Joe & Nick’s Excellent Adventure

The movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a 1989 American science fiction comedy film starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin. It follows slacker friends Bill and Ted, who travel through time to assemble historical figures for their high school history presentation. Bill and Ted, are seemingly nondescript, unpopular, dim-witted high school students at San Demas High School. They have their own band called the Wyld Stallyns and even though they are not very good at playing, they dream one day of being a successful band. But they have a problem in that if they fail their history class project, Ted's father plans to ship Ted to a military academy in Alaska, which for all intents and purposes, would end their dream of being a band.

Unbeknownst to them, their success or failure in passing this history project has far-reaching consequences for the future. In the year 2688, humanity exists as a peaceful, utopian society due to the inspiration of the music and philosophy of Bill and Ted, seen and heard in their music performed as the band “Wyld Stallyns.” So, with a little help from Rufus from the future they are able to use a time traveling phone booth to accumulate historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Genghis Khan, Billy the Kid, Socrates and Napoleon, bringing them into the future, and passing their history project.

Doesn’t that plot remind you of the stories we find in the Bible. For instance, God’s people, the Israelites, are being held captive as slaves in Egypt for over hundreds of years. God uses Pharoah’s daughter to save a baby from the Nile River, uses her to raise and educate him in Pharoah’s household, so he can grow up and be the one to confront Pharoah as an adult to let God’s people go. Along the way, he murders an Egyptian, has to flee to the desert, where he meets God in a burning bush. He then spends years tending sheep before he returns to lead God’s people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. As they leave Egypt, God through the Ten Plagues, causes Pharaoh and the Egyptians, to not only beg them to leave, but to gift them all the gold and silver they can carry as they are leaving. It says “they plundered the Egyptians.”

We see God’s providence and sovereignty all through the Bible. We see time and time again how God can and has used anyone and everyone, from Pharoah, to Nebuchadnezzar, to Judas, to David, to Peter (and the list goes on), to fulfill his purposes. He can use those who believe in him and he can use those who don’t. He also can and will use us and probably already has. The first question for you this morning is not if God has used you but when in your life has he used you to fulfill his purposes. He may not have called you to start a band that will usher in world peace and a utopia, but I can bet he has called you and used you to fulfill his purposes somewhere along the way. Maybe he is using you right now to fulfill his purposes. Adults, it could be raising your kids or it might be in the job he has you in right now. Students, it might be with your classmates in school. I know God is using Christian students right now in our schools to spread hope and the gospel to those who don’t have it during this pandemic. Or maybe he is using you to reach out to your family and friends or maybe he is using you right now at Idaville Church to fulfill his purposes. The second question is have you noticed it? If so, what did you do? Did you ignore it or did you go all in? I believe it is important that we notice when God is using us and then follow him completely as he leads us in accomplishing his purposes for his kingdom.

In our scripture this morning we are going to see two people who also have an excellent adventure. For now, I will call them, Joe and Nick. They are seemingly insignificant, nondescript and unpopular among their peers. Joe is only mentioned in the Gospels and only in connection with one event. Nick is only mentioned in the Gospel of John and only on three separate occasions. They are wealthy men and part of an important and prominent group of Jews but they are also followers of Jesus. In fact we will learn that they are secret followers of Jesus while he is alive, but after Jesus’ death, God uses them to not only fulfill his purposes, but uses them to fulfill the scripture, as well.

That brings us to our big idea that John wants us to understand this morning which is God can and will accomplish his purposes through anyone and everyone. He can use those who don’t believe in him, such as Pharoah and Pilate. He can use those who know the scriptures but don’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah, such as Judas and Caiaphas. He can even use those who are secret disciples. He can and will accomplish his purposes through anyone and everyone and that includes you and me.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, I ask for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us this morning. I pray that we would have open hearts and minds to your Word and that it would seep deep down inside us. Use your Word to guide us, protect us, and correct us. And give us opportunities this week to share it with others who desperately need to hear it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I want to start by giving some background information on the two main characters in our adventure. I will start with Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph is found in all four Gospels but only in connection with this one event we will see this morning. Each of the Gospel writers gives us bits and pieces of the whole of what we know about Joseph. Matthew 27:57 says, “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.” Verse 60 says, “and laid it (Jesus’ body) in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock.” From these verses we learn that Joseph was a rich man, he had become a disciple of Jesus and that the tomb Jesus’ body was laid in was new and was Joseph’s own tomb.

Mark 15:43, says, “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.” The council spoken of here is the Sanhedrin, which was a kind of Supreme Court of the Jewish people. Caiaphas, who sent Jesus to Pilate to have him arrested, was the leader of the Sanhedrin at this time. We also learn that Joseph had been waiting for the Kingdom of God.

Luke 23:50-51, says, “And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God;” In addition to what we already know we see that Joseph was a “good and righteous man.” We also learn that he had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s plan and action of having Jesus arrested and crucified.

Finally, one last piece of the Joseph puzzle is found in our scripture this morning in John 19:38, which says, “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews.” He was a disciple of Jesus, but he was a secret disciple because he was probably afraid of losing his position, his prestige and his wealth.

That is all we know of Joseph of Arimethea from the Biblical text. The other main character in this adventure is probably more well known to us but we still have very little to go on. He is Nicodemus. We only find Nicodemus in the Book of John. He is not mentioned in the other Gospels as Joseph’s helper or even at all. John 3:1-2 says, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night.” From this we learn that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were a group of Jews who were considered to know the Jewish law the best and who legalistically kept every letter of it. They often opposed Jesus throughout His ministry and Jesus often strongly denounced them for their legalism. It is probable that both Joseph and Nicodemus were part of the Sanhedrin. We also learn that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. In all probability, Nicodemus came at night so none of his fellow Pharisees would find out.

We also find Nicodemus in John 7:50-52, “Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them, meaning a Pharisee) said to them, “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you?” Here we see the end of an incident where the chief priests and the Pharisees had sent officers to arrest Jesus and had come back empty handed. Nicodemus seems to stand up for Jesus or at least stand up for due process of the law. He says they should hear Jesus out first before they arrest him. You can see from their reaction to Nicodemus that his words were not taken seriously. To “be from Galilee” meant you were insignificant, you were nothing.

That is all we know about these two men so far: they were part of the group that condemned Jesus to die and were secret disciples. But God was able to use them to fulfill scripture and to accomplish his purposes. Maybe, this morning, you are a follower of Jesus but realize that you are following him in secret like Joseph and Nicodemus. Maybe you are afraid of what your friends, family, fellow students or co-workers will say. Maybe you are afraid you will lose friends if you profess to be a Christian. In fact, if your friends, family, fellow students or co-workers don’t know you are a Christian, that’s a problem. If you are living as a Christ follower, they should not be surprised to find out you are a Christian. That brings us to our first next step this morning which is to stop living my life as a secret follower of Jesus and start living as a bold disciple of Jesus Christ. ​​ 

Now, let’s turn to our scripture this morning, which we find in John 19:38-42. This is what God’s Word says, 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. 39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Like Matthew, John tells us that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but he goes on to say that he was a secret disciple because he was afraid of the Jews. We can assume that he was afraid of his position in the Sanhedrin, his possessions in that he was wealthy, and probably his prestige in being part of the ruling class of the Jews. But something happens between Jesus’ life and his death on the cross. Mark 15:43 tells us he boldly went before Pilate asking for Jesus’ body. Joseph finds a boldness that he didn’t have before. John makes it a point to tell us he was a secret disciple but he also presents him in a positive light in that he had the courage to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body when all the other disciples were hiding in the Upper Room. ​​ Now it is not written why Joseph asked for Jesus’ body but it could only have been for the purpose of burying it.

There are a number of important things we can learn from this. One, it was against Roman law to bury a crucified criminal. They would let them hang on the cross for the vultures, etc. to do their worst. It would have been a warning to others that this is what happens when you defy the Roman authority. Two, Joseph, by asking for Jesus’ body, could have easily been arrested for being a follower of a traitor to the Romans.

Three, we see the sovereignty of God in that Pilate granted Joseph’s request. This may have reflected his conviction that Jesus was innocent or he felt he was getting back at the Jewish leaders by allowing Jesus to be buried. No matter what he was thinking, God was in control, and Pilate granted Joseph’s request and Joseph goes to the cross and takes Jesus’ body.

In verse 39 we are introduced to the other character who joins Joseph in this adventure. That is Nicodemus. He is identified as the man who had earlier visited Jesus at night. He is also identified as Joseph’s helper in burying Jesus’ body. It says he brought about a hundred pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes, which they used to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. By today’s measurement the spices Nicodemus brought was more like sixty-five or seventy-five pounds but it was still a lot of spices. It seems like an extravagant amount to bury one body. In fact, that amount was normally only ever used to anoint the body of a king or a wealthy, prominent person for burial. This extravagance is reminiscent of the excessive wine leftover at the marriage feast in Cana. We also saw the same type of extravagance when Mary anointed Jesus feet with a pound of pure nard which was really expensive. These sixty-five to seventy-five pounds of spices might seem extravagant to us but John is making the kingship of Jesus clear. Jesus is not only the King of the Jews but the King of kings. He deserves this honor that is being shown to him.

The spices that Nicodemus supplied would have been used to bury Jesus’ body in the Jewish custom. The Jews didn’t embalm bodies like the Egyptians. They would wrap the body tightly with linen cloths adding the spices in and around the cloths as they wrapped it. They would then put more spices around and under the body after it was laid in the tomb. They used myrrh which was a fragrant, gummy resin which in powdered form was usually mixed with aloes, which was an aromatic powder made from sandalwood. The spices were to help with the smell as the body decayed.

