbed, upset, unsettled or horrified. MacArthur says, “The perfect tense of the verb suggests an ongoing struggle for the sinless Jesus as he contemplated the implications of the cross, taking all our sin and the complete wrath of God on himself. Jesus was not just an actor in a drama. He was not detached, indifferent or without feeling about the cross. He was a human being like us. He felt the pain associated with bearing the curse of sin. Because of that pain he offered up prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to God.”

Jesus prays to his Father asking a rhetorical question and then immediately answering it himself. There is no hesitation on Jesus’ part to go to the cross but we can only try to imagine what it would take to willingly go to the most painful death you could have inflicted upon yourself. By going to the cross it shows how much he loved us and represents how much it meant to him to do the Father’s will. Milne says, “The truth here extends far beyond our feeble imaginings, as Jesus wrestles with God on the brink of Golgotha. The gospel may be simple, but it is not superficial. It may be free, but it is not cheap.”

Then Jesus prays that the name of his Father would be glorified. Jesus knew that it was all about God the Father. Even though Jesus was the one who would be crucified he gave all the glory to God. The tense of the verb indicates that the single act of Jesus going to the cross would be the way the name of the Father would be glorified. God’s response to Jesus’ prayer is the voice of God from heaven itself. This is the third time that God speaks from heaven. The first was at Jesus’ baptism and the second at his transfiguration. The Father’s audible voice confirmed he heard and answered Jesus’ prayer. God’s answer affirms that he has already glorified himself in his son; in the incarnation and in the work and miracles of Jesus which showed God’s power in the world. But he also says he will “glorify it again” meaning God’s name would be glorified again in Jesus’ death and resurrection to come because of the redemptive work it would do in our lives and because of Jesus’ willing obedience to his Father.

This prayer of Jesus came at a time of great crisis in his life. And I can’t help but think of this crisis we are living in right now. We can learn how to pray in a crisis from the way Jesus prayed here. We need to be praying, “Father, glorify your name.” I think this is so important in the midst of the uncertainty, anxiety, sickness and even death that accompanies the Coronavirus. That brings us to our second next step which is to pray “Father, glorify your name” in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

John records that the crowd heard the voice from heaven but it was interpreted a couple different ways. Some thought it was thunder and others thought it was an angel that had spoken directly to Jesus. The voice from heaven was audible to all even though the meaning wasn’t. The thunder was in answer to Jesus expressly doing his Father’s will and not his own. It was divine assurance that, as God manifested his power in raising Lazarus from the dead, that he would do it again in the resurrection of his Son.

Jesus had no need of this heavenly assurance so he says it was for the sake of the crowd standing by. But if the voice of God was for the people’s sake why did they not understand it? It was because they lacked the spiritual perception to recognize the voice of God and it illustrated the hard-heartedness that was typical of the people. God is not silent but fallen, sinful people are deaf. The voice of God came to strengthen the faith of the disciples and would have been of the greatest value to those of his followers who could understand its significance.

In verses 31-34 we see Jesus talking about the meaning of the cross and the outcome it will have not only on Satan but for all people of the world. This is what God’s word says, 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. 34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

Jesus rejoices in three significant victories of the triumph of the cross. One, the cross was the avenue for salvation and judgment. Salvation for the followers of Jesus who have “hated their lives” and judgment for those who have “loved their lives.” Two, the cross also meant judgment and defeat for the prince of this world who is Satan. It meant Satan would lose his power, authority and influence. By driving out Satan as the “prince of this world” Jesus sets himself up as the “King of the World.” Three, the cross was going to draw all people to Jesus.

The “and I” is emphatic and it meant that the cross was the work of Christ and no one else. The “when” referred to when he is crucified not “if.” And the “lifting up” referred to the way he was going to die which was crucifixion on a cross. The cross was going to happen no matter what and was necessary for the salvation of the world. Jesus was concerned with the effect of the cross which was it would draw all people to himself. “Draw” is the work that God does in a person’s heart and soul that “draws” them to Christ. John 6:44 says, 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

“All men” didn’t mean that everyone would be saved but it meant that all would be drawn and have the chance for salvation. Anyone who would be saved would be saved through the cross and the shed blood of Jesus and it included both Jews and Gentiles. In this way Jesus would be the “King of the World.” In verse 33, John plainly tells us that Jesus was talking about the way he would die, which was on a cross.

We then see the problem that the crowd had with Jesus’ words. It is interesting that they knew Jesus was talking about dying. They knew that the way Jesus’ kingdom would come to pass was through his death. But they had a problem with Jesus being the Messiah or the Son of Man because they believed that the Son of Man would live forever. Jesus was now teaching something different than what they thought the scriptures were teaching and they wanted an explanation. They asked Jesus, “Who is this Son of man?” They were wondering if Jesus really is the Messiah or if the Son of Man and the Messiah were two different people. This is the last mention of “the crowd” in John’s gospel. It is significant that they remain confused to the end. They couldn’t get past their biases and believe that Jesus could be the Messiah even though his life fulfilled all the prophecies. They couldn’t appreciate the magnitude of the gift being offered to them nor the significance of the person who was offering it.

As we come to end of our scripture this morning we see Jesus extending an invitation and then disappearing from them once again. Follow along as I read verses 35-36. 35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

Jesus does not answer their question about the Son of Man directly. He answers them by referring to his impending death and gives them an urgent invitation. He says they will not have the light (meaning Jesus) much longer but he encourages the crowds to walk in the light as long as they have it. He is implying that if they would give up their preconceived ideas of the Messiah and believe in him then their question would be answered. They would know that he is the Messiah. It is imperative that they believe now so that when the darkness comes it will not overpower them. The alternative is that those who walk in darkness, physical or spiritual darkness, do not know where they are going and after Jesus is crucified and risen they will find themselves in total darkness.

Note that John uses the word “light” five times in verses 35-36. Jesus is called the “Light of the World” so therefore it is not only a question of illumination but of faith in Jesus which brings us light. This idea of “believe in the light” is a continuous on going belief, whereas, “become children of light” is a one-time happening. While belief or faith is an activity to be practiced without ceasing one does not become a child of the light by degrees. Morris says, “One cannot be a follower of Jesus and be half-hearted about the light.” When you accept Christ as your Savior you are saved and you pass out of death into life instantly. “Children of light” are those whose lives have been so revolutionized by the Light that they are characterized by the Light. But those who fail to embrace the light, to refuse to believe, will become a victim of the darkness. Maybe you are still living in darkness this morning. Maybe you are ready to believe in the Light and become a child of the Light. If so, the third next step is for you which is to believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, stepping out of darkness and becoming a child of the Light.

To reinforce the urgency and to model what he means Jesus disappears, intentionally hiding himself from them. Even though his hour had now come, the exact timing of his arrest, trial and crucifixion would be determined by God and not man. The public revelation of Jesus is now complete. His signs have been displayed in full. Men and women must come to terms with the revelation that has been placed in the world. But the mystery of Jesus’ life is that even though the “light has come into the world . . . men loved the darkness instead of the light.”

I want to conclude with a paraphrased excerpt from a John Ortberg sermon where he compares submission or “dying to self” to driving a car. This is what he said: It is a big moment in your life when you hand someone else the keys. Up until now, I've been driving. I choose the destination. I choose the route. I choose the speed. You're in the passenger’s seat. But if we are to change seats, if you're going to drive, I have to trust you. It's all about control. Whoever is in the driver’s seat is the person in control.

A lot of people find Jesus handy to have in the car as long as he's in the passenger’s seat, because something may come up where they require his services. Jesus, I have a health problem, and I need some help…. I want you in the car, but I'm not so sure I want you driving. If Jesus is driving, I'm not in charge of my life anymore. If he's driving, I'm not in charge of my wallet anymore. If I put him in control then it's no longer a matter of giving some money now and then when I'm feeling generous or when more of it is coming into my life. Now, it's his wallet. It's scary. If Jesus is driving, I'm not in charge of my ego anymore. I no longer have the right to satisfy every self-centered ambition. No, it's his agenda. It's his life. Now, I'm not in charge of my mouth anymore. I don't get to gossip, flatter, cajole, deceive, rage, intimidate, manipulate, exaggerate. I get out of the driver's seat and hand the keys over to him. I'm fully engaged. In fact, I'm more alive than I've ever been before, but it's not my life anymore. It's his life.

That is what it looks like to “hate my life” by “dying to self” and sacrifice everything to be in obedience to the will of God. We must be willing to die to ourselves and give Jesus to keys and control of our lives. That is the only way we can truly live for him.

As Gene & Roxey come to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Dear Holy and Loving God, thank you for your son who willing gave his life on a cross for our sins. I rejoice that you are in control and have promised to walk with us through whatever comes. I thank you that you are our strong tower especially in the midst of these troubled times. And in the midst of these troubled times we find ourselves in, Lord, I pray, ‘Father, glorify your name,’ in Jesus’ name, Amen.




The school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their school work during stays in the city's hospitals. One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child. She took the child's name and room number and talked briefly with the child's regular class teacher. “We're studying nouns and adverbs in his class now,” the regular teacher said, “and I'd be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn't fall too far behind.”

The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain. Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, “I’ve been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs.” When she left she felt she hadn't accomplished much. But the next day, a nurse asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize. “No, no,” said the nurse. “You don't know what I mean. We've been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live.”

Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: “They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?” Hope is defined as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” Hope is something we all want, and it is something we all need.

We all have hopes and dreams. What is it that you hope for? There was a Forbes article on the internet from May 4, 2016 called “The Top 8 Things People Desperately Desire But Can't Seem To Attain” written by Kathy Caprino. She says she hears daily first-hand what people deeply long for. But what’s so intriguing about these responses is that it’s becoming more obvious with each passing year that the things we humans desperately hope for today are becoming more elusive and challenging to access and sustain. Here are the top eight things we hope for. Number one is happiness. She says happiness is hard to achieve and even harder to maintain because we don’t understand exactly what will make us happy and we search outside ourselves for happiness. Two is money. That is pretty much self-explanatory. Three is freedom. The freedom to find our ‘true purpose.’ Four is peace. Peace from noise, chatter, pressure, responsibilities, etc. She says to have peace you just have to commit to being at peace, and building daily practices that will support you in that commitment. Five is joy which she says comes from the process of becoming more of who you already are. Six is balance which takes understanding your non-negotiables (what you won’t compromise on, what you won’t say “yes” to), and then living from that knowledge, and making the right decisions that align with your top life priorities. Seven is fulfilment which is “satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character.” We simply can’t experience fulfillment if we’re not living up to what we know is our highest and best potential. The last thing we hope for is confidence which comes from acknowledging our own magnificence, not shying away from it.

Did any of those resonate with you? The main thing I took from that article is it was not written from a Christian perspective. I can tell you the secret to those eight things that people desperately hope for and that’s being in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We can have those things from the perspective of Jesus if we fully submit our lives to him. That doesn’t mean everything in our lives will be perfect but we will be content with the measure of what we have in our lives in each of those areas.

So, how is your hope? Does it bounce back after being hit? Does it cause you to doubt when you lose hope in a situation? God knows that we all struggle with finding and holding onto hope. When you are facing tests of faith, even the strongest Christians can find it a challenge to have hope. There is a well-known verse in the Bible that talks about hope. It is Jeremiah 29:11. It says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” No matter what is going on in our lives we can have hope in our heavenly father that he has a plan for us that includes our hope and our future.

Our scripture this morning is found in John 11:1-16 and we are going to see two threads running through it. The first is hope. In fact, we see variations of hope. We start with hopefulness and then move to hoping beyond hope and lastly we will see hopelessness. John introduces us to a family that had a very close relationship with Jesus. In fact it says he loved them and they loved him back. But even though they had a relationship with him all was not well with their family. They were struggling with finding hope and holding onto that hope. But even in the midst of that struggle they knew who to turn to. They knew to turn to Jesus. I am talking about the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Anyone looking in on the death of Lazarus would conclude that there was no hope.

The second thread we will see is glory; God’s glory and Jesus being glorified. The most important thing in the universe is the glory of God. It is the reason for everything he does. God’s glory is his manifestation and revelation of Himself. It is God’s self-disclosure in His activity. His glory is revealed in an infinite number of ways, including, his creation, his redemption of us and in the standard of perfection by which he measures us. We see that in Romans 3:23. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God’s glory refers to His infinite and overflowing fullness of all that is good. The most gracious and complete manifestation of God’s glory came in the person of Jesus Christ.

So, in this story over the next several weeks, we will see that even in the face of absolute hopelessness, Jesus demonstrates His power to step into any situation and transform that situation into a time of blessing; this even includes situations that appear hopeless. But first and foremost this situation will be for the glory of God and for his son to be glorified through it. That brings us to the big idea that John wants us to understand this morning which is “sometimes God uses our circumstances to show his glory and to glorify his Son.” ​​ 

Before we begin our study in chapter 11, let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you this morning and ask that you fill us with your spirit. We ask that you open our hearts and minds to your word for our understanding and so that we can be ready to tell others of the hope that we have in your son, Jesus. Show us exactly what you want us to learn and do not let us leave here without that understanding. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our first point this morning is “hopefulness” and we see this in verses 1-3 of John chapter 11. This is what God’s word says, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

We are told about a sick man whose name is Lazarus. In fact he is close to death. We find that he is from Bethany which is the same village where Mary and Martha lived. This seemingly ho hum introduction of Lazarus emphasizes that he is not the primary focus of the story. We will see today and the following weeks that Jesus is the focus of the story. ​​ 

The name Lazarus was a shortened form of Eleazar which means “God has helped.” Back in Jesus’ day that would have been a common name, so, John identifies him by the village where he lived, Bethany. John also identifies Bethany as the place where Mary and Martha lived. Next, John identifies Lazarus as the brother of Mary and Martha and further identifies Mary. He evidently expects his readers to already know who Mary is because he says that this Mary was the one who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and wiped them with her hair. This is interesting because John doesn’t tell us that particular story until chapter 12 in verses 1-8. This encounter between Mary and Jesus must have been well known in the church and John’s readers would be familiar with it. John also may have been differentiating her from the other Marys in his gospel.

The sisters did probably the only thing they knew to do. They sent word to Jesus because they were worried about their brother and they knew Jesus could heal him. They were hopeful because they had seen and/or heard that Jesus had healed many times before. They also knew that Jesus loved Lazarus. This family was very close to Jesus. He knew them well. They had a close relationship with him. If you remember, once Jesus set off on his earthly ministry he did not have a home. His brothers and sisters didn’t believe he was the Messiah and even though his mother, Mary, pondered all the things she knew about her son in her heart, we are not told when she started to actually believe. But in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany, Jesus had a place to lay his head and find peace, love and rest when he needed it.

Notice the sisters do not ask Jesus to do anything. They make him aware of the situation and because he loves them they are hopeful that he will respond appropriately; at least in their eyes. They understood that the Jews were trying to arrest him or outright kill him. They understood that coming that close to Jerusalem would be a considerable risk. Maybe they thought Jesus would just heal their brother from where he was just like he did when he healed the official’s son in John chapter 4. Again, at this point they were hopeful that Jesus would take care of the problem. It didn’t really matter to them how it was accomplished.

Next, in verses 4-10, we see that Mary and Martha go from “hopeful” to “hoping beyond hope.” This is what God’s word says, “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

If we take verse 4 at face value we see that there is nothing for Mary and Martha to worry about. Jesus states that Lazarus’ sickness would not end with him dying. He didn’t mean that Lazarus would not die a physical death. He meant that even though he will die, his death would not be final. Lazarus’ sickness and subsequent death, like the blind man in the last chapter was for the glory of God. Sometimes sickness and even death may be God’s will for his people. We can see that all over the story of Job. In this case, Lazarus’ circumstances would bring glory to God because through them the Son of God would be glorified. How would Jesus be glorified? First, people would see the deity of Jesus, and the Father and the Son would be revealed for who they are in the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. Second, from this miracle many people would come to faith in Jesus and the faith of his disciples and followers would be strengthened. Third, this incident would be a turning point that would lead Jesus to the cross which was the most significant way that Jesus would be glorified.

This tragedy and the tragedies we go through in our own lives are not by God’s design but God will use them for an opportunity to show his glory and to glorify his son. That reminds us of the big idea this morning that “sometimes God uses our circumstances to show his glory and to glorify his Son.” ​​ 

We can offer our trials to God for him to either remove or retain as he pleases thereby bringing glory to his name, deepening our faith and possibly that of others too. Joni Eareckson Tada, a paraplegic, said, “I do not care if I am confined to this wheelchair provided from it I can bring glory to God.” Hudson Taylor said, “Trials afford God a platform for his working in our lives. Without them I would never know how kind, how powerful, how gracious he is.” We can begin a maturity in our Christian walk when we offer our suffering and pain consciously to God for his using.” And I would add for his glory. Which brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to “offer my pain and suffering to God so he can use it for his glory.”

