ULTIMATE TAG

Ultimate Tag is a reality show where competitors must vault, dodge, tumble and dive their way through several different three dimensional courses with one person trying to tag the other person. It is billed as the fastest, craziest, most intense game ever.

Everyone has probably played the childhood game of tag at some point in their lives. I can remember playing tag on the playground growing up. I remember one time in second grade being chased in a game of tag and I tried so hard to get away that I slide under a fence. I ended up ripping my shirt and actually getting stuck under the fence. And I got tagged which upset me more than ripping my shirt did.

This morning we are going to be talking about ultimate tag as it pertains to a command given us by God himself. In ultimate tag the object is to pursue another person trying to tag them so they are “it.” In the command given to us by God we are to be holy as he is holy. We are to pursue holiness daily so that we can abide in his presence. This is the ultimate tag of life because we must be relentless in our pursuit of holiness. We can’t take a day off. It must be an every second of every day pursuit.

Holiness is not just about keeping the commands of God. We can’t earn our holiness as we can only be holy through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Without his sacrifice we could never be holy. But after our justification we can be sanctified through pursuing holiness which means the way that we show our holiness to the Lord is by keeping his commands and obeying his Word. This morning we will be studying Leviticus 19 and we will see parallels with the Ten Commandments given by God to the Israelites. If we follow the Ten Commandments our relationship with God and with others will be in good standing. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is our holiness can be seen in our relationship with God and others.

Before we begin our study this morning let’s dedicate this time to the Lord. Dear Heavenly Father, as we study your Word this morning help us to be attentive to you Spirit. Help us to hear your voice and what it is you want us to learn and share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Before we look at Leviticus, I want to give you some background information. First, what is holiness? The Hebrew word for “holiness” is a word that highlights the realm of the sacred in contrast to everything common and profane. It refers to God and what belongs to him. The word holy is used more than 600 times in the Bible. It describes something or someone that is set apart for God. We will see in Leviticus 19 that God was calling his people into a relationship with himself and he wanted them to not only to survive the experience but to be nourished by it. But for that to happen, they needed to know the ground rules, they needed to come to him on his terms not their own.

What or who can be holy? Anything can be holy, time, space, objects, and people, all can become holy if they belong to God. The temple in Jerusalem was considered a holy space, and the objects used in worship were holy objects. The Sabbaths and feasts of Israel were considered holy days or seasons. And the Israelites were called God’s holy people because he had chosen them and they belonged to him. To be holy literally means to be set apart. The Israelites were to be set apart from the other nations that they were going to be living among in the Promised Land and today we are to be holy and set apart from the world that we live in, meaning those who are against God and don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. To be set apart means we are to live differently from the world. When the world looks at us they should see a difference between us and themselves. If they don’t then we are not living a holy life as a child of God.

As believers, we are literally set apart, made holy, because of our relationship with the one who died on a cross for our sins and brought us back into a right relationship with a holy God. How does Jesus do this? If you remember the story of King Midas, everything he touched turned to gold. Something like that happens when we come into relationship with Jesus. He is the one who entered the holy of holies in heaven to heal the rift that sin had created in our relationship with God. Jesus is the one who makes us holy, enabling us to stand in God’s presence and join the angels as they sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.” It starts with our justification, our accepting of Jesus as our Lord and Savior and it continues with our sanctification.

What is sanctification? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” It is a continuing change worked by God in us, freeing us from our sinful habits and forming in us Christ-like affections, dispositions, and virtues. It doesn’t mean that we will never sin again, but it does mean that we strive to be more Christ-like every day and when we do sin we confess and repent. This is sanctification and it is a real transformation, not just the appearance of one.

So our holiness starts with the work of Jesus on the cross and continues as we pursue the holiness of God in our everyday lives, which brings us to our scripture this morning. It is found in Leviticus 19:1-2 but we will be talking about the entire chapter. I also want to reference Leviticus 20:7-8 and 26 in the scripture reading this morning. This is what God’s Word say from Leviticus 19:1-2: The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. And in Leviticus 20:7-8, 26: “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

We see the concept of holiness played out in these verses. First, we are to be holy because God is holy. Second, God is the one who makes us holy. Third, God has set us apart from the nations to be his own. And fourth, to be holy we need to keep God’s decrees by following and obeying them. The rest of those two chapters are God-given guidelines on what it practically meant for the Israelites to be holy. If they obeyed these decrees they would be different from the nations around them and would be in a close relationship with God. Another benefit from obeying these commands was that not only would they be in a close relationship with God but they would be in close relationships with each other. That reminds us of our big idea that our holiness can be seen in our relationship with God and others.

Leviticus 19 has been called the Old Testament Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus was laying out for His disciples His rules for those who would be subjects of His kingdom. Those whom Christ saves are to display a life that is different from the kingdom from which they have been delivered. They are different because they are pursuing holiness and striving to be holy as God is holy. The same was true for God’s covenant people. If they were pursuing holy living their lives would demonstrate that they were different from the nations living around them.

The important thing for us to remember is that holiness is definable, it is practical, and it is even measureable. But even further than that, when it comes to holiness, those who have been redeemed by the grace of God are responsible. It is our responsibility to pursue the practice of holiness in our lives. And because of God’s saving grace, we have the power to do so. If we pursue holiness, in the power of Christ, then we will find ourselves experiencing the abundant life that Jesus talked about. The pursuit of holiness is also a profitable pursuit. We will see all of this in Leviticus 19.