From verse 41 we learn that in the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden. John is the only Gospel writer to tell us that. We also learn that in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been buried. We learned in Matthew 27:60 that this was Joseph’s tomb and that he was a wealthy person. This would have been a family tomb cut out from rock. It would have had shelves cut out inside to place multiple bodies of his family members. It would have also had a big stone that would have been rolled over the mouth to close the tomb. This is where Jesus’s body was being laid. Why would it have been important that Jesus’ tomb belonged to a wealthy person? The reason was because it fulfilled prophecy. Isaiah 53:9 says this, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” Seven hundred years before Jesus death, Isaiah wrote this about the Messiah being put to death with wicked men but being buried with the rich. Jesus was crucified between two thieves and as such should have been buried in a gravesite outside the city of Jerusalem with other criminals. Jesus’ family or disciples weren’t rich and could not have afforded a tomb like the one Joseph owned. Only by the providence and sovereignty of God was Isaiah’s words fulfilled.

Why would it have been important for Jesus to be buried in a new tomb where no one had ever been laid? The Jews would have felt that to bury a criminal in a family tomb would desecrate the other bodies in the tomb, but that is probably not why John wants us to notice the new tomb. Carson says, “More likely his purpose is to prepare for chapter 20: if on the third day the tomb is empty, only one body had disappeared, and only one person could have been resurrected.” God is sovereign and in control and he had it all worked out.

Again in verse 42 we see the providence and the sovereignty of God in that the tomb was close by where the crucifixion took place. The reason this was important was because it was the Jewish Day of preparation and the Sabbath, when all work had to cease, was due to start at sundown. Commentators believe that Jesus died around 3 PM and the Sabbath would start at 6 PM, which the Jews considered the end of the day and the start of the new one. There would have been 3 hours for Joseph to go to Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body, to take his body down off the cross, for him and Nicodemus to prepare his body and then lay him in the tomb. We know from Mark’s Gospel, that when Joseph asked for Jesus’ body, Pilate had to make sure he was dead before allowing him to take it. Mark 15:44-45, says, “44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.” We don’t know how long that took, but I imagine it took some time to verify. The fact that the tomb was close by would have definitely helped as sundown was fast approaching.

But there was another reason why he needed to be buried before sundown on Friday. It was so Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:40 would be fulfilled, which says, “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The Jews counted any part of a day as being a full day, so for Jesus to be considered in the ground for three days he needed to be laid to rest on Friday. In his burial as well as his death, Jesus orchestrated all the details to accomplish God’s already revealed purpose. Just think about how completely God looked after every detail of his plan.

It is fascinating to see the providence and the sovereignty of God at work. He is always working out his purposes in your life and in my life. When I think about his providence and sovereignty in my life I just stand in awe of who God is. The lesson we can learn from Pharoah, Caiaphas, Judas, Joseph and Nicodemus, is that God’s can and will accomplish his purposes through those who are opposed to Jesus or through those who are followers of Jesus. (Big Idea). It is important to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing in our lives and then get behind whatever he is looking to accomplish. That brings us to our second next step which is to be open to God’s purposes in my life and ask him to fulfill his purposes through me. As we know, God doesn’t need our permission in order to accomplish his purposes through us but imagine how much sweeter it would be if we were surrendered to his will.

Burge in his commentary talks about the contemporary significance of Jesus the King, the tomb and the cross and Joseph and Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. I want to conclude with this. We see that Jesus is a king that deserves a king’s burial. Herod the Great, who was despised by the people at the end of his reign, had an elaborate and expensive burial. The funeral bier was gold and embroidered with precious stones, his body covered with purple linens, a gold crown on his head and gold scepter in his hand. The procession was 1500 meters long and 500 slaves carried aromatic oils and spices.

We can compare this to Jesus: his was not a pauper’s grave, the wealthy man’s tomb was among other wealthy people’s tombs, and a religious leader brought a tremendous amount of burial spices to Jesus’ grave. Jesus was buried in a king’s hoard of spices. Jesus was buried in a “garden” which is the same setting for Israel’s kings such as David. Remember Jerusalem had their own burial places for criminals and according to Acts 1 that was where Judas finally found his grave. But Jesus is buried in splendor, in beauty, in an unused tomb, as if it had been carved for him alone. To be buried in a new tomb would have been a special honor reserved for kings. John wants us to understand that Jesus is the King of kings.

When it comes to the tomb, John does not seem to employ it in the same way the Synoptic Gospels do. They seem to employ the tomb as a prelude from which we await the resurrection. The tomb is shut, a guard posted and we await the angels to arrive and an earthquake to break open the grave that cannot contain its occupant. The tomb is linked to Easter Sunday. But in John there are no guards or heavy stone rolled in front. The tomb is the resting place for the great King, the culmination of his work on the cross. For John, the tomb and the resurrection is another step along the way as Jesus moves from earth to heaven. The tomb is not a place of depressing defeat. It too like the cross, is a place of glory and victory. Just as the trial and the cross shows us the victorious King of kings so does the tomb.

Finally, what can we make of Joseph and Nicodemus? In John 12:32 Jesus predicted that when he was lifted up he would draw all men to himself and now that he has been lifted up Joseph and Nicodemus have been drawn. They step out from their ambivalent positions at tremendous risk and publicly acknowledge Jesus’ honor. They risked their personal honor by protecting Jesus’ honor. To bury him like they did was a statement noted undoubtedly by their peers throughout Jerusalem.

When we look at Jesus’ disciples such as Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael, we see the importance for the public visibility of faith among true disciples. As professionals with considerable social prestige, Joseph and Nicodemus were stepping into the circle of true discipleship, joining the community of the faithful. This is worthy of notice especially for those whom public visibility comes at some risk. John is setting before us a sterling example of two men who used their considerable resources to glorify Jesus and in doing so become genuine followers of Christ. ​​ I pray that you and I would be as bold in our Christian walk as we allow God to accomplish his purposes in our lives for his praise and his honor and his glory.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word. We thank you for its wisdom and its truth. Let us use your Word to show others of your love, your justice and your truth as we pursue, grow and multiply disciples. Now, as we leave this place of worship, we pray for protection from the evil one, for unity among our body, for your complete joy to be in us and for a desire for holiness as we live our lives for you. Help us to be bold disciples of Jesus Christ, in his name we pray, Amen

 

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

We have a lot of word pictures in the English language to describe being in a predicament. We might say we’ve “painted ourselves into a corner,” or we are “in a pickle” or our backs are “up against the wall.” A least one person has defined a predicament as being , “A lawyer who specializes in suing doctors for medical malpractice finding himself in need of major surgery.” We might also say that we are caught “between a rock and a hard place.” Between a rock and hard place means you’re stuck in between two options, and neither one is desirable. These are the times when you’re confronted with your absolute weakness and inability to hurdle the obstacles in life.

More than a hundred years ago, a financial crisis occurred in the US that became known as the Bankers’ Panic of 1907. The financial crisis impacted many industries, as you can imagine, and the ripple effect of the financial upheaval was felt all the way out in Bisbee, Arizona. The lack of funding led to a dispute between the copper mining companies and the mineworkers there. They were underpaid, and their working conditions were terrible. So they organized into labor unions and approached the company management with a list of demands for better pay and conditions.

The company refused and retaliated – any mining worker who complained would be fired. So the mineworkers were faced with a dilemma, they had to either choose to continue to work at the rock face in quarry in terrible conditions or lose their job and make matters even worse. One of the workers coined the phrase, “we are stuck between a rock (the quarry wall) and a hard place (unemployment).” It wasn’t long before the phrase took root and by 1930, newspapers were using the phrase to describe any number of impossible situations.

Maybe you are between a “rock and a hard place” this morning. Maybe your current job is unbearable, but there are no other jobs available and you need the paycheck. Maybe the people you’re living with are crazy, but you don’t have the money to get your own place. I am not necessarily talking about your family. Maybe you need surgery, but you don’t have health insurance. Maybe you are a student and don’t like school but you have to go. You may or may not find yourself in these kind of predicaments right now, but at some point in your life, you will find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place.

When we’re caught between a rock and a hard place, we feel trapped, stuck, and tired of where we are. We don’t know what to do or where to turn. Honestly, it’s a lose-lose situation. If it were a clear win-lose situation, we would know how to choose and where to turn. We’re like the Israelites with Pharaoh on one side and the Red Sea on the other. Death seemed certain either way. But what do you do when there are no clear choices? Maybe you try to deny it, maybe you try to mask it, maybe you try to fake it or you might even try to ignore it. Sometimes you just take the option that will cause you the least trouble or stress. You are still going to lose but you will lose less.

This morning, we continue to look at Jesus’ time before Pilate, leading up to being sentenced to crucifixion. Last week we saw the Jews approach Pilate in the early morning but would not come into his palace because it would make them unclean and they would not be able to eat the Passover. They try to manipulate Pilate into bringing unfounded charges against Jesus. Pilate finds no reason to bring charges against Jesus and tries to find ways to set him free. He also has a conversation with Jesus. Jesus assures Pilate that he is not trying to usurp his authority or take over as emperor. He says his kingdom is not of this world and he tries to introduce truth to Pilate which he scoffs at. Through all this, Pilate is convinced that Jesus is innocent, but instead of doing the right thing, Pilate tries to compromise and both times it backfires on him.