In verse 5, John again says that Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus but in the very sentence it says when he heard Lazarus was sick he stayed where he was for two more days. What? Did we see that right? Now follow this train of thought for a minute. It is possible that John makes a big deal of the love between Jesus and this family to show that what he was going to do next did not reflect a lack of love and compassion on his part. Also, Jesus’ delay did not cause Lazarus’ death. It is likely that Lazarus was already dead by the time the messenger got to Jesus. Carson in his commentary says, “This does not mean that Jesus is indifferent to human suffering. He loves Martha, Mary and Lazarus. It is in consequence of that love that he delays his departure by two days, waiting for the divine signal. This delay will make a substantial contribution to the strengthening of the faith of the Bethany family.”

Jesus was obedient to the timing of his father which we have already seen a couple of times in John’s gospel. This story shows us that God knows everything and that he is sovereign. He has the right to rule and he rules rightly. His delays are perfect and his timing is perfect and his delays do not contradict his love for us. In our lives today, we can perceive that God is delaying when our prayers aren’t answered as quickly as we want or when he delays things that we believe he would want us to have.

Jesus’ close relationship with this family makes his decision to wait two days to go to Lazarus’ aid all the more puzzling. Imagine what the sisters are thinking when the first day goes by and no Jesus and then the second day goes by and still no Jesus. Sure maybe Lazarus was already dead but Jesus didn’t even come to see the family and mourn with them. This delay was going to serve several purposes. First and foremost, it was for the glory of God and Jesus. Second, it was going to strengthen the faith of the sisters by forcing them to trust in him. Third, this delay would ensure that Lazarus would be dead for four days before Jesus showed up on the scene. In Jesus’ day, the Jews believed that the spirits of the dead hovered over the tomb for four days seeking to get back inside the body of the dead. But after four days the spirits left because the face would be so decayed that they could not recognize it. It was at this point that they felt the person was truly dead. If Jesus had come any earlier the people may have thought he had just healed Lazarus and not actually brought him back from the dead.

Finally, Jesus tells his disciples it is time to go to Lazarus and back to Judea. But they are not sold on the idea. They have some serious reservations about going back where people were threatening to kill Jesus and possibly themselves as well. They were genuinely concerned with Jesus’ welfare and did not understand what lay ahead for him. Jesus answers them with a proverb about time that doesn’t seem to make sense in this context but is meant to give them hope that going back to Judea would not end with all of them being killed.

In this proverb, Jesus talks about there being twelve hours in a day. The Jews believed that each day was broken up into two twelve hours periods; day and night. The number of hours in a day would of course change from season to season but each day was still broken into two equal parts. They did not have street lights in Jesus’ day so it was only during the daylight hours that one could walk around without stumbling. When it was dark you stayed inside because if you tried to walk around at nighttime you would stumble because it was pitch black. The twelve hours of daylight symbolize Jesus’ ministry on the earth. Just as no one can lengthen or shorten a day, the disciples’ concern could not extend the time allotted to Jesus on this earth nor could the Jew’s hostility toward Jesus shorten it.

That is a great principle for us to learn today. We can’t lengthen our days as they are already numbered by God. Jesus’ earthly ministry was set for a precise time by God just like our days on this earth are set precisely by God. In the physical sense Jesus is speaking about walking and living in light or darkness or day and night. In the spiritual sense when one lives in the “light” of the will of God he is spiritually safe. As long as Jesus followed God’s plan, no harm would come to him until the appointed time. Satan couldn’t thwart God’s purpose for sending his son and Satan can’t thwart our purposes as long as we are fulfilling the purpose for which God put us all on this earth. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to “not worry about my time left on this earth but to continue to pursue, grow and multiply disciples.”

Next, in verses 11-16, we see that the situation has gone from hopeful to hoping beyond hope to now hopelessness. We find out that Lazarus is dead and we can only imagine what is going through the sisters’ minds. John doesn’t divulge that to us just yet but he does give us insight into what the disciples were thinking. This is what God’s word says, After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

After he relates this parable about daylight and stumbling in the dark he says Lazarus has fallen asleep and he’s going to Bethany to wake him up. The disciples misunderstand what Jesus was saying. They think he means Lazarus is just physically sleeping and if he is going to get better he needs his sleep. They saw no reason to risk their lives to go to him; Lazarus would get better in time. Sleep is used in the Bible as a synonym for death, particularly about believers. So when Jesus said he is going to wake up Lazarus, he meant he is going to raise him from the dead.

The word sleep translates to the Greek word from which we get the English noun for “cemetery.” A cemetery, supposedly fearsome and spooky, gives us a Christian word of faith. Christians who die are not dead forever but sleep temporarily until Jesus wakes them up. This sleep does not mean an ending of existence or awareness, in fact Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8 says, “that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

The disciple’s misunderstanding would open up the way for Jesus to further teach his disciples and bolster their faith. He ends their confusion and says plainly that Lazarus is dead. This is important because the messenger only said Lazarus was sick. This proves that Jesus is omniscient. He knew Lazarus had already died. The death of Lazarus brought a crisis to Jesus and he was glad because it gave him the opportunity to demonstrate what God can do and the disciples’ faith would be made that much stronger. Every crisis in our lives can be an opportunity for God to show us what he can do and to show others what God can do through us.

We know that during the time the disciples were with Jesus their faith waned. They never reached the point where they didn’t need to have their faith confirmed and developed. Raising Lazarus from the dead would have a profound effect on the disciples and others that witnessed it. It is the same for us today. Faith is a progressive thing. Our faith is not always strong. It wavers at times. Our hope can waver even when we rely on Jesus and trust in him. Things don’t always go the way we planned them or the way we want them to. But that is where submission to the sovereignty of Christ comes in. He need to trust that he has the right to rule our lives and the he rules rightly.

Finally, as we come to the end of our scripture this morning, John relates that Thomas all of the disciples takes the lead. It is a little curious that Thomas does this because he is not the usual spokesman for the disciples. Some commentators believe Peter wasn’t there at the time which is why we see Thomas speaking up. Thomas says “Let’s also go, that we may die with him.” John identifies Thomas by giving the meaning of his name. Didymus is the Greek equivalent of Thomas and both mean “twin.” Maybe this speaks to Thomas having dueling emotions. We know that he is called “Doubting Thomas” but here his words reflect loyalty, love, devotion and courage in spite of his pessimism. We see an act of leadership and courage that coincides with his doubting personality. It is not marked with an abundance of faith or hope. In fact it sounds hopeless. He believes he and the other disciples are going to die along with Jesus. His negativity led him to believe he would die if they went to Jerusalem but his love for Jesus was so strong he was willing to die with him. He looked death in the face and chose death with Jesus rather than life without him. Thomas unwittingly lays out the terms of following Jesus that we see in Mark 8:34, which says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Following Thomas’ bold lead, despite their doubts, they all went to Bethany with Jesus. If we want to be a disciple of Jesus we must be willing to follow him anywhere even if it means we are going to die.

Hope is a powerful thing, even for non-humans. A number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope! Those animals apparently hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. That reminds me of God reaching down to us and sending his Son to die on a cross to rescue us. That is the hope that sustains us. The power of hope cannot be underestimated. When hope fails, dreams shatter and people give up.

I want you to know this morning that you can find hope in God and in his Word. Psalm 39:7 says, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” And Psalm 71:5 says “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.” Finally, Psalm 119:81 says, “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.” When you are struggling to find hope you can turn to Jesus and his Word and find your hope in him. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to “put my hope in God and in his Word for all things.”

As Doris and Gene come to lead us in a final song and the ushers prepare to collect the offering and the communication cards, let’s pray. God, we thank you for hope. We thank you for the hope we have in Christ Jesus who died on the cross and rose again conquering death and Hell. Because of his victory we have eternal hope. I pray that that hope will sustain us when we have trials and tribulations. Help us to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and the hope of salvation. I also pray for the offering this morning. Use it to further your kingdom in this church, community and around the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War. It is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces. The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an "enemy of the United States" or an "opposing foreign force". Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented to the person after they have died. Here are a few stories of Medal of Honor recipients from WWII.

Thomas A. Baker was a Private in the Army. In Saipan on the Marianas Islands, he advanced ahead of his unit with a bazooka and destroyed a Japanese emplacement which was firing on his company. Several days later, he single-handedly attacked and killed two groups of Japanese soldiers. On July 7, 1944, Baker's position came under attack by a large Japanese force. Although seriously wounded early in the attack, he refused to be evacuated and continued to fight in the close-range battle until running out of ammunition. When a comrade was wounded while trying to carry him to safety, Baker insisted that he be left behind. At his request, his comrades left him propped against a tree and gave him a pistol, which had eight bullets remaining. When American forces retook the position, they found the pistol, now empty, and eight dead Japanese soldiers around Baker's body.

George W. G. Boyce, Jr. was a Second Lt. in the Army. On July 23, 1944, after being ambushed by superior enemy forces, he was planning a tactical maneuver with his platoon. During this planning, a hand grenade fell in between him and his men, and he promptly threw himself on the grenade to save his men.

Richard B. Anderson was a Private First Class in the Marines in the Marshall Islands when on February 1, 1944, in a shell crater, he hurled his body on a grenade to save his companions, taking the full impact of the explosion.

These are just a few of the Medal of Honor winners of World War II. These and many more were worthy of the Medal of Honor they received for what they did during that War.

Now I cannot adequately follow that up with a story from my life but as I was growing up in my home church, I was part of a group called Christian Service Brigade. It was like a Christian Boy Scouts and the highest honor was called the Herald of Christ. In all the years my church had this program, no one had ever achieved this award. In my junior year of high school, one of my best friends and I worked through all the book requirements and the service projects to be the first in our church to become a Herald of Christ. I had been deemed worthy of that award by my pastor and my church. It was a very humbling experience.

Now maybe you can think of a time that you were deemed worthy of a promotion at work or an award at school, etc. How many remember or were a part of the Safety Patrol growing up? They wore orange belts and helped other kids cross the street and get on the bus. There were certain requirements to be on the safety patrol. A Safety Patrol member should be responsible, respectful, cooperative, and helpful. They must remain in good academic standing in all subject areas and model good behavioral choices. They were held to a higher standard and those students who wore the “belt” were deemed worthy of being on the safety patrol.

As Christians we are all held to a higher standard by God. Our purpose is that God is glorified by people for all generations and to that end we are all called to “walk worthy.” In Ephesians 4, Paul urges us “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have received.” If our purpose is to display God’s glory and God be glorified through us, then there is a particular way we need to live our lives. As Christians we do not get to act the way we want to act or do what we want to do. We need to surrender our will to God’s will and be willing to obey him with our lives. Our walk is our response to all that God has done for us. You have been called to something great and glorious. Walk worthy of it! That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to “walk worthy of the calling that I have received from God.”

This morning we are in chapter 10 verses 1-21. Our scripture this morning is a continuation of the healing of the man born blind from birth in Chapter 9. Chapter 9 ended with the theme of judgement and in chapter 10 Jesus uses a parable to condemn the Pharisees as unworthy rulers of Israel because of their conduct toward the man born blind. As the spiritual leaders of Israel they were responsible for the flock of God but they had shown to be in grievous dereliction of duty. Greene says, “Jesus’ object in giving this parable to those opposed to him was to show them how unfit they were to be leaders and teachers in Israel.”

The background for this parable was Ezekiel 34 where Israel’s rulers are seen as false shepherds and in prophetic vision, God deposes them, seeks out his lost sheep, sets over them a shepherd Messiah of David’s line and delivers his flock from all evil. In John 10, the Pharisees are accused of being thieves and robbers, hirelings and heartless shepherds, and the veiled claim is made that in Christ’s mission God’s promise of deliverance is fulfilled. The shepherd of Ezekiel’s vision has come alive in the person of Jesus who truly cares for God’s sheep and who by his life-giving death brings them deliverance.

This morning, we will see the unworthiness of the Pharisees to be shepherds of God’s flock and the worthiness of Jesus to be the Good Shepherd. We will see that it is what Jesus does for us that makes him worthy of being our shepherd. That brings us to the big idea John wants us to understand this morning which is “Jesus is the only one worthy of being our Good Shepherd.”

Before we dive into our scripture, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you that you created us, you know us and you love us. Though we fail you, you have never turned your back on us, you remain faithful forever. We praise you for your sacrificial love and we strive to walk worthy of the calling you have placed upon us. We thank you that you are our Good Shepherd and that you take care of us and provide for us always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our scripture this morning is a well-known passage in the Bible. It is called the Parable of the Good Shepherd and John paints a descriptive picture of Jesus as a shepherd of his people. Like a true shepherd, Jesus is concerned with the welfare and the care of the sheep in his flock. We see Jesus’ love for us and the qualities he possesses that make him worthy to be our Good Shepherd.

The first reason Jesus is worthy to be our Good Shepherd is he possesses the right credentials. We are starting in John chapter 10 verses 1-5. This is what God’s Word says: “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

The first thing that proves the shepherd’s credentials is he came the right way. When Jesus says, “I tell you the truth” it means to listen up because what he is about to say is important. What follows is Jesus indirectly calling the Pharisees “thieves and robbers.” They claimed to be the spiritual leaders of Israel but instead of helping souls to be saved they were robbing the people of the opportunity of being saved because they were teaching the traditions of men not the teachings of God. The Greek word for “thief” means “secret fraud and dishonesty”, and the Greek word for “robber” implies more than open violence. They were actual wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Jesus used a familiar image of the sheep pen. A sheep pen was a circular wall about 10 feet tall with a single opening that served as a door. At night, several shepherds would bring their flocks to the same pen and the gate keeper, probably someone hired to watch the flocks, would watch over them. He would lay in the opening so nothing or no one could get into the sheep pen without having to go through the gatekeeper. The next morning when the shepherds came back to gather their flocks for the day, the gatekeeper would let the shepherd in. The gatekeeper knew the shepherd and the sheep knew their shepherd as well. He came into the sheep pen the right way unlike the thieves and robbers who would have to climb the walls of the sheep pen to get to the sheep.

The Pharisees, as thieves and robbers, were self-condemned because they attempted to enter the sheepfold another way, setting themselves up as leaders with the wrong motives. Milne says, “As a result they are false shepherds whom the sheep of Christ do not recognize and from whom they will run away.” We see this is the story of the man born blind at the end of chapter 9.

But Jesus is worthy because He came into the world in the right way. He was the one sent by God to be our Messiah. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” And Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” Jesus is worthy because he was born of a virgin and born in Bethlehem as the scriptures predicted. He is worthy because he came according to God’s plan and timing. (Big Idea)

The second things that proves the shepherd’s credentials is he calls the right way. Like I said, many flocks would sleep together in the same sheep pen but when each shepherd came the next morning and called his sheep, his sheep would instantly recognize his voice and respond to him. The shepherd would call them by name and they knew and understood his call.

I found this illustration I liked. A man in Australia was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his master. "His sheep knows him," said the judge. "Case dismissed!"

If we are part of Jesus’ flock, we will recognize his voice and follow him. There are many voices in the world trying to get our attention and sway us from following the one true shepherd. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the only one that can change us, give us hope and truth, and set us free. John 8:31-32 says, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus’ voice sounds right to the lost and desperate soul. All other voices sound empty and frightening.

The third thing that proves the shepherd’s credentials is he commands the right way. Verse 4 says the shepherd commands his sheep meaning he leads the sheep. When he calls them from the sheep pen he goes on ahead of them and they follow close behind him because they know his voice. He doesn’t drive the sheep forward, he goes before them and leads them to the green pastures and the still waters. Verse 5 tells us that the sheep will never follow a stranger because they don’t recognize his voice. The stranger doesn’t command the sheep the right way.

Jesus is not a dictator. He doesn’t browbeat us into submission. We love him because he first loved us and that causes us to want to follow him and to surrender our lives to him. We follow him because he has rescued us from sin and death and our response to that should be our devotion to him. We surrender our will to his because we know he has our best interest at heart and he leads us the right way. Psalm 23:2b-3, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”

The verbs in verse 3, opens, listen, calls and leads shows the intimacy between Jesus and his sheep. They listen for the shepherd’s voice and they follow the shepherd because they know his voice. Do you know Jesus’ voice? We can know the voice of Jesus by being in a relationship with him. This means we are daily surrendering our lives to him. It is a life of doing his will and not our own. We daily strive to follow and obey him. If you are here this morning and you don’t recognize the voice of Jesus, maybe the second next step on the back of your communication card is for you. My next step is to cultivate a life of listening to and knowing the voice of Jesus so I can better follow the Good Shepherd.

In verse 6, John stops and gives us an aside as to what was going on between Jesus and the Pharisees after he said these words. Follow along as I read verse 6. “Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.”

John tells us Jesus is using a figure of speech. The other gospels would call it a parable. This figure of speech, like a parable, was a story that was told in which the meaning was not obvious. But those who had ears to hear would have understood its spiritual truth. John tells us that the Pharisees did not understand. It wasn’t because they couldn’t understand but because they were unwilling to understand. The figure of speech Jesus was using should have been very familiar to them but by not understanding, it showed their pride, self-righteousness and their willful rejection of Jesus and his words. Jesus’ figure of speech served two purposes – it revealed spiritual truth to his followers and concealed it from those who continued to reject him.