Our first point is the Principles of Holiness. The first principle is that holiness is a commanded responsibility. In vs. 1-2, God commanded his chosen people to be holy as he was holy. It was not merely a good suggestion but rather a covenant obligation. This is why we have been saved. We are not to be corrupted by the world around us but are to live in loyalty and obedience to the Lord who has saved us. We are to be like Him. Harris says, “The character of God is behind all his commandments. Among the sensual and foolish deities of antiquity, no god could ground all moral duty in his divine character; only the God of Israel could.” Jonathan Edwards once said that if we do not love God for His holiness then it is doubtful that we love Him at all. Think about it: we will know that we love Him for His holiness if we answer His command to pursue holiness. Every week in our worship-based prayer, we seek the face of God as we praise him for his many attributes such as his holiness, but you know what, they are empty words if we don’t answer his command to pursue holiness. It works the same way for all his attributes. If we say we love God but don’t love others our words are meaningless. If we praise him for his graciousness and mercifulness towards us but we are not gracious and merciful towards others our praise is meaningless.

Our second principle is that holiness is a countercultural responsibility. God was concerned that the people whom He had redeemed not be corrupted by the practices of the people whom they would soon encounter. They were to be holy and therefore their lifestyle was to be characterized by holiness. God is different from His creation and as believers we are called to model him. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Harrison says, “God’s holiness is to be taken as a model for individual and community life.” Currid defines holiness as “the imitation of God.” Jesus taught this principle when He said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” in Matthew 5:48. When God called His people to holiness, He was calling them to a lifestyle and an existence that was to be different to those around them. He is calling us to the same thing today.

Christians and non-Christians are similar in many ways. Rarely can you look at someone and just from the outside tell whether they are a Christian or not. The difference is related to someone’s desires, beliefs, values and aspirations. We should be different from the culture we live in and honestly we should unapologetically be offending the culture around us. There should be a difference in our behavior that is noticeable to them. We will examine examples of that behavior in the rest of chapter 19.

Our third principle is that holiness is a communal responsibility. God’s command to be holy as he is holy, was given in the context of community. Moses was commanded by God to command the entire assembly to holiness. No one was exempt from holy living, not even the stranger or the foreigner in the assembly. This means that everyone here in our congregation of Idaville Church has a part to play in being holy and the responsibility of ensuring that holiness is part of their everyday lives.

It is essential that I pursue holiness, but it is also essential that we all pursue holiness so that together we are holy. This requires an awareness of accountability. Moses gave these commands from God to the people publicly so that they were without excuse. There was a built-in accountability factor that no one could easily escape. It is the same for you and I. We sit here and hear Pastor Stuart preaching and teaching us directly from God’ Word every Sunday. We go to Sunday school and hear teachers teaching from Word of God. We read God’s Word for ourselves at home. We are now held accountable by God but also by each other to obey what God’s Word says. That accountability is part of pursuing holiness.

Our fourth principle is that holiness is a comprehensive responsibility. In Leviticus 19:3-18, Ross says, God gave the Israelites a “rapid, panoramic tour” of what it meant to be holy. The laws he gave covered every major sphere of daily life. They started in the home, and then with the sanctuary and then with society at large. Also, each of the Ten Commandments seem to be alluded to here. We are called to be holy and obedient in every area of our lives. Sometimes we are guilty of pursuing holiness in one aspect of our lives but not worrying about holiness in another. This may be played out in loving God but not being willing to love others as ourselves. We can’t love God if we don’t love others like us who are made in his image.

That brings us to our first next step which is to obey God’s command to be holy, different from the world we live in, individually and as a church community, in every part of our daily lives.

Our second point this morning is the practice of holiness. The pursuit of holiness is a practical pursuit. There are things that we are to do as well as things that we are to avoid. First, holiness is a concrete responsibility. There is a very definite behavior that God expects of those who claim Him as their Father and there should be concrete differences in our living compared to the world around us. And, this behavior is not beyond our reach; it is attainable. Tidball says, “Holy living involved goals that were manageable, by God’s grace, rather than goals that were so far out of reach that people were condemned to perpetual failure.” James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” The pursuit of holiness is practical. It can be demonstrated, measured and attained.

In chapter 19, verses 3-18, we see what was required in the daily pursuit of holiness. The first thing that was required was to love God, and this was shown practically in several ways. First, we are to respect our parents because God has put them in authority over us. Two, we are to remember the Sabbath. Holiness begins in the home and remembering the Sabbath benefits our family life. When we have a respect for God we will have a respect for those he puts in authority over us such as our parents. And three, we are not to have any other gods before us or worship any idols. It is interesting how these are related. If you don’t remember the Sabbath and the worship of God then it won’t be long til you start to worship idols such as money, possessions, people, etc. Holiness is demonstrated in whom we worship. We were created for worship. Everyone worships; the only question is whom and how we worship.

David Foster Wallace delivered a commencement address at Kenyon College back in 2005. He makes no profession to faith in Jesus Christ, but at one point in his address he made the following statement: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what we worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” Anything you worship other than the God of the Bible—money, fame, sex, etc. will eventually eat you alive. If we do not want to be eaten alive by that which they worship, we must teach and model a remembrance of the Sabbath and a respect for God and parents. God is the only one worthy of our worship. Everything else is worthless.