In our scripture this morning, Pilate continues to compromise and with each compromise he continues down a road to a point of no return. Pilate may not have felt that he was between a rock and a hard place yet but he soon will. Pilate also has another conversation with Jesus. Imagine having a conversation with the Son of God and not being changed. Those conversations could have made all difference in the world for Pilate and the rest of his life but when he was caught between a rock and hard place, he tried to deny it, he tried to mask it, he tried to fake it and he tried to ignore it.

The truth is we are weak creatures. We are sinful, we fail. Being prone to sickness, we hurt; being mortal, we wear out; pressure weighs us down; anxiety gives us ulcers; people intimidate us; criticism offends us; difficulties hound us. What choice do we really have during those times when we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place? That brings us to our big idea this morning which is to: You can turn to Jesus when you have nowhere else to turn and feel you are caught between a rock and a hard place. In fact, why would you turn to anyone or anything else? Where else will you find the truth? Where else will you find hope? Who else can do the impossible? Only Jesus.

Let’s pray: Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn this morning. Imprint your words on our hearts and help us to use it to bring you praise and honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first is “the rock” and the second is “the hard place.” We will start with “the rock” which for Pilate was knowing what the right thing to do was but not having the courage to do it no matter what. We see this in verses 1-11 of John chapter 19. This is what God’s word says, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” ​​ Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

Pilate has tried to wiggle out of dealing with the Jews and Jesus. He has compromised over and over again instead of just doing the right thing and setting Jesus free. In verse 1, he continues his compromises by having Jesus scourged. In Luke 23:14b – 16, we get more insight into what Pilate was thinking here. That says, “I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” Pilate thought once they saw Jesus, bloody and beaten, he would be able to let Jesus go and this situation would be over.

Scourging or flogging was one of the cruelest punishments known to man. The criminal was bound to a post and beaten by several people in turn. They used a short-handled whip to which several leather thongs were tied. Each thong had jagged pieces of bone and metal attached to the ends. Jewish law set the maximum number of lashes at 40, but the Romans were not bound to that law so they would continue to beat the victim until they were exhausted, the commanding officer stopped them, or the victim died which often happened. This type of punishment tore a person’s body apart and was so horrible that Roman citizens could not legally be sentenced to it.

The Romans also had three different levels of scourging, one more severe than the last. The “fustigatio” was the least severe and was reserved for troublemakers who simply needed to be punished and warned. The third level was “verberatio” which was the most severe and served as part of the punishment for a capital offense, and in preparation for crucifixion. It seems Pilate chose to use the least severe form of scourging here to probably accomplish two things. One, to teach Jesus a lesson to be more careful in not upsetting the religious leaders in the future, and two, to satisfy the Jews who were demanding his death.

But the punishment and humiliation of Jesus wasn’t over yet. The Romans had made a sport of torture and the Roman soldiers continued to humiliate Jesus making fun of the accusation of Jesus being the “king of the Jews.” They twisted together a crown of thorns, probably made from the thorny date palm, whose thorns could exceed twelve inches and pressed it down on his head. It would have cut deeply into Jesus’ head increasing the pain and bleeding. They were mocking Jesus and the Jews, as it would have looked like Jesus had radiant beams coming from his head. They also put a purple robe on him, probably one of the soldiers’ robes, to finish the picture of Jesus as a king. The soldiers also mocked Jesus by going up to him again and again paying false homage to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews” as they would do before Caesar and hit him in the face. Matthew and Mark recount that they hit him with a reed which they had given him as a kind of scepter. It is interesting how much irony John uses in his gospel and we see it here. The Roman soldiers mock Jesus as a “king” not understanding that he is the King of kings and one day he would stand in judgment of those very soldiers who tortured and humiliated him.

The law now required a formal presentation of the criminal. Pilate comes out before the people and declares Jesus innocent of any charges that could be tried in a Roman court of law. He fully expected the Jews to be satisfied with the punishment already inflicted upon Jesus, so he brings him out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. He is beaten and bloody, face bruised and swollen, looking nothing like a king. He wanted to show the Jews how ludicrous it was to take their charges seriously. In his view, Jesus posed no threat to them or the Romans. Sarcastically he says, “Here is the man.” By introducing Jesus in this way, Pilate was mocking the Jews but also trying to elicit sympathy for Jesus so he can set him free. “Behold the man” probably meant “see this “poor” creature.” It would have been ridiculous to Pilate that they would want to crucify such a weak and humiliated person. Again, we see the irony John uses here in reminding us that Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” and that he is the Word made flesh and was displaying his glory as the Son of God in his disgrace, pain, and weakness.

But it backfires again. ​​ Instead of wanting him to free Jesus, the Jews shout and demand that Jesus be crucified. Now, I think Pilate may have been feeling the pressure of being caught between a rock and a hard place. He knows that Jesus is innocent of any wrongdoing. He probably has a sense that Jesus is not just any ordinary person. He knows what the right thing to do is but he lacks the courage to free Jesus, as was his right as the Roman governor. At this point, Pilate probably had enough of these Jews. They had brought Jesus to him in the first place but now would not accept his judgment. Seeing that his strategy to free Jesus has not worked, he mockingly and sarcastically tells them to take Jesus and crucify him themselves. This was another tactic to keep Jesus from being crucified because he knew they couldn’t carry that sentence out.

The Jews didn’t miss a beat though. It is interesting that they seem to have an answer for Pilate every time he tried to free Jesus. They had done their homework and knew what buttons to push. At no time did they seem to have to stop and think of what to do next. But Pilate almost seems unsettled at each turn and has to do a song and dance to keep ahead of the Jews agenda. In verse 7, the Jews change tactics. Their first tactic was to get Jesus charged as a political opponent to Rome which we saw last week. Now the Jews try to get Jesus charged as a religious opponent to Rome, saying that he claimed to be the “Son of God.” Taking this at face value, it should not have worked. What did Rome care for the religious views of the Jews? This is what Pilate was referring to back in verse 31 when he told them to take Jesus and judge him by their own law. He meant their own religious law. They tell Pilate that Jesus has already been judged according to that law, found guilty and deserving of death. The law they were talking about is found in Leviticus 24:16, which says, “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” The Jews demand that Pilate acknowledge their legal rights and order Jesus to be crucified, implying, that would keep the peace in the area. The Roman governor was responsible for keeping the peace and maintaining the local law. If he didn’t he would surely be replaced as governor if not taken out and killed.

This new tactic exposed their true motives as to why they wanted Jesus killed. They told Pilate that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy and had to die according to their law. Interestingly, Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God wasn’t sufficient to prove blasphemy. The anointed king of Israel, such as David or Solomon, was called the Son of God and the Messiah was to be the Son of God. What the Jews were upset about and why they hated Jesus so much was he claimed to be equal to God, himself. They knew they needed Pilate’s help to put Jesus to death but of course they weren’t going to be completely honest with him.

If the Jews were holding their breath to see how Pilate would react to them taking this religious angle, what Pilate did next probably gave them a great sense of relief. Instead of questioning the Jews about their motives, he becomes even more afraid and takes Jesus back inside the palace to have another conversation with him. Pilate like most Romans were superstitious. Every Roman of that day would have heard stories of the gods or their offspring appearing in human form. The thought that Jesus might be a man with divine powers or a god in human form filled him with fear. Also, his superstition was probably fueled by a dream that his wife had about Jesus and warning him to have nothing to do with Jesus. We see this in Matthew 27:19 where it says, “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.”

Pilate takes Jesus back into the palace and asks him where he comes from. He already knew Jesus was from Galilee, but what he wanted to know was whether he was from earth or from the realm of the gods. Jesus is silent when questions by Pilate. Why? It may have been to fulfill prophecy from Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” Maybe Jesus is silent because he had already told Pilate he was not from this world or maybe he knew that Pilate couldn’t or wouldn’t understand any answer Jesus would give because Pilate had already shown he wasn’t concerned with truth.

Pilate is upset with Jesus that, of all people, he would not talk to him. He reminds Jesus he is the one who has the power to set him free or to have him crucified. This is ironic, in that he had spent all this time going back and forth with the Jews avoiding making a decision about Jesus but ultimately knew deep down that he could not avoid this responsibility. He may have had the power but he didn’t have the courage to do what was right. Jesus tells Pilate the only power he has over him is the power given to him from above. He did not have ultimate control over what happened to Jesus. Even the death of Jesus was under the sovereignty of God. Again, we see the irony in John’s gospel in that for all the power that Pilate felt he had he must have felt powerless before God’s plan in this hour.

Jesus tells Pilate there is someone guiltier than him. The one who handed Jesus over to Pilate was guilty of the greater sin. Jesus is probably not talking about Judas because he has disappeared from the story. It is probably not the Jews because Jesus seems to imply “one’ person. The best solution is the high priest Caiaphas. He was the catalyst for Jesus’ arrest and who had seemed to formulate the plan for Jesus to die. We see this in John 11:49-50, 53 which says, “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” Jesus wasn’t absolving Pilate of guilt for his actions, but Caiaphas was more guilty because he had seen the overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. He knew the scriptures, not Pilate. He should have accepted Jesus as his Messiah, not Pilate, who wasn’t even a Jew.