The second reason Jesus is worthy to be our shepherd is he possesses the right character. ​​ Follow along as I read verses 7-10. This is what God’s word says, “Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’”

The first thing that proves the shepherd’s character is his identity or his person. Again, Jesus says, “Listen up” because what he about to say is going to be very important. Now, instead of the shepherd entering through the gate, the shepherd is now the gate. If you remember, in the sheep pen there was only one door and at night the shepherd would lay in the door to keep any predators, animal or human, away from the sheep. The predators would have to deal with the shepherd first before they could steal or drag the sheep away. The shepherd proves he is worthy because of the kind of person he is. He takes care of and protects his sheep.

In the same way, Jesus’ character is seen in his person or in his identity. He is our gate or door to God. If anyone wants to come to God they must go through Jesus. He is the only way to God. John 14:6 says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ​​ This truth is also made abundantly clear in 1 John 5:12, which says, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Jesus is the only way to God and all other ways leads to death and destruction. ​​ And Matthew 7:13-14 says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The second thing that proves the shepherd’s character is his performance. After a night in the sheep pen, the shepherd would lead the sheep out to find food and water. In verse 9 it says, the sheep will come in and go out and find pasture. This means the shepherd provides safety and security for the sheep as he guides them through their day. He protects them from harm and makes sure they find the greenest pastures and the stillest waters.

Jesus again says he is the gate for the sheep meaning he is the only way to God and all who enter through him will be saved. John 5:24 says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” And Romans 5:9 says, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” Those who enter through Jesus will be rescued from God’s wrath and will spend eternity in Heaven with him. They have been saved from eternal separation from God in Hell. Jesus is worthy to be our Good Shepherd because he provides safety and security to us for eternity. (BIG IDEA)

The third thing that proves the shepherd’s character is his promise. The thief in verse 10 doesn’t enter the fold for the benefit of the sheep. He enters the fold in order to steal, kill and destroy. He doesn’t enter the fold the right way. He doesn’t call or command the sheep right way and his person and performance proves he is not the shepherd. He only comes for his own personal gain and his promise is not for the sheep’s welfare but for his own. But the shepherd cares for his sheep and promises that he will take care of them and that their lives will be better because he is their shepherd.

Jesus comes to give us life and give it to the fullest. False shepherds don’t care for the flock they lead. They only want to benefit themselves. They aren’t sent by God, they don’t call or command the people they lead properly and their promises aren’t true. But Jesus’s promises are true. We know this because his promises are for our benefit. They are not self-centered. He comes to give us life to the fullest. That is the best life we can ever have which is one that is in total submission to Jesus. He gives us the ability to love others, to love ourselves, to live a better life, to live our lives to glorify God and to do his will.

The third reason Jesus is worthy to be our shepherd is he possesses the right concern. Follow along as I read verses 11-16. This is what God’s word says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

The first thing that proves the shepherd’s concern is his sacrifice. Again, Jesus changes the characters in the metaphor and the thieves and robbers become the hireling. The difference between the shepherd and the hireling was the concern that each of them had for the sheep in their flock. The hireling doesn’t own the sheep and therefore does not care about them. He has no real attachment to the sheep and is only in it for the money. He is not necessarily wicked like the thieves and robbers, he is simply committed to his own well-being rather than the well-being of the sheep. When watching the sheep is easy, its fine but when any trouble comes such as a wolf, he abandons the sheep and runs away. He leaves them to be attacked and devoured by the wolf. He is not going to sacrifice anything for the sheep especially not his life. In the Mishnah (Jewish traditions) it laid down the legal responsibility of the hired shepherd. One provision was that if one wolf attacked the flock he was required to defend the sheep, but two wolves meant he could leave the sheep and no blame could come to him for the damage the wolf did.

But the shepherd gives his life unconditionally for the sheep. He fights for the sheep because of his great love for them. A real shepherd is born into his task. He was sent out with the flock early in life, he grew into his calling and grew up with the sheep and they became his friends. He owns the sheep which speaks to his unique passionate commitment to them. He is invested in their lives. He dotes on them, he cares for their hurts, and he feeds them and give them clean water so they can grow up healthy. Because of these things he will pay any price to keep them safe even if it means giving up his own life for them.

Jesus again is condemning the Pharisees. They are the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep. They are the religious leaders of the Jewish people, but they were selfish and self-righteous and don’t care about the souls of their flock. Jesus knew this in Matthew 9:36, where it says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The Pharisees were no better than the hireling.

Jesus is worthy because of his sacrifice for us. (BIG IDEA) He saw the danger humanity was in and did not shy away from that danger. That danger was sin. Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” We are like wayward sheep and that waywardness is because of our sin. Isaiah tells us that sin has separated us from fellowship and a relationship with God. Listen to those words from Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” And because of our sin we are brought under the wrath of God and if we die in our sin, Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” What we have earned and deserved is a spiritual death which is an eternal separation from God. But the rest of that verse says, but “the gift of God is eternal life.” The gift of God was his son Jesus who came down from Heaven, born in human flesh, lived a sinless life so he could be the perfect sacrifice on the cross for our sins. When Jesus was crucified on the cross he literally took all our sin and all God’s wrath on himself and was judged in our place. By his sacrifice he put us back into fellowship and a right relationship with God.

Because of his sacrifice on the cross, he is the only one worthy of being our Good Shepherd. His sacrifice is a free gift that everyone for all time can receive. All you need to do is believe in Jesus and what he came to earth to do. Maybe you have never accepted Jesus as your Savior. You can do that right now, which brings us to the third next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to accept Jesus as my Savior and become part of his Flock.

The second thing that proves the shepherd’s concern is his own sheep. Verse 14 and 15 speaks about the bond between the good shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. Individual sheep in a flock may look the same to an untrained eye but the shepherd can tell each sheep apart just by looking at them. He knows their traits and their scars and he knows each one by their own name.

Jesus knows us intimately because he created us. In Jeremiah 1:5, God tells Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” The same goes for us. And in Matthew 10:29-31 it says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” God knows us. He knows our weaknesses and failures and loves us with and unconditional love. He knows our doubts and our fears and he is always with us and will never forsake us. He will walk through the valleys of the shadow of death with us. We can rely on our good shepherd.

The other thing is, we need to know Jesus as he knows us. That means we need to cultivate a relationship with him every day. We need to be in the word, we need to be in prayer, we need to be in fellowship with other believers. He wants to be one with us just as he is one with the Father. Jesus is the only one worthy to be our Good Shepherd because he knows us and wants to be known by us. We are special to him just as he is special to his heavenly Father. ​​ 

The third thing that proves the shepherd’s concern is his salvation. Jesus says that he has other sheep that are not in the sheep pen at the present time. He will bring them into the same fold by his sacrifice on the cross. These other sheep will hear the voice of Jesus and will be one flock and have one shepherd. These other sheep Jesus is talking about are the Gentiles. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The salvation of Jesus is for everyone. He is worthy because he wants everyone in the world to come to salvation.

In verses 17-18, Jesus expounds upon his self-sacrifice which will produce the new united flock from all nations. The eternal love between the Father and the Son will be its source. Follow along as I read those verses. “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Two attitudes define the relationship of Jesus to the Father. The first attitude is love. God loves Jesus because Jesus loved us so much that he sacrificed his own life on the cross in order to save us from our sins and an eternal separation from God. One of the reasons the Jews didn’t think that Jesus was the Messiah was because of his death on the cross. They believed that the Messiah would never be humiliated like that and it proved that God didn’t love him. But the opposite was true. God loves Jesus because he was willing to die on the cross for us.


The second attitude was obedience. No one forced Jesus go to the cross. He was not a victim of circumstance. God didn’t make him go to the cross nor did Satan force him to go to the cross. Jesus went to the cross voluntarily. Jesus showed his love to the Father by becoming obedient even to death on the cross. Love and obedience are inseparable since it is impossible to love God without obeying him.


When Jesus said “I lay down my life, only to take it up again” he is referring to his resurrection which was the ultimate demonstration that he was the Messiah. ​​ His resurrection was victory over death and sin. Jesus had the power and authority to come back to life after three days. Acts 2:24 says, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Jesus had full confidence in God that he would not abandon him. He knew obedience to God would bring suffering, for a moment, and glory for eternity. Jesus came into the world to do the Father’s will and to finish the work the Father gave him to do. The purpose for Jesus’ death was to rise again so that we could rise again with him one day.


In verses 19-21, we see the reaction of the Jews and the Pharisees that heard Jesus’ words. This is what God’s word says, “The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” 21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

We see again that there is division among the Jews because of Jesus. Many of them, probably led by the Pharisees said Jesus was demon-possessed. Having already rejected Jesus they held their ground stubbornly and attributed his ministry to demons. They were coming dangerously close to committing the unforgiveable sin – blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the sustained and deliberate closing of the heart to the clear witness of the Holy Spirit. This accusation was evidence of a hardening of the heart on the part of the Pharisees that blinded them to the light of the world.

But there were some who questioned what the religious leaders were saying. They wondered whether a man possessed by demons would say the things Jesus said or do the things Jesus did, such as opening the eyes of the blind. Jesus’ words and works were the opposite of what the demons would have done. These people only said what Jesus was not but they make no attempt to say what they believed Jesus was. However, it is possible, as MacArthur states in his commentary that they had reached the same conclusion as the blind man did, that Jesus was sent from God.

I will close with this illustration: “Two men were called on, in a large classroom, to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. One was a published orator trained in speech technique and drama. He repeated the psalm in a powerful way. When he finished, the audience cheered and even asked for an encore that they might hear his wonderful voice again. "Then the other man, who was much older, repeated the same words--'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want...' But when he finished, no sound came from the large class. Instead, people sat in a deep mood of devotion and prayer. "Then the first man, the orator, stood to his feet. 'I have a confession to make,' he said. 'The difference between what you have just heard from my old friend, and what you heard from me is this: I know the Psalm, my friend knows the Shepherd.'"

“Are you in?” “Are you in the Good Shepherd’s flock?” "Do you really know the Shepherd?" “Does the shepherd know you?” ​​ If you answered “no” to those questions, what are you waiting for? Jesus calls you by name. He knows you personally. He goes before you and he leads you out. He finds you green pastures and brings you safety and security. He gives you life to the full and he laid down his life voluntarily for you. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for you. If you are here this morning and you have not accepted Jesus as your savior, what are you waiting for? Today is the day for salvation. You can be a part of the Shepherd’s Flock and my prayer is that you will not hesitate this morning to give your life to him.

As the ushers prepare to take up the offering and communication cards, let’s pray: Dear God, we thank you that you are our worthy shepherd. You prove this over and over to us. Help us to remember what you have done for us and help us to live a life totally surrendered to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.







SEEING 20/20

I would like to start this morning by taking a survey. How many wear glasses or contact lenses? Who has been wearing glasses or contact lenses for at least 10 years? For 20 years? For 30 years? 40 years? 50 years? More? I have worn glasses since right before third grade. I have needed corrective lenses for the last 47 years.

When we talk about our eyesight or our vision, we might make the statement that we see 20/20. What does that mean? The term 20/20 is used to express normal visual clarity or sharpness of vision, which is measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.

So if you are wearing glasses or contact lenses this morning that probably means that your vision is not 20/20. The reason we get corrective lenses is in order to see 20/20. When we see 20/20 it does three things for us. First, it helps us to see clearly. Right now as I look out at you all I can’t see clearly at all. Everyone looks blurry because I am not wearing my glasses. Second, seeing 20/20 helps us to see correctly. That is why they are called corrective lenses because our vision is being corrected to 20/20. I remember one time Judy and I were driving through the Pine Grove Furnace area on the way to camp when I yelled for her to watch out for that animal on the side of the road. I didn’t have my glasses on at the time and couldn’t tell whether it was a deer or a dog or something else but I saw something move on the side of the road. As we got up to that area Judy said, you mean that branch sticking out of the woods? I said, “Yea, I thought it looked like an animal.” You see, without my glasses I wasn’t seeing correctly. I wasn’t seeing 20/20. Third, seeing 20/20 helps us to see completely. When we need corrective lenses it probably means we are near sighted or farsighted. A nearsighted person sees near objects clearly, while objects in the distance are blurred. A farsighted person sees faraway objects clearly, while objects that are near are blurred. You may also have problems with your peripheral vision which is what you see on the side when looking straight ahead. Without my glasses I can’t see what is to either side of me. I can’t see completely.

In our scripture this morning we are going to see Jesus give a man 20/20 vision. In fact he is going to physically heal a man who has been blind since birth. This man, after Jesus performs this miracle, or this sign, will be able to see clearly, correctly and completely. He will have 20/20 vision. There are more miracles of giving sight to the blind recorded of Jesus than healings in any other category. Other than Jesus there are remarkably few in scripture. There is no story of giving sight to the blind in the OT nor to the followers of Christ in the NT.

But of course, that is not all of the story, there is a spiritual side to this miracle as well. If you remember, our theme verse for John is John 20:31 which says, 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. In the OT, the giving of sight to the blind is associated with God himself. It is also a messianic activity. It is a divine function, that Jesus fulfils when he gives sight to the blind.

That was the purpose for the signs Jesus performed. It was so people would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and have life in his name. Not only did Jesus give physical sight to this man so he could physically see clearly, correctly and completely, he gave spiritual sight to this man so he could spiritually see clearly, correctly and completely.

Everyone from Jesus’ time until now has seen the light whether in person back then or through the Holy Spirit today. Everyone has the opportunity to see clearly, correctly and completely spiritually. But of course, we know that not everyone who encountered Jesus then or encounters him today receives spiritual sight. Some people who see the light do not receive it but are blinded by the light. That brings us to our big idea that John wants us to understand this morning which is We can either receive the light or be blinded by it. The question this morning is have you received Jesus or do you continue to be blinded by him.

As each of us personally thinks about that question, let’s bow our heads and pray. Dear Heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning. Teach us, convict us, guide us in all truth, fill us and dwell in us as we look at your word this morning. Open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn and share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Someone once said to Helen Keller, “What a pity you have no sight.” She answered, “Yes, but what a pity that so many have sight but cannot see!” That is what our scripture this morning is about. We will encounter a man who has been blind from birth and cannot physically see. He has been living in “darkness” but miraculously is given “light.” Physical healing becomes a symbol of spiritual healing while physical blindness is replaced with spiritual blindness. The man who once lived in darkness now has light in both his eyes and his heart, while some of those around him have sound eyes but nevertheless live in spiritual darkness.

This morning we are going to be studying John chapter 9 verses 1-12. In verses 1 & 2 we see the problem that occurs in today’s passage. This is what God’s word says, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.” 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

The phrase “as he went along” seems to connect this chapter with the chapter before it so we suppose that Jesus is still in Jerusalem probably at some point between the Feast of the Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication. As Jesus and his disciples are walking along it says he saw a man blind from birth. We notice two different reactions to the man. The first is Jesus’ reaction. He saw the problem that the man had which was he had been blind from birth. In Jesus’ day blindness was a common occurrence and was a real problem in that society. There were few cures for eye diseases and the unsanitary conditions especially in the water increased the risk of blindness considerably.

The second was the disciples’ reaction to the man. Holman in his commentary says, “The disciples wrapped in OT legalism concluded either he sinned or his parents sinned. For Jesus’ disciples it was an opportunity for a theological discussion. They had no compassion for the man. He was just a curiosity to them.”

We see an important principle here: that Jesus is fully aware of our needs and situation. Jesus truly saw the man and his disciples did not. How often do we ignore the needs of others because of the busyness of life? How often do we ignore opportunities to help because of the tendency to judge first? Our initial reaction is often rejection rather than restoration. Too often we see people as detached subjects to study rather than individual souls to save. We need to ask God to give us eyes to see the people around us and ask him where and how he wants us to engage with them. Which brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to ask God to give us his eyes to see those around us that we need to engage with.

The disciples used this opportunity to ask Jesus an age old question that the Jews had wrestled with for a while. They asked Jesus if this man was blind because of his sin or his parent’s sin.

The disciples, like most Palestinian Jews believed that sin and suffering were intimately connected. In a sense that is correct. We would probably not die if we had not sinned. And without the guilt of sin we would not have any suffering. But the disciples believed that this specific individual because he was suffering from blindness must have committed some specific individual sin. Either he sinned in the womb or his parents sinned in some way that implicated him. They would have believed that if a pregnant woman, for instance, worshipped in a pagan temple her unborn fetus was regarded as participating in the pagan ritual and had by her consequence sinned.

We can see this in popular religion today in that people see a connection between personal suffering and sin. Hindus and Buddhists would call it karma. The definition of karma is the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect. According to the theory of Karma, what happens to a person, happens because they caused it with their actions.