Lastly, to love God was shown practically by obeying the rules. This is seen in Leviticus 19:5-10. The first rule had to do with the peace offering. The peace offering was the culmination of all of the sacrificial rituals. It was a meal in which God shared with His people. It celebrated reconciliation with God. It was a statement expressing fellowship and oneness with Him. The second rule had to do with gleaning which was a God-prescribed means for caring for the poor among His people. When a landowner harvested his field he was not to reap in the corners of his fields or to harvest every grape and olive. He was to leave some for the poor to harvest. It was a means of feeding the poor while at the same time guarding their dignity. In other words, they could find food but they had to labor for it themselves.

What was important about these two rules being together? The peace offering was also a thank offering, in which the worshipper would bring a sacrifice to express gratitude to God for His goodness in giving them a harvest. And this thankfulness was to spill over into their lives as they went back home to their fields. They were in community together and this was a practical way to have compassion for others just as God had compassion on them. ​​ 

The second thing that was required in the daily pursuit of holiness was love for their neighbor and these practical things are found in Leviticus 19:11-18. The first is honesty. If oneness, fellowship and unity were to be maintained in the community, there must be integrity among the people. To deceive others is to dishonour God and to destroy communal holiness. We should expect and even demand honesty from those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and call themselves Christians. Second, we are not to take advantage of others. We are not to cheat our neighbor or withhold from someone what they have earned. We are not to take advantage of the disadvantaged or the disenfranchised. The Israelites were to be compassionate and sympathetic towards those who were in such a predicament. They were not to take advantage of those who did not know or could not perceive what was happening to them. He mentions the blind and the deaf. God can see and hear how we treat others even if they can’t. Third, we are to practice justice towards others. God’s people are to be characterized by justice, truthfulness and fairness. We are not supposed to stab people in the back. Lastly, a practical way to love our neighbor is to be constructive not destructive. Verses 17-18 means that we are to be passionately concerned for the spiritual welfare of others. We are to love our fellow believers so much that we will do what is necessary to help them live differently and to be holy. We don’t love others when we refuse to hold them accountable to personal holiness, or hold a grudge against them instead of reconciling and restoring fellowship with them.

Why is holiness important especially in our relationship to God and with others? Because if we obey these concrete laws of holiness commanded by God then good will be the result. Our homes will be blessed, our church will be blessed and the overflow is that our society will be blessed. Imagine what our world would look like if we obeyed the command in Leviticus 19:17-18 to love and not hate each other. How different our communities would be if we lived by this simple yet demanding rule.

That brings us to our second next step this morning which is to love God and love my neighbors so that our homes, our church, and our society will be blessed.

I want to say one last thing about this holiness. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Does that scare you? Which one of us can be perfect? Only Jesus was perfect and perfectly lived out these laws we see in Leviticus 19. The good news is we have the power as Christians to be perfect, to be holy. It is because we are Christians, not in name but in nature, that we have the power to pursue holiness. ​​ We need to be born again as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. Apart from being born again, all our attempts to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God will be nothing but self-righteousness. Of course, we can never be perfect even though we are called to be perfect. But the key is when we aren’t perfect and we do sin, we confess our sin and repent from it and we turn to Christ alone for forgiveness and for the ability to seek his righteousness and to live a holy life. Christ through his sacrifice gives us the power to daily pursue holiness and live holy, obedient lives.

In conclusion, I want to introduce the 2021 Spiritual Life Journal to you. Our theme for 2021, if you haven’t figured it out is Holiness. In 2020, our theme was Unity, and hopefully you all feel as I do that even though 2020 was a difficult year, we come into 2021, more unified than in the past, even though we spent a little over three months apart and are spending some time apart even now from our friends here at Idaville Church. But as Pastor Stuart and I were talking about 2021, we felt that a next logical step was a pursuit of holiness. I have been praying that we as a congregation pursue holiness and I have prayed that it would start with me. We spent 2020 working on our relationships with each other and now in 2021 we want to spend time on our relationship with God and in growing closer and staying close to him.

When you look through the Spiritual Life Journal you will see the same main headings with holiness in place of unity, such as, Holiness in Prayer, Holiness in the Word, Holiness in Service, Holiness in Giving, Holiness in Relationships, Holiness in the Gospel and Holiness in Worship. There are commitments that can be made for each section and Bible verses for each section as well. There is also a daily Bible reading plan and monthly memory verses that we as a congregation will recite together on Sunday mornings. I want to challenge everyone to sign the commitments this year that are in the Journal and I want to challenge everyone to do the daily Bible reading plan and to memorize the monthly memory verses. If we all make this commitment to God and to each other and hold each other accountable we will attain a goal of holiness this year not only personally but as a community of faith as well. That brings us to our last next step which is to make a commitment to holiness in prayer, in the Word, in service, in giving, in my relationships, in the Gospel and in worship and to daily Bible reading and memorization.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Holy God, I pray that we who call Idaville Church home would pursue holiness every day and I pray that it would start with me. Help us to hold each other accountable and to strive to be better in our relationships with you and with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Can I Get A Witness?