This was “the rock” that Pilate found himself between. He continues to find Jesus innocent of any crime. He knows the right thing to do is to release Jesus. Deep down he probably knows that what is going on is of the utmost importance but he still does not have the courage of his convictions. He doesn’t have the courage to do what is right and he continues to dig himself a deeper and deeper hole that he can never get out of. He is caught between a rock and a hard place. Which brings us to our first next step which is to make up my mind to always do the right thing no matter what. If you will choose the right thing every time your “rocks” will become smaller and not seem so impossible to overcome. Your stress and anxiety levels will be lower. The ability to choose to do the right thing comes easier when we turn to Jesus when things seem impossible and we have nowhere else to turn. (Big Idea)

Our second point this morning is “the hard place.” The “hard place” for Pilate was that he let the Jews pressure and bully him into crucifying Jesus. He let them back himself into a corner, ultimately sinning in making the wrong choice. We see this in verses 12-16. This is what God’s word says, “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Here’s where Pilate really starts to feel the pressure and we see how desperate he seems to get. After talking to Jesus about who really had the authority and power over Jesus, Pilate is even more convinced of his innocence and tries to set Jesus free. In fact, the verb is verse 12 means an ongoing action in that he kept trying to set Jesus free. We don’t know how many different things he tried. We don’t know how many other compromises he made. The ironic thing was it was in his legal authority to set Jesus free. He didn’t need the Jews to okay it or rubber stamp it. But he didn’t have the courage to do the right thing and next we see the Jews put the final nail in the coffin for Pilate. If Pilate didn’t feel he was between a rock and a hard place before, now he knew it was over and he had no choice but to give in to the Jewish leaders’ demands to crucify Jesus.

Even though they failed to convince Pilate of Jesus’ guilt the Jews don’t seem to be fazed. They reverse their tactics again playing the political ace up their sleeve putting Jesus in opposition to Caesar himself. ​​ They tell Pilate that if he releases Jesus he was no friend of Caesar because anyone who says they are king opposes Caesar. They were planting the thought in his mind that he would suffer if he doesn’t do what they want with Jesus. The idea of not being a friend of Caesar’s would have set off warning bells in Pilate’s head. The emperor at the time, Tiberius, was noted for his suspicious nature and his willingness to ruthlessly punish his subordinates. Pilate most definitely would have feared for his position, his possessions and his life. Pilate had already brought a lot of heartache on himself while being the Governor of Palestine. The Jews had already made complaints against him to Rome because he had treated their religion with contempt a number of times. He could not risk the Jews making another complaint to Rome about him. Plummer comments on the tactics of the Jewish leaders: “They knew their man: it is not a love of justice, but personal feeling which moves him to seek to release Jesus; and they will overcome one personal feeling by another still stronger.”

We see how far the Jewish leaders were willing to go to get Jesus crucified. We see their corruption and their hypocricy. The Jews hated the Romans rule over them and were most certainly themselves no friend of Caesar’s. Again John shows us the irony here that in order to have Jesus executed the Jewish authorities had to make themselves out to be more loyal subjects of Caesar than Pilate was. Now Pilate had to choose between either setting Jesus free or inciting the wrath of the Emperor against him. Their mention of Caesar sealed Jesus’ fate. There was no question about the choice Pilate was going to make. He was caught between a rock and a hard place, in between two impossible choices, and in the end he made the choice that brought the least amount of trouble for himself. It was the choice where he would lose less. Greene says, “He would no longer oppose the Jews because that would take self-sacrifice.” Pilate was not willing to make any sacrifice on his part to save Jesus.

Pilate doesn’t answer the Jews but immediately brings Jesus out before the people. He will now give the official sentence which will conclude the matter. Pilate sits down on the judge’s seat. John tells us this place was known as the Stone Pavement, called “Gabbatha” in Aramaic, meaning “platform” or “high place.” Pilate is now poised to speak with the voice of his office. Again, John show us the irony in that Pilate was going to pass judgment on the one whom God had granted the power of all judgment and who would one day pass judgment on Pilate and the rest of humanity. Next we see John carefully setting the scene for us. He says it was the sixth hour on the day of preparation for the Passover Week. The sixth hour was late morning approaching noontime. It was swiftly approaching the time when the sheep would have been slaughtered in the temple in preparation for Passover. John wants us to remember Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all people.

Pilate, still agonizing over his decision, tries one more thing. Instead of sentencing Jesus right away, he pronounces Jesus as their king. For Pilate, Jesus was not a king, at least not in any sense he would understand. But for John the kingship of Jesus was real and he wants us to understand that Jesus was king even as he went to the cross for our salvation. By now the Jews only want blood, Jesus’ blood, and they respond again with “crucify him!” Pilate again tries one more time, and we can hear the sarcasm in his voice as he says, “Shall I crucify your king?” with emphasis on the word “king.” MacArthur says, “This was probably his way of mocking them that this beaten, bloody, helpless man was all the king they deserved.”

Pilate is not answered by the mob this time but by the chief priests who make it clear that they have no king but Caesar. Here is another example of irony in that they of all people, who claimed to be the religious leaders of the nation of Israel, who claimed to be God’s chosen people and claimed God as their king, would make that statement. They now express the real truth of what was in their hearts. It is interesting that by saying they have no king but Caesar they actually gave Caesar more power than the Romans did. Up to this point in history Caesar was never called a king. Also, it was a total rejection of God alone as Israel’s king. Even the kings of Israel such as David reigned by God’s divine appointment. By rejecting Jesus as king they have rejected God. Again, we see the irony in that the Jewish leaders were guilty of blasphemy themselves. Robinson says, “Writing as a Jew for other Jews, (John) is concerned from beginning to end to present the condemnation of Jesus, the true king of Israel, as the great betrayal of the nation by its own leadership.”  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

There was nothing more Pilate could do. If he released Jesus now he would be accused before Caesar of not doing his duty. He had enough trouble keeping the peace in Palestine without allowing that to happen. So, after all that it says Pilate finally handed him over to them to be crucified. Now it doesn’t mean he handed Jesus over to the Jews. He handed Jesus over to the Roman guards who would carry out the sentence of crucifixion. But John is telling us is that Pilate handed Jesus over to the will of the people. No matter who carried out the actual crucifixion, Jesus was being handed over to those who wanted him dead. They had manipulated and played Pilate like the proverbial fiddle and they got exactly what they wanted, a crucified Jesus, which ironically was God’s plan all along.

Pilate was caught between a rock and a hard place. He knew what was right but didn’t have the courage to do it and then he let the Jews pressure and bully him into making the wrong decision. He let them use him for their own evil purposes and they persuaded him into sinning against the Son of God sending him to his death on a cross. That brings us to our second next step which is to not let others pressure me into sinning but to stand up for what is right in God’s eyes and not man’s. The question Pilate failed to answer properly is found in Matthew 27:22, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” That is the same question we must all face. There are only two alternatives. One, reject him and face eternal damnation, or two, acknowledge him as Lord and Savior and be saved. Pilate’s futile attempts to evade the issue clearly reveals there is no middle ground. Matthew 12:30 says, He who is not with Me is against Me. That brings us to our third next step this morning which is to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior and be saved. That is the most important decision you can ever make. Pilate no longer has the opportunity to make that decision but you and I do. I encourage everyone to have the courage to choose to do what is right and not let others pressure you into making the wrong choice when it comes to Jesus.

In closing, I want to read this illustration from Burge’s commentary. From Malchus, which means “my king”, who we saw in the garden to Jesus’ discussions with Pilate the word “king” occurs over a dozen times. Later even on the cross Pilate insists that Jesus be labeled “King of the Jews” instead of the compromising “This man said, I am the King of the Jews.” John’s story reads like a medieval drama about a king whose rightful rule has been overthrown temporarily. He moves about the masses unknown with no crown but only the clothes of a commoner. But we know the usurpers are doomed and the true king will win the day. Jesus is the true king, the hidden king, whose victory is about to be cheered.

John wants us to see the people stumbling in the darkness unable to see the true king in their midst, because he is challenging us with their predicament. If the kingship can be submerged in the politics of Jerusalem can the same happen today? Despite this darkness John assures us that God’s glory is still at work. This is “the hour” God planned from the beginning and Jesus is still in control. He asks the questions and makes the judgments. He alone has the power that comes from above. Despite how the world treats God and his son, God will prevail. God’s glory and power can’t be suppressed or be contained by the plots of human beings. No one can stop God’s glory if God intends his glory to be shown. God is in control of history even this hostile seemingly darkened chapter of history that offers little hope. If he is sovereign in places like this Passover during this particular year in Jerusalem, if he can manifest his glory and accomplish his purposes when to the observer everything seems like defeat and disaster, our history can be no different. If God can transform this “hour” with glory, than he can transform any hour. He can transform your hour. He can transform your “rocks” and your “hard places” if you will turn to him and rely on him when you feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn this morning, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, when the storms of this life seem to surround us and it seems impossible to get out of them, let us turn to you. You are the one who gives us hope, you are the one who gives us truth and you are the one who can do the impossible. Let us make our minds up to do what is right no matter what and not allow others to pressure us into sinning against you. In Jesus; name, Amen.

 

NOT OF THIS WORLD

SHOW PETRA-NOT OF THIS WORLD VIDEO

In January 28, 2016, Billy Graham preached a message entitled “In the World, But Not of It.” I am quoting from portions of his message here. ​​ 

At a meeting of church leaders in Seattle, Washington, one member of the group reportedly said that if the church is to make its greatest impact on our generation, it must become more worldly minded. While in one sense that may bear some truth, in the Biblical sense it is false. As we read the New Testament, it is clear that we are not to become entangled with the world.

But the question I want to ask today is, “What is the world?” The world is the cosmos, the world system, which is headed by Satan and based upon self, greed and pride. This is the world that God warns about, and it is this world system and philosophy that Christians are to shun and remain free from. The world was such a great danger to our souls that this danger caused Christ, the Son of God, to go to the cross to deliver us from it.