As Christians we know that is not the way God works. We see especially in the story of Job that specific illnesses or experiences of suffering of an individual are not a direct consequence of a specific sin of that person.

Next, in verses 3-5, we see the purpose for the man’s blindness. Follow along as I read from God’s Word. 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Notice, Jesus was asked about the cause of the man’s blindness, but he answers in terms of its purpose. Brown in his commentary says, Jesus did not fix blame but offered grace and rejected the alternatives of the disciples. Jesus did not try to explain to his disciples the connection between sin and suffering. He says that this man’s affliction would be an opportunity to show what God can do. There are two senses in which that is true. One, for John the miracles were always a sign of the glory and the power of God. Two, this man’s affliction would allow God the opportunity to heal him. ​​ It also enables the sufferer to show what God can do in and through him. If trouble and disaster come upon an unbeliever they might just fall apart, but when it comes upon a follower of Jesus it can bring out the strength, beauty and endurance in a person’s heart when they trust on God and rely on him. We can also take our struggles and afflictions and use them to help someone else who may be going through the same thing we went through and be able to bring comfort and peace to them.

In the blind man’s life his hurting was the preparation for healing. We also see this in John 11:4. Jesus is talking about Lazarus when he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s son.” We see that God can also bring glory through not healing as we see in the struggles of Paul. 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 says, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. Holman says, “The focus is not on the comfort of the creature but in the rejoicing of the creator.”

We might look at this verse and think that God brought suffering to this man so that he might glorify himself in his healing. We understand on some level that God in his sovereignty can do as he pleases, but it seems a cruel fate in which God inflicts pain on people simply to glorify himself. But we know that our pain and suffering is because of original sin. God did not give this man blindness but God will show his love, mercy and compassion to this man and heal him which will bring glory to God as his works are displayed.

I like what Milne says. “There are times, when suffering is submitted to, that God’s work is displayed by a healing or by a courageous acceptance of the suffering. But in the end there is a dimension in suffering which defies all explanation. There is no universal answer for suffering. We can “make sense” of a dark world only by believing in the one who came to be the ‘light of the world’.”

Now some commentators don’t see a problem with the wording of the text because they see the clause, “so that the work of God”, as a purpose clause, that can be applied forward to verse 4 instead of back to the beginning of verse 3.

Burge would translate it this way: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned” said Jesus. “But so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of him who sent me while it is still day.” If we read it this way we see that Jesus must work so that God’s work may be displayed in this man’s life. God has not made the man blind in order to show his glory; rather, God has sent Jesus to do the works of healing in order to show his glory. Jesus’ work must not be interrupted because he is the light that illumines the day, and night is coming when he will be absent and such miracles at his hand will cease.

The phrase “as long as it is day” conveys a sense of urgency in performing the works of God while Jesus is still with them. Jesus says, “we must do the works” which means he and his followers must do God’s work while there is time to do it. His followers share with him the responsibility of doing this work. The “must” reminds us that this is not simply what is advisable or expedient. It is a compelling necessity. The works we must do, do not originate on this earth, they are heaven-sent. There is an urgency about them because the opportunity to do them will not always be present.

“Night is coming” can mean two things. One, it can be a reference to the darkness when Jesus goes to the cross and then ascends to heaven. Once night descends “no one can work” until the Holy Spirit comes on the Day of Pentecost and once again empowers the disciples to minister. The focus is on the darkness of the period when Jesus is first taken from his disciples. The work “we must do” refers to the period before Jesus is taken away by the cross and not afterwards.

But, I believe, we can apply this principle to ourselves today as well. We know that our time on this earth is limited and there will come a time when it is too late to do the works of God. God gave men the day for work and the night for rest. We are only given so much time on this earth and we must do what must be done in that time. We cannot put off til tomorrow the work that God has given us. Tomorrow may never come.

We see this in Matthew 24:45-51. This is what God’s word says, 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We are called to do God’s work and not be lazy. The Master expects to find his servants busily applying themselves to the tasks he has given them. Night is coming and there are things that will not keep until after this life is ended. We must continually be doing what God has called us to do. What we do with the time given us effects our eternity.

Noble Puritan pastor Richard Baxter captured that sense of urgency when he wrote, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to do the work that God has called us to and never stop.

John is telling his readers that the long-awaited Messiah is Jesus and his symbol-laden miracles prove it and his departure will bring down the “night” on those who refuse to open their eyes to the light. Those who see the light but refuse to receive the Light are blinded by it. Which reminds us of our big idea which is: we can either receive the light or be blinded by it.

Next, in verses 6-7 we see the power. Follow along as I read God’s Word. 6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Jesus was a wise person. He took the customs and methods of his times and used them. This gained the confidence of the patient. Even today confidence in what your doctor is prescribing can help us to have faith in what they are doing to make us better. The use of spit seems strange and repulsive to us today but in the ancient world it was common. Spit especially of some distinguished person was said to contain certain curative qualities. Even today if we burn our finger we instinctively put our finger in our mouth.

But most commentators aren’t sure why Jesus used the mud and what it was to signify. Calvin suggests that the mud was designed to double the intensity of the blindness in order to magnify the cure; not unlike the water that was poured over Elijah’s altar on Mount Carmel.

After applying the mudpack to the man’s eyes Jesus told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, which was a landmark of Jerusalem. The pool was the source of water in the Tabernacle ceremony that Pastor Stuart had talked about a three to four weeks ago. It was the only source of water in the city and had religious and ceremonial value. It was also the result of one of the greatest engineering feats of the ancient world. The water supply of Jerusalem was precarious especially in event of siege where the spring could be cut off completely. Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles determined to cut a tunnel through the rock from the spring to the city. The conduit is 583 yards long, only 2 feet wide in places and an average height of six foot. The engineers started cutting from both ends and met in the middle. The Pool of Siloam was where the conduit from the Virgin’s Fountain in the Kidron Valley came into the city. That is how the pool got its name, Siloam, which means “sent” because it was sent through the conduit into the city. Jesus who was the One “sent’ by God, “sent” the blind man to go wash in the place called “sent.”

So far the initiative has been entirely with Jesus but now the man (who has still not seen Jesus) obeys and washes, “and came home seeing.” The man’s response to Jesus’ command symbolizes the obedience that marks a genuine saving faith.

Perhaps the man needed to be involved in the healing process by some simple act of obedience to Jesus. We know that although the healing is as thorough as the blind man’s obedience, the healing power did not come from his obedience or from the pool, but from Jesus, the “sent one” himself.

By using the mud and having him go wash in the pool it gave the man something he had to do to be able to receive his sight. This reminds us of Naaman who was told by Elisha to wash in the Jordan to be healed from his leprosy. It reminds us of the importance of obedience. There is a close connection between obedience and experiencing the powerful work of God.

MacArthur, in his commentary, says, “The One who is the spiritual light of the world would also provide physical light for this man who had lived his entire life in darkness. The healing was a living parable, illustrating Jesus’ ministry as the Light shining in a spiritually darkened world. And Carson says, “Jesus having just declared that he is the light of the world now proceeds to illustrate the point by giving light to the man born blind. He is thereby obeying the one who sent him while many around him were shutting out the light. Which reminds us of our big idea: we can either receive the light or be blinded by it.

Next, in verses 8-12, we see the perplexity that comes from this sign that Jesus performed. This is what God’s Word says, 8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” 10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. 11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” 12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.

After the blind man is given his sight by Jesus he goes home “seeing.” In that day, a man blind from birth probably would not be able to support himself by getting a job or learning a trade, so he supported himself by begging. All his friends and neighbors knew this. They would have been so used to seeing him sitting by the city gates begging that when they saw him walking around with his sight they were perplexed and puzzled. Some found it easier to believe that the blind man had somehow disappeared, and the man before them was someone else entirely but still resembled him. They found it easier to believe in a case of mistaken identity than in a miraculous healing. But it’s all cut short by the insistent witness of the man that “I am the one.” He had difficulty in persuading people that he was really cured. But he stoutly maintained Jesus cured him.

Some must have been convinced that this was the same man so they asked him how he was now able to see. The only testimony the man can give is his summary of the facts of the case. He refers to the one who gave him light as “the man they call Jesus.” He had learned of his name from the talk of the time but had not yet seen him. His friend’s ask, “Where is this man?” not necessarily to check his story but in a natural desire to meet the man who had performed such an astonishing miracle. But the man didn’t know where Jesus was, and having never seen him, couldn’t have identified him in any case.

The ancient world had few answers for severe illnesses and disabilities which led many to look to magic and superstition. But here was a healer who did what he promised. A man well known as a beggar blind from birth could now see; this was unparalleled. The community investigates the man’s story. We have in abbreviated form debating that must have taken hours as they tried to verify the identity of the previously blind man and the identity of the healer. How did he do it? Can he do it to others? Where does his authority come from? Is this divine power?

The account of Jesus’ healing of the blind man beautifully illustrates the salvation process. Blinded by sin, lost sinners have no capacity to recognize the Savior or find him on their own. The blind man would not have been healed had Jesus not sought him and revealed himself to him. It is the same with our salvation. If God did not reach out to spiritually blind sinners like us, no one would be saved. And just as the blind man was healed only when he obeyed Jesus’ command and washed in the pool of Siloam, we are only saved when we humbly and obediently embrace the truth of the gospel. Which brings us to the third next step on the back of your communication card which is to receive the light of Jesus and be saved.

I started this sermon out by talking about physically seeing 20/20 and how with corrective lenses we can see clearly, correctly and completely. In our scripture this morning we saw Jesus heal the man’s physical blindness as well as his spiritually blindness which allowed him to spiritually see clearly, correctly and completely. Now I want to conclude with Seeing 2020. I am not talking about our physical sight but our future sight or our future vision. As you all know, on Wednesday of this week, we enter a new year in fact a new decade. We are starting the year 2020. And as we begin this New Year I wanted to challenge us to not only a personal spiritual 20/20 vision but a corporate spiritual 20/20 vision for the New Year 2020. When we accept Jesus as our Savior our spiritual lives are not supposed to stop there. We are called by God to continually grow as followers of Jesus Christ. In fact we are called by God to become more like his son every day. So in your bulletins I am sure you have seen the Spiritual Life Journal. It’s called, “Seeing 2020: Unity” and within its pages there are commitments to personal spiritual growth for this next year. I want to challenge each and every one of us to commit to these spiritual growth principles personally and corporately. If we make these commitments together, in the year 2020, we will see our relationship with Jesus and with each other more clearly, correctly and completely and we will become more unified as a body of believers here at Idaville Church.

There are six parts to this spiritual growth journal and six ways we can be unified as a body of believers. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. And Philippians 2:2 says, Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. You know what? We can be unified as a church. It is possible. Jesus calls us to be unified. The first way we can be unified is in Prayer. 1 John 5:14 says, This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. Prayer is important. We need to commit to praying daily for the needs of our families, our church family, our church and our community. We have all of our church’s prayer requests in one document out on the Information Station Wall. Please pick one up every Sunday and be praying for our church and our people.

The second way we can be unified is in the Word. Psalm 119:105 says Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. There are two commitments under Unity in the Word. One, is to read through the Bible during the year 2020. In the back of your journal there is a guide to read through the entire Bible this year. We can be doing this together. Two, is to memorize one verse a month during 2020. Again, you will find the verses for each month in your journal and we can be doing this together, as well.

The third way we can be unified is in Service. 1 Peter 4:10 says, Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. In the next couple of weeks we will be handing out spiritual gift surveys. If you don’t already know what your spiritual gifts are that survey will help you know them. We need to commit to serving God and others in our church and community throughout 2020. The fourth way we can be unified is in Giving. Proverbs 3:9 says, Honor God with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. We should be willing to commit to regular tithing in support of our ministries and missions. There is also an opportunity in your journal to commit to our GROW Capital Campaign.

The fifth way we can be unified is in our Relationships. Psalm 133:1 says, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live in unity! We need to commit to patience, forgiveness, and non-judgment toward others. The sixth way we can be unified is in the Gospel. 1 Peter 3:15 says, But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. We need to commit to sharing our faith with others and inviting others to join us in our fellowship at Idaville Church. We are called by God to the Great Commission. To Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples.

I hope you take this spiritual growth challenge and commit to doing the things in this journal. I pray that your prayer for Idaville Church is Unity. Which brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to commit to growing spiritually and be unified with the body of believers here at Idaville Church.

As the ushers prepare to take up the Communication cards and the worship team comes forward, let’s pray: God, I pray that we would commit to growing spiritually today and commit to unity with you and with each other. I pray that your Spirit will inhabit us and continue to teach us and convict us as we live for you. Thank you for this time to study your word and fellowship with your people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Religion is a system of beliefs or a code of moral conduct that qualifies or disqualifies a person based on their adherence and obedience to certain codes, rules, laws, traditions, or the performance of required acts.

In most religions what qualifies or disqualifies a person is being in a right standing with whatever “god” that religion believes in. Usually, the way to be in a right standing with that god is to earn your way by doing good deeds. ​​ You must earn the right to be reconciled with that god and what you do in this life determines your eternal destiny. ​​ It is purely based on works.  ​​ ​​​​ 

Christianity has been described this way: “The difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world is that all other religions are about man trying to reach up to God. ​​ Christianity is about God reaching down to man.” Christianity is completely different from religion in that it is based on grace.

Religion, almost universally, is enforced by those in power in an attempt to maintain, increase, or abuse their power over others. ​​ Religion is the creation of man and is not the intention or design of God. ​​ 

A modern day example (taken from the movie “Footloose”, starring Kevin Bacon) is a preacher who believes that dancing leads to promiscuity and destructive behavior. The Bible does not speak against dancing, but He uses or abuses his influence and his position of authority to convince his congregation that dancing is evil and forbids it. ​​ He sets up rules that are not in the Bible and adds additional beliefs that Jesus never endorsed. ​​ He is trying to control the people, using their trust of his authority to force them to believe his version of the truth.

This is still common today. People in churches add “requirements” to being a Christian. ​​ Some examples are being told to not drink alcohol, to not listen to certain types of music, insisting that church meet on certain days, only certain forms of music can be used in church, reciting ritualistic prayers, eating certain foods, performing certain rituals, salvation can’t be attained unless you belong to a certain denomination, or unless you get baptized, and being saved is conditional upon attending church or church membership.

We know that while Jesus was on the earth, religion was rampant. There was a group of corrupt religious leaders called the Pharisees. They had taken the Torah, the Word of God, passed down from Moses and the prophets, and had written a commentary on it interpreting what those scriptures said. This interpretation was called the Talmud. ​​ They then wrote another commentary on that commentary called the “Mishnah”. ​​ The Mishnah was a list of hundreds upon hundreds of rules that the people had to obey in order to be in a right relationship with God. ​​ These rules were created by man and had little basis in the actual scriptures.

The Pharisees used the people’s love for God (or fear of God) to control them, to limit their freedom, and to empty them of the relationship with God that was intended. ​​ When you practice religion, your relationship with God is degraded to a mathematical formula. ​​ Do this, don’t do that, and you are right in the eyes of God. ​​ It’s no wonder that Jesus and the Pharisees were at odds most of the time and that they were trying to arrest him or just outright kill him. Jesus was pretty much taking the Pharisees reason for being and telling the people they didn’t need to worry about all that.

This passage in chapter 8 verses 21-30 warns the custodians of tradition, the Pharisees, that their defense of these spiritual habits and rituals will be their undoing. This morning, we will see again that Jesus tells the Pharisees and the Jews who were there that he is going away and where he is going they cannot come because they will die in their sin. We will unpack the four reasons why Jesus said that they would die in their sin and those four reasons should give us caution this morning, as well, so we do not fall into the same religious trap that the Pharisees fell into in the first century.

I found this story that I think relates to this idea of religion pretty well. There once was a group of people who were going on a long journey. As they were going along their way they came across a sign pointing them to their destination. The signpost was there to convey them to their destination but instead they stop at the signpost and create a life for themselves under its painted words. They build a civilization there, celebrating the signpost and telling stories of how they arrived at the marker. Rituals evolve and songs are written. Books are published and liturgies follow. A few travel on and return, confirming that the sign does indeed lead to the place promised. But the second and third generation have built a life around the signpost and have forgotten the meaning and the reason for the journey. Their lore is built on stories of past travel, not on stories of arriving at the destination or on the prophetic call to get on with the journey themselves.

This is what the Pharisees in Jesus’ time had done. They knew that the destination was a right relationship with God the Father. God had given them the Ten Commandments to guide their lives in community together. If they kept the Ten Commandments they would be in a right relationship with God and with each other. The Ten Commandments was a kind of signpost that was to direct the people into a right relationship with God.

Somewhere along the line, the Pharisees made it all about the signpost (the Ten Commandments). By interpreting the commandments into thousands of rules to follow the common person was never able to obey every rule and regulation put forth by the Pharisees. That meant they were in a perpetual state of uncleanness meaning they were considered sinners and could not be in a right relationship with God. The Pharisees then flaunted that over the people and they believed they were the only ones in a right relationship with God. Worse than that though was that their salvation was all about following the rules they had set up. And because of that they missed that Jesus was the Messiah. They missed that it was about a relationship with him and not about religion.