The future. It might be one of the greatest obsessions of our society today. From an early age we are focused on our future. We ask ourselves, “What do we want to be when we grow up?” In school we are always working toward getting good grades so we can graduate and get a diploma. When I was in high school I had to decide whether to take college prep or business courses. If we go to college we have to decide what to major in or we are looking at getting the job that might have the best chance of getting us the most money. Then we think about the raise or the promotion or the next job and finally we are looking toward retirement. Next comes relationships. Will I get married? Who will I marry? Will I have children? How many children do I want to have and how many years between them? The future. Right now, the future seems to be at the forefront of our thoughts and our prayers. We think about a future after the coronavirus, hopefully, or our future with the coronavirus. We think about our future after the election or the future of our world as we deal with racism and other problems in our society.

One of the most famous predictors of the future is probably Nostradamus, a French astrologer and physician, born in 1503, whose prophecies earned him fame and a loyal following during his lifetime. In the centuries since his death, people have credited him with accurately predicting pivotal events in history, from the French Revolution to the rise of Adolf Hitler to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and even the 2020 coronavirus.

In 1900, John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., made some pretty interesting and accurate predictions. Here are a few of his predictions, published in a 1900 issue of Ladies' Home Journal under the title "What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years." One, express trains will travel at speeds up to 150 mph. Today, the Acela express train hits top speeds of 150 mph and the bullet trains in Japan, glide along at 198 mph. Two, "Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of today." Have you ever heard of Stauffer’s? The frozen-food industry is worth $33 billion today. Three, "Man will see around the world. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span." Can you say “the internet.”

God through his Word also has a lot to say about our futures. There are over a hundred verses in the Bible that talk about the future in some way. Here are a few: Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 1 Peter 1:3b-4 says, In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. Proverbs 16:3-4 says, Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster. Lastly, Matthew 6:31 says, So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ and verse 34 says, Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

These verses tell us many things about our futures: that God has a plan for our futures and for our hope. If we trust, lean on and submit to the Lord he will make our paths (our futures) straight. We have a future inheritance in heaven waiting for us. Commitment to the Lord establishes our future. And lastly we are not to worry about our future because God has our futures in his hands.

This morning our passage comes immediately following what Pastor Stuart taught us last week. Jesus has just restored Peter and commissioned him to feed and take care of his sheep. Peter would serve the Lord and show his love for Jesus this way until his death. ​​ This morning, we are going to see that Jesus tells Peter what his future holds. Jesus will also give insight to Peter about John’s future and will show us that he holds the future of the church in his hands as well. As we study this passage in John 21:18-25, John wants us to understand that Jesus is the Lord of our futures. That’s our big idea this morning. From the verses that I just read and from our passage this morning we see that God and Jesus are supremely concerned about his people’s futures, knows His people’s futures and is Lord over his people’s futures.

Let’s pray: Almighty and All-Knowing God, we come before you this morning ready to be filled with your Holy Spirit, ready to learn from your Word and ready to share what we learn with those who need to hear it. Give us opportunities this week to share the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, with those who do not believe. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We are going to be looking at three points this morning. First, Peter’s future, second, John’s future and third, the church’s future. We will start with Peter’s future which is found in verses 18-19. This is what God’s Word says, “Truly, truly I tell you, when you were younger, you used to put on your belt and walk wherever you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will put your belt on you, and bring you where you do not want to go.” Now He said this, indicating by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had said this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”

Jesus begins with “truly, truly” which emphasizes that he is about to say something significant to Peter. What he says to Peter was probably a well-known proverb in Jesus’ day. It contrasted the strength and freedom of youth to the frailty and limitations of old age. Two things are mentioned: the putting on of his belt or dressing himself and the walking or going where he wanted. Jesus is reminding Peter that “when he was young” he had freedom and independence. He led a somewhat carefree life as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. But “when he is old” someone else will dress him and take him where he doesn’t want to go. Jesus had just commissioned Peter to a future of serving Jesus by feeding and taking care of his sheep, but later there would come times of trouble and tribulation and at the end of his life he will “stretch out your hands.” The Greek words for “stretch out your hands” was used by early Christian writers to represent death on a cross.

John then goes on to tell us exactly what Jesus meant by “stretch out your hands” and it was to indicate the kind of death Peter would die that would glorify God. Now we don’t know exactly how Peter died but the tradition from Eusebius is that he was crucified upside down. Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy of dying in the same way that Jesus had. We see from these verses that Jesus was the Lord of Peter’s future. He was not only Lord of Peter’s future in his ministry of feeding and taking care of Jesus’ sheep, he was Lord of his future in death as well. As soon as Jesus tells Peter he will die for his sake he tells him to “follow me.” It is used in the present tense meaning “keep on following.” Jesus meant that Peter was to continue to follow him no matter what for the rest of his life. He had followed in the past but not continuously. “Follow me” takes on a whole new meaning for Peter, in that, he would spend the rest of his life in faithful ministry to Jesus knowing that one day he would die a martyr’s death which would glorify God. ​​ 

This reminds us that there is a cost to our discipleship. There is a cost in following Jesus. We must decrease so Jesus can increase. We must daily surrender our will to Jesus’ will. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” We must be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Gospel. That includes, our safety, our security, our jobs, our families and even our lives if Jesus calls us to that. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as I follow Him in the ministry he has called me.

Our second point is John’s future which is found in verses 20-22. This is what God’s Word says, “Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them—the one who also had leaned back on His chest at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who is betraying You?” 21 So Peter, upon seeing him, said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

After Jesus had reinstated Peter and commissioned him to feed and take care of his sheep it seems they began to walk down the beach possibly for a private moment together. After Jesus had told Peter he would be martyred for his sake Peter turned and saw the disciple that Jesus loved following them. We are also told he is the one who asked Jesus at the last supper who was going to betray him. He’s talking about John. These two specific identifications of John show the close relationships that John had with Jesus and with Peter. John 13:23-24 says, Lying back on Jesus’ chest was one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter nodded to this disciple and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” This signaling between Peter and John assumes a close relationship between the two disciples.