Billy Graham goes on to say we need to be careful not to be deceived by the world. In this complex generation in which we live, it is not easy for the Christian to distinguish between that which is spiritual and that which is worldly. This cosmos has its own entertainment and diversions that so permeate the atmosphere that it makes the way of the cross seem antiquated and irrelevant. In much of the entertainment media fostered by the cosmos, the name of God is profaned, sex is glamorized, and high, ethical living and Christian moral standards are laughed at.

The Bible teaches that worldliness is a force, a spirit, an atmosphere of the cosmos that is in opposition to all that is godly and Christian. There is an undertow, a subtle current that runs against and in contradiction to the will and the way of God. Its eddies are deep and treacherous. They are stirred and troubled by Satan and intended to trap and ensnare those who would walk godly in Christ Jesus. Satan employs every device at his command to harass, tempt, thwart and hurt the people of God. His attack is relentless.

So we as Christians are in the world. We come in contact with the world, and yet we retain our distinctive kingdom character and refuse to let the world press us into its mold. The primary responsibility of the Christian is to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel—that God loves the world, has redeemed it through the cross of our Savior, and seeks to save it. But we are to achieve that most difficult of all tasks, not to be conformed to the world. This is the Christian’s stand; this is the Christian’s job. We are to be in the world but not of the world.

Last week, Pastor Stuart introduced John chapter 17 to us. This chapter has been called the High Priestly Prayer and it is the longest recorded prayer by Jesus in the Bible. ​​ Today, we are going to be focusing on the second section of Jesus’ prayer in which he prays for those closest to him while he was on the earth. Of the twenty six verses of Jesus’ prayer, 80% of them are focused on others. This includes those closest to him who believed in him while he was on the earth, those throughout history who have believed in him, those today who believe in him and those who will believe in him in the future. But 100% of this prayer, all 26 verses, are for those that are “not of this world.” Jesus was not of this world, the disciples were not of this world and all who have believed in him for all time are not of this world including believers today. If you are a Christ follower here this morning, you are a stranger and an alien on this earth and you are called to continue the work that Jesus has given you until you are called to your real home in heaven.

This morning we get to continue to listen in to Jesus’ High Priestly prayer just as the disciples of Jesus’ day did. We are going to hear who Jesus prayed for and we are going to hear what Jesus prayed about for them. Imagine hearing the Messiah, the Creator of the Universe, praying for you as you are listening. Maybe you have heard a parent or a pastor or a friend pray specifically for you. What did they pray for? Whatever it was it was probably important to them and to you. This morning we are going to see who was so important to Jesus and what was so important to pray for them about, that he took this opportunity so close to the cross to intercede for them with his heavenly Father. That brings us to our big idea that Jesus through John wants us to understand this morning which is “Knowing who to pray for and what to pray for them about is important.”

Before we start to unpack that big idea this morning let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you seeking knowledge and wisdom from your Word. We ask that you open our hearts and minds to what you want us to take away from your message this morning. Teach us, guide us, illumine us and use us to your honor and your glory, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

This morning, we are going to be studying John chapter 17, verses 6 to 19. Our first point is Who. Who did Jesus pray for and why was it important for him to pray for them. We see this in verses 6-11b. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, 6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You.

Who is Jesus praying for? He is definitely praying for the eleven remaining disciples. If you remember Judas has already left the upper room to go betray Jesus so the eleven other disciples are the subjects and the hearers of Jesus’ prayer to his Father. But he may have also been praying for other devoted followers that had heard his words and believed in him as their Messiah. But he probably had the eleven disciples in the forefront of his mind as he prayed because they were going to be the ones continuing his mission in the world after he left. He goes on to describe these eleven men whom he was getting ready to send out into the world.

The first way he describes them is that they were the men that Jesus manifested his Father’s name to while he was on the earth because they were given to Jesus out of the world by God. They were God’s and God gave them to Jesus. He also describes them as ones who kept God’s Word. Part of Jesus’ mission on the earth was to take ordinary men and make God known to them. John 1:14 says “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God, in the person of Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among the disciples so he could make himself known to them and show them his glory.

“Manifested” means “to reveal” or “to make known.” The tense here shows that Jesus perfectly accomplished the Father’s plan by revealing the Father to the disciples. The concept of God’s name means all that God is: his character, his nature and his attributes. Jesus was the perfect Word of God and the perfect manifestation of God and he perfectly revealed all God was to the disciples. Only Jesus could say “he who has seen me has seen the Father” as we saw in John 14:9. Hebrews 1:3a says, “And He (Jesus) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.

We see God’s divine sovereignty and election at work here. The eleven disciples who belonged to God first were chosen by God before time began out of the world to be Jesus’ followers on the earth. Their choosing was based on nothing that they did but only on the grace granted them by God in Christ. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” But there is also human responsibility. The disciples had to make a choice about Jesus. They would be held accountable to how they responded to the words and the name of God revealed to them through Jesus. At the end of verse 6, we see how they responded. It says they “kept” God’s Word. This means they obeyed the Word revealed to them by Jesus. Obedience is essential to salvation and is the result of a genuine salvation experience.

The offer of salvation goes out to all people and is the same for everyone. God’s desire is that everyone will be saved but we know that not everyone will accept that offer. God in his sovereignty knows who will accept him and who will reject him. He knew that these eleven men would accept his Words and his Name that Jesus would make known to them. Salvation is never a result of human morality, wisdom or willpower but a gift of grace and mercy from God. Those who reject the gospel do so willingly and without excuse having been given many, many opportunities by God to respond. ​​ 

Just like the disciples we will be held accountable to how we respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart right now urging you to take that step of faith toward salvation in Jesus Christ. If so this next step is for you: Admit that I am sinner. Believe that Jesus died for my sins. Confess that Jesus is my Lord. If you made that next step today, you are now “not of this world” and I would encourage you to let myself or Pastor Stuart know so we can share how you can now start to be discipled in Jesus.  ​​ ​​​​ 

In verses 7-8, Jesus continues to describe the disciples as those who have come to know that everything the Father gave the Son was from the Father, including the words given to Jesus from God. They truly understood that Jesus was the Son of God who came from God and was sent by God. In effect they believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Of course they did not fully understand Jesus’ mission on the earth but they would once he arose, ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. But at this point they clearly realized that Jesus was who he said he was. They had proven to be his true disciples because they had received the words the Father gave Jesus, they understood that Jesus came from Father and they believed that the Father had sent Jesus. These things were further proof of the disciples’ genuine faith. They believed, unlike the Jewish religious leaders, that Jesus’ power, authority and words came from God and that he did God’s will while on the earth.

This was who Jesus prayed for. God had been revealed to them and they “kept” his Word. These eleven men had come to be in a close personal relationship with Jesus and he knew what lay ahead for them. So it was important for Jesus to pray for them and it was important for them to listen in to his intimate communication with the Father. BIG IDEA

In verses 9-10, Jesus continues to describe the disciples as a gift and as those whom he has been glorified in. Because the disciples had responded with belief and demonstrated genuine faith through their obedience, they showed that they had been chosen by the Father out of this world as a gift for the Son. Jesus was confident that his Father would hear and grant his prayer for the disciples because they were a gift from him.

Then Jesus prays something that may surprise us. He says that he is praying for his disciples that God has gifted him, but not for the world. Remember the world is the evil, godless, satanically ruled system comprised of all that oppose God and his kingdom. Now this does not mean that God doesn’t care for those who reject him. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. That word “world” in John 3:16 is the same word used here in verse 9. But Christ’s high priestly work of interceding is done on behalf of those given to him by the Father: those who have received God’s words from Jesus, understood that Jesus came from God and believed that God sent him. The unredeemed world was not the subject of this prayer. He had been praying for them all throughout his ministry and even with his dying breath he was praying to his Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Jesus’ statement that “they are yours; and all things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine” shows his confidence that the eleven belonged to God. It was also a claim by Jesus to deity and full equality with God the Father. Jesus and God are one so the disciples were not only God’s and chosen by him but they were also fully and equally the Son’s and chosen by him. Those who belong to the Father belong to the Son as well.

The disciples were also men that Jesus has been glorified in. Jesus had been glorified in the disciples’ because they accepted and obeyed God’s Word from Jesus and believed that God sent him as the Messiah. This glory would continue to be displayed on the earth as the disciples lived out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission to love God and others and to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus had commanded them. Imagine that - sinning, denying, doubting, failing human beings represent the glory of the holy Son of God! Do you feel that way this morning? Jesus feels that way about you.

Pastor Stuart mentioned last week that one of Jesus’ purposes on the earth was to glorify God and we have the same purpose as well. We see this in Matthew 5:16, which says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” And 1 Corinthians 10:31, says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” God and Jesus will be glorified as Christians reflect Christ’s glory in the darkness of this world.

In verse 11a we see why Jesus is praying for the eleven disciples. He is praying for them because he is leaving the world to return to the Father but the eleven will be staying in the world without him. This was an important reason for Jesus to pray for them. Yes, Jesus will rise again from the grave and they will rejoice. Yes, the Holy Spirit will come upon them at Pentecost and they will be bold. But Jesus in bodily form whom they loved and whom loved them would not be with them day in and day out any longer. They were already devastated, saddened to the point of despair and anxious and depressed. So Jesus, with the cross looming before him, audibly prays to his Heavenly Father in their presence for them on their behalf. He wanted to uplift their spirits and remind them of how much he loved them. These eleven men were of super importance to Jesus and because of their importance to him he prays for them, interceding for them with his Father. BIG IDEA.