Again, we do the same in our churches today. We focus on religion to the exclusion of relationship – relationship with God and relationship with each other. We put more emphasis on traditions, rituals and even serving others than we do worshipping Jesus. We need to be careful we don’t fall into the same trap of religion and miss being in relationship with Jesus. We don’t want to hear Jesus say to us, “I am going away and where I am going you can’t follow because you will die in your sin.” Which brings us to the big idea that John wants us to understand this morning: we need to pursue the destination and not stop and celebrate the signpost. Our destination should be a relationship with Jesus and we need to focus on him and not the signpost of religion.

Let’s pray and dedicate ourselves and our worship to the Lord as we prepare to study his Word. Dear Holy God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us this morning so we can hear from you and understand what it is you want us to glean from your Word. Open our hearts to minds to your Spirit. Help us to put off religion and strive to daily strengthen our relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This morning, we are in the book of John chapter 8 starting with verse 21. This is what God’s Word says, 21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” ​​ 

Jesus reveals that He is "going away". He’s speaking of his impending death, resurrection and ascension. These were all aspects of the promised Messiah that had been revealed in prophecy. The Pharisees were very religious people and experts in all matters concerning the Law. They knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah. They had been looking for the arrival of the Promised One but when the Messiah was right in front of them they missed Him! And because they rejected him as the Messiah, Jesus said that they would continue to look for the Messiah even after he was gone and would end up dying in their sin. Morris says, “To die in one’s sin unrepented and unatoned is the supreme disaster.” And because they would die in their sin they could not go where he was going which was back to his Father in Heaven.

There are many people who will die in their sin because they think they have it all figured out! They don’t need Jesus, they don’t need a Savior. They may be extremely religious people just as the Pharisees were. They have checked off all of the boxes. They have joined a church. They have been baptized. They attend services on a regular basis. They pay their tithes. They say their prayers and read their Bibles. The problem is they have been deceived. They possess religion. They follow tradition. They observe the rituals. They go through the motions. But they have never truly submitted their lives to Christ.

Jesus describes what will happen to these deceived religious people in Matthew 7:22-23. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ If you notice, these are not unbelievers. These are believers and when they come before God they will realize then that it was too late. We need to pursue the destination and not stop and celebrate the signpost.

As I mentioned earlier this passage reveals four ways we can ensure the tragic and eternal death of dying in our sin. The first way is self-righteousness and is found in verse 22. This is what God’s Word says, 22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

The response of the Jews was to turn his warning into a joke. “Surely he will not kill himself, will he?” they ask sarcastically. They understood Jesus was speaking about his death. Ironically, those who were plotting to kill Jesus asked if he intended to commit suicide. The Jews abhorred suicide and believed that those who killed themselves would go to the blackest part of hell. Since they assumed they were going to heaven, the Jews mockingly suggested that Jesus must be speaking of killing himself in which case he would surely go to Hell. Strongly confident in their self-righteousness, they were not just deaf to Jesus’ words they mockingly, blashphemously twisted their meaning.

Self-righteousness is a deadly deception and is contrary to genuine salvation. It is the idea that you are good enough for heaven without Jesus. Judaism in Jesus’ day was an intricate legalistic system of salvation by human achievement. They based their salvation on performing good works, observing ceremonies and rituals and above all keeping the law, at least outwardly. The truth that salvation couldn’t be attained through self-righteousness should have come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the OT. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” The NT also talks about self-righteousness. Matthew 23:28 says, “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” And Matthew 5:20 says, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Pharisees were trusting in their own works and their own self-righteousness to get them to Heaven. Jesus tells them because of that they would never see heaven. We need to examine ourselves too. Are we trying to get to heaven on our own righteousness? Are we trying to follow all the rules and regulations thinking that’s what will get us there. We need to throw off the mantle of self-righteousness and lean on the righteousness of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins and calls us to accept him as our Savior. That is what gets us past the signpost of religion to the destination of being in a relationship with Jesus. Jared C. Wilson said, “Conversion to Christ produces true religion. Conversion to religion produces the same old self-righteousness. Which brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to accept the righteousness of Christ and not rely on my own self-righteousness.

The second way we can ensure dying in our sin is by being worldly. We see this in verse 23. This is what God’s Word says, 23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

Jesus points out that their origin like their destination was different from his. They were from below and from the world. The Greek word for world (kosmos) refers to the invisible spiritual system of evil that opposes the kingship of God and is controlled by Satan. The world does not recognize Jesus’ true identity. In sharp contrast Jesus is “from above” and “not of this world.” ​​ 

The Pharisees were of this world and focused on it. They indulged in the wickedness, temptations and pleasures of this life. Their attention was concentrated on this world instead of doing God’s will. They wanted the blessings of God without having a relationship with him. As Colossians 3:2 says, God's people are to "set their affection on things above, not on things on the earth". And in I John 2:15, John said, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”

Jesus gives us an example of loving the world in Luke 14:16-24. He shares a parable of a man who prepared a great feast and invited many people to come. Initially they accepted the invitation but when the meal was ready they began to make excuses. One bought some land and had to go see it. One bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to try them out. One got married and used his wife as an excuse. The three excuses used in this parable, work, possessions and family, are the same three excuses we use today. We put work, material goods and our family first and never consider eternal things. Maybe you are trying to climb the corporate ladder or trying to find the perfect wife or the perfect husband or trying to build the biggest house or buy the nicest car. Your family has to have the finest, nicest and best things available. If so, maybe you are focused on the world and not on the things of God.

Consider the question Jesus posed in Matthew 16:26. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” And in Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Work, possessions and family are not evil in themselves. But if our priorities aren't in order they could cost us eternally! If we don’t put our relationship with Jesus first those excuses could cause us to die in our sin, miss out on Heaven and cause us to be separated from God for all eternity. These same three excuses can cause us to miss out on the destination because we are too busy celebrating the signpost. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to put my priorities in the proper order and seek first the kingdom of God.

The third way we can ensure dying in our sin is by unbelief. We see this in verse 24. This is what God’s word says, 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

Jesus goes beyond the self-righteousness and the worldliness of the Pharisees to the ultimate issue which was their unbelief. The only way to avoid dying in their sins was to believe in Jesus and who he was. He said that those who reject that he is “I am” will die in their sins. What was Jesus saying here? There may be two reasons that he used the phrase, “I am he.” First, by using “I am” it was a direct claim to full deity. This was the name that God gave Moses in Exodus 3:14 to take back to the Israelites to prove he had come from God. Jesus was applying to himself this name of God that was so sacred that the Jewish people refused to even pronounce it. And the Pharisees were so shocked by Jesus’ use of that name in reference to himself that later in verse 59 they attempted to stone him for blasphemy.

Second, Jesus was claiming total intimacy with the Father and that he was uniquely commissioned to deliver a message of salvation from the one who sent him. We see this in Isaiah 43:10-12. “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.

The point is this. When Jesus said, “if you do not believe that “I am he” he is claiming to be God. But there is more to it than that. Jesus, in using this language in this context, is claiming to be the one that Isaiah spoke of. He is claiming to be the Savior of the World, the Messiah.

To be a Christian we need to believe the full biblical revelation of all Jesus is: that he is eternal, he is the second person of the trinity, he came to this earth as God incarnate, he was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, that his death on the cross is the only sufficient sacrifice for our sins, that he rose from the dead and ascended to the Father in heaven, that he intercedes for us now and he will one day return to take us there. Persistent unwillingness to believe the truth about Jesus precludes the possibility of forgiveness since salvation can only come through faith in him.

Many people today believe that Jesus is just one of many ways to Heaven. Some don't believe in Him at all. Some are trusting in themselves and their own morality. Some have put their trust in men, such as, Joseph Smith, Buddha or Muhammad. Some are still looking for the Messiah to arrive. But one day all will see that Jesus is Lord! Philippians 2:10-11 says, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus is telling us the same thing He told the Pharisees. We must believe that Jesus is God, that he is the Savior of the world and accept His invitation to salvation. And if you don’t believe you will die in your sins! Maybe you are here this morning and you don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God. Maybe you’re not sold on Jesus being the only way to Heaven. Maybe you are happy celebrating the signpost and not worried about your final destination. The third next step on the back of your communication card may be for you. My next step is to believe that Jesus is who he says he is and accept him as my Lord and Savior.

The final way that we can ensure dying in our sin is by willfully rejecting Jesus. We see this in verses 25-30. This is what God’s Word says, 25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” 27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

The Pharisees were held captive by continuing to willfully reject Jesus. ​​ Their question, “Who are you?” was amazing in light of all the miraculous signs he had performed and the repeated claims he had already made. They may have really meant, “Who are you to tell us we will die in our sins?” The question still reflected their stubborn, willful rejection. Jesus merely replies that he was who he had been claiming to be from the beginning of his ministry. He had nothing more to say to their willful hard-hearted unbelief.

But Jesus did have many things to speak and to judge concerning them. They had been given more than enough revelation to be held responsible; their rejection of him was inexcusable. His judgment of them would be in perfect harmony with the Father’s will for it was the Father who sent him and Jesus spoke only the things he had heard from him.

Incredibly, despite the fact that Jesus had spoken so clearly to them they still did not realize that he was speaking about God. They had no ears to hear because of the deceptive power of their willful ignorance. There was coming a day, however, when the truth of Jesus’ claims would be confirmed. He said, “When you lift up the Son of Man then you will know that I am he.” Jesus’ work on the cross proved that he spoke the things the Father taught him, that the Father sent him and was with him, and that he always did the things that were pleasing to the Father. The cross revealed exactly who Jesus was; that he was the Messiah that they were waiting for. And so compelling was Jesus’ teaching that verse 30 says that many put their faith in him.

D.L. Moody tells of a man who felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and desired to be saved. But he was afraid that his friends would laugh at him. The spirit was striving with this man. Each night he came back to the revival meetings...for weeks he came. It was as if the man would step to the very threshold of Heaven but then he would hesitate to take the next step. There came a day when the Spirit of God left him... the conviction was gone. Months later Moody went to witness once again to this man. Here is his reply: "Mr. Moody," said he, "I have made up my mind to become a Christian. My mind is fully made up to that, but I won't be one just now. I am going to Michigan to buy a farm and settle down, and then I will become a Christian." Moody pleaded with him to get saved while he had the opportunity. He simply said "not yet, I will risk it". One Thursday, about noon, his wife called for Mr. Moody to come quickly to their home. He was sick and the doctors said there was no hope of a recovery. Moody went in to the man's room and he heard these words - "Mr. Moody, you need not talk to me anymore. It is too late. My heart is as hard as the iron in that stove there. My damnation is sealed, and I shall be in hell in a little while." Moody tried to tell him of Jesus' love and God's forgiveness, but he said, "Mr. Moody, I tell you there is no hope for me." The man lingered until the sun went down. From noon until he died all he was heard to say was, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved." Hour after hour he would say again those awful words, just before he drew his last breath his wife heard him mutter, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved." Moody concluded the story this way: He lived a Christless life, he died a Christless death, we wrapped him in a Christless shroud and took him away to a Christless grave. The man died in his sins and ever since has been in a Christless eternity!

There are many people who believe in Jesus, but they refuse to surrender to Him. There are many people who know what the Bible says, but reject Jesus and His offer of salvation. There are people who continue to be blinded by the world no matter what they hear on a Sunday morning or the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They continue to reject a relationship with Jesus and continue to celebrate the signpost. They risk dying in their sins, because their defiant rejection will be rewarded with rejection. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to stop willfully rejecting Jesus and surrender my life to him. ​​ 

In closing, I am going to play a song by Todd Agnew called My Jesus. Please, listen to the words as it plays.

In our scripture this morning, Jesus is confronting “the world” but it is a religious world, a world of unbelief but a religious world with spiritual appetites. The Jews were earnestly seeking the Messiah, praying fervently to God, following the scriptures and worshipping regularly. Those whose hearts were inclined to hear God’s new voice in the world quickly recognized this voice in Jesus and followed him. Those who were entrenched in the traditions of their religious world, whose spiritual passions betrayed them and closed their eyes and ears were unable to find anything redeeming in Jesus’ life work.

What would happen if Jesus walked into our churches, pick up a religious symbol like he did at the Feast of Tabernacles and challenged the symbol’s original meaning. Would we cheer or would we fight. Suddenly we might find ourselves defending “religion” instead of the Christian faith. We might explain that the old meaning, the old songs and the old forms have worked just fine for generations. We might challenge this newcomer and demand if he is really a messenger from God. When he pressed his claims powerfully, we would be forced either to let go of our former position and become a believer or argue and rebel.

This reflex that cannot see God in the prophetic voice of Jesus, that rebels, fights and attacks, is the work of Satan. It is Satan’s work among religious people. It is the reflex to make the human voice preeminent to the voice of God. It is the reflex to see it as an act of devotion and piety to stop anyone who would upset what we had built in God’s name. Can our religion become life under the signpost? Can it simply be a recitation of ancestry and tradition, a defense of all that is holy and good and spiritual but knows little of God. Later on in John 8:47, Jesus says the problem is that his audience “does not hear” any longer. This, he suggests, is evidence that they do not belong to God. Our scripture this morning was a severe call to Judaism that it must repent but it is also a call to repentance for us too, who have taken up the mantle worn by the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. ​​ May we take this call to repentance seriously so we don’t risk dying in our sin and spend eternity separated from God and his son, Jesus.

As the praise team comes to lead us in our final song and the ushers prepare to take up the communication cards, let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, help us to lose our religion. Help us to pursue the destination of a relationship with your son, Jesus. Help us to make it all about you and not ourselves. Help us to rely on your righteousness and not our own. Take us from this place and give us divine appointments to share your love and your gospel to those who need to hear it. Let us do it with a spirit of humility and in an attitude of love and not condemnation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



Over the past 75 years there have been many television game shows involving telling the truth or trying to trick people by lying to them. To Tell the Truth was a television game show in which four celebrity panelists are presented with three contestants and must identify which is the "central character" whose unusual occupation or experience has been read out by the show's host. When the panelists question the contestants, the two "impostors" may lie and the "central character" must tell the truth.

Another was the game show, Truth or Consequences. On the show, contestants received roughly two seconds to answer a trivia question correctly before the buzzer sounded. It was usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly and of course there wasn’t a lot of time given for the contestant to answer. If the contestant could not complete the "truth" portion (which they usually couldn’t), there would be "consequences," usually a zany and embarrassing stunt.

Over the years in the youth groups I have been a part of we have played the game “Two Truths and a Lie” in order to get to know each other better. The idea is for the group to identify which of three statements is the lie. I have found that it is difficult to distinguish between the truths and the lie because the lie is usually very believable.

I want to play a little game of true and false with you this morning. I am going to say some statements and I want you to tell me if you think that statement is true or false. The first one is one dog year is equivalent to seven human years. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? Next, drinking 8 eight ounce glasses of water a day will aid in good health? How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? Next, Napoleon was short. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? Reducing salt intake will prevent heart attacks or strokes. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false?

Just so you know, all of these statements are false. Most people think you just multiply by seven to get your dog’s age, but they’re wrong. It’s just a made-up number that’s been circulating since the 13th century. Also, it has never been shown that reducing your salt intake will prevent heart attacks or strokes and there’s good reason to believe that Napoleon was actually a bit taller than the average Frenchman of his day.

Here are some others: We only use ten percent of our brains. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? We lose most of our body heat through our heads. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? If you swallow chewing gum, it will stay in your system for seven years. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false?

If you answered “true” to any of these, you’re guilty of believing falsehoods. But don’t feel too bad. According to the British Medical Journal, even doctors endorse many of these so-called ‘facts,’ and they show up frequently in both the popular press as well as medical publications.

According to research whether we realize it or not, most of us harbor at least some false beliefs. Why do we so easily believe false things? Psychologists have shown that we all tend to make mental shortcuts and those shortcuts can explain a lot about how false notions take root. People routinely use mental shortcuts to understand what happens around them because they don't always have the time or energy to sit down and carefully examine all that happens to them. So, we tend to use quick and largely unconscious rules-of-thumb to determine what we should believe—and these shortcuts sometimes steer us in the wrong direction. Here are some of the shortcuts we use. The first is what they call the “availability heuristic.”

If I asked you, which job is more dangerous—working as a police officer or a fisherman, what would you say? If you guessed police officer, you’re wrong. According to figures from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, fishing workers are ten times more likely than police to be killed on the job. The reason most of us believe that police officers are more likely to die at work is because of the availability heuristic, a mental shortcut that can lead us to overestimate the frequency of an event when that event is more “available” or vivid in our memory. When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, it’s widely reported in the news and sticks in our memory, so we tend to believe it must be more common than deaths in other professions. Unless we’re careful, the vivid nature of the news stories in our memory can unconsciously bias our estimate of how often these events actually happen.