This may give us some insight into why when Peter saw John he asked Jesus the question, “What about him?” While we can’t be certain of the motivation for Peter’s question, he may have been concerned about John’s future because of their close relationship, especially after being told about his own. Maybe there was a sense of rivalry between the two reminiscent of the race to the empty tomb. Maybe Peter felt emboldened by his restoration and assumed he now had special privileges to ask certain things of Jesus. Whatever Peter’s motive, we get the sense from Jesus’ reply that it was not well-intentioned because he abruptly but mildly rebukes Peter. He makes it clear that John’s future is none of Peter’s business. The verb “remain” meaning “remain alive” has eschatological overtones in that if Jesus wanted John to live until he returned, talking about the Second Coming, that did not change the task he had given Peter. Even though Peter was the leader of the disciples there were some things he did not have the privilege to know. Peter’s attention was to be focused on himself and his duty and devotion to Christ not John’s.

Jesus wasn’t putting down either disciple. Peter was being called to pastoral ministry and a martyr’s crown and John was being called to be a historical and theological witness to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Carson says, “The beloved disciple’s commission is not cast in terms as explicit as Peter’s because at this point Peter needed a new fresh commission since that was part of his restoration while the beloved disciple did not. John was giving faithful historical witness even at the present time and would continue to do so.” Jesus was the Lord of John’s future as he knew what John’s role was going to be to further his kingdom. That reminds us of our big idea that Jesus is Lord of our futures.

After his rebuke of Peter, Jesus tells him, “You must follow me.” The “must” is emphatic and the fact that Peter has now been told twice by Jesus to “follow him” is significant. Peter has been twice urged to do what John was already doing. Hoskyns says, “His obedience (John’s) is assured; it was Peter’s love that had been shown to be uncertain.” Jesus is reminding Peter that he has one duty and that is to follow Jesus and to follow him until his death.

We can learn a lot in the church today from this rebuke of Peter. It is interesting that Peter had to turn to see John following them. If Peter had kept looking forward or better yet kept his eyes on Jesus he would not have seen John and asked the question that received the rebuke from his Lord. As Christ followers we need to always be focused on Jesus and not on others. Our mission to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples is too important to compare ourselves to, compete with or be critical of what other Christians or other churches are doing. If we are properly living out our call from God we should not have the time to question the ministry and stewardship of other Christ followers. Personal competition and rivalry destroy the work of the church. What we should be doing is encouraging, helping and serving with other Christians and other churches. That brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is to keep my focus on Jesus and encourage, help and serve with other Christians as I pursue, grow and multiply disciples for his sake.

Our third point is the Church’s future and we see this in verses 23-25. This is what God’s Word says, Therefore this account went out among the brothers, that this disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is testifying about these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they were written in detail, I expect that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”

John was the only disciple not to die a martyr’s death and in fact was going to live to a very old age. This passage seems to prove that in the fact that the rumor that John would live until Jesus returned had spread throughout the church by the time his gospel was written. The longer John lived the more people would start to believe that what Jesus had said to Peter was a prophecy about John. As this rumor spread John felt he needed to correct people’s false beliefs because of the damage it could do to the future of the church. When John would finally pass away two things would happen. Those who were Christians at the time would be in for a shock and those who were enemies of the Gospel would call Jesus a liar. Imagine the impact for the church and for the world. John’s witness about Jesus being the Messiah and the Son of God would be damaged. The church would start to wonder about the truthfulness of Jesus and the disciples. The world would ridicule Christians and call Jesus a liar. Christianity may have ceased to exist. So John wants his readers to be clear about what Jesus did or did not say. The “but” is emphatic that Jesus did not say John would not die. He again states Jesus’ exact words to prove it is accurate. He is careful to say Jesus was speaking hypothetically only to deflect Peter misguided question. The word, “if”, made all the difference in Jesus’ statement. John was desperately concerned about the unity of God’s people and the oneness of Jesus’ flock. The Jesus whom both Peter and John served in different ways is passionately concerned about those things as well. Jesus cares deeply for his church and is the Lord of the future of the church.

John now turns his attention to his calling as a faithful witness to Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. John was able to say that he saw all “these things”, and he wrote these things down. “These things” refer to his entire Gospel. We can’t be sure who the “we” are in “we know that his testimony is true.” He could be referring to the other disciples that witnessed the same events or it could refer to John’s followers in the Church of Ephesus where he resided until his death. Some commentators believe that these last two verses were written by someone else besides John, possibly these followers. Or it could have been just a literary device that John used like we see in John 1:14 which says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and “we” saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

It would be nice to know who the “we” refers to but it must not have been important to the book or we would know. If the “we” means someone other than John than their testimony must have been very early because there has never been any doubt about it. Barrett (in Morris’ commentary) says, “The ‘we’ is to be taken with full seriousness; there exists an apostolic Church capable of verifying and affirming the apostolic witness.” If it is referring to someone besides John we don’t know who they are but they were there and that is what mattered.