That brings us to our next point this morning which is What. What did Jesus pray about for his disciples? What were some of the most important things Jesus felt he needed to bring before the Father on the disciples’ behalf? We see these things in verses 11b-19. Follow along as I read those verses. “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

Jesus starts his intercessory prayer for his disciples by addressing God as “Holy Father.” The use of “Holy Father” is unique here in the NT. It suggests both remoteness and nearness. God is both awe-inspiring and loving. The Son was not only celebrating the holiness of God but was remembering God’s holiness to the disciples. It would be their holiness that would help them to overcome the hostile world as they lived in the world but be “not of the world.” Their relationship with God while on this earth was to be characterized as “holy” even as God was “holy.”

The first thing Jesus prayed for his disciples was unity. Jesus wanted God to “keep” his disciples by the power of his name so that they would be one as the Father and the Son were one. Remember God’s name represents all that he is and in this instance Jesus asks the Father to “keep” them according to his holy character and attributes. What did Jesus pray to keep or protect them from?

Gaebelein says, “That keeping means everything. Keeping from falling away, from evil doctrines, from being overcome by sorrow or in tribulation and suffering, keeping them in life and in death. From this first petition of our Lord’s prayer we learn the absolute security of a true believer. If a true believer, one who belongs to Christ, who has been given by the Father to the Son, for whom the Son intercedes, can be lost, it would mean the loss of Christ’s glory, the loss of a part of the travail of his soul.”

This “keeping” or protection was important so that the disciples would be one as the Father and the Son were one. This unity of the Father and the Son is seen in the power of the name of the Father which is also the Son’s name. God’s holy character was reflected perfectly in Jesus. Jesus had provided the disciples with a perfect picture of who God is and what he expects. God is faithful and true, so is Jesus. God is loving, gracious and merciful, so is Jesus. God is holy and just, so is Jesus. Jesus is praying to the Father for the disciples to have the same unity that they have because he knows their unity will be important as they live in the world but not be of the world so that they can continue the work that Jesus started on the earth.

The nature of this unity is important. It is a unity already given. Jesus doesn’t pray that they become one but that they continually be one. This is an invisible spiritual unity which rests in abiding in Jesus and having him abide in them. It is an invisible unity, produced by the Holy Spirit, that is the foundation for the visible unity that the world should see in the Church. The world should see this unity in us practically as a common love for God, commitment to his word, a love for his people and a life lived in holiness. Christ followers should be noticeably different from the world they live in. We are to be the salt of the earth and light in a darkened world. If we aren’t, Matthew 5:13 says we are “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

During Jesus’ ministry on the earth he “kept” and “guarded” them in the Father’s name given to Jesus. He guarded them so well that not one of them perished except the son of perdition. For three years Jesus taught them God’s words, he empowered them so they could continue his work on the earth after he left and he shielded them from persecution by the hostile Jewish religious leaders. The word Jesus uses for “kept” means preserve and watch over. “Guarded” gives the idea of protection from outside dangers like the strong man who guards his house in Luke 11:21. That verse says, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.” Jesus “kept” and “guarded” his disciples and they were not “disturbed.” Taken together the words give a picture of compete deliverance from all perils and lasting security. The Son asks the Father to secure his disciples knowing that it was the Father’s will and Jesus always prayed in perfect agreement with his Father.

Jesus says none perished but the “son of perdition.” He was talking about Judas. Only Judas who never had a true relationship in the first place was not “kept . . . by that name you gave me.” There is a play on words in the original text: “Not one perished but for the son of perishing.” His loss was not due to Jesus failing to keep him by the Father’s name or by not guarding him properly. Judas was characterized by “lostness” not predestined to be “lost.” Greene says, “Scripture was fulfilled by the loss of Judas not that he was lost to fulfill scripture.” Judas was still personally responsible for his actions and rejection of Jesus as the Messiah but God used his evil actions to bring about his own divine purposes. God’s will was done in the handing over of Jesus to be crucified.

The second thing Jesus prayed for his disciples was for them to have the complete joy of Jesus in them. Imagine their thoughts as they hear Jesus pray these things about and for them. Jesus has described them as men who were chosen by God to have the very words of God revealed to them. They were a gift from the Father to the Son and Jesus said he was glorified in them. Then Jesus asks God to keep and guard them as they continue his work in the world. I would have to believe that hearing this prayer on their behalf would produce joy in their hearts and help them to overcome their fears as Jesus was getting ready to return to the Father. But this wasn’t just any joy; this was Jesus’ joy. Jesus loved his disciples so much and was so concerned for their well-being that he wanted them to have the same joy that he experienced. This was joy based on the eternal purposes of God which the disciples would now take part in. The disciples would also share in Christ’s joy as they would experience eternal life made possible through his death and resurrection.

Just as the world hated Jesus, God’s incarnate Word in the world, the world hates the disciples because they accepted the word given to them by Jesus. By rejecting both Jesus and the disciples they were ultimately rejecting God. The hatred of the world for the disciples was proof that they were not of this world just as Jesus wasn’t. They were reborn, born again, from above. Their citizenship was no longer on the earth but in heaven. Effectively they were strangers and aliens here just as everyone today is if they have been born again.

The third thing Jesus prayed for his disciples was for their protection. Even though they were not of this world Jesus was not asking the Father to remove them from it. But he was praying God would give them a supernatural awareness of the world’s evils so they could be avoided. It would be important that they were kept from evil because evil would be fatal to their mission. He also asked his Father to protect them from the evil one while they continued his work on the earth. Carson says, “Followers of Jesus are permitted neither the luxury of compromise with the world, nor the safety of being taken out of the world. But we are assured of the safety that only God can provide as certainly as the prayers of God’s son will be answered.” Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 59:1 says, “Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. And 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

In verse 16, Jesus again states that the disciples are not of the world just as he is not. This was more than just a restatement of verse 14. Jesus was emphasizing the unity that the disciples shared with him. Imagine the joy they would have felt at hearing Jesus pray for their protection from the world and the evil one. They would have the same joy that Jesus had. They would enjoy the same unity that Jesus and the Father had. They would have the same protection from the Father as Jesus had.

The last thing Jesus prayed for was that his disciples would be sanctified. “To be sanctified” means to be “holy” or “set apart.” The world is hostile to God and the things of God, including his Son and disciples. The only way to overcome the world and the evil one is to be sanctified. Jesus was sanctified and set apart by the Father and sent into the world to redeem it. Now Jesus asks his Father to sanctify the disciples for the same purpose. They are to be sanctified and set apart from the world in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The instrument of this sanctification is “truth” which is the Word of God. Their protection would be found in God’s Word. As they were preaching and teaching the “truth” in the world they would not only be protected from outside evils but also from inside ones. The evil one would try to stop the disciples from finishing Jesus’ work by attacking their unity, their joy and their hearts and minds.

They needed to be continually internally transformed by reading and studying God’s Word, by obeying the Word, by prayer and striving to live as Christ lived on the earth. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. And 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Bruce says, “The very message which they are to proclaim in his name will exercise its sanctifying effect on them . . .” Think about that. You are sanctified as you read the word, as you talk about the word with others (Bible study) and as you obey the word. And others are sanctified as well.

But this continued work would not be possible except for the sacrificial death of the Son on the cross. MacArthur says, “What he was about to endure on the cross would make salvation possible for the eleven and for those who would be saved through their extended ministries. For the disciples’ sake Jesus would sanctify himself by himself being set apart to righteously obey the Father’s will by dying on the cross. It was only because of Jesus’ atonement for their sins that they themselves would be sanctified in truth. Having been justified by their faith in Jesus they would be daily conformed more and more into his perfect image.”

So, “knowing who to pray for and what to pray for them about is important.” I have two questions for each of us this morning. First, who do you pray for on a daily or regular basis? Who are the people closest and most important to you? Is it a brother or sister? A mother or father? A husband or wife? Maybe it’s a close friend. And what do you pray about for them on a daily or regular basis? Do you pray for their unity in Christ, for their joy in Christ, for their protection from the evil one and for their sanctification? If not the second next step this morning is for you: Pray daily for those most important to me for their unity, joy, protection and sanctification. Second, do you pray for your church family? Do you pray for those who worship here at Idaville Church with you? What do you pray about for them? Do you ever pray for their unity in Christ, for their joy in Christ, for their protection from the evil one as they live out the Great Commandment and for their sanctification? If not the last next step is for you: Pray daily for my Idaville Church family for their unity, joy, protection and sanctification.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn this morning let’s pray. Holy Father, we thank you for your Incarnate Word, Jesus, and your words to us this morning. Help us to model our prayers after the prayers of your Son especially this prayer in John chapter 17. Help us to remember our family, our friends and our Idaville Church family in our prayers to you for their unity and joy in your Son, for their protection from the evil one and for a continued striving to holiness as we live in this world but not of the world. In Jesus name, Amen.

As some of you know I really love genealogy. In fact, I would probably call myself a genealogy junkie. It is not only a hobby of mine but a passion as well. I really can’t get enough. I would do genealogy all day every day if I could get away with it. I have been tracing my family tree since I was in junior high and have been tracing Judy’s tree since we were married. I love to trace family trees whether there are any relation to me or not. In fact, I have done work on the family trees of some of you who are here this morning. I usually can’t help myself and after talking to someone about their family I will go right home and start searching on Ancestry.com and I won’t stop until I have exhausted the available resources. It is really exciting to be able to go back generation after generation on my family tree or honestly anyone’s family tree.