The second shortcut we take is “emotional reasoning.” Whether we like it or not, all of us can be powerfully swayed by our emotions. We'd like to think that our feelings are driven by logic and reason. Unfortunately, this relationship is often reversed. Sometimes we end up using our reasoning ability to justify or defend a conclusion that we’ve already drawn based on our emotions. This phenomenon, called emotional reasoning, can lead us astray without our ever knowing.

The third shortcut is “confirmation bias.” Once we have a belief, we tend to cling to it, even when it’s untrue. The confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that supports what we already believe. We do this in two important ways. First, we tend to surround ourselves with messages that confirm our pre-existing opinions. Second, we tend to ignore or discount messages that disprove our beliefs. This protects us from having to change our beliefs. When our ideas are true, this probably isn’t such a bad thing. Unfortunately, it also can keep us firmly believing things that are false.

Now, it has never hurt anyone to believe that we use only ten percent of our brain capacity and it doesn’t make a big difference if your dog is 70 or 60 years of age in human years. But there are things that if we don’t believe they are true could bring serious consequences. One that comes to mind is a hot stove. If we don’t believe that the stove is hot and we touch it, it will burn us.

But when it comes to spiritual things, not believing in the truth can bring even more serious consequences. Which brings us to our scripture this morning.

According to scholars, our story takes place probably during the month of October of AD 29. The people of Israel had come to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Feast of Tabernacles. But there was a different atmosphere at the feast that year - beneath the surface of the usual worship rituals and prayers led by the priests each day there was plenty of whispering, quiet discussions and arguments going on in the crowds. And they were all talking about the same person - Jesus of Nazareth. Some were excitedly telling others about His miracles they had witnessed. Others were expressing their doubts about Jesus. Many were curious to know His whereabouts because 3 days of the feast had already passed and He was nowhere to be seen. The Jewish leaders were also anxiously looking for Jesus, because they wanted to get rid of Him.

They wanted to get rid of him because He had spoken against them and had violated the Sabbath law. They had judged Him wrongly based on their own man-made rules and on His outward appearance and according to their unrighteous judgment Jesus was worthy of death. Now they were looking for an opportunity to have Him arrested and condemned.

But when Jesus finally made His presence known to the crowds on the 4th day of the feast these Jewish leaders seemed to have forgotten all that they had planned to do against Him. Why? Maybe it was because of the unusual power and authority with which He spoke and taught the people. It left the Jewish leaders spell-bound and wondering how He could teach the way He did. They were so amazed at this that none of them tried to stop Him or rebuke Him or remove Him. Or, as Pastor Stuart related to us last week, Jesus’ identity may have been veiled for a little while and that could have been why the religious leaders did not immediately take action.

We also see that the people were confused about who Jesus was because they saw how the religious leaders were reacting to him. They had preconceived ideas about what they thought was true about Jesus. They did not believe in Him even when he told them the truth about who he was. They were swayed by their emotions about Jesus and had been biased against him. The problem was that because of their unbelief Jesus said that when the time comes for him to leave they wouldn’t be able to find him and the consequence of their unbelief would be very serious. The same is true for us today. If we do not believe in who Jesus is there will be serious consequences for us as well. Our consequence will be eternal separation from God and that brings us to the big idea that John wants us to know this morning which is “We need to know the truth in order to see the truth.” We need to know Jesus and be in relationship with him now on the earth so that when we die we will see him in heaven and spend eternity with him there. ​​ 

But before we dive into our scripture this morning, let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word and for its eternal truths that guide us day by day. We thank you most of all for your living Word, Jesus Christ, and the truth that he is your Son and he is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Teach us to have eyes to see and ears to hear your truth when this world tries to feed us its lies. Help our thoughts to be your thoughts, and our ways to be your ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our scripture this morning is found in John chapter 7 verses 25-36 and the first point we are going to unpack is “truth.” God cares about truth. We know this because the word "truth" is found over a hundred times in the New Testament. The truth always matters to God, and it ought to matter to us. But we live in a day when a lot of people believe that truth doesn't matter. They actually believe there is no such thing as an objective or absolute truth meaning you can have your truth, and I can have mine. In October 2018, the Christian Institute of England reported on a new survey for the Coalition for Marriage. Among the 2,000 people asked, 32 percent supported self-definition of race. Nineteen percent thought it was okay for people to choose their age. Ten percent of those people also said it was okay for you to choose your own species! In other words: If they got up tomorrow and decided they wanted to be a horse, then that is what they would be. That and more are the kinds of things that happen when people reject the reality of truth, especially when they reject the greatest truth of all which is that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We know that the truth of Jesus Christ matters! It matters that Jesus is sent from God and if we don’t believe in the one that God sent there will be serious consequences.

In verses 25-29, we are going to see people who are looking for the truth, they are questioning the truth and we are going to see Jesus telling them the truth. Follow along as I read verses 25-29. This is what God’s Word says: 25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” 28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

First, we see that it is “some of the people from Jerusalem” and not the multitude who are confused about the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. Many in the multitude who were from other places would not have known of the religious leaders’ plot to kill Jesus, but the people from Jerusalem are aware of it and talk about it amongst themselves.

They knew the dominating, ruthless, manipulating authority of the Jewish leaders in their society. They knew the Pharisees would not mess around or put up with anyone who upset the status quo. They knew the outcome of Jesus’ bold words should be His death.

Second, since the religious authorities controlled the merchandising area of the temple court where Jesus was teaching, the people reach the possible conclusion that maybe the rulers’ failure to arrest Jesus was because they recognized His claims to be the Messiah were true.

This leads to a discussion of His origins. In a culture without surnames, the place of origin was a means of personal identification. “Jesus son of Joseph” or “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Joseph of Arimathea” are typical identifiers. Once again the misunderstanding of the crowd is displayed by their statement. The crowd is examining Jesus on an earthly level and think that since they can trace his human origins, He is disqualified from messianic status.

They held to the erroneous popular belief that the Messiah would appear suddenly without indication of His origin based on some vague inferences from the Apocrypha. The rabbis taught that the Messiah would make Himself known suddenly at the temple and without warning according to their understanding of the prophet Malachi. This was probably based on Malachi 3:1. God is speaking and says, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming.” The thing was Jesus actually fulfilled that prophecy when He went into the temple and cleansed it at the beginning of His public ministry in John 2:13-16. There was something terribly wrong about the source the Jews placed their confidence in for information about the Messiah. That source was not the scriptures but the Jewish traditions regarding Him. There is no verse or passage of Scripture that teaches when the Messiah comes into the world no one would know where He is from or that He would appear mysteriously 'out of nowhere.’ This unbiblical view was apparently quite widespread among the Jews. Another popular belief was that the immediate ancestry of the Messiah would not be known. ​​ In fact, many of them believed that the Messiah Himself wouldn’t know who He was or where He was from. Since they knew that Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth and he lived in a plain house in Galilee, then He could not be the Messiah. They concluded the Messiah could not come from a background like Jesus had. But those of this tradition were ignoring that God had already clearly predicted that the Messiah would arise from the tribe of Judah in Genesis 49:10. Listen to that: The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. God also revealed that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2. Listen as I read that verse: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” God also predicted the Messiah’s birth in Isaiah 7:14 and had revealed in the Scriptures and that he would be called a Nazarene in Mathew 2:23.

Jesus knew what all the conflicting voices in the crowd were saying and in verse 28, He interrupts His teaching and cries out to the crowd with a loud voice so that everyone could hear. There is more here than just speaking loud to be heard. “Loud voice” in Hebrew is used for the voice of God and Jesus answers them by making an astounding claim. There is irony in his statement as he says they know him and where he is from. In a sense that is true but in a far more important sense they do not. Here is our truth this morning: Jesus has come from God and knows God with an unparalleled intimacy. This was paramount to a divine claim but it broke with all of the precepts of Judaism. A Messiah might be powerfully sent by God, but Jesus was claiming to know God and to actually be the Son of God, who has the same authority as God because of His divine origins.

Just as in chapter 5, Jesus says again that the Jews’ inability to comprehend this reality is evidence that they don’t really know God. The thought they knew God, but how could they really have known God when they had not placed their confidence in the Scriptures that He had given them. Whatever real knowledge they had of God was merely superficial. If they had truly known God, they would not have failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and to believe in Him.

Then in verse 29 just as Jesus claimed his teaching came directly from the Father he also claims his mission comes directly from God. He says “I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” The I’s are emphatic. Jesus’ claim is simple and straight forward. No one truly knows the Father but His Son with whom the Father shares His divinity and purpose.

With such clear information in the Scriptures about the Messiah, why did the Jews believe that His origins would be unknown? The reason is they had not placed their confidence in the Scriptures. They allowed their ideas of the Messiah to be determined by the imaginations of men. Their misplaced confidence was therefore the cause of their ignorance which in turn caused them to wrongfully reject Jesus as their Messiah.

Nothing has really changed. This still occurs today. People do not place their confidence in the Bible about who Jesus is but in man-made religions and who they say Jesus is. The Mormons believe that God and Jesus are not one and the same but are two distinct beings. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah created Jesus as the archangel Michael and that Jesus did raise spiritually from the dead but not physically. We don’t really need to wonder why people today don’t believe in Jesus as the only way to God when they are hearing so many other conflicting man-made views of who Jesus is. But Christians also struggle with the Bible and what it says. One example is whether there is a Hell or not. The argument is that God is love and so there is no Hell because he wouldn’t send those he loves to an eternal separation from himself. The truth is yes God is love but he is also holy and just and we have been given free choice to choose. We can choose Jesus as our Savior and spend eternity in Heaven with Him or we can reject Jesus as our Savior condemn ourselves to eternal separation from God in Hell. God’s love is not in question here, but what is, is our love for God and in being a fully committed disciple of Jesus. We need to read and know what the scripture says so we can have confidence in them and not be swayed by the world and other religions into believing the lies it tells about Jesus just like the Jews believed the lies about the Messiah in Jesus’ time. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card. Maybe this next step is for you. My next step is to believe in and hunger for the truth of God’s Word as the final authority in every area of my life.

The second point we are going to unpack this morning is “division.” In verses 30-32 we will see that when Jesus speaks the truth there is division amongst the people. Follow along as I read verses 30-32. This is what God’s Word says, 30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

In verse 30, we see that Jesus’ claim that he was the Messiah causes division among the people. It says some in the crowd try to seize him for claiming to be the Messiah. These words enraged those from Jerusalem. If Jesus was not the Messiah, which is what those from Jerusalem had just concluded, then the words of Jesus were blasphemy against God rather than the truth. They wanted to immediately arrest Him.

But their efforts are frustrated. It says no one could lay a hand on him because his “hour” had not yet come. This word “hour” is used as a marker of time but means much more than just chronological time. Jesus was talking about the hour that he would go to the cross. John spoke of this special hour 8 times in his Gospel. Jesus’ first reference to his “hour” was to His mother in John 2:4, when he said, "'Mine hour is not yet come” and the last was to His Father in John 17:1, when he said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” Everything Jesus did, had to do with this hour. All of Jesus’ ministry pointed to this hour. But God’s plan and timing was perfect and only when the appointed time had come for Jesus to be taken to the cross would he be given over to the authorities and not a moment before.

In verse 31, we see that many in the crowd believed in Him. Their reason for believing in Jesus was not a profound one. They could not conceive that when the Messiah came He would do more signs than Jesus.

The truth about Jesus caused division among the people and this division caused the Pharisees to finally take action against Jesus. They heard the favorable things the crowd was saying about Jesus and were further enraged. Their dominating opinion did not permit the people to speak favorably in public about him. The religious leadership in Jerusalem was vehemently opposed to Jesus and willing to employ any resources at its disposal to get rid of Him. So they seek help from the High Priest, who was a Sadducee. Normally, these groups hated each other and had even fought wars against each other, but now they were united against a common foe and they sent the Temple police to arrest Jesus.


The truths in the Bible and the truth about Jesus brings division between Christians and the world today. ​​ We can start with Creation. The Bible says that God created the world in 7 days but the world discounts a creator and says the earth was created by a Big Bang or by chance. Next, we see that the Bible says marriage is to be between a man and a woman but the world says that a man can be married to another man and a woman can be married to another woman and it’s ok. The argument is that doesn’t God just want us all to be happy? In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But the world tells us that there are many ways to get to God. You can believe in any religion you want and you will still go to Heaven. The truth is that there are many gods but only one true God and the only way to him is by believing in his son Jesus Christ and what he came to earth to do.

But we also see division in the church when we take our eyes off Jesus and the Great Commission and look to ourselves. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important truth that we can share with those in our community who do not know Jesus. We must be unified as a body of believers if we are ever going to reach our community for him. If fact I truly believe that we must be unified as a body of believers if we even want Jesus to entrust us with reaching our community for him. Which brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card. Maybe this one is for you. My next step is to be in unity with this body of believers so that God will entrust us to reach our community for him.

The final point we are going to unpack this morning is “consequences.” In verses 33-36 we will see that not believing in Jesus as the way the truth and the life will have eternal consequences.

This is what God’s Word says, 33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

In verse 33, Jesus knowing that His time on earth was drawing to a close spoke of His coming death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. In verse 34, he warns the people that eternal separation from God is the consequence for those who reject Jesus.

They do not understand his statement because they continued to think in earthly terms about Jesus and not in spiritual ones. Their responses in verses 35-36 shows that they think Jesus is talking about some physical place on earth such as another country. They seem to be mocking Jesus when they speculate that “this man” (a demeaning way of referring to Jesus) may leave Jerusalem and go among the Greeks. ​​ The only place these Jews would not go was among the Greeks or the Gentiles, so they speculate that Jesus is simply leaving Israel to go and teach the Jews who lived outside of Israel. The Jews failed to grasp Jesus’ meaning again.

They completely missed His statement that He was returning to “Him who sent Me.” Jesus made four such references in this dialogue and had already identified the “Him” as God. Because they missed that, they did not understand that they would not be able to find Jesus in the future because He was returning to God. They also missed the rebuke that they would not be able to go to heaven where Jesus would be.

Even more tragic was if they had wanted to know the truth about Jesus, He was still present with them. There was still a hope that the Jews could “go with him.” The hope is found in the words of Jesus in verse 33, 'Yet a little while am I with you.' This means that the door had not been completely shut yet. The day of grace was not yet over for them. Jesus was lovingly extending His grace to them to come out of their ignorance and into the saving knowledge of their Messiah. But they remained arrogant and debated it amongst themselves instead.

Up to this point, Jesus has been at work in the world, searching for those who would believe in him. But, once He departed, God’s fullest revelation would be withdrawn. They would search for deliverance and salvation, trying to find what they have tragically opposed and missed. Jesus’ ministry demanded an allegiance to Him by believing in what He said about himself. Many were hanging on to their own understanding or the understanding of the religious leaders instead of being willing to trust the convicting, teaching, and leading of the Holy Spirit of God.

We too must make up our mind about Jesus. If we do not chose to follow Him and His life challenging teachings, then where He goes we will not be able to go either. That may suit us well on this earth but it will not suit us when it is time to go into eternity. Your eternal destiny depends on believing in Jesus while you still have the opportunity. Which reminds us of our big idea, “We need to know the truth in order to see the truth.”

Which brings us to the third next step on the back of your communication card. Maybe this next step is for you. My next step is to turn my life over to Jesus and believe in him as my Lord and Savior. If you have taken that next step this morning for the first time please put your name on the front so Pastor Stuart and I can contact you about your decision to follow Jesus.

Now maybe you have already accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior but you want to rededicate your life to following him and being a totally committed disciple of his. If so, the last next step is for you. My next step is to rededicate my life to following Jesus and become a totally committed disciple of His.  ​​ ​​​​ 

I want to conclude with a story. A successful young lawyer in Hungary during the 1950s was a strong believer in freedom for his country. ​​ When the uprising failed, he was forced to flee the country. ​​ He arrived in the U.S. with no money, no job, and no friends. ​​ He was, however, well-educated; he spoke and wrote several languages, including English. ​​ For several months he tried to get a job in a law office, but because of his lack of familiarity with American law, he received only polite refusals.

Finally, it occurred to him that with his knowledge of language he might be able to get a job with an import-export company. ​​ He selected one such company and wrote a letter to the owner. Two weeks later he received an answer but was hardly prepared for the vindictiveness of the man’s reply. ​​ Among other things, it said that even if they did need someone, they wouldn’t hire him because he couldn’t even write good English.

Crushed, this young lawyer’s hurt quickly turned to anger. ​​ What right did this rude, arrogant man have to tell him that he couldn’t write the language! ​​ The man was obviously crude and uneducated — his letter was chock-full of grammatical errors! ​​ So he sat down and, in the white heat of anger, wrote a scathing reply, calculated to rip the man to shreds. ​​ When he’d finished, however, as he was reading it over, his anger began to drain away and he remembered the Bible verse, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”

No, he wouldn’t mail the letter. ​​ Maybe the man was right. ​​ English was not his native tongue. ​​ Maybe he did need to further study it. ​​ Possibly this man had done him a favor by making him realize he did need to work harder on perfecting his English. ​​ He tore up the letter and wrote another. ​​ This time he apologized for the previous letter, explained his situation, and thanked the man for pointing out his need for further study.