John’s gospel is a record of what happened written down by a man who had seen it, but it was not exhaustive. John says that Jesus did many other things as well and if they were all written down there would not be enough room in the whole world to hold the books that would be written. This is playful hyperbole, a deliberate exaggeration for dramatic effect which was common in antiquity. John is not content to end his Gospel focusing on himself. He closes by saying his own work about the life of Jesus is only a small part of all the honor and glory due to the Son. John is not only stating the greatness of God here but also stating that the words and works of Jesus were much greater than what is contained in his gospel. But nevertheless, John is the final witness in a long line of witnesses that include John the Baptist and the miracles and signs that Jesus did while he was on the earth. And his Gospel is also a witness written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presenting Jesus Christ as the Messiah the Son of God for the express purpose that all may believe.

Witnesses are important. A witness is defined as someone who sees, hears, or knows by personal presence and perception, to be present at (an event) as a formal witness, spectator, bystander, etc. or to bear witness to; testify to; give or afford evidence of. The word, “witness”, is significant in the Bible. The Israelites were to be witnesses to the world of the goodness of God. But where we really see its importance is in the New Testament. The Greek word for witness occurs thirty-four times; the verb form appears seventy-nine times; the nouns are used a total of fifty-seven times. This concept is found mainly in John and Acts which suggests that it was a vital reason for the Church's growth from a local Jerusalem group to a world-wide movement. The witness of those early Christians contributed to the explosion of the church and the belief that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" through which believers found “life in His name.”

This witness was important because it was different from every other religion of the time, before it or since. In Jesus’ day there were the gods of the Greeks, the gods of the Romans, and both had their temples and priests. There were many philosophies of the day such as Gnosticism and Stoicism. Jesus Christ showed up on the earth in the midst of these pagan religions. He came as a baby born in a manger. He grew up learning carpentry from his earthly father, Joseph. He taught in the synagogue, ate with sinners, healed the sick and forgave sins. He claimed to be God and died on a cross. This was different in that no one ever shook the hand of one of the Greek gods or had lunch with a Roman god. Those deities never wore sandals or walked the same earth that humans did. Jesus Christ was a historical person who interacted with other historical people and those people were witnesses to this Jesus and made the claim that he was indeed the Son of God.

Christianity rests on the witnesses of these stories and events. If no one knew the events and witnessed to them, no one would be a Christian. Because of this we need to keep returning to the scriptures. The Bible will always remain central to the Church's witness, for it contains the story which brought the Church into being and will continue to nourish it to the end. The difference between the apostolic witness and all subsequent Christians through the ages is that they could speak of that "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands” and the rest of us who were not present at the time must repeat the story and keep it living to the next generation. John’s Gospel that we have just finished studying is the witness that gets us from, Thomas, who believed because he had "seen" to "those who have not seen and yet believe.”

So what does all of this have to do with us? John, an eyewitness to the historical Jesus who died on a cross for everyone’s sins, wrote his gospel so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing may have life in his name.” Now that we have read and studied his gospel we too must be witnesses to an unbelieving world so that they may believe in Jesus as their Messiah, as the Son of God and by believing those who you share your testimony with will have life in his name. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to “be a witness for Jesus Christ and what he has done in the book of John and in my life so that others may believe and have life in his name.”

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you that you not only have the futures of Peter, John and the Church in your hands but our futures as well. Help us to be faithful witnesses of your Word and of what you have done in each of our lives. Let us be bold in sharing our testimony to the salvation you have freely given us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Your mission . . .

Play video of MI tape recorder scene. The Mission Impossible TV shows or movies are about a group of spies that are part of an organization that doesn’t “exist” called the Impossible Mission Force. They are tasked with stopping enemy forces while also trying to prevent impending global disaster. They are given missions from a tape recorder that self-destructs five seconds after listening to it. They never turn down the impossible missions nor do they ever fail to complete the missions and save the world. But, of course, it is television. We can learn a couple of things from these missions. First, there is an importance to the mission. Normally, national security is at stake. Second, there is a cost to the mission. The cost could be captured by the enemy or to be killed, in which either case they would be disavowed. Third, there are resources for the mission. Their resources are the team they assemble to take on and complete the missions. They don’t work alone to get the missions done.

This reminds me of the many mission trips I have been on with Habitat for Humanity. The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to build affordable housing for families that need a home. The importance of those trips was to supply the labor and the money to make that happen. The cost of the mission trip was the money we raised for supplies, meals for the trip, and a donation to leave with the Habitat chapter we worked with. The resources of the mission were the tools and other supplies we took with us and, of course, the team of youth and adults that were assembled to do the work. I never went alone which was important because I know less than nothing about building a house or using a hammer. I always made sure I took people who understood all that foreign stuff. I spent many mission trips making lunches, picking up supplies or whatever else needed to be done besides construction. Also, Habitat for Humanity usually supplied a foreman on the worksite to teach us and guide us as to what needed to be done. Mission trips also take a lot of planning before they can happen. This is called the pre-mission stage which I will talk about later.

This morning we are going to see a group of people who were assembled to go on a mission trip. They have been in the pre-mission stage for the past three years. It may seem like an impossible mission to them but they do not turn the mission down and before their lives are over they will successfully complete the mission. There is an importance to their mission, a cost for their mission, and they are given resources for the mission. The reason we need to take notice to their mission is because it is also our mission, as Christians, today. What John wants us to understand from this passage is that our mission (should we decide to accept it) is of the utmost importance. That is our big idea and why the mission was so important for the disciples then and for us today is what we will learn from our passage this morning.