Here is a depiction of the first six generations of my Webb family tree including me. There I am with my father Philip, my grandfather William, my great grandfather Pearl, my great great grandfather James and my third great grandfather Aquilla.

Now I have a confession to make. Last Tuesday was my mom’s birthday. And she called me on her birthday not the other way around. It probably didn’t surprise her because I am usually three days late calling her for most special days. But before we hung up she asked me if I was preaching today and I said yes and later on as I laid awake in bed I realized that in the PPT this morning I had only put my Webb family in and not hers. I felt bad about that especially if she was going to watch this morning so here is my mother’s side of my family tree. Her maiden name was Haney. My mom Jean, my grandfather Joseph, my great grandfather Ellis, great great grandfather Thomas, my third great grandmother Louisa and I actually have one more known generation on my Haney side my fourth great grandfather William Haney. There you go mom, Happy Birthday.

Back to the Webb side of my family tree. My third great grandfather Aquila Webb was born in 1803 in Maryland. That is as far back as I have been able to document. Now, I have found another Aquilla Webb who was married in Maryland in 1802, and I could surmise that he is the father of my known Aquilla but I can’t prove it. In genealogical terms that is what we call a brick wall. Now there are many ways to break down our genealogical brick walls and one of those is with DNA. We receive about 50% of our DNA from our parents, about 25% from our grandparents and so on and so on. So it could be possible to find someone who shares DNA with me that also shares a common ancestor back to my fourth great grandfather whether that is this unknown Aquilla Webb or someone else.

There are a number of DNA tests and testing companies out there. The different tests can help you learn different things about your ancestors. An Autosomal DNA Test can be taken by males or females and will typically give you DNA matches within 5 to 6 generations on both your mother’s and father’s sides of the family. The YDNA Test is taken by a male, and is used to track the Y chromosome passed from father to son over the generations. It can provide paternal matches and a paternal haplogroup. A haplogroup is the area of the world that ancestry originated from many, many generations back. If a father’s family line is in question, this DNA test may help break down that brick wall. Third, there is the mtDNA Test that can be taken by males or females, but it looks only at the genetic markers of your mother’s maternal line. It too extends back many generations and can provide maternal matches and a maternal haplogroup showing where your maternal ancestry originated. ​​ If your brick wall involves your mother’s maternal family line, this DNA test may be helpful.

So if I took a DNA test and uploaded it onto say, Ancestry.com, it would be compared to other people’s DNA that has been submitted and would tell me if I shared DNA with any of them and how much. That could help me to break down that brick wall and find more generations of my family tree. The DNA that is in you right now is the same DNA that is in everyone who is a part of your biological family and can be traced many generations back even to the original area in the world that your ancestors came from. And as Christians, we have DNA is us as well, it’s a supernatural DNA.

That brings us to our scripture this morning, which is found in John 16:4b-15. Jesus again tells the disciples he is leaving and mildly rebukes them for thinking only about themselves as he prepares to go to the cross and back to the Father. He says leaving them will greatly benefit them but they will not reap the benefits until after he is crucified and resurrected. Only then can he send the Holy Spirit to them and into the world to fulfil his purpose. When we surrender to Jesus as our Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit comes upon us and infuses us with the DNA of our Father, who is God. As Christians with the Holy Spirit in us we start to grow more like Christ, start to look more like Christ, thinking and loving more like Christ. This is because of God’s DNA that the Holy Spirit puts in us at our conversion.

Judy and I have been watching a new TV show called The Genetic Detective. In this show, the Genetic Detective, Ceecee Moore takes DNA from cold case crime scenes and matches it to people who upload their DNA to the database called GEDMatch. From these DNA matches she can compile a family tree that works from the past to the present that includes the perpetrator of the crime. She can then give this new evidence to the police. One of her catch phrases is DNA doesn’t lie. If DNA from a crime scene matches DNA in the database then that means they are part of the same family. That brings us to our big idea this morning that John wants us to understand which is that the Holy Spirit in us is the proof that we are part of the family of God. Just as physical DNA doesn’t lie, spiritual DNA doesn’t lie either. If you have the Holy Spirit in you, you are part of God’s family tree.

Before we start to unpack what it is the Holy Spirit does in the world and in our lives, let’s pray, Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this time that we can take out of our busy weeks to stop and rest in your word. I pray that our hearts and minds will be open to what you want us to hear, to learn and to apply to our lives this week and in the future. In Jesus’ name Amen.

Our first point this morning is the Work of the Holy Spirit and that is found in John 16, verses 4b-11. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. 5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”

The first thing we see is that Jesus says he didn’t tell them certain things in the beginning because he was with them. What didn’t he tell them? Pastor Stuart told us about these things in last week’s sermon. The things that he didn’t tell them was about the persecution they would come up against once he had left them to go to his Father. He said they would be put out of the synagogue and even killed. The reason he didn’t tell them about the persecution earlier was that he was with them. Throughout his ministry, Jesus shielded the disciples from the opposition and took the brunt of the persecution. The disciples had not personally seen persecution but that was going to change after Jesus was crucified. They would face the hatred of the world because of their allegiance and faith in Jesus. Jesus never promised a life of ease and comfort in following him. In fact he said following him was like picking up their own cross and being willing to lose their life for his sake (Luke 9:23-24).

Next Jesus again brings up the fact that he is leaving and returning to the Father. He mildly rebukes the disciples for not asking him about where he is going. Now you might wonder why Jesus said that because back in John 14:5, Thomas said we don’t know where you are going and in John 13:36, Peter asks Jesus where he was going. But Thomas was asking about the way of Jesus’ departure and Peter was questioning the reasonableness of the cross and Jesus says those things were secondary. The point was the goal of the cross, which was the glorification of Jesus, and returning to the Father to sit on his right hand.

We know from the gospels that the disciples never imagined that the Messiah would be a conquering, suffering, dying and resurrected Lord. They couldn’t fathom that and so never truly focused on where Jesus was going and how he was going to get there. They were so filled with their own sorrow and grief that one, they never stopped to think about the excruciatingly painful and humiliating way of the cross that Jesus was going to take to go back to the Father. They should have been comforting him, not the other way around. Two, they never considered that for Jesus to return to the Father was to be the most glorifying and wonderful thing imaginable for Jesus. They didn’t seem to be concerned for Jesus at all and seemed to protest Jesus abandoning them rather than expressing a genuine interest in what he was about to experience. Their selfishness, anxiety and grief blinded them to what Jesus wanted to teach them. ​​ 

In verse 7 Jesus says, “But I tell you the truth” which means “listen up.” He says that it was for their advantage that he was going away even if it seemed disastrous to them right now. He wanted to send the helper to them but that couldn’t happen until he went away. Jesus in his earthly body could not be everywhere. He was limited in time and space but the helper would have no such limitations. The helper could be with believers anywhere and everywhere they would go. There would be uninterrupted fellowship with forever with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples why the helper couldn’t come until he went away. We know why this was necessary today but the disciples did not which was why they were still feeling fear, anxiety and confusion that night. The helper’s ministry was and is to reveal the person and works of Jesus Christ and that could not be fully realized until Jesus’ finished work of redemption and salvation on the cross, ascension into heaven and exaltation at the right hand of the Father.

This coming of the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of the promise found in Matthew 28:20 which ends, “and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That promise found at the end of the Great Commission means that as we live on this earth making disciples, baptizing and teaching people about the good news of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is right there with us.

In verses 8-11, we see the Holy Spirit’s work in the unbelieving world. His work is to convict the world of its guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgment. The Greek word John uses for “convict” translates to “reprove” or “convince”. It is a word that would have been used in a court of law to cross examine a person on trial or an opponent in an argument. ​​ The idea was for the person on trial or the opposing party to see and admit the error of their ways. In this context the word refers to being convinced that the position they have taken in regard to Jesus is wrong. The outcome of the Holy Spirit’s work could go one of two ways. They could be convinced of their sin and their need for a savior or they could continue to reject Jesus, be convicted and spend eternity separated from God. The Spirit’s ministry in the world is a positive ministry. His goal is to bring sinners to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ not condemnation. No one can be saved apart from the Spirit’s convicting and regenerating work.

The Holy Spirit is going to convict or convince the world of three things. The first thing that the world will be convicted of is their sin. What is this sin? It is the sin of their rejection and unbelief in Jesus. They did not believe in Jesus as the Son of God or as Messiah. This was not a problem of understanding on their part but a willful rejection of Jesus as Lord and Savior. If they had believed they would have repented and accepted him. Holman says, “The root of this sin is the belief that we can atone for ourselves. God is not looking for perfect people but people who are willing to accept the atonement that he has already provided.”

The second thing that the world will be convicted of is their righteousness and that is seen in the fact that Jesus was returning to the Father in heaven. The Jews thought they knew God and that they were the righteous ones. Everything pointed to Jesus being God’s Son and the Messiah sent by him but they thought there was no way that Jesus of Nazareth could be the Son of God, so they rejected him and crucified him. They thought they were doing the “righteous” thing. The Holy Spirit came into the world to convict them in regard to their righteousness because guess what? The proof that Jesus was the true Son of God and the Messiah was the fact that he would return to heaven and would be accepted by God back to his rightful place. That’s why in verse 10, Jesus says, “and you no longer see me.” He is in heaven.

God is holy and he cannot be where sin is and the proof that Jesus was the sinless, righteous one sent from God was that he was accepted back into heaven after his life, ministry and death here on the earth. This proves that Jesus was righteous and that the world was not. Barrett says, “Jesus’ death proved his complete obedience to the will of God, and his exaltation proved that his righteousness was approved by more than human acclamation.” The world believes in the relative righteousness of people but not the absolute righteousness of Christ. Man is not worthy to declare the righteousness of Jesus, but God is and we should be glad, because God declares our righteousness based on the righteousness of Jesus.

The third thing that the world will be convicted of is their judgment. The world’s judgment is wrong and the Holy Spirit convicts the world of its false judgment. The world thought it was judging Jesus but in fact it was the world that was judged. That is seen in the fact that the prince of this world now stands condemned. The prince of this world is Satan and by Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross he has already been beaten and condemned to the lake of Fire for all eternity. This is not an arbitrary feat of power but justice being done in the overthrow of the evil one. By the time the Holy Spirit comes, Satan is already condemned and he will convict those in the world that follow Satan of that fact. And if Satan is already condemned then that means that his followers are too. The world is already condemned and in desperate need to learn of its plight. This is a warning to those who follow Satan that he will not get away from judgment and neither will they.

There are only two possible responses to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit: repentance or rejection. Those who reject the Spirit’s conviction will spend eternity in Hell while those who repent will spend eternity in Heaven.

Our big idea this morning that the Holy Spirit in us is the proof that we are a part of the family of God. But the opposite is also true. If you don’t have the Holy Spirit in you, you are not part of the family of God. You are not in God’s family tree. It is the Holy Spirit’s function to convict and convince lost sinners of their guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgment. The question for all of us this morning is have we been convicted and convinced by the Holy Spirit. Have we repented of our sins and accepted Jesus as our Savior and become part of God’s family tree? Remember DNA doesn’t lie. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. It is a spiritual death and an eternal separation from God. But the rest of the verse says, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. This morning, you can become part of God’s family tree. That brings us to our first next step which is to confess my sin, accept Jesus as my Savior, be infused with God’s DNA by the Holy Spirit and become part of the family of God.

In verses 12-15, we see our second point this morning which is the revelation of the Holy Spirit that believers receive. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

Jesus goes from talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in the world, those who aren’t part of the family of God, to the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples, those who are already part of God’s family tree. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth, because he is going to reveal “all truth” to the disciples. There are three aspects to this revelation of the Holy Spirit. There is the need for revelation, the extent of the revelation and the goal of the revelation. Jesus says there is a lot more that he needs to impart to them but at this moment they can’t bear the things he has to tell them. There were three reasons they couldn’t bear it at that particular moment and would need the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

First, it was partly because they were overcome with sorrow because he said he was leaving them. They couldn’t get past their feelings of anxiety, loss, etc. and focus on the additional teachings Jesus wanted to give them. Second, they would not be able to totally understand the significance of the cross and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus until after it happened. Like most Jews, the disciples believed that the Messiah would be a political and military deliverer, not that he would die. They couldn’t understand how the death of Jesus translated into his glory and the coming of his kingdom. The Holy Spirit was the one who would bring all the things that Jesus had told them during his ministry back to the disciples’ minds. Then they would understand and believe. John 2:22 says, “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” We also see this in Luke 18:34 and John 12:16.

Third, all revelation is limited by the ability of the receiver to understand it. Until the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost they lacked the power both to grasp and to live out the implications of further revelation. This further revelation was specific truth about the Person of Jesus and the significance of what he said and did while on the earth. God doesn’t dump truth on us all at once and expect us to remember it but teaches us truth as we need to know it. The Bible is the greatest example of this truth in the progressive unfolding of the plan of salvation from Genesis to Revelation. Submission to Christ and knowledge of Christ go hand in hand. When we have the Father’s DNA in us we can better know Jesus and become more like him. BIG IDEA ​​ 

The next aspect of the revelation of the Spirit was the extent of that revelation. The revelation of the Holy Spirit was not going to be new revelation but it was going to be clarity of the revelation given to the disciples by Jesus himself. The Holy Spirit doesn’t speak on his own, in fact, he only speaks what he hears from Jesus and the Father. Just as Jesus while he was on the earth never acted on his own initiative but always did the will of the Father, the Spirit never acts on his own initiative but does the will of the Son.

Tenney says, “The Spirit would not present an independent message, differing from what the disciples had already learned from Christ. They would be led further into the realization of his person and in the development of the principles he had already laid down. They would also be enlightened about coming events. He would unfold the truth as the disciples grew in spiritual capacity and understanding.”

The Holy Spirit would also tell the disciples what was yet to come. This means in the immediate future not necessarily in the far future. “All truth” would comprise the New Testament writings. The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of the books of the Bible to write exactly what God wanted them to say. We see this today in God’s Word, the Bible. The Word of God is all the Christian needs in order to daily walk rightly with the Lord. 2 Tim 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” This means we need to study the Bible and studying the Bible apart from being filled with and walking in the Holy Spirit is fruitless. Also, the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life will always be consistent with God’s revealed will in the Bible. How do you know that you are being lead to do God’s will or not? Is it consistent with the Word of God?

That brings us our second next step which is to let the Holy Spirit continue to transform me by revealing the truth of Jesus and his Word to me.

Third, we see the goal of the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The goal of the Holy Spirit’s revelation to the disciples was to bring glory to the Son which in turn brings glory to the Father. The “what is mine” in verse 14, is nothing less than the revelation of the Father himself. The Holy Spirit would bring glory to Jesus by disclosing the truth about Christ, just as Jesus glorified the Father by revealing the truth about him.

It is the Spirit’s purpose to glorify Christ in revelation and our purpose to glorify Christ in proclamation. It is the witness of the Holy Spirit that ultimately testifies to the truthfulness of God’s Word. Only the Spirit can convince lost sinners of its divine inspiration. The Spirit must work in people’s lives for them to change their views of both the Bible, God’s written word, and Jesus, the incarnate Word. That sovereign work in the hearts and minds convinces people that the Bible is from God, that its words are reliable and that its message about Jesus is indeed the good news of salvation. Our final verse this morning focuses on the harmony and the oneness of Jesus, the Father and the Spirit. The Father gives to the Son and the Son gives to the Spirit and then the Spirit gives to us.

In closing, I want to read an article written by J. Warner Wallace, who is the author of Cold Case Christianity and a Christian apologist which means he defends Christianity against objections to it. The article is called “What Ancestry DNA kits reveal about God, our past and the way forward. Fortune reported recently that “DNA test kits are blowing up in popularity.” More people than ever are interested in discovering their ethnic heritage23andMe (the DNA testing company named after the 23 chromosome pairs that make up the human genome) has already performed over 5 million genetic tests for people who want to know more about their ancestry.

DNA test advertising reveals something important about our desire to know our past. In one well-known AncestryDNA commercial, a man named Kyle dances in lederhosen and tells the audience his family always thought they were German. His DNA test, however, revealed he was predominantly Scottish and Irish. This revelation seems to change the way he sees himself, and the commercial ends with Kyle wearing traditional Scottish garb, saying, “So, I traded in my lederhosen for a kilt.” The message here? Once you discover who you really are, you’ll begin to engage the world differently. Learning about your past will change the way you go forward.

Wallace goes on to say: My son, Jimmy, and his wife were recently given an opportunity to experience this for themselves when they received an ancestry DNA test as a gift. Jimmy was curious to learn about his own Scottish, German and Italian heritage, but when the results returned, none of his DNA was traced back to Italy, despite his strong Italian heritage through my mother’s side of the family. Why wasn’t Italy highlighted on his genetic map? Because our Italian ancestors (like many other Italians) trace their lineage through other parts of Europe like France and the Balkan regions. In essence, my son’s genetic test provided him with a snapshot of our family migration pattern, capturing our location prior to our arrival in Italy.

All ancestral DNA tests are similarly rooted in time. The people groups that came to Italy from France and the Balkans didn’t originate in those regions. If the test could take a snapshot one thousand years earlier, it would find them living somewhere else. The further back in time we go genetically, the smaller the number of people groups and the less diverse their locations. When my son learned his genetic history preceded Italy, he naturally wanted to know how far back in time he could trace it. Sadly, France (or the Balkans) was as far as he could go. Unless Christianity is true. The Christian worldview explains human origins in a way that not only satisfies our desire to know our past, but also helps us understand our identity so we can effectively move forward.

Christianity teaches that all humans were created by God and descended from a single pair: Adam and Eve. This means we are all genetically linked as siblings, cousins and distant relatives. According to Christianity, if our DNA technology was capable of even greater precision and historical “distance,” it would ultimately identify the Garden of Eden as our place of origin. This Biblical truth about our past, can help us navigate the future in a way that Darwinian explanations cannot. Later he concludes with: Once we discover who we really are, we’ll begin to engage the world differently. Learning about our past can truly change the way we go forward.

When we realize we have been created by God in the image of God to be in relationship with God that changes everything. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Until you accept Jesus as your Savior and the Holy Spirit infuses the Father’s DNA in you, you are not part of God’s family tree. That is the old. But once you accept Jesus as your Savior you have the Holy Spirit in you. You are a new creation. You now discover who you were truly meant to be and begin to engage the world differently and it changes the way you live your life in the future. You will start to grow more like Christ, thinking more like Christ and loving more like Christ. DNA doesn’t lie. The Holy Spirit in you is proof that you are part of the family of God.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for the Holy Spirit in us that helps us to be more like your Son, Jesus. Help us to accept the revelation of the Holy Spirit in our lives and allow him to teach us, to guide us, to correct us and train us in righteousness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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.

 

 

 

 

THE KING OF THE WORLD

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.

 

 

HOPE FLOATS

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.

ARE YOU IN?

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.