Two days later he received a phone call inviting him to New York for an interview. ​​ A week later he went to work for them as a correspondent. ​​ Later, he became vice president and executive officer of the company, destined to succeed the man he had hated and sought revenge against for a fleeting moment — and then resisted.

Life is filled with choices, isn’t it? ​​ Most of those choices have a reason and a motive behind them. ​​ Some of our choices can have long-lasting effects, as that illustration pointed out. ​​ The only choice in this life that will change the direction of our lives for eternity is the personal choice to believe in Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior and follow Him. ​​ In verse 28, after describing His relationship to His heavenly Father, He looked around at His listeners and said: “you do not know him.” Do you know God? It is not possible to know God without having a personal and intimate relationship with Him. ​​ It’s not possible without knowing, following and obeying the One whom He has sent. ​​ This is an opportunity to reconsider what you believe about Jesus Christ. ​​ Please don’t turn it down. ​​ Don’t respond to the truths of God’s Word with anger, hatred, or excuses. ​​ Resist that urge. ​​ Tear up those thoughts and feelings and start over again.  ​​​​ Let God give you a fresh perspective and a new life as a result of believing in Jesus Christ and following Him. ​​ He will give you peace, joy, and purpose, with no regrets.

As the ushers prepare to collect the communication cards and the praise team comes forward to lead us in our final song let’s pray:

God, I thank you for your Word. I thank you for the truth of your Word and truth of your son, Jesus. I pray that as we leave this time together and go out into the world that we would be truth amongst the lies and that we would be light amongst the darkness. I pray that we would strive to be unified behind the Great Commission that you gave us to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples. Help us to strive for holiness in our daily lives and bring revival to our hearts and minds. In Jesus’ name, Amen.





This morning, we are participating and celebrating this Back to Church Sunday as part of a national movement. This is a great opportunity and we are excited to be joining with other parts of the body of Christ across the country to reflect on and reclaim the true nature of the church as a place and expression of love, peace, and hope for our friends, neighbors, communities, and world. As a church, we are the collective hands and feet of Christ, who reflect Him and do His work in the world as we grow in our relationships with Him and with each other. So whether you are new to Idaville Church or have been here all your lives or somewhere in between, we are better together.

This phrase, “Back to Church” got me to thinking about the reasons why people leave the church and don’t come back, maybe, for a month, a year, or even longer. So, of course, I googled it. Here are some of the reasons I found why people leave the church. One, they got out of the habit. They stopped going one Sunday and that one Sunday became two and then four and then a year later they are still not back in church. Two, they were hurt by someone or something that happened in the church and stopped going to church. Third, they never felt connected to others in the church. Four, some stop going to church because a favorite pastor left or retired. Five, sometimes young people stop going to church after high school. They go off to college and get out of the habit and stop going altogether. Finally, some people move away or get a new job with different hours and stop going to church.

Now I think it’s only fair to also tell you the reasons why people come back to church and maybe you can identify with one of these reasons. First, people come back to church because they were invited. That is the number one reason why people come back to church. Two, some people start going back to church because they’ve passed by a church and something stood out to them, maybe it’s the modern look of the building or the denomination. Three, some see the advertising on the church’s website or Facebook page and they decide to try that church out. Four, people get married, have kids and realize they want to bring their kids up in the church like they had been. Five, whatever causes them to stop going to church in the first place ends, like a job, and they go back to church. Lastly, the Holy Spirit draws them back to church.

Which brings me to my story of going back to church. When I was about 18 or 19, working on my Associates degree in Law Enforcement, and I started working part time as a security guard in two office high rise buildings. I worked on Friday and Saturday nights from 11 pm to 7 am and for the year I worked there, except for a couple of times, probably Christmas and Easter, I did not go to church. I used the excuse that having worked all night I was tired and needed to sleep. About the time that I finished my degree and had decided that I needed a full-time job I was given the opportunity to work for a family owned business. So I quit the part-time night security job and took the full-time job working Monday through Friday during the daylight hours and guess what? I went right back to church. The thing that I let keep me away from church ended and because my parents had instilled in me the priority of going to church, it made it a no-brainer to go back.

But I also fully believe that the Holy Spirit was calling me back to church. God had far reaching plans for me that started that day back in March 1986 when I decided to go back to church that still impacts my life today. The continuation of my story is that as soon as I went back to the church that I had grown up in all my life I met a person named Jackie who was from Pennsylvania. She had started to attend my home church and was in the same young adult Sunday school class I was. She had moved down from Pennsylvania to get a job and was living with a family who also attended my church. One Easter Sunday, as my family was out of the country, she invited me to her house for lunch. Her mother and sister were down from Pennsylvania and were going to be there as well. Maybe you have heard the story or can guess where this is going but the sister that I had lunch with that day was my now wife, Judy. I still marvel at how God orchestrated the seemingly random events of finishing my degree to quitting my part-time job to finding just the right daylight job to making the decision to go back to church to meeting Jackie to meeting my wife to getting married and moving to Pennsylvania to being led into ministry to now standing before you preaching a sermon. It was a God-thing. It is also a God-thing that all of you are here this morning as well. Whether this is your first day back in church in a while or you haven’t missed church in a long time, God has us all in this place for many reasons. One of those reasons is because we are better together than apart.

Now, I can’t promise that you will find a wife at church but you will find new friends and you can experience peace through the different relationships you make at church. You may not became a pastor or missionary but can find peace by being in ministry and serving God in the church. I can promise that if you come to church with the intent to grow spiritually and strive to be more like Christ, you will have peace in your life and you will find peace with God. Which brings me to our big idea this morning which is “in fellowship together we can find peace.”

But before we start to unpack this idea of being at peace in fellowship together let’s dedicate our time this morning to God with prayer. Let’s pray:

Father, we come before you this morning asking for your Holy Spirit to fill us so that as we hear your message today from your word, our faith will be increased. We ask that you would use your word which is living and active and sharper than any double edged sword to rightly divide us even to soul and spirit, joint and marrow. Use your word to expose the thoughts and the attitudes of our hearts. And use your word to give us practical next steps that we can use in our daily lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen

The theme for Back to Church Sunday is Together, and as I thought about togetherness and what it means for us as followers of Jesus, I thought of Legos. Who could have imagined that these pieces of plastic would be worth billions of dollars? The Danish toy company that began in the 1930s has built a Lego empire around the building bricks that they introduced in the 1950s. Individually, Legos are just cheap pieces of plastic—but despite their basic design, the magic is in the way they fit together. Legos are designed to be together—that’s what those little raised circles are for, to attach each brick to another. And together these plastic pieces can be made into fantastic creations. So if you didn’t know Pastor Stuart collects Legos. Here are some pictures of the Lego structures he has in his office.

Full-scale models of castles, cars, airplanes, spaceships have all been built from Legos. If you’ve ever been to one of the LEGOLAND theme parks, you’ve been treated to scaled replicas of the world’s most famous buildings and landmarks. It seems that Legos can be put together to create almost anything. They are just pieces of plastic, but together they create something much bigger and better than the sum of their parts.

The church is like Legos, a collection of individuals of various sizes, shapes, and colors. Individually, we may be kind of a big jumble at a glance, but when we come together the way God intended, we form the Church, which is a creation much greater than the individual members. God takes our chaos and, by His design, makes something spectacular and gives us purpose. In real life, this concept is powerful and life changing. Christ invites us to be together with Himself and together with one another. Together we are on a journey of transformation and “in fellowship together we can find peace.”

This morning we are going to be looking in the Book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 17-22. Ephesians was written by Paul while he was in prison in Rome. He wrote this letter to a group of believers in the city of Ephesus about 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The theme of this letter is “togetherness” and Paul comes back to it again and again. Like all of the early church, the believers in Ephesus got their information in a very communal way. The people receiving this letter did so by gathering together and listening to it being read. When it came to processing and understanding what the letter meant, the people of Ephesus did so—together. Together they listened and learned and shared and discussed and wrestled through the challenges of living out their faith in Christ in the midst of a culture that operated in a vastly different way. So we will be following their lead together in wrestling with the ways Christ invites us to live both together with Him and together with one another and by doing so have peace.

Paul had previously spent time in Ephesus as a missionary, so he knew the culture and the challenges this group of believers faced. He knew that they were a group of people surrounded and challenged by other ideas, beliefs, and practices. The church at Ephesus needed the strength of unity to grow and survive, not unlike our church today.

Paul wrote this letter to encourage and instruct the young church in how to have peace. Our world seeks peace in so many different ways. We seek peace among nations, peace in our cities, peace in our families, peace in our churches, and peace in our own hearts and minds. As we explore the concept that “in fellowship together we can find peace”, let’s look at Ephesians 2:17-22. This is what God’s Word says: “[Christ] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

According to this passage there are three ways we can have peace. The first way we can have peace is in unity with other believers. Do you ever find yourself, or those you know, searching for a place to belong? Are you searching for a way to be part of something bigger than yourself? Where can you experience that sense of belonging? Paul says that the body of Christ—the church—is our place of belonging, rooted in the restoration and unity brought by Jesus.

Paul takes us directly into the central issue of togetherness, which is unity and foundational to this unity is grace. Nobody can claim a higher position or status, because all believers are of the same status. We are all sinners in need of grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” When we recognize that it is grace that has saved us, it forces us to open our arms and hearts to all in gratitude. We have all been there. We have all experienced the same need. We have all been offered the same gift. Grace does not allow exclusion, instead, it brings us together in unity.

Paul goes on to explain how Christ’s purpose was to unify the two major divisions of people—Jews and Gentiles. By including these two groups, Paul is including everyone. In chapter 2, verse 14, Paul says, “For he himself (talking about Jesus) is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” By coming to save the world—all people of the world—Jesus broke down the deepest divisions of eternity between God and man, and the deepest divisions of humanity between God’s covenant people and others. In doing away with that separation, He brought peace, real, lasting, ultimate peace. Obviously, that peace will not be completely realized until Christ returns to complete God’s ultimate restoration. But through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the door to peace is open to all of us. And it opens up unity as a definitive characteristic of God’s people.

Paul is clear that we find peace in unity, but that does not mean in uniformity or sameness. The church at Ephesus was full of diversity, and the goal was not to change this. The goal was unity in the midst of those differences. It’s the same goal for the church today and the same goal for us here at Idaville. We are all different. We are all different ages and we all have different personalities. We all have different thoughts of how things should be done in the church but we all love God and his son, Jesus. God doesn’t want us to be all the same, but he does command us to love one another and in doing so we can be unified by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can be unified together as we fulfill the Great Commission to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples.

We don’t find peace by separating ourselves from the world or from each other, but by leaning into the grace and unity that Jesus brings. What would happen in our lives and community if church was a place to come together in peace and allow God to remove all dividing walls of hostility? How would this change our church body right here at Idaville? Let’s be a people of unity. Let’s be a people of grace. Let’s be a people of peace. Which brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to willingly sacrifice my personal preferences in order to be unified as a body of believers.

The second way we can have peace is by being in God’s presence. We live in a world that seems increasingly full of discord and anxiety. News stories demonstrate every day that as a population we struggle with anxiety, depression, and isolation. Headlines proclaim divisions and conflicts of all sorts, from personal disagreements to political wars, both ideologically and physically. We need peace!

Paul is crystal clear in verse 14 that Christ Himself is our peace. Peace is not a thing. It’s a person. We find peace—both personally and as a body—in relationship with Jesus. In Galatians 5:22, Paul describes the fruits of the Spirit. He says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” These are characteristics of people who are in relationship with Jesus and peace will be evident if God’s Spirit is living in and through us. Peace isn’t something we can create in ourselves; the Holy Spirit in us brings peace and enables us to live it out. Together as believers we are the collective dwelling place of God’s Spirit, who is our peace. That’s good news!

We are not alone. We are citizens, family, and most importantly, a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. While our struggles do not magically disappear, together in the middle of our struggles we can experience peace. Even now as our church struggles with relationship and financial issues and a lot of our people and their families are struggling with physical and mental health issues we can experience peace because we have the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. And because of that we can also share and offer peace to others, even when struggles or disagreements arise.

So what does peace look like in our lives? First, I can tell you first what peace is not. Peace is not ignoring differences, ignoring conflict, or ignoring reality. Peace is not an image to be upheld or a feeling to be pursued. Peace is the presence of God in His people. And His presence through the Holy Spirit enables us to experience peace and to remind each other and the world around us that He is the source of all peace. Where anxiety and fear are strongest, we can be a living reminder that God cares for the details of our lives, as well as the eternal redemptive story of the world.

So maybe you are here this morning and you do not have peace. Maybe you don’t have a relationship with Jesus and so have never felt the presence of the Holy Spirit inside you. Jesus promised that when we accept him as our Lord and Savior he would come into our lives, as the Holy Spirit, and be our advocate, counselor, and comforter. Maybe you want the Holy Spirit to come into you today so you can have the peace that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. If so, the second next step on the back of your communication card may be for you which is to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and to feel the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.

The third way we can have peace is by committing to the process of peace. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find peace once and be done with it? But peace is not just a one-time event. When faced with an unpeaceful world, Jesus invites us to return to Him and to each other again and again. The prophets who foretold the coming of Christ gave Him the name Prince of Peace. And through His death and resurrection, He made the way of peace available to each of us. In the face of all life’s battles and an unpeaceful world, Jesus offers the terms of peace and the way forward. When we daily surrender to His power and to His will we embrace the way of peace.

But what about the fact that peace seems so temporary and fragile? It seems that peace can be interrupted or destroyed in an instant. The peace we see in the world never seems to last. The good news is that as believers our peace goes beyond a circumstance or a feeling. That is because our peace is the never-changing, always-present Spirit of God. Jesus knew the hardships His disciples would face, and He promised them peace. He told them in John 14:26-27, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit is with us continually and is our source of peace. But we all need reminders. We all need encouragement and support. We all need each other to relate with in unity and peace and to share it with a world that needs it. And that’s where the church comes in. We are better together.

Paul closes Ephesians 2 with this: “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Like those Legos we talked about earlier, we fit together to form the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit fills and enables us with the peace of Christ. Why do we come back to church, and invite others to join us? Because coming together here does not just put us in the church. Instead, it is here that we realize we are the church—and as the church, God dwells with us.

So we come together to live and worship in unity, to collectively turn our focus to Jesus and experience the source of our peace, and to offer the way of peace to the world. Together we are so much greater than the sum of our parts. Together we encourage and support each other when we are weak. Together we reflect the nature and relationship of God. Which brings us to our last next step on your communication card which is to encourage and support this body of believers and to reflect the nature and relationship of Christ to each other.

I want to close today with a story called “Clinker Bricks.” Although at times it seems as though the church is in ruin and rubble, God sees it as a beautiful building. Clinker bricks are bricks that did not quite make it. For some reason or another, they come out of the kiln misshapen or deformed. Gates Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York was intentionally built of clinker bricks. Apparently, the congregation wanted to send a message, so they built their church of imperfect, rejected bricks. The message is that people are like clinker bricks. We are all sinners, we are all imperfect people full of weaknesses, but through Christ we become living stones in his church. We do not become living stones because we are so great, but it is Christ who is great. We are connected into his church through him.

May we all remember that we are imperfect, rejected bricks and are all sinners saved by God’s grace through his son, Jesus Christ. And by remembering we treat each other with love and respect and live in peace together though the Holy Spirit.

As Gene & Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn this morning and as the ushers get ready to pick up the communication cards lets pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you would bring this community of believers peace and unity through your son Jesus. May we be good role models of peace and unity to the people around us, in the church and outside the church. May we strive to be more like Jesus, kind, caring, compassionate, loving, giving, forgiving and humble. Bring us together as a family. Grant us the patience to work together with understanding and compassion in our hearts. Let us not be rude or arrogant towards one another, as we light the way to your heavenly kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen



I want you to think about the one or two places that have meant a lot to you during your life. ​​ Places that evoke fond memories for you. Where would those places be and why?

When I think about a place that evokes fond memories for me, one of those would be Cape Cod, Massachusetts. That was where Judy and I honeymooned 31 years ago. Over the years we have traveled back there and spent many anniversaries there. Why? Because of the good memories of that time and those places we visited in April of 1988. ​​ 

Another place that evokes memories for me is Staunton, VA. Now honestly the memories I have of Staunton are not all that fond for me. But they did help to mold and form me into the person I am today. It took me about 40 years to want to revisit there but over the past decade I have learned to appreciate those memories. The reason Staunton is on this list is because Judy and I have made new memories there together. We now visit Staunton at least once a year and every once in a while I will still show her the elementary school I went to and the house I lived in for a brief period of time. It has become one of the places that we like to visit again and again. ​​ 

Now that you have had time to think of the places that have meant a lot to you over the years. Do you find yourself visiting those places over and over again? Maybe it is the same vacation spot every year. Maybe it’s the place you proposed to your wife and/or the place you said yes! Maybe it is the high school or college you graduated from. How many have every attended their high school class reunions or college alma mater homecomings? Sometimes it’s not the places but the people who shared those memories with you that you revisit.