But before we open the scriptures let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word this morning and glean your truth from it, we ask for the Holy Spirit to illuminate our hearts and minds to what you want us to know, learn and believe. Help us to use your word as a light for our path and as a sword to fight the world’s and Satan’s influence on our lives. Thank you for the privilege of studying your word and may we never take it for granted. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am going to continue to use the analogy of a mission trip as we look at this passage. There are two points, the pre-mission trip stage and the final countdown. The pre-mission trip is found in John chapter 20 verses 19 and 20. This is what God’s word says, 19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Before you embark on a mission trip there are certain things you need to do to get ready. Those things will vary depending on the type of mission trip you are going on. ​​ You might need to learn a new language or you might need to learn how to be sensitive to the needs of the people you will be serving. You will also need to plan for what you will be doing on your mission trip and gather the needed supplies for it.

A number of years ago, our church took a mission trip to Mississippi to work with the Choctaw Indians. The plan was to build a pavilion for the church and to provide a VBS for the children. The planning for this trip took more than six months. We worked on lessons for the VBS and we decided who was going to take the lead in certain roles and who would be helping them. Those who were going to be building the pavilion had to decide what tools were needed and how much to bring because of limited vehicle space. We had to plan meals for each day which included what we were going to eat, who was going to be in charge of making each meal and who was going to be cleaning up after each meal. Planning also went into what the evening devotions were going to be. We also needed to do fundraising for this mission trip. We needed to pay for our meals, gas and other things including the supplies to build the pavilion and supplies needed for the VBS. We all sent support letters to family and friends and had a fundraising meal. Many of you sitting here this morning or listening online helped support that mission trip and it would not have happened if not for your support. Mission trips take planning-months and even years of planning depending on where you are going, what you will be doing and how much support you need to raise.

It was no different for Jesus’ disciples. For them the pre-mission trip stage had taken three years of planning. Jesus had called them to follow him and had then spent that time teaching them and preparing them for this moment. But even after three years of planning they were still not prepared to leave. Partly because their leader, their Rabbi, their Lord had just been crucified and they were not thinking about all the training and preparation they had gone through. But there was still some preparation and teaching that needed to be done to get the disciples ready to go on their mission trip.

The first thing that the disciples needed was to see the risen Jesus. They had heard from Mary that he was alive but they had yet to see him personally. In our passage, we see that on the evening of resurrection day the disciples are gathered together with the doors locked because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. It doesn’t say exactly where they were but they may have been in the same place where the Last Supper was held before Jesus was crucified. All of a sudden Jesus was standing among them. He seemingly materialized right before their eyes and greeted them with “Peace be with you.” The disciples were probably not expecting this greeting from Jesus after abandoning him on Good Friday.

This greeting of “peace” or “shalom” was the common greeting of the day. It means more than the absence of stress, it means “well-being” or “may you be saved from trouble, may God give you every good thing.” When you say, “Peace be with you” to someone, you are wishing on them life at its best under the gracious hand of God. But what did Jesus mean here? Luke 24:36-37 says, “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” I am sure that Jesus wanted to calm their fears but I think his greeting of “peace” had a deeper meaning, as well. Think about Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished.” He had now completed what he came to earth to do. He became our sin so that we could be reconciled to God. There could now be peace between God and man. Peace is a gift of the kingdom of God and Jesus through his death and resurrection on the cross delivered that peace to the disciples. This was a promised peace as we see in John 14:27a, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Jesus promised to give them his peace and here he keeps his promise.

We also know from Luke that they were still frightened even after his greeting of peace. So Jesus showed them the physical proof of his resurrection so that they would believe that it was really him. Our passage says that Jesus shows them his hands and his side. John is the only one to mention the wound in his side. This would have been important in proving to the disciples that he was truly their resurrected Lord. Any other crucifixion victim could only have shown the wounds in their hands and feet. Jesus was unique in that he had the added wound in his side from the Roman soldiers’ spear. This demonstrates the sovereignty of God in that every little detail of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection was taken care of by the Father.

After showing them his hands and side they believed that it was really him and were overjoyed. This was another fulfillment of a promise Jesus made to the disciples in John 16:22, which says, “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” Again Jesus kept his promise. They are overjoyed, because now like Mary they had an encounter with the living, risen Christ. They are almost ready to go on their mission trip to change the world and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Why are these verses important for us? Because before we can go on our mission trip to pursue, grow and multiply disciples, there are a few things that must happen. We must first have a personal relationship with Jesus. We must have daily encounters with the living, risen person of Jesus Christ. That is where our faith is born and where it develops and matures. Without daily encounters with the living, risen Christ we can’t begin to understand the Great Commission and what it truly means for us and every Christian in the world. I think sometimes, we as Christians (me included), walk through our days on this earth like zombies, getting up, going to school or to work, going back home and we never think about or pursue our purpose and mission on this earth. Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months and months turn to years and we are still in the pre-mission stage. Why is this? I believe it is because we don’t truly know and believe that Jesus is alive. We don’t believe that we have the same power in us that he had. We don’t live in that power because we have never experienced the resurrected, living, breathing Jesus Christ in our lives. Just like the disciples needed to know and believe that Jesus had risen from the dead before they could begin their mission, we need to know and believe that Jesus is alive and has the power to do anything and everything before we can ever go on the mission he has called us to. That brings us to our first next step which is to “know and believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and that we have the same power in us that Jesus has as we prepare to be on mission for him.”

Our second point this morning is the final countdown. As we come to T minus fifty days, Jesus commissions his disciples for the mission, empowers them for the mission and delegates his authority to them for the mission. We see this in verses 21-23, this is what God’s word says, 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

Jesus repeats “shalom” to the disciples which shows them how important his peace is and will be as they embark on their mission trip. They will need his peace as he sends them out into an unfriendly world to spread the gospel. Just as with the first mention of peace, he wants them to know that his peace comes as a result of his death and resurrection. No matter what they will go through, they can have hope in his resurrection and have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to complete their mission.

Jesus now formally commissions his disciples just as he was commissioned by his Father. Just as Jesus was the Father’s hands and feet, the disciples are now Jesus’s hands and feet working in the world by being witnesses to the reality of God and the truth of Jesus’ words. This commission is given importance because it is linked to the mission of the Son. They are not Jesus’ replacement or substitute in the mission; their mission is the continuation of the same mission Jesus had on the earth. Westcott says, “The disciples were commissioned to carry on Christ’s work, and not to begin a new one.” Their mission proceeds from his and it is only now that Jesus has accomplished his part of the mission that the disciples are sent. Jesus’ mission continues and is effective in the ministry of the disciples. Their mission is of the utmost importance because it is the continuation of Jesus’ mission. (Big Idea)

This mission is stated in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 which says, 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” As Christians, we are also commissioned and commanded to continue the mission started by Jesus and continued by the disciples. It is important because we continue the very work on this earth that Jesus did while he was here.

After Jesus commissions the disciples, he gives them an important resource they will need to fulfill their mission. He empowers them with the Holy Spirit by breathing on them. Jesus breathing on the disciples would have reminded them of the creation of mankind in Genesis 2 when God breathed into Adam and he became a living being. John wants us to see that this is the beginning of the new life of believers in the risen Lord. This is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit that comes upon the disciples at Pentecost. This giving of the Spirit does not result in the same power we see in Acts when the Spirit is given then. Here Jesus is giving them an indwelling of the Holy Spirit that would remain in their hearts and prepare them for that moment fifty days later when the Holy Spirit would come upon them and make them effective witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I like how Carson and Greene explain this. Greene says, “Jesus conferred on them light and knowledge of divine truth which up until then they had not possessed. They were ignorant concerning the necessity for his death and the surety of his resurrection. But when he breathed on them he bestowed on them the Spirit of knowledge and understanding.” And Carson says, “This is symbolic in that Jesus is teaching the disciples who the Spirit is. Until they understood who the Spirit was they were in no position to receive his outpouring. The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost was dependent upon this action by Jesus.” Nothing less than the power which brought Jesus through his death and resurrection to the right hand of God the Father is the power given to the disciples to fulfill their mission.

After Jesus commissions and empowers the disciples, he delegates his authority upon them. We see this is verse 23 where he talks about the forgiving or not forgiving of people’s sins. Jesus is not giving the disciples the authority to forgive or not forgive people’s sins here. What he is saying is as they preach the good news of the gospel they have the privilege to let people know that Jesus has come to earth, died for their sins and can now be reconciled with God. The forgiving or not forgiving of people’s sins is the result of how they react to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will either repent, be saved and their sins are forgiven or they will not accept the salvation of Jesus Christ freely given to them and their sins will not be forgiven. The passive voice implies it is God who is doing the acting and forgiving sins not the disciples.

As Christians we are all commissioned, empowered and delegated Jesus’ authority for the mission to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples. This is what he has called and commanded us to do. It is of the utmost importance because we continue Jesus’ mission on the earth, but it is also important because it’s not national security at stake but the eternal security of every person on the planet, including our families, our friends, our neighbors, etc. There is a cost to be on this mission. There was a cost for Jesus which was his death on the cross. There was a cost for his disciples which for most of them was a violent death or at the very least persecution. And there is a cost for all of us to be on this mission which may include the loss of our families, our friends, our comfort, our wills and yes, even our lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Luke 9:23 says, 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” And 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” To be a disciple of Jesus, going out into the world on mission, is like carrying a cross as Jesus did to Calvary. We must be willing to even die for his sake as we fulfill the mission that Jesus has called us to. Lastly, we have the same resource to continue the mission of Jesus and the disciples which is the Holy Spirit. We have been given the very breath of the living, risen Christ in us and we have the same power available to us that rose Jesus from the grave. Wait for the tape recorder to pop up.

So, your mission, should you decide to accept it is to pursue, grow and multiply disciples for Jesus Christ. The eternal security of everyone on the planet is at stake. You may be persecuted and may even lose your life for your faith but take courage because Jesus Christ has overcome the grave and you have the power of the living, risen Christ breathed into you which is the Holy Spirit. Your mission though will never self-destruct. It will always be waiting for those who call themselves Christ followers. But this life at some point will self-destruct, and then it may be too late, if you decide today to put your mission off until the future. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to “accept the mission given to me by Jesus Christ to pursue, grow and multiply disciples.”

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the mission you have given to us and commanded us to live out. Help us to believe that you are truly risen and that we have the same power within us that raised you from the grave. Help us to accept your mission of pursuing, growing and multiplying disciples. Help us to not delay our mission any longer and help us to be on mission for your honor and your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen. ​​ 

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.