Why do we tend to return to these places over and over again? In a January 10, 2018 article on the Huffington Post website entitled, “Travel Experts Explain Why People Return To the Same Places Again and Again”, it states there are certain reasons why we do return to these places. One, is emotional attachment. Two, is connection to local culture and community. Three, because the place has a rich history. Four is unique beauty. Five is amazing food. Six is family tradition and seven is the special treatment you receive there.

In our text today, John brings us full circle as we see that Jesus returns to the scene of the wine. If you remember in chapter 2, there is a wedding in Cana and Jesus, his mother and his disciples had been invited. This is where Jesus did his first miracle of turning water into wine. Now we’re back in Cana, and John is going to tell us about a second miracle that Jesus is going to do there. Jesus didn’t go back there because of emotional attachment or because of the special treatment he received there or even because of the amazing food. Jesus went back to Cana because that was his Father’s plan for him. A couple of weeks ago Jason showed us that Jesus as he traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee had to go through Samaria. Now we know that he had a choice to go around Samaria which is what Jewish people usually did but God had a divine appointment for his son to meet the woman at the well and a subsequent mission trip to share the Gospel with other Samaritans from her village. Jesus has always been guided by His Father’s will for his life and ministry.

Everything from John 2 all the way to the end of John 4, should be read as one big story, or one complete lesson. It’s grouped together, because John is showing and teaching us something about Jesus. First, there was the miracle of water turning to wine in chapter two, then in chapter three he tells us about the encounter with Nicodemus, and then in the first section of chapter 4 he tells us about the encounter with the woman at the well, and now back in Cana he will tell us about another miracle. All of these stories are intended to show us our need for Christ… they’re intended to show us that only He can satisfy our deepest longings and needs. He’s also given us different word pictures to describe how we can receive Him. In chapter three that we receive him by being born again. In chapter four we receive him as our “living water.” Now at the end of chapter 4, he is going to show us how that works and it’s by faith. We come to Christ by faith and trust in Him. And that’s what we are going to see in our text this morning.

Jesus is coming off a most successful mission trip in Samaria and now he is returning to Galilee. John is going to mention that a prophet has no honor in his hometown and then ironically he tells us that Jesus is welcomed in Galilee. But as we saw back in Jerusalem after the Passover, the people that were flocking to Jesus didn’t have a true faith. Their faith was based on signs and wonders and a kind of desperation to believe in something but not truly believe in someone. And John wants us to understand from our passage this morning that we need to move from a desperate faith to a saving faith in the person of Jesus Christ. ​​ That is our big idea this morning. If you are here this morning and your faith is built on only having fire insurance from Hell that is a desperate faith. That is not the faith that Jesus wants us to have. Our faith needs to be built upon the person of Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross for us and in having a personal relationship with him. Before we dive into our passage this morning, let’s pray:

Dear Holy God, We ask for the Holy Spirit to come down upon each one of us and open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn. We confess our distractions to you and we ask that you take them away at this very moment so we can be fully engaged with you. We ask for understanding and clarity and trust that you will help us to glean something this morning from your Word that we can share with those you put in front of us this week. We thank you for how you love us and take care of us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our passage this morning is found in John chapter 4, verses 43-54. I am going to start by reading verses 43-45 which will give us some background before we get to the main story. This is what God’s Word says, 43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.

The last we saw Jesus he had been talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar. Jesus told her everything she ever did and she went and told her whole village about this man Jesus whom she believed was the Messiah. In chapter 4, verse 40, the Samaritans urged him to stay with them for two days and he did and many of them were saved. The last thing John records is them saying, ​​ . . . “we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” Talk about an awesome mission trip.

Last week we talked about the last two mission trips we as a church took, one to Mississippi a year ago and the other to Jamaica in June. In Mississippi we ministered to 32 children each for three days while doing a VBS with them and in Jamaica they ministered to over 1000 people that week.

Now we don’t know exactly how many were saved during those two trips but one important point was that we were called to go and be Jesus’ hands and feet and we were faithful to that. Jesus has been and always will be faithful to his Father and because of his faithfulness many Samaritans came to know him as their Lord and Savior. This is where our story picks up at this morning

After two days of preaching and teaching the Gospel to the Samaritans, Jesus leaves for Galilee. John interjects a statement from Jesus that “a prophet has no honor in his own country.” Maybe John threw that statement in because he wanted to temper our enthusiasm a little so we wouldn’t be expecting a huge soul winning campaign in Galilee. But why go there if he thought he may not get a warm welcome especially after the successful mission trip to Samaria? It was because Jesus was not driven by success but by his Father’s will. Jesus’ mission was to do the will of his Father which was to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. ​​ 

Morris says, “He had come unto His own, not under a delusion that He would be welcomed, but knowing full well that He must expect a rejection. This would not take Him by surprise, for it was in the divine plan. So, to fulfil all this implies, He went to Galilee.”

As we continue to the next verse, we are expecting to hear about Jesus being rejected by the people in Galilee but ironically it says when he arrived there he was welcomed by them. John also says that these Galileans had been in Jerusalem and had seen what Jesus did at the Passover.

What are we to make of this? Well we need to look back to chapter 2, verses 23-25 which say this, ​​ 23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

These were some of the same people who saw Jesus cleanse the temple during the Passover and perform signs while in Jerusalem. Do you notice what Jesus knew about them back then? He would not entrust himself to them because he knew what was really in their hearts. He knew receiving was not accepting. Sure, maybe they had a kind of faith, a hollow and shallow faith, in Jesus. But whatever faith they had was based on signs and wonders, based on the spectacular. They welcomed him merely as a miracle worker and Jesus knew that that was not enough. He wanted people to come into a personal relationship with him and that was the way to a saving faith. Yes, Jesus performed miracles and signs but they were to lead people to believe in Him for who He is, the Christ, the Son of God, so that they might have eternal life in His name. They weren’t meant to wow the people into only wanting more and more signs.

Jesus in Matthew 13, used the Parable of the Sower to explain to his followers and his disciples that there are different responses to the Gospel. He said that he was the sower and the seed is the Word of God, both his spoken Word and the Bible. The second ground Jesus talked about was the stony ground. The stony ground represented someone who showed an interest and awareness in the Gospel, yet their heart isn’t fully convicted so that when troubles come their faith is not strong enough to stand. This is what we see happening with the people here. They were believing in Jesus’ power but not the person of Jesus and their heart was not convicted of their sin and therefore didn’t feel the need to take their faith to the next step.

That reminds us of our big idea this morning that we need to move from a desperate faith to a saving faith in the person of Jesus Christ. ​​ 

In verses 46-47 we are going to be introduced to a man who at first comes to Jesus because he had heard of the signs and wonders he has done. He exhibits a beginning faith, but his faith is a desperate faith because of the situation he finds himself in. This is what verses 46-47 says, 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

Jesus returns to Cana where he turned water into wine. There is a certain royal official there who found himself in a desperate situation. The desperate situation was that his son was sick in Capernaum. In fact, we learn that the son was close to death and the father who had heard of what Jesus had done in Jerusalem comes to beg Jesus to heal his son. Carson says, “The royal official approaches Jesus out of desperation of need, but with little thought as to who Jesus is.” ​​ Who was this man? Some translations say “nobleman.” A nobleman was someone who worked for the king as part of his court. The king over the area of northern Galilee was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who tried to kill the baby Jesus. This royal official would have been someone of importance, influence and power. He was probably pretty wealthy and didn’t want for anything.

If we look at verse 47 in the New American Standard version it says he frantically implored him to come and heal his son. The imperfect tense of the verb “imploring” indicates he repeatedly begged Jesus to heal his son. But he didn’t try to convince Jesus that he was worthy of this miracle because he was a royal official or a man of means. He just persistently cried out to Jesus. He was desperate because his son was sick and dying and he comes to Jesus in the beginning at a sort of level one stage of faith.

We can see a real truth already here in the story and that is “tough times can turn us to Christ.” Would this royal official ever sought Jesus out if his son wasn’t dying? We don’t know for sure but probably in all honesty, he wouldn’t have. He has probably already had his son looked at by the best doctors in the area where he lived and his son is still dying. We see the man make a 20 mile journey from Capernaum, where his son was, to Cana. One source I read made an interesting observation. Since the royal official was part of Herod Antipas’ court he was probably from Tiberius where Herod had his headquarters. So, this is how desperate the man was to find Jesus and beg him to heal his son. He probably put his son in a boat at Tiberius, which is in the southwest end of the Sea of Galilee and took him to Capernaum 13 miles away to the north because that’s where he had heard that Jesus was hanging out. He doesn’t find Jesus in Capernaum because Jesus was now in Cana. But his son was so sick he probably had to leave him in Capernaum and travel the 20 miles on horseback to Cana. This royal official pulled out all the stops to help his son.

Now I believe all of us would do whatever it took to get a sick and dying love one the care they needed. Sometimes it takes tough times to turn us to Christ but our faith can’t stay there. God often graciously meets us at our point of crisis, but that’s just the beginning. He wants us to believe in and follow Him not only because He delivered us from our crisis, but also because He is the only Savior and Lord and is worthy of our trust. We need to move from a desperate faith to a saving faith in the person of Jesus Christ.

We as Christians need to examine ourselves. Are we like the royal official and wait to pray until we are in a crisis situation? Do we keep Jesus in a box or on the shelf and pull him out when we are in desperate straits and ask him to rescue us. Then when the crisis is averted do we put Him back on the shelf and get on with our lives virtually without Him? Jesus wants to be in a relationship with us and wants to be worshiped by us as Lord and Savior. He wants intimate fellowship with us at all times. He wants us to have a real life saving faith in him not just a desperate faith that seeks him when we are in a jam. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to go beyond having a desperate faith to having a real life saving faith in Jesus.

Next, in verses 48-50 we see Jesus’ answer to the official and we see Jesus moving him to the next step of faith which is an obedient faith. ​​ Follow along with me as I read those verses: 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”

Now this might seem a little rude and without compassion to us as we read it but we need to remember the scene. Jesus has just come into Galilee and the people are flocking to him hoping to see more miracles and signs. The royal official shows up and asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus knew the royal official and the crowds were not seeking him because they wanted to worship Him or follow Him for who He is. The royal official wasn’t coming as a sinner seeking forgiveness. He wasn’t seeking Jesus because he wanted to know him as Messiah. He was desperate and needed immediate help. Jesus’ rebuke, which was directed at both the royal official and the crowd of Galileans, was a gracious rebuke intended to help the man see his greater need. Jesus wanted him to move from his desperate faith to a genuine saving faith. Jesus never rebukes us to hurt us, but always for our good, so that we might grow in faith and holiness.

We see the man didn’t take offense at Jesus’ rebuke but he was persistent that Jesus come and heal his son. Another thing we notice is that the man’s faith was quite limited. The royal official wanted Jesus to come with him. He had it fixed in his mind that Jesus had to accompany him back to Capernaum to heal his son. And Jesus could have done that but then this man’s faith wouldn’t have grown at all. Often, we have a preconceived idea of how God must work to solve our crisis. We want the answer now or we want to hear an audible voice from him. This man was a royal official, he was used to giving orders and commands and people did what he said. Jesus instead says to him, I’m going to give you a command and let’s see what you do with my authority.

Jesus puts the man in a curious dilemma: The man said, “Come!” but Jesus said, “Go; your son lives.” By doing this, Jesus forced the man to believe without a sign. Either he had to doubt the word of the One in whom he had placed all of his hopes for his son’s recovery, or he had to believe Him and go. Jesus very skillfully drew this man into a deeper level of faith, a faith in his promise or word. Jesus demanded that his faith be desperate enough to trust his word, not just his visible works. Jesus answered the man’s desire to heal his son, but not his request to come down to Capernaum.

The beautiful thing is that Jesus attaches a promise to his command. He commands the man to go to his son and promises that his son is alive. The man had to put aside his expectations of how Jesus would work and just take Him at His word. Jesus wanted to move him to the next step of faith which was having an obedient faith. The man takes Jesus at his word and departs. He is obedient. It is in obeying God’s commands and trusting his promises that true faith is expressed. Do we put expectations on God? Do we believe what he says in his word about the promises of His provision? If not maybe this next step is for you. My next step is to trust in God’s promises and seek to move to an obedient faith in Him.

In verses 51-53 we are going to see this man’s faith go from faith in a power, to faith in a promise, to having faith in a Person. We will see his faith come full circle from a beginner’s desperate faith to the saving faith in Jesus. (BIG IDEA) Follow along as I read verses 51-53, 51 “While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

The man probably had to spend the night somewhere on his return journey. He probably didn’t travel that night because he would have been exhausted and because it would have been dangerous to do so. Imagine what it took to spend the night knowing that his son could be dead in the morning. He had to wait til the next day and travel the 20 miles back to Capernaum where his son was, with nothing to hold on to but Jesus’ promise.

The following day, as he was on the way home, his slaves met him with the wonderful news that his son was living. The man was no doubt overjoyed, but he wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just a coincidence. So he asked them at what hour did his son begin to get better. ​​ They replied, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” Left is the same word that John used when the Samaritan woman left her water pot. It wasn’t just a slow, natural recovery. It happened instantly. The man knew that it was the same hour that Jesus had spoken the word, “Your son lives.” In verses 50-53, the word “alive” is repeated three times. Morris says, “We are told three times that the boy lives. John does not want us to miss the emphasis on life, that life that Jesus gives.”

Jesus only has to speak and the miracle is done. Just like Jesus never touches the water to turn it into wine, he doesn’t have to touch the official’s son to heal him. We see the royal official coming to understand who Jesus is and trusting him apart from solving his crisis. But it was a process all along. Faith is a living thing that grows and develops and Jesus was building his man’s faith one step at a time.

As a result, the man and his entire household believed in Jesus. The word “believe” in verse 53 speaks about believing in the person of Jesus Christ. So now the man fully believes in the Person, not just a power, not just the promise, but in the Person of Jesus. He has gone from the desperate faith of begging for Jesus to heal his son to the saving faith of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ that now extends to his whole household believing in Jesus.

John ends this passage and the chapter with verse 54 which says this, 54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.” The royal official and his whole household believed because they saw the sign that Jesus did. Jesus did these signs in order to get people’s attention. The miracles were like calling cards to draw attention to who He was. He did them to give authority and credibility to His ministry. But the miracles were never done just for the sake of the fireworks they created. They weren’t done just to entertain the masses. If the miracles of Jesus didn’t cause people to believe in Him and desire to follow Him, then those miracles were essentially worthless. If those signs didn’t cause people to change their lives and believe in Jesus then they were without value.

Bringing people to faith and commitment were what the signs Jesus did were all about. The same thing should be true here at Idaville Church as well. If the songs we sing don’t cause people to see Jesus and want to follow Him, then they’re worthless. If the prayers we pray don’t cause people to see Jesus and want to follow Him then they lack value. If the sermons we preach don’t cause people to see Jesus and want to follow Him we may as well not get up here to begin with. Everything we do should always be focused on Jesus. Everything we sing, say or do should point people to Christ. That brings us to our last next step on the back of your communication card which is to focus my life on Jesus and make sure that everything I say and do points people to Him.

This morning I want to remind us of the purpose of John’s Gospel. Pastor Stuart told us about it in his first sermon on John and I want to read it to us again this morning. It’s found in John chapter 20, verses 30-31. This is what God’s Word says, 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

I want to close with a story from Max Lucado:

There was a preacher who went to visit a dying man in the hospital. As the preacher entered the room, he noticed an empty chair beside the man’s bed. He asked the man if someone had just been by to visit. The old man smiled, “I place Jesus on that chair and I talk to Him.” The preacher was puzzled so the man explained. “Years ago a friend told me that prayer was as simple as talking to a good friend. So, every day, I pull up a chair, invite Jesus to sit and we have a good talk.” Some days later the daughter of this man told the preacher that her father had just died. She said “I left him in his room alone for a couple of hours. When I got back to the room, I found that he’d died. But I noticed the strangest thing. His head was resting, not on a pillow, but on an empty chair that was beside the bed.” Do you know what that old man had done? He was so in love with Jesus that he wanted his last moments to be resting in the lap of his savior. My prayer is that all of us will be so in love with Jesus that everything we say and do points people to Him.

As Gene and Roxie come to lead us in our closing hymn and the ushers prepare to collect the communication cards let’s pray:

Almighty and All-knowing God, We praise you for who you are. We thank you for taking us to a deeper faith in yourself. Help us to focus on you and to always point people to you. We thank you for your word that is alive. May we hide it in our hearts and share it with those who do not yet know you as their Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen