Leading With Your Heart
Leading With Your Heart
Completion Not Competition
“To be humble is to be so sure of one's self and one's mission that one can forgo calling excessive attention to one's self and status. And even more pointedly, to be humble is to revel in the accomplishment or potential of others, especially those with whom one identifies and to whom one is linked organically. ...
Humility means two things. One, a capacity for self-criticism. ...The second feature is allowing others to shine, affirming others, empowering and enabling others. Those who lack humility are dogmatic and egotistical. That masks a deep sense of insecurity. They feel the success of others is at the expense of their own fame and glory. If criticism is put forward, they are not able to respond to it. And this produces, of course, an authoritarian sensibility.”
Cornel West in dialog with bell hooks in The Other Side, (Mar.-Apr. 1992). Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 5.
Last week I went up to Creation Music Festival with Seth and Nathan Cafarchio on Tuesday to set everything up
While they both came home, I remained at Creation by myself
I had been looking forward to having the rest of Tuesday and most of Wednesday to myself
I had planned a spiritual retreat where I could pray, read God’s Word, worship, and listen to God’s voice
I’ve been wrestling through my own feelings about ministry success and God used the spiritual retreat and a couple of the artists to speak to me
As I was reading commentaries on Wednesday in preparation for the message, I was particularly challenged by one statement
“Everything good you’ve received, whether its financial prosperity, physical abilities, or ministry success, comes from heaven . . . the good hand of God is the reason for any success in ministry. Big buildings, growing budgets, and increased attendance don’t measure the success of a ministry. The results are not ours, they’re God’s, and he has the authority to do with us what he desires. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I will build my church’ (Matt. 16:18).” [Carter and Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 72]
I work hard to try and have a successful ministry here at Idaville Church, but in the process I have neglected my family
Mike Donehey (lead singer for Tenth Avenue North) and Matt Hammitt (former lead singer for Sanctus Real) both shared stories of how their wives encouraged them to step back from the busy touring life to be with their families
Mike said he was scared that if he stepped back and didn’t continue to push for more and more engagements that the band would die, but they are still around and are releasing a new album in August 2019 (they cut their engagements in half from around 165 a year to around 80)
God knew that this is what I needed to hear and allowed that theme to come through loud and clear at Creation
I’ve been trying to compete with Jesus by becoming greater and doing more, instead of completing what God has called me to do, so Jesus becomes greater
I have to come to the realization that the success of Idaville Church doesn’t rest with me, but with Jesus
I have to faithfully point people to Jesus
It’s difficult in our culture to think about stepping back from a busy schedule
Success in our culture is all about pushing harder and farther than the next person
Many times we sacrifice church attendance or service in the church, so we can continue to pursue other activities
Our goal should be eternal and not temporal
Are the things we’re pursuing pointing people to Jesus?
The 80/20 rule
Most of us have heard about the 80/20 rule
It goes like this, 20% of the people do 80% of the work
That is especially true in the church
Sometimes the 20% have to humbly step back and leave a void, so others will step forward to serve
I know that some of us at Idaville Church serve faithfully and in multiple capacities, because we love the church and want to see it succeed, but those individuals are potentially in the same boat as me – they are competing with Jesus by becoming great and doing more, instead of completing what God has called them to do so Jesus becomes greater
John the Baptist didn’t have the problem of competing with Jesus, because he understood what his role was in God’s plan. He knew exactly what he was called, by God, to do and he completed his task. We’ll see today in John 3:22-36 that John the Evangelist wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – When we compete with Jesus, we become greater – but when we complete for Jesus, He becomes greater.
GOD (John 3:22-36)
Man Exalted (vv. 22-26)
Jesus’ baptism (v. 22)
“After this” is an unspecified time period
We have to remember that John the Evangelist is not writing in a chronological order, but rather he is providing information that will help to accomplish his goal and purpose in writing
John 20:31, But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
In a general sense we can definitely say that what we are about read took place after Jesus’ baptism and His ministry in Jerusalem
The NIV does an excellent job of translating the meaning of the original Greek
The NASB, which is a more word-for-word translation of the Greek, translates it this way, After these things Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.
That literal translation makes it sound like Jesus had just enter the land of Judea and yet Jerusalem is in the land of Judea
It seems as though Jesus and His disciples have left the urban center of Jerusalem and are spending some time in the rural areas of Judea
The verb is in the singular, so it would seem as though Jesus is the One who is doing the baptizing, but John clears that up for us at the beginning of the next chapter
John 4:1-2, The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.
I don’t believe this was by chance, but by divine design
Imagine for a moment that we could say we were baptized by Jesus, the Messiah
In our humanness we would use that as a way to express our spiritual pride
“Well, you may have been baptized by . . . but I was baptized by Jesus!”
God, in His divine sovereignty, stopped that from being a problem or temptation in the lives of the believers in the 1st Century
Jesus wasn’t the One who was doing the baptizing – it was His disciples
What kind of baptism was Jesus’ disciples doing?
We know that John the Baptist’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, in anticipation of the coming Messiah
This would also have to be the case with Jesus’ baptism by His disciples
Jesus had not yet fulfilled His purpose on earth – to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)
He hadn’t died on the cross, been buried, and come alive again, providing eternal life for all who believe
So, the baptism that Jesus is doing is not what we call “believers baptism,” it would have been a baptism of repentance, anticipating Jesus passion
It was also not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that John the Baptist had mentioned earlier in this Gospel – that would come on the Day of Pentecost
The baptism that Jesus’ disciples were conducting was simply continuing to point people to Jesus
John’s baptism (vv. 23-24)
John was continuing his ministry of pointing people to Jesus and preparing them for the day when Jesus would fulfill His purpose on earth
His ministry was not completed, even though He had already identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
Jesus was so new in this 1st Century scene that some people were probably skeptical about Him
They were familiar with John’s ministry and therefore people were constantly coming to be baptized (Jn. 3:23)
We know, from this story, that not every one of John’s disciples had begun to follow Jesus – they were committed and zealous for John’s ministry
For the original readers of John’s Gospel the location of Aenon near Salim would have identified a specific location that they were familiar with
Unfortunately for us, that specific location has been lost
We can only speculate about two potential locations [show the map]
Eight miles southeast of Beth Shean (Scythopolis)
Four miles southeast of Shechem, farther south
Both locations were within Samaria and had multiple springs surrounding them, so the reference to the place having plenty of water, would fit
“Aenon” is a Semitic term that means “springs”
“Salim” comes from the Hebrew word for “peace” (Shalom)
John the Evangelist helps us to understand that Jesus and John the Baptist were baptizing and ministering simultaneously
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) only record Jesus’ Galilean ministry, after John the Baptist had been arrested
Mark 1:14, After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
They do not record any of Jesus’ ministry, in Judea, prior to that time
So, John the Evangelist includes this side note to help his readers understand that there was a period of time when Jesus and John the Baptist ministered simultaneously in the land of Judea
This side note prevents any attempt to say that the Bible contradicts itself – that the Synoptic Gospels disagree with John’s Gospel
John is relaying a story that happened prior to the stories recorded in the Synoptic Gospels
John has set the stage for the argument and John the Baptist’s disciple’s concern
Argument (v. 25)
A certain Jew
The NIV translates the Greek for a Jew correctly, because it is in the singular
It was not a group of Jews, as some have speculated
Unfortunately we are not able to identify who this Jew was, but that’s fine because that’s not the focus of this text
In fact, what they are arguing about isn’t the focus of the text either
John the Evangelist tells us that they are discussing the matter of ceremonial washing
“Baptism such as this was commonplace for converted Gentiles entering Judaism since it represented a spiritual threshold the convert was crossing. Ceremonial washings were also common among Jews who cleansed themselves for service or prayer. But baptism for Jews did not make sense. Was this a ceremonial cleansing? Was it a threshold? Certainly these questions stand behind the interrogation of John reported at the beginning of all four Gospels.” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 121]
There was obviously something in the argument that uncovered some frustration that John’s disciples had, concerning Jesus’ ministry of baptism
So, they go to John the Baptist to share their concerns with him
Disciple’s zeal (v. 26)
The use of “Teacher” here is not out of place, since it was still a general term in the 1st Century
It eventually became a specific term only used for those who completed the vigorous rabbinic training
John the Baptist’s disciples followed him and his teachings
Separating themselves from Jesus’ ministry
Notice how John the Baptist’s disciples frame their concern when they approach him
They most likely knew Jesus by name, but they say, that man – they don’t even want to acknowledge Him by name
Who was with you – Jesus was with John and not them
The one you testified about – it was John’s testimony about Jesus and not theirs
He is baptizing
They do not, in any way, want to be associated with Jesus and His ministry
They are totally committed to John and his baptizing ministry
They were definitely not like Andrew and John who understood who Jesus was and began to follow Him when John the Baptist said a second time “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35)
PRINCIPLE #1 – God wants us to follow Jesus, not people
That’s what these disciples of John the Baptist were doing
They were fully committed to following John and refused to follow Jesus as a result
Their jealousy and resentment at Jesus’ growing ministry blinded them from seeing and hearing the truth of John the Baptist’s message – Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
“Disciples of teachers are often more zealous for their teachers’ perspectives than the teachers themselves, and thus history is replete with many examples of the excesses of disciples, as in the case of the Arminians and Calvinists.” [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 1-11, 190]
The former State Director for CEF of Indiana had almost made it through her studies at Dallas Theological Seminary without being asked if she held to the Calvinist or Arminianist doctrine of salvation
On graduation day she was cornered by her fellow classmates and asked to choose
Her response was not original to her, but is profound, “I pray like a Calvinist like it’s all up to God, and I work like an Arminianist like it’s all up to me.”
When I’m asked that question about the doctrine of salvation, I normally respond by saying, “I’m a Christian, I follow Jesus. Calvin was human and fallible. Arminius was human and fallible. Jesus is God and perfect.”
We have an incredible history as United Brethren in Christ
William Otterbein, one of the two founding pastors of this denomination modeled humility and pointing people to Jesus, just like John the Baptist
“He published no books and few of his works are available . . . For some reason, perhaps known only to himself, it was reported that all his personal papers and notes were burned. According to Drury, John Hildt reported that this burning occurred in his presence during the last year of Otterbein’s life.” [Fetters, Trials and Triumphs: History of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, 75-76]
While we don’t know the reasoning behind why he did this, I would like to think that it was because he was not about building his own kingdom, but the kingdom of God
He didn’t want people pointing to his words, but to the Word of God
Who are we following?
Every one of us follows someone or something
Some of us follow the Yankees, while others follow the Orioles or some other baseball team
Some of us follow the Steelers, while others follow the Eagles (the Redskins are pretty popular too)
Some of us follow Dr. David Jeremiah, Beth Moore, Greg Laurie, Charles Stanley, Andy Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren, Max Lucado and the list goes on and on
When I first came to Idaville, there were several messages where I said that if you are coming to church to hear me preach, you are coming for the wrong reason
We should be coming to church to learn more about Jesus
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)
So whether I’m here or another Pastor is here, we should be coming to church to learn more about Jesus
Paul had to set the Corinthian church straight
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Paul was saying that he, Apollos, Cephas, and any other preacher of the Gospel should be pointing people to Jesus and not themselves
My Next Step Today Is To: Make sure that I am following Jesus and not another human being.
The disciples of John the Baptist who came to him with their concern, were following a human being and not Jesus, which caused them to exaggerate
In their frustration and concern they overstate reality
Everyone is going to him (John 3:26b)
We know that’s not true, because John the Evangelist stated in verse 23 that John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, and people were constantly coming to be baptized
When things aren’t going our way, or we don’t like a certain thing or a certain person, we tend to exaggerate as well
“Nobody likes . . . (sushi, spinach, lima beans, etc.)”
“Everyone likes . . . (hymns, worship songs, etc.)”
“No one likes . . . (a particular person)”
“Everyone thinks that . . . (idea, vision, goal, or direction) is wrong.”
Many times we use those kinds of exaggerations to manipulate the situation, so it will go in our favor or so that things will change to accommodate our preferences
When it comes to spiritual things, I believe that many times God’s trying to change us, but we don’t want to change
John the Baptist’s disciples were comfortable with his teachings and his ministry of baptism, so they didn’t want to make a change
Who should we follow?
“We’re supposed to read this statement not as a question about baptism but about authority. John the Baptist’s disciples are wondering who has the authority. Who should men be following?” [Carter and Wredberg, 70]
It’s also probable that John the Baptist’s disciples were wanting to know what he was going to do about Jesus’ ministry of baptism gaining ground (Jesus was “stealing” John’s ministry)
What we see in verses 27-30 is a humility that is rare in our culture
John does not try to grab fame or authority
He doesn’t try to compete with Jesus
John points to Jesus and explains that he is completing the task that God had given him
Jesus Exalted (vv. 27-30)
John’s response (vv. 27-28)
“God has given me a specific task to accomplish here on earth”
He can’t do more than what God has given him to do and he certainly shouldn’t do less
“The principle he enunciated is that a ‘God-sent’ one is not self-oriented or self-serving but is one who acknowledges the ‘giveness’ of life from ‘heaven’.” [Borchert, 191]
His disciples should have known and understood what his task was
He hadn’t hidden it from them
In fact he probably stated it, to them, more times than John the Evangelist records in this Gospel
John the Baptist tells them that they can testify to his God-given task, because he has mentioned it so often
“I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of him.” (John 3:28)
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:6-8)
His task was to be the messenger sent ahead of the Messiah
He used an illustration, that would have been familiar to them, to help them understand his God-given role
John’s illustration (vv. 29-30)
Everyone would have understood the various roles of the wedding party
Bride belongs to the bridegroom
This is a significant truth, especially in the ancient near east
“There is good evidence that in ancient Sumerian and Babylonian law the best man was absolutely prohibited from marrying the bride. The influence of this view on the Old Testament period is probably to be traced in Judges 14-15, where even the Philistines recognize the rightness of Samson’s grievance. If this perspective, mediated through the Old Testament, descends as far as John the Baptist, then the Baptist is saying that he is ‘the last who could compete with the bridegroom, for under no circumstances is he allowed to marry the bride.’” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to JOHN, 212]
When we compete with Jesus, we become greater.
“Those who win the Church over to themselves rather than to Christ faithlessly violate the marriage which they ought to honour.” [Calvin cited by Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 59]
But, John the Baptist is saying that he is not trying to compete with Jesus
He is the best man, the friend who attends the bridegroom
Best man (friend)
The role of the best man in the 1st Century was to prepare everything for the wedding
He would make sure the bride arrived for the wedding on time
He also made sure all of the arrangements were made in advance of the day
The best man was also the one who stood outside the marriage tent (chamber) as the bridegroom and bride consummated their marriage [Borchert, 191]
He would listen for the shout of the bridegroom signaling the successful union between he and his bride [Borchert, 192]
The best man’s joy came from hearing the bridegroom’s voice
That meant the bridegroom had arrived
It also meant that the best man had completed his task
John was joyful about completing his task of preparing the way for Jesus
“The rising prominence of Jesus, as upsetting as it may have been to some of John’s disciples, floods John himself with surpassing joy, because that was exactly what he himself had worked for.” [Carson, 212]
When we complete for Jesus, He becomes greater.
PRINCIPLE #2 – Our joy should come from completing what God has given us to do.
What has God given you to do in His kingdom?
Are you faithfully completing that task for Him?
Has that task become something that you are doing for your own glory and recognition?
Are you able and willing to accomplish that God-given task without self-recognition?
Does that task bring you joy, simply because it is being done for Jesus?
My Next Step Today Is To: Find joy in faithfully completing my God-given task(s).
Perhaps you’ve lost the joy in serving the Lord faithfully
Maybe your God-given task feels more like a burden
That can change today
Ask the Lord to renew your joy in serving Him
PRINCIPLE #3 – God’s desire for His people is that they decrease as Jesus increases.
“It is said of the pioneer missionary, William Carey, that when he was close to death he turned to a friend and said, ‘When I am gone, don’t talk about William Carey; talk about William Carey’s Savior. I desire that Christ alone might be magnified.” [Gangel, 59]
“I spent one summer in the mountains of Wyoming. The camp I was at was up on a mountain, a solid twenty-five minutes from the closest small town. When the sun went down, the moon and stars began to light up the sky. There were no city lights for them to compete with – no haze or smog – just cool, clear mountain air. As night deepened, the intensity of the stars and the moon grew. I was amazed at how bright they were. We would lie out under the stars and enjoy the wonders of the night sky. But every morning the sun would come up, and the stars and moon, as bright as they were, would start to fade. When the sun appeared, the stars were unnecessary. John the Baptist was a star, but when the Son came, the star faded. ‘It’s OK,’ John declared in essence. ‘Follow Jesus; he’s here now.’” [Carter and Wredberg, 74-75]
“When we evaluate everything based on what we like and dislike, we’ve lost our purpose. Next time you’re tempted to complain, ask this question: Am I complaining because the glory of Jesus is decreasing, or is it about me? Jesus must increase, but it will only happen as we – our wants, desires, and likes – decrease.” [Carter and Wredberg, 74]
Decreasing so Jesus can increase
When we compete with Jesus, we become greater – but when we complete for Jesus, He becomes greater.
Are there areas in your life where you need to decrease so Jesus can increase?
Are you competing with Jesus instead of completing for Him?
It’s easy to get caught up in the comparing and competing game, even within the church
We compare our church building to other church buildings
We compare our pastor to other pastors
We compare our children and youth ministry to other church’s children and youth ministries
We compare our worship and music to other church’s worship and music
“We would do well to notice that envy or jealousy over someone else’s popularity, especially in ministry, can never advance God’s kingdom but only deteriorate our spiritual lives.” [Gangel, 58]
When we play the compare and compete game, we find that we are not content with our church
Then it is very easy to speak negatively about our church with family and friends
When we do that we’re actually hurting our church instead of helping it, because those family and friends aren’t going to want to come to a church that isn’t unified
Pray and serve
The solution to comparing and competing is praying and serving
We should be praying that God will change our attitudes and that God will prosper His church – that He will provide spiritual growth, salvations, baptisms, finances, children, youth, young adults, older adults, etc.
Pray that Jesus will build His church
It’s one thing to find fault, but it’s another thing to provide solutions by getting involved and serving
My Next Step Today Is To: Pray that God will change my attitude(s), and that He will allow Idaville Church to prosper as I serve Him by serving the church.
When we compete with Jesus, we become greater – but when we complete for Jesus, He becomes greater.
Some scholars believe the final verses of chapter 3 are John the Evangelist’s commentary on the story of John the Baptist and his disciples (I tend to agree with that viewpoint)
Commentary (vv. 31-36)
Jesus’ authority [sovereignty/deity] (vv. 31-32)
John highlights Jesus’ authority, deity, and sovereignty
Jesus is above all, because He comes from above
Jesus testifies about what He has seen and heard in heaven
Unfortunately not every one accepts His testimony
It’s interesting to note that John uses the phrase, but no one accepts his testimony
I don’t know if this is in contrast to what John the Baptist’s disciples said about everyone is going to him (John 3:26)
We certainly know that, not everyone rejected Jesus’ testimony, because His disciples were baptizing people
I like the NLT’s translation of the verse, He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! (John 3:32)
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
In verses 34 and 35 we see that Jesus speaks the words of God, because God has given Him the Spirit without limit and God has put everything in His hands
This is significant, because God gave the Spirit to the prophets of old for a specific time
But, with Jesus, He gives the Holy Spirit to Him without limit
This is important, because eventually Jesus will be baptizing, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit
The fact that God has put everything in Jesus’ hands points to His authority and sovereignty
He also expresses how finite human beings are
The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth (John 3:31b)
We can only speak about heaven from what God has revealed to us through His Word
We don’t have infinite knowledge or understanding of God and heaven
Humanity responds in one of two ways
Humanity’s response (vv. 33-36)
When a person accepts Jesus’ testimony a couple of things happen
They certify that God is truthful
God is truthful – He cannot lie
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives (1 John 1:10)
They have eternal life
The second response that humanity can choose is rejection
A person can choose to reject Jesus as God’s plan to provide eternal life
God has given us a free will
He does not force His plan on us, but offers it freely to those who believe
Anyone can choose to believe that there is another way to have eternal life, but they will only deceive themselves
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Those who reject Jesus as God’s plan for eternal life will not see life
God’s wrath remains on those individuals
“As in verse 18, the point is not that the disobedient are now suddenly condemned by a vengeful God, but, on the contrary, that their spiritual condition and their relation to God remains unchanged.” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of JOHN, 228]
This goes back to Paul’s statement in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – we are all born sinners
Our spiritual state doesn’t change, from birth, until we choose to believe in Jesus
Our goal should be the same as John the Baptist – becoming less, so Jesus becomes greater
When we compete with Jesus, we become greater – but when we complete for Jesus, He becomes greater.
When we understand this truth and begin to live in light of that truth, others around us will take notice
We’ll see the body of believers here at Idaville Church living in love and unity, and Jesus will build His church
“A true leader is committed to the cause, and does not become the cause. Staying personally dedicated to the cause can become extremely difficult, particularly if the cause succeeds. A subtle change in thinking can overtake the leader of a successful ministry. He or she begins ‘needing’ certain things to carry on the ministry--things that were not needed earlier.
I admire Mother Teresa, who decided after winning the Nobel Prize that she would not go to accept any more recognition because it interfered with her work. She knew she was not in the business of accepting prizes; she was in the business of serving the poor of Calcutta. She maintained her dedication to the cause by refusing unrelated honors.
Fred Smith, Learning To Lead. (Christianity Today, 1986), p. 29.
All our lives we are constantly put in positions where we have to make judgment calls. Judgment calls are decisions that we make based on good, bad or no information. Each one of us will make thousands of judgment calls in our lifetime. Some are trivial, such as what kind of cereal to buy, what shirt to wear or what brand of toothpaste to use. There is not much risk in making those decisions and they are pretty easy to make though some of us spend hours on research in order to make them.
Some judgment calls are harder to make such as whom should I date or marry? Should I take this job or that job? Should I move to another town? Should I tell so-and-so about such-and-such secret? These pivotal questions are gray area problems that are the hardest to resolve – ones where despite all the research you’ve done and experts you’ve spoken to, the answer is still unclear. These are problems where it’s up to you, your experiences, and that pesky gut feeling to decide what is the best course of action.
There are three errors in judgment we all are at risk of committing: The first is called “representativeness bias.” This is the tendency to judge a situation based on one’s most prevalent experiences and beliefs about the situation. This bias can be useful when making quick judgments in day-to-day life, but it could prove dangerous in more far-reaching decisions because it limits our consideration of other experiences and information. In other words, if we only consider what we’ve personally experienced, we discount the larger picture.
The second is called “availability bias.” This is the tendency to make decisions based on what comes to mind most readily, even though it may not be the best choice available to us. Advertisers capitalize on our inclination to engage in this type of bias. If a certain brand of cereal is put in front of us enough times, that is the type of cereal we will think of first and, in turn, the brand we are most likely to choose. But there may be another kind of cereal out there that we’d like much better, if only it was on our radar.
Third is called “Confirmatory bias.” This is the tendency to make a judgment very early in the decision-making process and then, from that point forward, to only acknowledge information that confirms that judgment while ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
The good news is that we can catch ourselves engaging in these judgment errors once we are aware of them. Our ability to make the correct judgment calls has an obvious impact on the quality of our lives.
There are also judgment calls that we make on whether to do something that is somewhat questionable but not necessarily wrong. Usually we don’t count the consequences, we don’t think our actions all the way through, before we make these type of judgment calls.
Before I came to Idaville, I was working with youth in a church in Hanover. The adult advisors would get together and plan youth events and one of these events was a “road rally.” It was to be a kind of scavenger hunt where groups of youth in a vehicle driven by adults would drive around Hanover and look for clues and follow the route from the starting line to the finish line. So, a couple of hours before our youth meeting, one of my other advisors and myself set off to go around town and place the “clues” along the route they were to take. We decided to use lime along the road for the “clues.” We set off from the church and started to drive around the back roads putting the lime marks down on the sidewalks or on the road itself. I was driving the other advisors truck and he was on the back throwing down the lime as we drove around. After we had gone four or five blocks weaving around the back roads it was time to get on route 94. I guess at the time I didn’t think this was a big deal. It didn’t take long though for me to get pulled over by a police officer. As we were throwing the lime down on the side of the road someone used their cell phone to call the police. It seems as if what were doing was considered littering. In retrospect I didn’t completely think it through. We could have possibly caused an accident with the way we were throwing the lime down on the road. I made a judgment call without thinking the consequences of my actions through and it could have ended really bad for me or for someone else. I showed a lack of judgment that day.
What are some judgment calls you have had to make during your lifetime? Maybe you had to decide whether to leave a job and pursue another one. Or maybe you have made investments and had to decide which ones would be profitable or not. Maybe you had to decide whether or not to cancel an event because of bad weather. Sometimes that can be a hard decision especially if the weather forecasted hasn’t began at the time you have to make the decision. Of course we all have had to decide whether we are going to sin or resist the temptation to sin. Sinning is a bad judgment call that we have all made many times in our lives.
This morning we are going to be looking at John 3:16-21. We are going to delve into the most well-known verse in the entire Bible. But we are also going to be looking at a pretty important judgment call that we all have to make sometime in our lives. We can’t avoid it or have someone else make the call for us. It is the difference between spending eternity with God or eternity separated from God. Our choice centers around the person of Jesus Christ! Which brings us to our big idea this morning which is “our destiny is determined by what we do with the Light.”
Before we look at our text this morning, let’s start with a word of prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for calling us to faith, for planting your Word in our hearts, and for delivering us from our sin. I thank you for your gospel, your good news for the nations. Give us confidence in the power of your gospel. Grant us clarity in understanding your Word this morning and empower your people to recount your wondrous deeds to those we come in contact with this week. Give us love for you and love for one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
There are many wonderful verses in the Bible about God’s love, but few come close to describing His great love as succinctly and powerfully as John 3:16. This is what God’s Word says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
We are going to break down this verse almost word for word because the words themselves tell us a lot. We start with the very first word which is the conjunction, “for.” This word tells us the cause for God’s plan of redemption. It all begins with God and the cause is His love. God loved us unconditionally which means we didn’t have to do anything to get his love. This unconditional love is based solely upon His nature and His choice. It is who He is. In Him, we find the ultimate example of love. His love for us moved Him to take unprecedented action.
Next we see the greatness of God’s love magnified by the adverb, “so.” This word describes the manner of His love. It is not just that God loved us, but that He “so” loved us that He gave. This little adverb takes God’s love far beyond what we can think or imagine and it directs us to what He gave, which is his Son.
Last week, Pastor Stuart talked about being “born again.” How can someone be born again? The only way is through the unbounded, overflowing love of God that always was and always will be. We would not even know what love was without God. 1 John 4:19 says, We love because he first loved us. Our love for Him only exists because He loved us first. We wouldn’t even know how to love God or others if God didn’t show us his love first.
The next word is “loved.” There are four Greek words for love. The one used here is “agape.” “Agape” love is the love that chooses and gives of itself sacrificially for the best benefit of the other. It is a love that is not dependent on emotions and without this love no one could become reconciled to God. Through "agape" love God set aside His wrath against mankind because of their sin and poured it out on Jesus Christ, his beloved Son. Gangel says, “The cross does not show us the love of the son but of the Father.”
The next word is “world.” The object of God’s love is the world. John’s use of the term “world” here is in reference to all mankind. This would have been in great contrast to what Nicodemus would have believed. Remember – Nicodemus was Jewish… he was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. They thought God loved only the Jews and then only those Jews who were keeping the law and their system of traditions. They felt they were God’s chosen and special people, and they were the only ones who had or could have a relationship with the one, true God. But when it says God loved the world that meant, he loved Samaritans, who were a mixed race and looked down upon by the Jews, he loved the Greeks who were pagans and worshipped many gods, and he loved the Romans who had come into the Jewish Promised Land by force and occupied it. It also meant he loved Egyptians, and Syrians, and people from every tribe and every nation.
Also, for God to love the world, He would also have to love sinners, and even worse to Nicodemus, Gentile sinners. Yet sinners are exactly the object of God’s love. 1 Peter 3:18 says, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” God loved sinners so much that He made a way for them to be adopted as His children. It says in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”
The fact that sinners are the object of God’s love is one of the more astounding aspects of this verse. It means that we who respond to God in disobedience and hatred are still loved by God. It is easy to love someone that loves you, but God loves even those who hated him. It goes even farther than that because there is no one who is so sinful that God’s love is not extended to them. Abraham was the son of an idolater. Jacob was a deceiver. King David was an adulterer and murderer. The apostle Matthew was a dreaded tax-collector. Paul was a murderer and persecutor of the church. The early believers in Ephesus were pagans who practiced witch craft. Those in the church at Corinth included those who practiced fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, and were thieves, drunkards, revilers and swindlers.
The next word is “gave.” “Gave” has the double meaning of being “sent” as in the birth of Jesus and of being “delivered up to die” as in on the cross. While the object of God’s love is amazing, the sacrifice He has made in the demonstration of that love is even more amazing. The nature of true love is to give of itself, and the greatness of that love is demonstrated by the value of what is given. God loved the sinful world so much that He gave the most valuable and treasured thing that ever existed, his only begotten Son. It was an act infinitely costly to God.
The term, “only begotten Son,” is a Messianic reference to the second person of the triune Godhead. Jesus is one with the Father and the one who reveals the Father. The “only begotten Son” is the eternal, living Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us. Though we cannot comprehend this fully, the gift God gave us as the demonstration of His love was the second person of the triune Godhead. There is nothing more precious or valuable.
This plan included the giving of his Son for the ultimate purpose of being “lifted up.” To be lifted up did not mean to be put on a pedestal for all to admire and worship. Quite the opposite, to be lifted up meant he would be made a sacrifice for our sin on a Roman cross and he would die for all the world to see and witness it. He was to be the Suffering Servant as prophesied by Isaiah. Isaiah 53:2-10 says, He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
Now that the gift had been given, God made us all an offer. This offer is a universal one made to “whoever believes.” The purpose of this offer was so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
The idea of believing is central to John’s gospel. He uses the term “believe” in one form or another 92 times and in every single instance it is a verb, never a noun. That is because in Hebrew thought, to believe is always more than just a mental agreement. It is more than merely reciting a creed or a prayer. To believe in Jesus means to adopt His words and actions as the foundation for my words and actions. It means that I make Him the reliable and trustworthy guide for living and that I follow Him in every area of my life. That requires a change in my choices, desires, goals and behaviors. It is a change in thought that leads to a change in action. Our whole nature needed to be remade as Pastor Stuart showed us last week.
The requirement to be enter into eternal life and not perish is by “believing in Him.” That means those having faith in Jesus and what he came to earth to do are going to experience eternal life with God and not eternal separation from God. By referencing the Old Testament event of lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, (which Pastor Stuart talked about last week) Jesus provided a basic understanding of what it means to believe. The Israelite people in the wilderness had sinned against God and were suffering the judgment for their sin. God provided a means of salvation of exercising their faith by looking. First, they had to realize they were in trouble. Second, they had to “by faith” and obedience look to the object of their deliverance. We are asked by God first to acknowledge our need for a Savior and second to look to Jesus and believe in him for our deliverance. When we look beyond ourselves and look to Jesus for salvation that look of faith brings eternal results. This brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is “to realize I am in need of a Savior and to look to Jesus for deliverance.”
Now that your nature has been remade or “born again”, belief results in an active faith that trusts Jesus and His sacrificial death as the payment for sin. It is a belief that understands who Jesus is as the Son of God and because of that seeks to completely surrender to him. It is pretty silly to say that you believe that Jesus is God in human flesh and then not do what He says. That would only prove that you think you are smarter than God. Tragically there are many people who live like that today. They profess one thing, but their lives demonstrate a belief opposite of their claim. They say they believe in God and Jesus, but they live as practical atheists. That brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is “to live my life completely surrendered to God in my thoughts, actions and words.”
All of us need to evaluate our own personal commitment to Jesus and determine whether we’ve really believed in Him in that way. Have we really staked our life completely on Him and are we committed to live our life according to His desires, purposes and plans rather than our own?
In verse 17, we see God’s purpose for sending his son. Follow along with me as I read that verse. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The Jews at that time were looking for a conquering Messiah. They longed for God to deliver them from their current oppression by Rome and restore Israel to its former glory that existed during the time of King David and King Solomon. They were looking for the establishment of an earthly kingdom with a powerful king whose throne would be in Jerusalem. This king was to be a judge that would punish the Gentile nations and bring them into subjection to Israel.
This verse states that the purpose of the coming of the Messiah was exactly the opposite of their expectations. The Messiah was not coming to condemn the Gentiles, but to save everyone that would believe, including Gentiles. It is interesting that the root meaning of the word “judge” here means “to separate,” Instead of coming to separate Jews and Gentiles, Jesus came to “unite” all who would believe. The purpose of Jesus’ first coming was to save people from every tribe, people, tongue and nation and form them into one new group called the church.
The reason for Jesus’ coming from Heaven in the flesh was to save, but as we saw in verse 16, judgment is also indicated. Eternal Life for all who “believe” is contrasted with those who will “perish.” Holtzmann says, “Christ comes to judge the world “as little” as the sun comes to throw a shadow”, but ‘judgment like the shadow is the natural consequence of the world’s constitution and circumstances.”
In verses 16-17 we see the hope we have in Jesus for eternity but in verse 18, he gives us a warning. This is what verse 18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
There is a judgement to come, but it will not be based on any human division such as nationality, language or people group. It will be based instead upon the response of the individual to Jesus Christ. Do you believe in Him and what he came to do or not? Jesus didn’t come to condemn anyone… because everyone was already under the just and righteous condemnation of God. He came to rescue us from that condemnation, wrath, and judgment.
For those who believe, there is no judgement because Jesus changed the verdict. Paul stated it this way in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The person that believes in Jesus Christ has been saved from their sins because God has already paid the just penalty for their sins in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus was judged in their place. The one that believes stands before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
But for those who do not believe it says they have already been judged and found guilty. The perfect tense used here indicates that they have been and remain judged. Jesus does not remove hope of salvation by pronouncing this judgment, but rather brings out the seriousness of refusing to believe in the only begotten Son of God.
God set forth Jesus as the only worthy object of our faith. The ultimate evidence that Jesus alone is the only worthy object of faith is that God raised him from the dead. Rejection of Jesus in favor of any other way to God rejects God’s choice that the person of Jesus alone must be believed in.
Not believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior is the equivalent to self-condemnation. God is not to be blamed but rather the unbeliever who remains in his sin. God does not compel anyone to believe. He has given us free-will to decide whether we will return his love and accept his son as the sacrifice for our sins. Their sin is made worse by the fact that that they are rejecting ‘the only Son of God’. To refuse Christ is to sentence ourselves. (BIG IDEA)
Now we come to the test of what saves or what condemns a person. We see this in verses 19-21. This is what God’s Word says, 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
What is the difference between believers and unbelievers? It is not a matter of innocence or guilt because they are both guilty. The difference between the two is their attitude and heart response to the Light. The test is what we do when we are confronted with Jesus. Our refusal to come to the light is how we know we have failed the test. It says the Light came in to the world and men embraced the darkness and refused the Light. They loved their sin more than Jesus. They loved evil and doing evil and they would never submit to anything or anyone. Burge says, “Evil and darkness do not ignore the light; they wage war against it and try to bring it down.”
Another reason for embracing the darkness is fear and the reason we are afraid is because Jesus shines a light on our sin. He exposes our sin and lays it all out in front of us. We don’t want to be confronted with our sin, and we sure don’t want our sin exposed to anyone else. We want to ignore it and pretend it’s not there, and hope it just goes away. We don’t want our lust, pride, hate, and selfishness exposed to the world, and honestly we don’t want to be reminded of it in ourselves either. Immersed in wrongdoing we have no wish to be disturbed. We refuse to be shaken out of our comfortable sinfulness.
We love the darkness because in it we can do all the evil deeds we want without exposure. We love the darkness, not for the darkness itself, but because of what it hides. The very fact that we do not want our deeds to be known condemns us by our own guilty conscience. We are living in moral and spiritual blindness that keeps us in the dark and loving our sin. We run from the Light because the Light will expose us for who we really are and by doing so we reject God’s offer of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, in verse 21, we see those who do pass the test of what they do when the Light comes. It says that those who live by the truth come into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. Milne says, “Those who come into the light and believe are willing to open their lives to God’s scrutiny.” This is a painful, but necessary step to finding salvation and living for God.
Those who strive to do what is right have no fear of the truth about their lives coming out. They gladly come to Jesus and let Him examine them because they know that His words will help them to get rid of sin and what is spoiling their lives. They want their lives to be open to examination and be put under God’s spotlight, so that what they really are can be seen, which is a true child of God. Such a person’s conscience is totally clear. Psalm 139:23–24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
If we live by those verses, we will not mind that our lives are brought into the light because we know that anything we have done and are ashamed of has been dealt with by the blood of Christ. We are happy for everyone to see the light shining from us. 1 John 1:5-7 says, This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
So, we need to be walking in the light or we will make tragic judgment calls morally and spiritually. More importantly, we will be happy because God will see what we do and will be pleased with us as he is with his Son. We will have God’s full approval for what we do and what we do will be the result of a close personal walk with God. Only when the Light exposes our sin and Jesus cleanses us can we begin to do good for God.
That is the second part of the meaning of verse 21. Practicing the truth is never about showing our works as monuments to ourselves. Whatever “good” or Godly works we do are only possible because of God’s power to change our lives. God’s redemptive and transformational power in us is a tribute to his superiority, not our own. The principal work of God is that by His great mercy and grace, He alone saves souls and converts sinners to Himself. It is God’s initiative and God’s work alone and so He alone deserves the honor and glory of our lives.
Those who are practitioners of the truth and recognize the light as helpful will come to the Light. Those who believe do so because they have a different heart. A person must be humble in order to do these things. They desire to come to the light because they want to see God working in and through them. They want God to be glorified by their deeds. They see themselves as God’s servants and submit to His will and commands. That cannot be done unless there has been a change in their heart. That is the essence of being “born again.” There is no fence sitting with God. Either you believe and are saved, or you do not believe and you are condemned. Either you love and seek the light, or you hate and reject the light. The offer is given to everyone. What will you do? That brings us to our last next step on the back of your communication card which is “to love the Light and seek to live my life in the Light and not the darkness.”
I would like to finish with this true story of a Father’s love for his son because even though the title and big idea of the message today was about judgment everything we saw today started with the awesome love of God. Even though God knew that we would refuse and crucify his son he still sent him to us to save us. I think the reason that he gave so much was that he was hoping we would be so overwhelmed with the gift that all we could do would be to believe in him and be saved. Of course that was not to be and because of that there would have to be judgment and everyone one of us would have to make a judgment call. (BIG IDEA)
One day a son asks his father: "Daddy, will you run the marathon with me?" The father answers yes and both run their first marathon together. Then one day the son asks his father: "Daddy, will you run the Ironman with me?" Now the Ironman is one of the toughest challenges; it requires a 2.5 mile swim, 112 miles biking and 27 miles running. Once again the father says yes.
Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick’s brain at the time of his birth, he was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Dick and Judy were advised to institutionalize Rick because there was no chance of him recovering, and little hope for Rick to live a “normal” life. This was just the beginning of Dick and Judy’s quest for Rick’s inclusion in community, sports, education and one day, the workplace.
Dick and Judy soon realized that though Rick couldn’t walk or speak; he was quite astute and his eyes would follow them around the room. They fought to integrate Rick into the public school system, pushing administrators to see beyond his physical limitations. Dick and Judy would take Rick sledding and swimming, and even taught him the alphabet and basic words, like any other child. After providing concrete evidence of Rick’s intellect and ability to learn like everyone else, Dick and Judy needed to find a way to help Rick communicate for himself.
With $5,000 in 1972 and a skilled group of engineers at Tufts University, an interactive computer was built for Rick. This computer consisted of a cursor being used to highlight every letter of the alphabet. Once the letter Rick wanted was highlighted, he was able to select it by just a simple tap with his head against a head piece attached to his wheelchair. When the computer was originally first brought home, Rick surprised everyone with his first words. Instead of saying, “Hi, Mom,” or “Hi, Dad,” Rick’s first “spoken” words were: “Go, Bruins!” The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that season. It was clear from that moment on, that Rick loved sports and followed the game just like anyone else.
In 1975, at the age of 13, Rick was finally admitted into public school. After high school, Rick attended Boston University, and he graduated with a degree in Special Education in 1993. Dick retired in 1995 as a Lt. Colonel from the Air National Guard, after serving his country for 37 years.
In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”
This realization was just the beginning of what would become over 1,000 races completed, including marathons, duathlons and triathlons (6 of them being Ironman competitions). Also adding to their list of achievements, Dick and Rick biked and ran across the U.S. in 1992, completing a full 3,735 miles in 45 days.
In a triathlon, Dick will pull Rick in a boat with a bungee cord attached to a vest around his waist and to the front of the boat for the swimming stage. For the biking stage, Rick will ride a special two-seater bicycle, and then Dick will push Rick in his custom made running chair for the running stage. This story illustrates a father’s love for his son, and that love is expressed not just in emotions but in action! Our heavenly father loved us so much that he also expressed his love in action. The action was sacrificing his son on the cross so that we would be able to have a relationship with him and spend eternity with him.
As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final song and the ushers prepare to pick up the communication cards bow with me as I close in prayer: God, we thank you for hearing our prayers and our praises sung to you this morning. We thank you for opening our hearts and minds to your Word and planting it in our hearts. We thank you for the joy of being together with this fellowship of believers and may we continue to walk with you, today, tomorrow and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“London businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash around the interior. As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage. ‘Forget about the repairs,’ the buyer said. ‘When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site.’
Compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball. When we become God's, the old life is over (2 Corinthians 5:17). He makes all things new.”
Ian L. Wilson, Barrie, Ontario. Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 3.
Local Chapter of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF)
When I started as the Local Director of the Hardin-Hancock Chapter of CEF they had been without a director for 6 months
Basically all ministry had stopped by this point
With the help of the Local Board, we were able to rebuild the local chapter from the ground up
When I was being asked to consider taking the State Director position for CEF of Ohio, my heart’s desire was to have another Local Director in place before I left, so that the ministry would not stop
God provided just the right person at the right time
The same Local Director is still there and he has taken the local ministry far beyond what I had envisioned
When we had cable or satellite television, one of the shows the boys and I liked to watch was Overhaulin’
They take a person’s vehicle and basically strip it down to nothing and then make it into their dream car
Basically everything is made new
Making things new
It doesn’t have to be a vehicle – it can anything
How many of us enjoy making things new?
There’s a level of satisfaction when something that’s old and perhaps isn’t working is made new and is working again
I’m always encouraged when someone believes in Jesus for the first time
It’s incredible to watch how God transforms them to make them new
Their attitudes and actions begin to change
Their desires and goals are renewed and refocused
Last week we saw in John 2:23-25 that Jesus had done miraculous signs in Jerusalem and some people believed in Him, but He would not entrust Himself to them because He knew their hearts and what was truly happening inside. The Evangelist now gives us an example of one such man that Jesus would not entrust Himself to. Through the encounter, with this one man, we will see that Jesus wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Being born again requires a complete overhaul of our nature.
“. . . by the term born again He means not the amendment of a part but the renewal of the whole nature. Hence it follows that there is nothing in us that is not defective.” [Calvin cited by Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 190]
GOD (John 3:1-15)
The man (vv. 1-2)
Nicodemus (v. 1)
Connecting Greek word
The first word in this section in the Greek is de
It is commonly translated as “and” or “but”
The NIV translates it as “now,” which is also fine
I like the idea of “and” because of how it allows what John said in chapter 2 verse 25 to continue
He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man, and there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus . . . (John 2:25-3:1)
This lets us know that Jesus knew what was in Nicodemus’s heart and mind – what his true reason for coming to Jesus was (we’ll see this in just a moment)
“If some variation of ‘and’ is accepted, the idea is that Nicodemus exemplified those who in some sense believed in Jesus, but with a faith so inadequate that Jesus did not entrust himself to them (2:23-25).” [Carson, 185]
Nicodemus was zealous about his religion
As a Pharisee he was one of about six thousand men committed to following all of God’s laws
The Pharisees were serious about obeying all 613 commands found in the Old Testament (248 dos and 365 don’ts)
“When one became a Pharisee, he pledged in front of three witnesses to uphold every detail of the law for the rest of his life (Barclay, John, 1:140).” [Carter and Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 55]
Nicodemus was morally upstanding, because he had committed to obeying all of the laws in Scripture, as well as, the man-made regulations to help protect himself from mistakenly disobeying one of the 613 laws
Part of the Sanhedrin
Most scholars agree that John’s description of Nicodemus as a member of the Jewish ruling council means that he was part of the 70 member Sanhedrin
They were the “highest national body in charge of Jewish affairs” [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 118]
The Sanhedrin was led by the High Priest and was made up both Pharisees and Sadducees
The Teacher of Israel
We also see in verse 10 that Nicodemus is extremely knowledgeable
Nicodemus in more than just “a teacher” of the Israelites
The Greek has the definite article before teacher
He is “the teacher” of Israel, not just another teacher of Israel
Perhaps he was the leading teacher of the Israelites
“If Nicodemus were around today, here’s what you would think: Man, I wish we had hired him instead of our pastor. He’s got much better credentials. He’s more serious about keeping the law. He’s made far fewer mistakes. He’s more humble. He knows the Bible better. He comes from a more prominent position. He’s everything a church would look for in a pastor and more.” [Carter and Wredberg, 56]
Nicodemus is a highly educated and knowledgeable Pharisee, Sanhedrin member, and teacher who is seeking the truth about Jesus
The meeting (v. 2)
There is a lot of discussion about why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night
Some believe it was a way for him to remain anonymous and unnoticed by the other Pharisees and religious leaders, so he wouldn’t come under scrutiny
Others simply state that Jesus was continually surrounded by people all day long and going at night allowed Nicodemus to have Jesus’ undivided attention
Still others cite the fact that Rabbi’s would study and/or teach late into the night
“The best clue lies in John’s use of ‘night’ elsewhere: in each instance (3:2; 9:4; 11:10; 13:30) the word is either used metaphorically for moral and spiritual darkness, or, if it refers to the night-time hour, it bears the same moral and spiritual symbolism. Doubtless Nicodemus approached Jesus at night, but his own ‘night’ was blacker than he knew (cf. Hengstenberg, 1. 157-158; Lightfoot, p. 116) [Carson, 186]
What we see here is a reference to Nicodemus’s spiritual state
He was walking in spiritual darkness even though he was well versed in the law and the Old Testament Scriptures
PRINCIPLE #1 – All of humanity is walking in spiritual darkness, because of sin.
Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Everyone is born a sinner, no one is exempt
Our sin separates us from God (Rom. 6:23)
We like to focus on God’s love to the exclusion of His justice
When that happens, we commonly hear statements like this: “I’m a good person, so God will certainly allow me into heaven.” “I haven’t done that many bad things.” “The good I’ve done outweighs the bad.”
What we see with Nicodemus is that anyone would have been hard pressed to find any skeletons in his closet
He was zealous and committed to obeying all of the laws
We would certainly characterize him as a good person
But the fact remains that he was walking in spiritual darkness
He may have believed in Jesus, but he wasn’t a follower or disciple of Jesus
We all have the same condition as Nicodemus
The difference between Nicodemus and some of us, is that he recognized something in Jesus that he didn’t see in any other prophet or teacher
What Nicodemus was seeing in Jesus was light and life
John 1:4-5, In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it
John 1:8, He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
He knew that Jesus was the light switch and so he wanted to meet with Him
He knew where to go to deal with his spiritual darkness
Nicodemus’s compliment of Jesus
The fact that Nicodemus addresses Jesus as Rabbi is significant
Jesus was a carpenter by trade and therefore didn’t have the time to dedicate to the study of the law, like the other Rabbis or their disciples
He would have been considered “ignorant” or “uneducated” by the religious elite
John 7:15, The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?”
When Nicodemus uses the title of Rabbi for Jesus, he is placing Jesus on the same level as himself – the primary teacher of Israel
Nicodemus includes others in the private conversation with Jesus
The plural “we” is used in Nicodemus’s compliment of Jesus
It is generally agreed that Nicodemus is probably speaking for a group of Pharisees who were in agreement with him
They were confident about a few things
Jesus was a teacher (Rabbi)
He had come from God
God was with Him as evidenced by His ability to do miraculous signs – “It was commonly held in Judaism that miracles attest to God’s presence.” [Köstenberger, 121]
What we see in Nicodemus’s compliment is some potentially unasked question(s)
The unasked question
“Who are you, then? We know you are a teacher from God, but are you more? Are you a prophet? Are you the Messiah?” [Carson, 187]
“Are you here to bring in the kingdom?” [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 49]
Jesus knew what was really behind Nicodemus’s compliment and unasked question(s)
He’s not interested in authenticating Himself through signs, but rather getting to the heart of the individual and transforming their nature, completely
“The Lord answered not his words, but his thoughts. The Lord’s answers to questions will be found generally to reveal the true thought of the questioner, and to be fitted to guide him to the truth which he is seeking.” [Westcott cited by Köstenberger, 121]
That is exactly what Jesus is doing when replies to Nicodemus’s compliment – He goes straight to Nicodemus’s need
A little side note here – obviously Jesus and Nicodemus spent more time talking together than the 3-4 minutes it takes us to read this story in John’s Gospel (they probably spent a couple of hours talking)
John is summarizing the main points of what was said during their meeting
The need (vv. 3-15)
Jesus’ answer to the unasked questions (v. 3)
Whether the unasked question was about Jesus being the Messiah or if Jesus was here to bring in the kingdom of God, they are really the same question
Jesus begins His response with the authoritative and solemn formula of “I tell you the truth . . .”
This is designed to get the attention of the hearer – it’s like saying, “Listen up, this is important, don’t miss this”
It is used again in verses 5 and 11
In the Greek it is amēn, amēn (Truly, truly or Verily, verily)
Jesus’ response is that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again
This would have been news to Nicodemus, because as a very religious Jew he would have understood that seeing the kingdom of God meant participating in the kingdom when God established it at the end of time, meaning he was guaranteed eternal life [Carson, 188]
“Predominant religious thought in Jesus’ day affirmed that all Jews would be admitted to that kingdom apart from those guilty of deliberate apostasy or extraordinary wickedness (e.g. Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1).” [Carson, 189]
Jesus is basically telling Nicodemus that everything he has been doing, to be in a right relationship with God, is not sufficient
His religious zeal isn’t enough
His position with the Sanhedrin isn’t enough
His vast knowledge as “the Teacher” of Israel isn’t enough
Matthew 5:20, For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven
Jesus is saying that we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven in our own strength or ability
Nicodemus cannot see (participate) in the kingdom of God in his own strength or ability
The only way is by being born again
Being born again requires a complete overhaul of our nature.
The Greek word for “again” is anōthen and can also be translated as “from above”
The two definitions are important in this passage, because Nicodemus understood it one way, while Jesus meant it another
That’s what we see when Nicodemus asks a clarifying question of Jesus
Physical versus spiritual (vv. 4-8)
PRINCIPLE #2 – The physical can sometimes keep us from understanding the spiritual.
Nicodemus is defining the Greek word as “again,” so he is focusing on the physical aspect of the word
How can a fully grown man/woman fit back into his/her mother’s womb to be born again?
Nicodemus is looking at the physical side and perhaps is thinking about how absurd it is to say that the only way to participate or see the kingdom of God is to be born again, physically
Burge brings out another aspect of the Greek word that Nicodemus may have been thinking – “Can human nature really be changed? Can we really start over?” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 115]
Perhaps we’ve all felt that way at one point in our lives, prior to becoming a Christian
Maybe that’s where some of us are at today
“I’ve done too many bad things in my life, so there is no way that God will accept me.”
“God doesn’t want someone like me in His kingdom.”
“I’m damaged goods, I’m too far gone, and no one can help me now, not even God.”
“I’ve lived my life in rebellion against God for too long, there’s not hope for me.”
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
You’re absolutely right, YOU can’t change yourself, but God can
God took the initiative to pursue you
Ezekiel 34:11, “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.”
Ezekiel 34:16a, I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak . . .
Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
God’s love for us draws us to Him
Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
God’s desire is for us to be in a right relationship with Him
It’s not too late, you haven’t done too many bad things, you’re not damaged goods
God can change your nature, He can help you start over
Being born again requires a complete overhaul of our nature.
My Next Step Today Is To: Recognize that it’s not too late for me and that God can change my human nature.
Nicodemus is missing the point
Jesus wants Nicodemus to think beyond the physical to the spiritual
What Jesus means when He says that the only way to see the kingdom of God is to be born again, He means born from above
It’s a spiritual birth and not a physical birth
Born of water and the Spirit
Jesus uses the authoritative and solemn formula a second time, I tell you truth . . ., meaning once again that we need to pay attention to what He is about to say
Jesus changes from using “seeing the kingdom of God” to “entering the kingdom of God”
We defined “seeing” as participating in the kingdom of God
So, Jesus is simply saying the same thing but in a little different way
They both mean the same thing
A more literal translation of this phrase is born of water and spirit
Jesus uses the phrase born of water and spirit to mean the same thing as being born again or born from above
Jesus is not talking about baptism or two births here
Ezekiel 36:25-27, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
“In essence God said, ‘You need to be clean on the inside – washed with water. You need your heart to come alive by my Spirit. Then, and only then, will you be able to obey me.” [Carter and Wredberg, 57]
Like gives birth to like
Flesh gives birth to flesh is simply referring to natural human birth – the physical
Spirit gives birth to spirit is the supernatural – the spiritual (born from above)
Wind as an example
Jesus tells Nicodemus that he should not be surprised by His saying
The first “you” in verse 7 is singular, so Jesus is speaking directly to Nicodemus
The second “you” in verse 7, found in Jesus saying, is plural, meaning specifically those whom Nicodemus was representing, and generally to all of humanity – it’s extended to us
As human beings we are unable to determine where the wind comes from and where it’s going
While we can’t determine those two things we are aware that wind exists, because we can feel and see its effects
We can see the trees and grass sway
We can feel the cool ocean breezes on our face during a hot summer day
We know to take shelter when strong winds and tornadoes are present or predicted
Born of the Spirit
The same is true of those born of the Spirit, a spiritual birth, a supernatural birth
Those who have not been born of the Spirit don’t understand how or why someone has become a Christian – it seems like foolishness to them
“In these characteristics of the wind there was provided to Nicodemus and to the reader of John an example of how believers in Christ appear to outsiders. First-century outside observers probably knew little of how Christians became followers of Jesus, and they understood little concerning their eschatological destinies. But what they could sense was the presence and work on these children of the Spirit in the midst of pagan and Jewish societies. What they saw and heard from the Christians who were present in their societies was telling as to how they formulated their understandings of Christianity (cf. John 13:35). Their lives were a witness to an unseen reality. Is this picture not also an appropriate word for today?” [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 1-11, 177]
What a challenging word for us today
Does our life witness to an unseen reality of being transformed by Jesus Christ?
Do our family, friends, and coworkers see that our life (nature) has had a complete overhaul – that we are now controlled by the Spirit of God and not by our human nature?
Southern Baptist Memes – “When someone posts a Bible verse, then uses profanity in the next post.” [show the meme]
My Next Step Today Is To: Make sure that my life reflects a complete overhaul of my human nature.
Jesus makes it clear that the work of spiritual birth (being born from above) is not our work, but God’s work through the Holy Spirit
“If you have in your heart today any affection for Christ at all, it is because God the Holy Spirit in his sweetness, in his power, in his mercy, and in his grace has been to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead. (John, 40).” [R.C. Sproul cited by Carter and Wredberg, 58-59]
Seeing or entering the kingdom of God only comes through spiritual birth and not physical birth
Clarification (vv. 9-15)
Nicodemus needs clarification, because he is still struggling to understand the spiritual over the physical
A better translation of Nicodemus’s question may be, “How can these things happen?”
This is a total change from what Nicodemus had been teaching his disciples for years
He taught that entrance into God’s kingdom came through obeying God’s commands, being zealous for Judaism, submitting to God’s will, etc.
Now he is being told that none of that guarantees entrance into heaven (the outward, physical works of man are a result of a human nature that has been completely overhauled by the Spirit of God)
The only condition, which is new to Nicodemus, is being born from above
Jesus is patient with him
He says that as Israel’s preeminent teacher, he should understand these things
Jesus won’t go any further in His teaching of Nicodemus or any other person until they believe the earthly things He has been telling them
Telling them about heavenly things (miraculous signs) will not convince them to believe in Him (Jesus)
Jesus explains His divinity and reason for His authority
Jesus could certain tell them about heavenly things, because He has been there
He can speak with authority about heavenly things, unlike any one else on earth (no one else had ever gone to heaven and returned to earth to tell about it)
Answer to Nicodemus’s question
Jesus answers Nicodemus’s question from verse 9, “How can these things happen?” (regeneration, entering the kingdom of God)
He first gives an example from Numbers 21:4-9
This was probably a familiar story for Nicodemus
Jesus was taking him from something that he knew to something that he didn’t know
He was using the familiar to explain a new concept to Nicodemus
Nicodemus would have recalled that the Israelites, who trusted Moses by faith and looked at the bronze snake in the wilderness, did not die from the poisonous snake bite
It required the Israelites to do something by faith
For some it probably meant turning completely around and facing the bronze snake
Jesus then explains that He would have to be lifted up in a similar way
He is alluding to His perfect sacrifice on the cross
John 12:32-33, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection provides eternal life.
Out of God’s great love for us, He provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins
He provided Jesus, who was perfect without sin, to take our place on the cross
He was the only One who could satisfy God’s perfect standard
Eternal life is for everyone, but it requires that we repent (turn from our sin) and turn to Jesus
We have to trust God by faith
We have to believe in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us on the cross
My Next Step Today Is To: Receive God’s eternal life by believing in Jesus and His perfect sacrifice for me on the cross.
You and I are walking in spiritual darkness, because of our sin
Sometimes the physical realm (what we can see and touch) can keep us from understanding the spiritual realm (what is invisible)
God is able to change our human nature through His Holy Spirit, so it’s not too late for you
Today is the day of salvation!
These are incredible principles and truths that we should be sharing with our family, friends, and coworkers
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few
“Stephen Baldwin is one of the famous Baldwin brothers, a family of Hollywood actors.
Referring to his newfound faith in Christ, Stephen said, ‘I've never been as excited or happy about where I am in my life. There's no one I know in Hollywood who can say that.’
Stephen's wife came to Christ in 2000 and announced to Stephen, ‘I'm going to be serving Jesus now.’ Baffled at her conversion, Stephen thought, Who does this Jesus dude think he is coming around here?
The events of September 11 were pivotal in his change of mind as he realized that the impossible was possible. As Stephen describes it, ‘It made me say the Bible is true, and Jesus Christ could come back tomorrow.’
How has his life changed? Stephen's work as an actor ‘has largely dried up.’ He won't work in a film that includes adultery, violence, or profanity.
He's traded his Porsche for a Chevy Malibu.
Stephen spends his available time preaching the gospel. He directs and hosts a DVD project aimed at reaching young people through extreme sports.
As for his marriage, Stephen and his wife are now ‘as one.’ Stephen truly is a new creation.
"Baldwin's Great Awakening," The Week (11-5-04), p. 12; submitted by Ted De Hass, Bedford, Iowa
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
Most of you are probably familiar with the three Back to the Future movies. If not, here is some background: The franchise follows the adventures of a high school student, Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, and an eccentric scientist, Dr. Emmett L. Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd, as they use a DeLorean time machine to time travel to different periods in the history of Hill Valley, California.
The interesting thing about these movies were the futuristic inventions that we saw. When the second Back to the Future movie came out in 1989 it took Marty into the future to 2015 and showed off many new-fangled gadgets that we were all hoping to see one day. The first gadget was finger-print-recognition. Throughout ‘Back To the Future,’ fingerprint recognition is used in multiple ways. One of the ways was to unlock the doors to a house. In recent years, we’ve also been using it for a variety of reasons. Locking access to confidential rooms is one, but a more common one is to unlock our phones. Fingerprint scanners are no longer seen as ‘amazing’ by many, but it’s certainly amazing that Back to the Future predicted them!
Another gadget was Hands-Free Gaming. There’s a scene in the film series where Marty McFly plays an arcade game. Others watch on and make sarcastic comments about the need to actually use your hands to play. While gaming hasn’t become totally hands-free, this type of technology has been implemented. Microsoft’s Kinect is particularly notable, offering games that only need motion detection to function. With the rise of virtual reality in recent times, who knows how long it’ll be before we don’t have to use our hands at all.
Another was drones. While we might not have reached the point of having personal drones on a wide scale, that time will surely come. ‘Back To the Future’ predicted that we’d be using drones for a number of reasons, including capturing images. Well, that latter part has definitely come true, as YouTube videos are populated with drone captures. Drones are still in their infancy, and their potential is far from been realized to this day.
Lastly is Video Phones. There’s a scene in the movie where Marty McFly gets fired from the comfort of his own home. This happens via a video conference system that connects multiple people to a video chat. While today’s technology isn’t exactly as it was imagined back then, it’s actually much better! The rise of Skype, Facebook Live and much more has given birth to a wealth of possibilities. We take the ability to talk on Facetime for granted, but it’s an incredible luxury and blessing for us to enjoy.
Why did this movie and its inventions fascinate us? Maybe it was because those things were too good to be true. But I also think they fascinated us because we could imagine the benefit and the blessing it would be to our lives in using them. I personally think about skype and Facetime. I actually used skype a few years ago for a youth leader cohort I was in. We would all get together once a month and talk about different trends in youth ministry and help each other answer the hard questions we were wrestling with. People in the group were from all over the United States. I was from PA, one was from TN, another was from KY and the person leading the cohort was from California. This was a great benefit and blessing to me because I didn’t have to travel to a central location possibly hundreds miles away to meet with the cohort every month.
I think about some other inventions that have arisen in my lifetime that could be a blessing to me if I was willing to use it. One is the self-checkout scanner at Giant. For some reason, I am hesitant to use it. I know it will be faster and I won’t have to stand in those long lines at the regular checkout lanes but I still refuse to do it. I believe that I will mess it up and cause more problems and take up more time than if I just went through the regular checkout lanes. Until I overcome the hesitancy the use it I will never believe in its blessings and benefits.
I wonder what are some of the new-fangled inventions and innovations you have purchased over the years to replace the old versions you had in your home before? Maybe you were skeptical to use them at first, as well. Raise your hand if you had a black and white TV back in the day. Now keep your hands raised if you then replaced that black and white model with a color TV? Nowadays some of you may gone from the old color TV to a new smart TV and of course now we can even watch TV on our cell phones.
That brings me to the next invention and innovation, the phone. How many remember using a rotary phone? How many then replaced that rotary phone with a push button model? Of course, even though it was a new innovation, it still had a cord attached to it. Then we had the phones that could be carried all over the house as long as you didn’t get too far away from the base. Now we have cell phones that we can carry in our pocket and take anywhere our lives take us. To Alexander Graham Bell today’s cell phone would be nothing less than a miracle. But imagine that you decided to live without a cell phone. You continued to use the old rotary phone or push button phone that kept you tethered to a wall in your house. You would never believe that there would be so many benefits and that you could be so blessed by having a device that you could use to call your family or AAA if you broke down hundreds of miles away from home. It almost takes an obedience to our culture to use such devices as a cell phone or the self-checkout at Giant before we can be blessed by it and come to believe that they can be used for our own good. Over our lifetimes it has been “out with the old and in with the new” when it has come to our tv’s, phones, radios and many other inventions and innovations. Most of these innovations if we are willing to believe in them and use them will bless our lives and make them better.
Today, we are going to look at a familiar story in John 2:1-11. In this story, Jesus goes to a wedding with his family and his disciples. While they are there a problem arises in which Jesus saves the day by doing a behind the scenes miracle that shows his love for people and his abundant grace. On the surface it is Jesus’ first miracle. It isn’t flashy or really a seemingly important miracle such as later on when he raises Lazarus from the dead but below the surface John relates some important principles that he wants us to take to heart from this simple story. One such principle from this story this morning is our big idea which is that “our obedience brings blessing that leads to belief.”
Before we dive into our scripture today let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you would pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning as we dive into your Word. Help us to glean from it your principles and your truths. Help us to hear your words, help us to discern what you want each of us to learn, and help us to share what you teach us through your word this morning with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you want to follow along, we are in John 2:1-11. Starting with verses 1 and 2, this is what God’s Word says: On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
These verses set the scene for our story this morning. The first thing we see is that John is keeping track of time. If you remember last week Pastor Stuart showed us John keeping track of time in chapter 1, verses 35 and 43 with “the next day.” Here we see “on the third day.” In the Bible, “on the third day”, always means “the day after tomorrow.” So this wedding took place “two days after” the call of Nathanael. Last week Pastor Stuart talked about the call of Nathanael by Jesus. In John 1:49, Nathanael confessed that Jesus was the “Son of God, the King of Israel.” Jesus then in John 1:50 told Nathanael, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” This promise made to Nathanael of “greater things” begins to find fulfillment immediately in this passage as the glory of Jesus will be revealed to his disciples. What is important about the time frame in this passage is that less than a week has gone by from the time Jesus appears in the desert where John the Baptist declares that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and the wedding at Cana. It is like John wants his readers to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is a real historical figure, God incarnate, and relates to them and to us a “week in the life of Jesus” to help us believe it.
Cana of Galilee was eight or nine miles north of Nazareth. It is also where Nathanael was from, which gives us another link with the immediately preceding verses in chapter 1. We are told that a wedding takes place there. Cana was a small village and so the wedding was probably a community-wide event. We are also told that Jesus’ mother was at the wedding and that Jesus and his disciples had been invited to the wedding. We can also gather from later on in verse 12 that at least Jesus’ brothers and maybe his sisters were at the feast as well. This may have meant that the wedding involved relatives or friends of the family. The Coptic gospels that did not make it into the Holy Bible tells us that tradition is that Mary was a sister of the groom’s mother. Another of these gospels says the groom is actually John the Evangelist whose mother was Salome, a sister of Mary. We do not know for sure who the groom is but this story is definitely an eyewitness account. It is important to note that the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry takes place in a very natural setting, one of the timeless celebrations in human history, a wedding. Jesus didn’t shy away from social events and interaction with society.
A village wedding feast in first century Palestine was a really notable occasion and a major social event. Unlike modern weddings, which are traditionally paid for by the bride’s family, the groom was responsible for the expenses of the celebration. The wedding festivities lasted a lot longer than one day and usually as long as a week. After the feast the wedding ceremony would take place and then they would be conducted to their new home by the light of flaming torches, as it would be dark by this time, and with a canopy over their heads. They were taken the long way around so as many people could see them as possible and wish them well. Once home they did not go away on a honeymoon but stayed at home and had open house for a week. They wore crowns and were treated like kings and queens. In this life of poverty this festivity and joy was one of the supreme occasions in their lives. It was in a happy time like this that Jesus shared.
So that is our scene this morning, follow along as I read verses 3-5 which will give us the situation that arises in our story. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
It seems that Mary was more than just a guest at the wedding and that she possibly held a special place at the feast. This would make sense if she was the aunt of the groom. It is possible that she had something to do with the arrangements because she was worried when the wine ran out and took initiative to solve the problem.
Why would this be such a problem? For a Jewish feast wine was essential. The Rabbi said, “without wine there is no joy.” Usually at these feasts people did not get drunk as that would have been disgraceful but hospitality was a sacred duty. Wine was a symbol. Its absence would mar such a joyous occasion as a wedding feast. The wine supply would be a major consideration since the wedding celebrations sometimes lasted nearly a week.
Running out of wine would have been shameful for the bride and groom. They would have been humiliated. It represented a social disaster in the first century. There were even known to have been lawsuits by the bride’s family and or the guests in these circumstances. Disgrace, humiliation, insult, dishonor and more would be brought upon the family with such carelessness as to allow this to happen.
So when the wine runs out Mary turns to Jesus to help her with this dilemma. That is when we often turn to God as well. This is a helpful model of intercessory prayer. We often turn to God when we or someone we know runs out of something such as strength, money or options. We turn to God when we run out of patience, joy or hope. We turn to God when we are feeling beat-up, burned out and when our sin has found us out and we realize we need help. When we have a need or know of someone else who has a need we should take it to God in prayer laying the need before him and trusting him to respond according to his sovereignty. The good news of the gospel is that God meets us in the very place of our need even if the need is something as seemingly unimportant as running out of wine at a wedding. This brings us to our first principle that I want us to remember from this story this morning. That is that God cares about every detail of our lives. This also brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to bring to God in prayer every need we or others in our lives have no matter how big or small and trust him to take care of them.
In verse 4 we see Jesus’ response to his mother, “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus’ reply has been taken as discourteous by some but in that culture it wouldn’t have been. It was a common conversational phrase that when spoken gently would have been a term of endearment. His response though has been confusing to commentators. Was he rebuking Mary for her implied request? Was he relieving her of responsibility by implying “I will take care of it?” or was he responding with a “What would you like me to do?”
“Why do you involve me?” seems to contain a note of correction. The Greek literally reads, “What to me and to you, woman?” This question asks rhetorically what the two parties have in common, and has the effect of distancing them. What they had in common was their relationship as mother and son. Perhaps Jesus wanted to emphasize to Mary that with her remark they had come into a new relationship. Think about what Mary must have gone through the last thirty years. In Luke 2:19, it says, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” Ever since the angel came to her and told her she was to be the mother of the Messiah until now she had wondered about her son and it may have been natural for Mary to want some public revelation that her son was the Messiah. Jesus seems to be saying, however,” What you expect out of this will not occur. I am on a divine timetable and the revelation of my purpose will not happen today. In John when Jesus talked about “his hour” it was referring to his crucifixion on the cross and that was not to happen at that specific time and place. “My hour has not yet come” carries a double meaning: It is not time to intervene yet and it is not yet time for showing my glory, but God’s timetable did allow for Jesus to begin giving evidence of his calling by performing this local miracle. So while the hour of his sacrifice on the cross is “not yet come” it was already putting demands upon him. This would be Jesus’ first opportunity to work under the heavenly Father’s authority and through the Holy Spirit’s power to produce a miraculous sign.
What Mary and Jesus had in common in their relationship was no longer to be what it had been. This exchange seems to mark a change in the relationship between Jesus and his mother. It was still a very special relationship but is now seen in light of his Father’s mission and the shadow of the cross. Jesus cannot act under her authority as a son but must instead follow the course that has been determined for him by God. I wonder if Jesus’ reply was something akin to “you know if I do this miracle everything changes” because once I perform a miracle in public people will be forced to decide “what will you do with the Christ?” and that would include his mother. The relationship that was mother and son would now be changed to a relationship of Christ-follower and the Christ.
In verse 5 we see that Mary is undeterred by the mild rebuke, and aware that Jesus was not saying no to her request and that he would take whatever action was necessary. She tells the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” Mary comes to Jesus as his mother, and is reproached, but then she responds as a believer, and her faith is honored.
“Do whatever he tells you” is a timeless spiritual principle that lives on through the last 2000 years of church history. Mary’s faith stood strong and she was confident in Jesus as she told the servants to do whatever he said. Mary knew that Jesus could do whatever was necessary as long as the servants obeyed. This is true of us today. If we as servants of Christ obey and trust the power of Jesus, God is capable of any results. Doing whatever Jesus commands is for John the Evangelist the essence of discipleship. Which brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to do whatever God tells me to do and to trust in his power. Mary having the authority to order the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to is again some proof that she had an important role in this wedding feast.
Now that we have set the scene and have assessed the situation, next we will see how Jesus was going to supply the need of more wine. Follow along as I read verses 6-10: 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
We see that nearby, probably at the door to the home, were six stone water jars each holding from twenty to thirty gallons for a total of anywhere from 120 to 180 gallons of water. These stone water pots would have been used for two purposes. One, to cleanse the feet upon entering the house and two, for the washing of hands. John, explains for the Greeks, that these jars were to provide water for the purifying ceremonies of the Jews. Jewish law required that hands be ceremonially washed before a meal and between each course. If the Jewish law was not heeded to in this way then the hands were technically unclean.
Up to this point I doubt that either the servants, Mary, or Jesus’ newly-acquired disciples have a clue as to what Jesus is about to do. Jesus tells the servants to fill the six stone water pots to the brim. Probably to show that nothing else but water went into them and that what followed was indeed a miracle of transformation. When the six stone pots are filled, Jesus instructs the servants to draw out some of the “water” from one of the pots and to serve it to the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet was kind of a head waiter whose job would have been to run the feast correctly, seat people and taste the food and drink. Now, here is where Mary’s words to the servants are put to the test.
I am not sure we can fully understand just how difficult an assignment this was for these servants. It was one thing to fill the stone waterpots, which was probably a part of their responsibilities. But who would ever think of someone drinking this “water?” Imagine working for a caterer who is serving a very large group of people at a banquet. In the kitchen, one of the large cooking pots falls to the floor, and half of the gravy spills out onto the floor. One of the employees manages to scoop up most of the gravy from the floor, which he then pours into the serving pitchers. Would you let a waiter pour it on your potatoes if you knew where that “gravy” had been? I don’t think so.
Those of you who are campers have probably stayed in a remote campsite where the water comes from a well, but is not pure enough to drink. You look for signs there that clearly differentiate “potable” water from that which is not. You would not think of drinking water that is not entirely pure. You may wash your hands with it, but you would certainly not drink it. This ceremonial cleansing “water” may not have been considered suitable for drinking which was why wine was to be drunk at such times. I doubt that any devout Jew would have considered drinking water from one of those six stone pots.
With this in mind one can better imagine what it must have been like for the servants when they finished filling the stone waterpots and returned to Jesus for further instructions. Not one of them could have ever imagined that Jesus would tell them to now take that water to the master of the banquet for him to taste. In absolute unbelief they must have thought, “I know Mary said to do whatever Jesus said, but surely He can’t be serious! We are to serve this “water” to the master of the banquet? When he finds out it is only water, and not wine, he’ll have our jobs. And if he finds out where this water came from, we’re really in big trouble.”
Jesus does not wave his arms over the waterpots, commanding the water to become wine. It appears that He never even touched the water or the pots. Jesus does not even tell them that the water has become wine, or that it is about to do so. As far as they know, Jesus is instructing them to serve water, ceremonial cleansing water, to the master of the banquet no less! This must have been horrifying to them!
As far as we know, the servants immediately obey Jesus. We read of no hesitation, no words of protest. The servants would have known they were handling water when they began to serve the wine, starting with the master of the banquet. The suspense of those moments between the time the master of the banquet drinks the wine and the time he responds must have been sheer torture for the servants. He sniffs the cup, and then sips. He then calls for the bridegroom—what is he about to say? The scenarios which played in the heads of the servants would have made interesting reading.
We have to conclude that the water became wine somewhere between the kitchen and the head table at the banquet. This demonstrates great faith and obedience on the part of the servants. Imagine who would have been blamed if it was just water that the servants brought out? This again reminds us of our big idea that “our obedience brings blessing that leads to belief.”
The master of the banquet is astonished when he tastes the water which had become wine. He called the groom over since it was his parents who were responsible for the feast and tells him he is surprised the best wine came last. It was normal in that day to serve the better wine first and when the palates were dulled serve inferior wine when the guests wouldn’t have been able to tell. I like how MacArthur sums up the water turned into wine by Jesus: This was probably the sweetest and freshest wine ever tasted. It did not come from the normal process of fermentation but Jesus brought it into existence from nothing. Truly this was evidence that Jesus was the Creator as we saw in John 1:3, “In him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
This was not just a sensational miracle designed to amaze his audience with his power. All of Jesus’ miracles met specific needs such as opening the eyes of the blind, or feeding hungry people. This miracle met the genuine need of the family who otherwise faced a social catastrophe.
By attending a wedding and performing his first miracle there, Jesus sanctified both the institution of marriage and the ceremony itself. That Jesus attended the celebration reveals his ministry to be markedly different from John the Baptist. Instead of being a voice in the wilderness, Jesus had the more difficult task of mingling socially with the people and ministering to them in their daily lives.
The quantity of wine in these stone jars would have certainly been enough to supply a large number of people for several days. Tenney says that in quality and quantity the new made wine more than satisfied the needs and taste of those who attended the feast and the leftover wine also provided the bride and the groom with a generous wedding present. That brings us to a second principle we can take away from our story this morning that Christ abundantly supplies all the needs of his people.
In verse 11 we see the significance of this miracle. Follow along as I read that verse. 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
This was the first of seven miracles in the first twenty chapters of John. John’s word for miracles is “signs’ which is defined as a wonder with a meaning behind it. For John these “signs” are special actions by Jesus which reveal his glory to those who believe in him and which confront others with the need to decide “who is this Jesus?” John is concerned with Jesus and his significance and the significance behind these signs. These signs unveil that God is at work in Jesus and indeed is present in him.
We see two results of Jesus’ first miracle? One, Jesus revealed his glory, which means he puts his deity on display, by this miraculous sign. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.” Two, his disciples believed in him. Now they certainly had some faith before but now it was strengthened, solidified and stabilized. Now they were ready to follow him anywhere. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world is a major theme in the Gospel of John. In the chapter 1, verse 12 John writes, “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” and near the end of his gospel, John in chapter 20, verse 31 states that the purpose of the gospel, the reason it was written, was that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Those were the outward manifestations of the miracle but what about the underlying meaning that John wants us to get from this story this morning. I think we see the principle of “out with the old and in with the new” here. The ceremonial washing of hands for which these jars had always been used was put aside and replaced with something new. Jesus came to fulfill the Mosaic Law and to exchange it for a higher law, the law of grace. Jesus would fulfill ceremonial cleansing with complete, spiritual, and eternal cleansing of his own blood on the cross. You could say that Jesus changed the old water of the law into the new wine of grace. This reflects the words of John the Evangelist in chapter 1 verse 17: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The continual need for cleansing water reminded the Israelites that they were constantly unclean. But Jesus would offer his cleansing blood as the wine that would satisfy forever. Contrast that for us today in that we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins as atonement once for all. Hebrews 10:10-14 says, 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest (talking about Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
We do not need to continually wash ourselves because Jesus did it for us on the cross. We need to only believe and be saved.
I wonder if when Jesus held the cup of wine at the Last Supper and talked about the new covenant poured out for them, did those disciples remember the wedding in Cana where old covenant water became new covenant wine.
Come and See!
“In my experience, signs follow decisions. The way you overcome spiritual inertia and produce spiritual momentum is by making tough decisions. And the tougher the decision, the more potential momentum it will produce. The primary reason most of us don't see God moving is simply because we aren't moving. If you want to see God move, you need to make a move!
I learned this lesson in dramatic fashion during the first year at National Community Church. We had been praying for a drummer to join our worship team for months, but I felt like I needed to put some feet on my faith, so I went out and bought a four-hundred-dollar drum set. It was a Field of Dreams moment: if you buy it, they will come. I bought the drum set on a Thursday. Our first drummer showed up the next Sunday. And he was good. He was actually part of the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.
Rock and roll.
I cannot promise that signs will follow your faith in three minutes or three hours or three days. But when you take a step of faith, signs will follow. God will sanctify your expectations, and you will begin to live your life with holy anticipation. You won't be able to wait to see what God is going to do next.”
Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase (Multnomah, 2008), pp. 32-33
Following Jesus – steps of faith
Florida to Ohio (step of faith – moved without having a job)
Ohio to Missouri (said no twice to going to the headquarters of CEF, but agreed the third time)
Missouri to California (step of faith to move further away from family; leaned on our church family in CA)
California to Pennsylvania (resigned from EGM without having another job lined up and left CA, eventually accepted pastoral position in PA)
Following Jesus – steps of faith
Every one of us can probably look back over our lives and see the steps of faith we taken to follow Jesus
It may not have been moving all over the country like Judy and I did
Perhaps it was being obedient to the Lord’s prompting to begin teaching a Sunday school class or leading a small group
Maybe it was committing to attending church on a regular basis and not just on holidays
For some of us it was taking the step of faith to begin giving something in the offering every week and then moving to tithing 10% of our income
For others of us it was taking the step of faith to follow God’s leading into full-time pastoral ministry or full-time missionary work
An important step of faith for all of us is overcoming the fear of rejection and sharing our faith with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers
We have all taken steps of faith to follow Jesus as His disciples
The members of Idaville Church have taken many steps of faith
Purchasing the old school property on April 30, 1963 and moving the church from Idaville-York Springs Road to its current location
Voting in October 1991 to add on the multipurpose building
Currently taking the step of faith through the capital campaign to add-on to the main building (larger sanctuary and secure children’s area)
As John the evangelist continues to share the week-long events leading up to Jesus’ first miracle, we’ll see a transition take place from talking about John the Baptist to talking about Jesus. This transition happens during day three. What John the evangelist wants us to understand from this final part of chapter 1 is that . . .
BIG IDEA – Being a disciple of Jesus means we have to follow Him.
GOD (John 1:35-51)
Follow Him – John says (vv. 35-42)
The next day – day 3 (v. 35-36)
John the evangelist has been walking us through the week leading up to Jesus’ first miracle
The transitional phrase he has been using is “the next day . . .”
This provides a natural break as John the evangelist shares what he saw and experienced with Jesus
John the Baptist was still on the other side of the Jordan on day 3
He is there with two of his disciples
We know that one of the disciples is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, because it is mentioned in verse 40
The other disciple is unknown, because his identity is not revealed by John the evangelist
While it would be nice to say definitively who the unnamed disciple is, we cannot
We can only speculate that it is either Philip, whom we’ll be introduced to in verse 43, or John the evangelist
Philip is mentioned together with Andrew throughout John’s Gospel, and it seems as though Jesus finds Philip on the fourth day (v. 43)
I personally lean toward John the evangelist, because he never mentions himself in the Gospel
We know from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that John brings his brother James to Jesus, just like Andrew brings his brother Simon to Jesus
But we’re getting ahead of the text
What is more important is that two men, who were disciples of John the Baptist, are about the transition to a new “Teacher”
John the Baptist sees Jesus once again
Jesus is still hanging out on the other side of the Jordan where John has been baptizing
He was passing by John the Baptist and not coming toward him as He had done the day before
John had already identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, on day 2
Perhaps the two disciples who were with John on day 3 had been gone and did not hear his declaration the day before, or maybe John wanted to make the declaration, to these two disciples, personal and direct
John again directs the attention of these two disciples to Jesus by saying, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
What an incredible thing for John the Baptist to do – pointing his own disciples to someone greater
This takes incredible humility on John’s part, especially when culture encourages us to build ourselves up
“Therefore he [John] provides a genuine model of what it means to be a minister or servant of God. The human tendency is to make a name for ourselves and to attach our names to other people, institutions, and things so that people will remember us. To minimize oneself (“to decrease”) in order for Jesus to become the focus of attention (“to increase”) is the designated function of an ideal witness in this Gospel (cf. John 3:30).” [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 1-11, 141]
“‘To recommend disciples to a greater teacher was rare, required great humility and denoted confidence in the other teacher’s superiority’ (Keener 1993: 266). The present shift in allegiance from the Baptist to Jesus also illustrates John’s humility and submission to the divine will: ‘It is the mark of a truly great man that he can gently, but firmly, detach them [his followers], so that they may go after a greater’” [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 73]
That needs to be our focus when sharing our testimony with others
We see that the two disciples take John’s declaration seriously
Transition of disciples (vv. 37-39)
Andrew and the other disciple heard what John the Baptist said about Jesus and began to follow Him
PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s desire is that everyone follow Jesus.
Perhaps you’ve never started following Jesus
It’s not too late to begin following Him
2 Peter 3:8-10, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God’s Word tells us that if we die in rebellion against Him, we will be separated from Him for all of eternity (Rom. 6:23)
We’re all born sinners (Rom. 3:23)
God’s desire is that no one perishes, so out of His great love He made a way for us to be in a right relationship with Him – He made a way to redeem us from our sin of rebellion (Rom. 5:8)
Jesus came as the Lamb of God, died on a cross, was buried, and came alive again on the third day to take our punishment for sin (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
We now have a way to not be separated from God for eternity
It requires us to turn from our sin and follow Jesus
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
My Next Step Today Is To: Repent of my sin and begin to follow Jesus so I will not perish, but have eternal life.
Maybe you’ve followed Jesus in the past, but you’ve gotten away from that close relationship with Him
That close relationship can be restored
Lamentations 3:40, Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.
Hosea 12:6, But you must return to God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.
Zechariah 1:3, Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
My Next Step Today Is To: Begin to follow Jesus again by examining my ways, returning to the Lord, and confessing my sins.
Being a disciple of Jesus means we have to follow Him.
Remember, Jesus was not coming towards John the Baptist like He had done the day before
Jesus was passing by – He was just walking along, but I’m certain it wasn’t by chance
Andrew and the other disciple begin to follow Jesus
“Disciples in that day literally ‘followed’ or walked behind the one they had chosen as their teacher.” [Köstenberger, 73]
The transition had taken place – they were now Jesus’ disciples
Jesus question of the two disciples
When Jesus realizes He’s being followed, He turns around and asks the two disciples a question
“What do you want?”
These are the first words of Jesus in John’s Gospel
He wants these two to articulate what their desire is in following Him – what’s their purpose
We know from reading the other Gospels and reading further in John’s Gospel that not everyone’s purpose in following Jesus was genuine
Some people followed Him, because of what He could do for them (feed them, heal them, etc.)
We also know that when Jesus began to share hard sayings (cf. John 6:53-65) that many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:66)
“But the Evangelist wants his readers to reflect on a deeper question: the Logos-Messiah confronts those who make any show of beginning to follow him and demands that they articulate what they really want in life.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 155]
That deeper question is for us today as readers of John’s Gospel
What do we really want from following Jesus?
Make it personal for yourself today, what do I really want from following Jesus?
You have to be completely honest with yourself and with the Lord
He already knows your heart, so don’t try to trick Him with Sunday school answers
If your purpose in following Jesus is because of what He can “do” for you, then tell Him that
But don’t stop there, recognize that your relationship with Jesus isn’t really genuine – it isn’t about having the punishment for your sins taken away, salvation, eternal life, or being in a right relationship with God
Begin today to follow Jesus with the purpose of having your punishment for sin taken away and receiving eternal life
These two disciples were genuinely following Jesus, and we see that through their response to His question
The disciples’ response
First, they address Him as Rabbi, which John defines for his Greek readers – Rabbi means Teacher
Then, they ask Jesus a question
They aren’t asking a question to avoid answering Jesus’ question
They are asking a question to show that they are truly interested in being His followers
“Where are you staying?”
This would be important information for them, because they would be returning every day to sit under His teaching as His disciples
Jesus invites them to continue to follow Him and find out where He’s staying
Come and see
They did just that
They went with Jesus and saw where He was staying
In fact, they also spent the rest of that day with Him
“To ‘follow’ is to embark with Jesus on a journey, while to ‘stay’ or ‘remain’ is to maintain a lasting personal relationship with him. That the disciples ‘stayed’ with Jesus (presumably in Bethany) for the rest of the day testifies to their commitment as disciples.” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 120]
John the evangelist gives us a time stamp
It was about the tenth hour
The Jews started the day at sunrise (6 am) unlike Roman law that started the day at midnight (12 am)
So, the tenth hour would be 4 pm
John the evangelist begins a section where he shares about two disciples telling family and friends about Jesus
First things, first (vv. 40-42)
Andrew is identified
It’s from verse 40 that we can look back to verse 37 and realize that Andrew was one of the two disciples that followed Jesus after John the Baptist pointed Him out
He is also identified as Simon Peter’s brother
Interestingly enough, John the evangelist uses Simon’s new name here before he tells us that Jesus changed his name
John the evangelist is obviously writing after these events took place
He’s using Simon’s new name, Simon Peter, because he would have been pretty well known by his readers, perhaps more so than Andrew
After Andrew spends the rest of the day with Jesus, he is compelled to tell someone about Jesus
Andrew tells his brother
I like the fact that the first thing Andrew does is find his brother and tell him
Perhaps he was returning to their house for the night and sought out Simon
We don’t know exactly where he went to find Simon
PRINCIPLE #2 – God wants His people to tell others about Jesus.
“[Andrew] became the first in a long line of successors who have discovered that the most common and effective Christian testimony is the private witness of friend to friend, brother to brother.” [Carson, 155]
That should be our Christian practice as well
We should be sharing with our family members about Jesus and how He has transformed our lives
I know that many of us have done just that, even to the point of being told not to mention it again
There are probably others of us who have not shared the Gospel with our family members
My Next Step Today Is To: Share my salvation testimony with a family member or friend this week.
That is what Andrew did with his brother
Andrew tells Simon that they, he and the unnamed disciple, have found the Messiah
Again, John the evangelist explains for his Greek readers that Messiah meant – “the Christ”)
This is the anointed One, the promised One who would save them, redeem them, and set them free!
Andrew didn’t stop with just telling Simon about Jesus, he brings him to Jesus
Andrew brings Simon to Jesus
This isn’t the last time Andrew brings someone to Jesus
In fact, every time that Andrew is mentioned in John’s Gospel, he is bringing someone to Jesus
John 6:8, Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
John 12:20-22, Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Andrew is again our model for what we should be doing with friends and family
It is always important to share our personal testimony of what Jesus has done for us
It is also important to bring our friends and family to a place where they can learn more about Jesus and grow in their faith
There are many places where they can go to hear God’s Word (church, Sunday school, small group, one-on-one discipleship, etc.)
I want to challenge us today to begin inviting family and friends to church on a regular basis
Perhaps they’ve already heard the Gospel, but haven’t believe in Jesus yet – they need to continue to hear the Good News
Maybe they have believed in Jesus and need to grow in their relationship with Him – church is a great place for that to happen
Both groups need the fellowship of other believers in their lives
Simon comes face-to-face with Jesus and immediately Jesus changes his name
Jesus changes Simon’s name
Jesus looked at Simon and identified him as the son of John
This was a common practice, because last names were not used in the 1st Century
A person could be identified by their father’s name or by their place of origin (e.g., Jesus of Nazareth or Simon of Cyrene)
Cephas or Peter
Cephas was an Aramaic word meaning “rock”
Peter was a Greek word meaning “rock”
Jesus wasn’t necessarily changing Simon’s name, but rather giving him a nickname
This nickname was really identifying a characteristic that Jesus saw in Simon Peter that had not yet been manifested (in fact it really wouldn’t be evident until after the day of Pentecost when Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit)
Jason tells the story of an RA at Messiah College that gave everyone on his floor a nickname at the beginning of the year – he was not as discerning as Jesus was with Simon
While at Huntington College there was a foreign exchange student whose name was, Jingwei
The other guys on the wing of his floor thought it sounded like John Wayne, so they nicknamed him “Duke”
Andrew and the unnamed disciple have followed Jesus, Andrew has introduced his brother to Jesus, and Jesus has changed Simon’s name to Peter
This ends day 3
Follow Me – Jesus says (vv. 43-50)
The next day – day 4 (v. 43a)
This again is the phrase that John the evangelist uses to transition from one scene to the next
On the fourth day, Jesus decides to leave Bethany on the other side of the Jordan and head to Galilee [show map]
Philip’s calling (vv. 43b-44)
We don’t know exactly where Jesus is on his journey to Galilee when he finds Philip
Most scholars believe it would have been a two day walk for Jesus to get to Galilee
Is He just beginning his journey and is still in Bethany?
Is He part of the way to Galilee?
It seems to me that he is just starting out from Bethany and finds Philip, perhaps as part of the crowd
While it’s not stated directly, we know that Philip does follow Jesus, because of what he does in verse 44
This takes us back to our first principle
PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s desire is that everyone follow Jesus.
Being a disciple of Jesus means we have to follow Him.
That’s what Philip did
John the evangelist gives us a little geographical note at this point
Philip, Andrew, and Peter are all from the same town of Bethsaida in Galilee [show map]
The trip to Galilee would be a homecoming for these three disciples
Jesus is gaining disciples by the day as Philip began to follow Him
Nathanael’s calling (vv. 45-50)
Philip does the same thing that Andrew did
He found someone to tell about Jesus
It was his friend Nathanael
This brings us back to our second principle
PRINCIPLE #2 – God wants His people to tell others about Jesus.
For Philip, it wasn’t a family member, but rather a friend
We learn from Philip’s example that we should be sharing our personal salvation testimony with friends also
Philip shares that we (Andrew, Peter, unnamed disciple, and he) have found the One that . . .
Moses wrote about in the Law
The prophets also wrote about
“. . . it anchors the notion of ‘the Messiah’ in the entire Hebrew Bible, both the law and the prophets. This suggests that the whole Bible testifies to a single ‘Coming One,’ as John thought (vv. 15, 26-27), in contrast to the delegation from Jerusalem, with their pedantic alternatives of ‘the Christ,’ ‘Elias,’ and ‘the Prophet’ (v. 25).” [Michaels, 127-28]
Philip then uses the two identifying factors of any man in the 1st Century – “the name of his village, and the name of his (reputed) father” [Carson, 159]
While Jesus wasn’t born in Nazareth, he definitely grew up there and called it His hometown
As Jesus was growing up, those in Nazareth probably didn’t know about His miraculous birth story, they only knew that He was the son of Joseph and Mary
While Philip is excited about sharing Jesus with Nathanael, Nathanael’s reaction could have burst his bubble
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Ohio State and the University of Michigan are huge rivals
It’s always amazing to see and hear the various verbal slams about the two schools
Since Ohio State has been more successful than Michigan, there are more memes that run down Michigan than Ohio State
[Show the two memes]
Ohio State fans would echo Nathanael’s reaction, “Michigan! Can anything good come from there?”
I’m not a football fanatic, so I’m simply sharing what I’ve heard and seen
We may experience this when we invite people to church or share the Gospel with them
They may respond the same way Nathanael did
“Church! Can anything good come from there?”
Many times they react that way because of something that happened in the past
Philip doesn’t let Nathanael’s skepticism get him down, instead he challenges him
“Come and see”
I worked for a direct mail marketing company when we lived in Florida and a lot of the employees had attended the Catholic Church in the past
Most of them didn’t attend at the time and one of them told me that they didn’t attend because it was the same thing every Sunday – it was rote
I had the opportunity to share about Jesus with them and about the church where Judy and I attended
I was basically saying, Come and see!
I never had any of them come to church with us, but I had, at least, planted the seed
We need to remain positive in the midst of other’s negativity, because we have the most life-changing message for them
That’s what Philip did, he didn’t let Nathanael’s skepticism deter him
Jesus’ response to Nathanael
We know that Nathanael took Philip up on his challenge, to come and see, because when Jesus saw him coming, he had an encouraging word to say about him
He called Nathanael a true Israelite
He was saying that there was nothing false in him
He spoke his mind concerning how he felt about Nazareth
Story of Jacob
Jacob used falsehood to steal his brothers blessing and his birthright
Jacob used falsehood to trick his father
Jacob also use falsehood in dealing with his father-in-law Laban
After Jacob wrestled with God, God changed his name to Israel (struggles with God)
Jacob had overcome, his character had changed
Nathanael didn’t put on a mask or try to hide his true feelings
Nathanael wants to know how Jesus, whom he had never met, could say that he was a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false
PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus is all-knowing (omniscient).
Jesus told Nathanael that He had seen him while he was still under the fig tree before Philip called him
This was supernatural knowledge that God had given to Jesus to help Nathanael overcome his skepticism
What we see next is Nathanael’s testimony
Nathanael uses three titles for Jesus
Rabbi meaning Teacher, which showed that he believed in Jesus as the Messiah
Son of God, which revealed that Nathanael understood that Jesus was deity
King of Israel, which displayed his allegiance to Jesus
Jesus explains that Nathanael believed because He had shared some supernatural knowledge with him
Jesus then promises Nathanael that he will see greater things than that
This is probably a reference to the upcoming miracle at Cana in Galilee, but I don’t want to steal Pastor Marc’s thunder for next week
Jesus now turns His attention away from Nathanael, personally and addresses the disciples as a group
Divine revelation (v. 51)
We know that Jesus is addressing the group of disciples, because of the use of the plural “you” in verse 51
This divine revelation is a reminder of the story of Jacob when he laid his head on a stone as he traveled from Beersheba to Haran
He had a dream that a stairway was resting on the earth and reached to heaven
Angels were ascending and descending on this stairway
Jacob called the place Bethel (house of God)
Jesus was letting His disciples know that He was the way to heaven
The Son of Man was Jesus favorite way of referring to Himself while on earth
Being a disciple of Jesus means we have to follow Him.
Perhaps you’ve never followed Him before, but today can be that day
Perhaps you’ve fallen away from following Him and today you can begin again
We all have a responsibility to follow Jesus wholeheartedly
We also have a responsibility to tell others about Jesus
“Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think are innocent as well as the ones you think are wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself: my own will shall become yours.’”
—C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperOne, 2001), p. 196-197; submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California
“If you go over to Scotland, or anywhere there are lots of sheep, sooner or later you're going to see a very unusual sight. You'll see a little lamb running around the field, and you'll notice this lamb has what looks like an extra fleece tied around its back. In fact, you'll see there are little holes in the fleece for its four legs and usually a hole for its head. If you see a little lamb running around like that, that usually means its mother has died.
And without the protection and nourishment of a mother, any orphaned lamb will die. If you take the orphaned lamb and try to introduce it to another mother, the new mother will butt it away. She won't recognize the lamb's scent and will know the new baby is not one of her own lambs.
But thankfully, most flocks are large enough that there is a ewe that has recently lost a lamb. The shepherd will skin the dead lamb and make its fleece into a covering for the orphaned lamb, then he'll take the orphaned lamb to the mother whose baby just died. Now, when she sniffs the orphaned lamb, she will smell the fleece of her own lamb. Instead of butting the lamb away, she will accept it as one of her own.
In a similar way, we have become acceptable to God by being clothed with Christ.”
From Peter Grant's sermon, "In What Way Is Jesus Christ Different?"; submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky
We’ve had some recent changes to several financial things in our lives
Judy started teaching this past Fall, which affected Levi’s CHIP health insurance level that we qualified for (there was a significant increase in our monthly responsibility for his health insurance)
While we were looking at how we were going to cover this increase, we had some debt forgiven that nearly covered the monthly cost of the increase in the health insurance coverage
Who says that God doesn’t care about every detail of our lives
We saw this as God’s way of “saving” us financially
Perhaps every one of us has experienced some kind of debt forgiveness in our lives
It doesn’t have to be a financial debt – it could also be an emotional debt
We all probably carry around guilt for something that we did or didn’t do
Most of us probably experience this guilt with God
We don’t have to carry around that guilt debt
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
We may also experience guilt with another person
The same holds true with other people – we don’t have to carry around the guilt we are experiencing
We can and should go to that person, confess and seek their forgiveness
Too often we continue to carry the debt of guilt around, which affects our relationship with that person
We can be saved from the debt of guilt
The Israelites had been waiting for the Messiah to come, so they could be set free from Roman rule. They were looking for someone to save them. Unfortunately, they were looking for a political leader instead of a spiritual leader. As John the Baptist continues his testimony (the positive side of it) we see that he directs the people’s attention to someone he has been talking about in veiled terms. As Jesus enters the scene, John the Baptist wants us to know that . . .
BIG IDEA – Salvation is here.
This is not a financial or emotional salvation, but a spiritual salvation.
GOD (John 1:29-34)
Salvation revealed to Israel (vv. 29-31)
The next day
John the evangelist is probably referring to the day after John the Baptist had responded to the delegation from Jerusalem (priests and Levites)
We are not told if this delegation is still present the next day
Some believe they had begun their return trip to Jerusalem
Nothing is mentioned in this passage about whether or not they were there
What we do know is that John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and takes the opportunity to testify about who Jesus is and what His purpose on earth was
John isn’t commanding people to look at Jesus, but rather making an exclamation to draw their attention to Jesus
He wants them to see who Jesus is, because he is going to explain Jesus’ purpose on earth
Jesus’ purpose on earth
Lamb of God
This imagery would have been very familiar to the Jews who were following John the Baptist
The sacrificial system had been in place for hundreds of years
We are all familiar with the final plague in Egypt that allowed the Israelites to be set free from slavery
Death of the firstborn, both human and animal
The Israelites avoided that plague by sacrificing a perfect lamb and smearing the blood on the doorposts of their houses
The Israelites remembered their release from slavery every year by celebrating Passover, which included the sacrifice of a perfect lamb
What is perhaps less familiar to us is that two lambs were sacrificed every day at the temple (one in the morning and one in the evening)
This was done as a way to cleanse the Israelites
Hebrews 9:22, In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness
We saw God shedding blood after the fall of Adam and Eve, when He made coverings for their nakedness out of animal skins
“The first biblical mention of the Lamb appears in Genesis 22 when Abraham went to the altar to sacrifice his son Isaac. Leviticus 14 talks about lambs as a guilt offering. John came back to it in Revelation as a triumphal title for the conquering Lord.” [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 16]
The sacrificial system was designed as a way to cover over the sins of the Israelites, but it was not designed to take away their sins
Take away the sin of the world
John the Baptist is announcing and proclaiming that Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to be the perfect sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world
His sacrifice would not merely cover over their sins, but take them away
“But this Lamb is a special kind of lamb – one that ‘takes away [airōn] the sin of the world.” The theme of taking away sin is directly related to the Hebrew kpr, which involves ‘wiping away’ or getting rid of sin. Such ‘getting rid’ is not merely done by ‘covering’ it over and acting as though it were gone. The getting rid of sin in the Bible is done by the smearing of blood, the symbol of God’s ‘pardoning’ of humanity through death and the consequent ‘reconciliation of humanity with God.’” [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 1-11, 135-36]
Hebrews 7:27-28, Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
PRINCIPLE – God provided Jesus as the final, perfect sacrifice for sin.
“In Genesis, as Abel brought a lamb for sacrifice we see a lamb offered for an individual. In Exodus, as each household sacrificed a lamb during Passover, we see a lamb offered for a family. In Leviticus, when the people of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb, we see a lamb offered for a nation. In John, as the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, we see a Lamb who would be offered for the world.” [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, New Testament, 440]
We are all born with a desire to go our own way as Isaiah tells us, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way . . . (Isaiah 53:6a)
Just as God punished Adam and Eve when they sinned, by rebelling against Him, He has to punish us for our sin of rebellion against Him (Rom. 6:23)
God provided a substitute for us, someone to take our place when His punishment is poured out
Isaiah 53:4-7, Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed . . . and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
This whole passage is talking about Jesus and the reason why He came to earth
He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world
“Testing the acoustics in the vast Agricultural Hall, Spurgeon shouted, ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.’ A worker high in the rafters of the building heard this and became converted to Christ as a result.”
"Charles Haddon Spurgeon," Christian History, no. 29.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
My Next Step Today Is To: Recognize that Jesus took my punishment for sin when He died on the cross and believe in Him so I can have eternal life.
After John the Baptist proclaims who Jesus is, he explains that Jesus is eternal
John is now explaining who he was talking about when he said in verse 15, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’
He is revealing to the people, who the person is that was already among them that they did not know (John 1:26)
The people can now see Jesus, face-to-face
Salvation is here!
Through this description, John is letting them know that Jesus is eternal, He is deity
As we learned at the beginning of this book, Jesus is God – God and Jesus are one
Although Jesus’ ministry was starting after John’s, Jesus’ ministry would far exceed John’s
John was pointing people to Jesus
“If some of Jesus’ first disciples had earlier followed John the Baptist, we must suppose that something encouraged them to abandon their old master at the peak of his influence, in order to follow a still unknown preacher from Galilee. The best reason is the obvious one: they changed their allegiance precisely because it was the Baptist himself who pointed Jesus out as the one who was coming to fulfil the promise of Scripture.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 148]
John then answers the question about why he came baptizing
John’s reason for baptizing
When John says that he did not know him (Jesus), it doesn’t mean that he had never met Jesus
John and Jesus were relatives, so he obviously knew who Jesus was (son of Mary and Joseph, brother of James, etc.)
It was that he did not know him as the Coming One, the Messiah
This was revealed to him through a revelation of God that we will see in vv. 32-33
John then gives the reason why he was baptizing
We know from v. 23 that John explained who he was by stating that he was making straight the way for the Lord
He was preparing people to meet the Messiah
His baptizing was a way to prepare people to receive the Messiah
His entire role as the Baptist was to reveal Jesus to Israel
PRINCIPLE – God’s desire is for Jesus to be revealed to all humanity.
The Great Commission is Jesus’ final words to His disciples before He ascends to heaven
Read Matthew 28:16-20
The Great Commission is given to us as followers of Jesus Christ – these are our marching orders until Jesus returns
Just as John’s ministry of baptism was designed to reveal Jesus to the Israelites, our various ministries within the church and outside the church, should be designed to reveal Jesus to all of humanity
My Next Step Today Is To: Make sure that the ministry I’m involved with at church, or outside the church, helps to reveal Jesus to those I’m ministering to.
John was able to reveal Jesus to Israel, because He had already been revealed to him
Jesus revealed to John (vv. 32-34)
John’s baptism of Jesus
John’s Gospel does not have Jesus’ baptism recorded, except for this reference to it
It is recorded in the other three Gospels
John saw the Spirit of God descend from heaven in the form of a dove and remain on Jesus
The important word in this sentence is “remain”
“The appearance of the Spirit was common in the Old Testament, but it appeared mainly among designated leaders (such as a king, judge, or prophet) and remained only for the duration of their God-appointed work. John the Baptist’s comment is telling: The Spirit descended and remained on him. This is a permanent anointing; this is an anointing unlike anything witnessed before in Judaism; this is the messianic anointing.” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 74]
So, the Spirit never left Jesus – they are together now in heaven
This anointing of Jesus was a fulfillment of a revelation given to John the Baptist
God’s revelation of Jesus
As John began his ministry of baptism, I’m certain he was probably watching and waiting for the fulfillment of the revelation God had given him
God had told him that the sign of the Messiah would be the Spirit coming down and remaining on a specific person
As John met certain individuals who appeared very godly, perhaps he wondered if the Spirit would descend and remain on them after he baptized them
When they came up out of the water, he probably said to himself, “Well, that’s not the Messiah.”
Then, finally one day, Jesus comes and John knows, even before he baptizes Jesus, that something is different about Him
He tries to deter Jesus, but Jesus reassures him that this baptism must be done to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15)
Finally, we see John’s testimony about who Jesus is
John’s testimony about Jesus
“I have seen” and “I testify” are in the perfect tense
It is a settled conviction for John
He believes it will all his heart and mind
Jesus is the Son of God
Most commentators mention that there is strong evidence through ancient manuscripts that John probably wrote “Chosen One of God” instead of “Son of God”
This would parallel Isaiah’s words
Isaiah 42:1, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.”
Both of these names for Jesus are valid
We don’t have to guess what John the Baptist thinks about Jesus and who He is, he tells us directly – he testifies!
This ends the second day of John the Baptist’s ministry as explained by John the evangelist (next week we’ll see the third day)
Salvation is here and it is for everyone
You can have eternal life when you believe in Jesus
He is the Chosen One of God, the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of hope that is for the whole world
John was revealing Jesus to everyone he came in contact with, through his ministry of baptism
Each one of us is called and commissioned to the do same thing with everyone we come in contact with
“Why can't God just forgive the debt of sin? If our Creator was truly generous, couldn't he just move on without repayment? Live and let live? Here's the problem: someone always eats the cost of sin. As a simple example, let's say your neighbor crashes his car through your fence. When you discover the shambles, you forgive him: ‘Don't worry about the fence! All is forgiven.’ But forgiving your neighbor doesn't do away with the bill or dissolve the damage; it means you eat the cost.
Now consider a more complex example. During the U.S. housing crisis, shoddy banking practices, fat-cat executives, and corporate corruption threw a sledgehammer into the global economy. Now, imagine Jesus is installed in the aftermath as the new CEO of one of the massive corporations guilty for the crisis. The old CEO is out the door; a new boss is in town. Jesus is personally innocent: he wasn't behind the wheel when the ship got steered into the rocks. But there's still a huge debt. Bank of America alone owed people $17 billion.
Someone has to pay the costs. Here's what actually happened: in the aftermath of the housing crisis, the banks were deemed "too big to fail," and the government forgave the debt, covering the most expensive bailout of human history. Though the banking industry had caused massive damage, the debt was forgiven. But the debt didn't go away. Someone else covered it—in this case, the American people. Someone always eats the cost.
At the Cross, God was eating the cost of our sin. Why can't God just forgive the debt? This is what is happening at the Cross: God is just(ly) forgiving the debt—by personally covering the cost. I misspoke earlier when I said the White House gave Wall Street the most expensive bailout of human history. Actually, the most expensive bailout was when the Father established his incarnate Son as the new CEO of a corrupt corporation called Humanity Inc. and together, in the power of their Spirit, they took upon themselves the most outrageous debt-forgiveness plan the world has ever known.”
Joshua Ryan Butler, The Pursuing God (Thomas Nelson, 2016), page 100.
The Humble Messenger
Psychologist Milton Rokeach wrote a book called The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. He described his attempts to treat three patients at a psychiatric hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan, who suffered from delusions of grandeur. Each believed he was unique among humankind; he had been called to save the world; he was the messiah. They displayed full-blown cases of grandiosity, in its pure form.
Rokeach found it difficult to break through, to help the patients accept the truth about their identity. So he decided to put the three into a little community to see if rubbing against people who also claimed to be the messiah might dent their delusion—a kind of messianic, 12-step recovery group.
This led to some interesting conversations. One would claim, "I'm the messiah, the Son of God. I was sent here to save the earth."
"How do you know?" Rokeach would ask.
"God told me."
One of the other patients would counter, "I never told you any such thing."
Every once in a while, one got a glimmer of reality—never deep or for long, so deeply ingrained was the messiah complex. But what progress Rokeach made was pretty much made by putting them together.
John Ortberg, "Leader's Insight: Curing Grandiosity (Part Two)," LeadershipJournal.net (1-29-07)
Most of us don’t struggle with a God/Messiah complex, but we can sometimes think too highly of ourselves.
Working for others
We see in Colossians 3:18-25, rules for Christian households
Colossians 3:22-24, Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
When I work for others, I try to do my very best
I worked for two ministries prior to becoming a pastor
While working with those ministries, I always tried to do my best to make my boss look good
I never felt like I needed praise or acknowledgement for working hard, because I found joy in making my boss look good
I also knew that I wasn’t really serving my boss, but the Lord
That perspective changes everything in the work environment
It was never about me, but rather about the Lord and my boss
Recognizing who we are serving
There are times in our work environment when we really enjoy working for our boss
There are other times when we wish our boss was someone else
During the difficult times, we have to remember that we are really working for the Lord and not for men
We have to come to the realization that it’s not about us, but about the Lord
John the evangelist continues to share about John the Baptist. In John 1:19-34 we see the testimony of John the Baptist. He first expresses his testimony in a negative way (vv. 19-28) and then shares it in a positive way (vv. 29-34). We will be looking at the negative way today. Now this negative testimony is not bad, but rather it’s John the Baptist denying the assumptions of the religious leaders from Jerusalem. John the Baptist was letting them know that his testimony was not about him, but someone else. He wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Our testimony is not about me, but about He (Jesus).
GOD (John 1:19-28)
Three Assumptions (vv. 19-21)
John the Baptist had obviously gotten the attention of the religious leaders, which is why they sent a delegation to question him
They were the religious leaders for the people of Israel, but now a large number of their people were following John and being baptized by him
They needed to know why
“The very fact that emissaries from the Jerusalem authorities show up on John’s doorstep serves as a show of power and as a signal that the authorities will not tolerate in the long run a ministry that runs counter to their own purposes.” [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 59]
The Jews of Jerusalem sent a group to question John the Baptist
This was probably the Sanhedrin
Jon Courson likens them to our Supreme Court [Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, New Testament, 439]
They were the highest religious ruling group in Judaism
Priests and Levites
The priests were responsible for serving in the Temple
The Levites were responsible for assisting the priests in their service
Both groups handled the ritual purification that took place in the Temple, so they would be the best candidates to question John about his practice of baptizing individuals
The priests and Levites came to John to ask him who he was
Because John was baptizing individuals, the religious leaders had a preconceived idea of what time period was approaching – the eschaton (end times)
Since they thought they knew what time period was approaching, it narrowed their view of who John might be
So, they had three assumptions, based on their study of Scripture and understanding of end times
1st assumption – the Christ
Now, John the evangelist doesn’t record the actual question that the priests and Levites ask
But, from John the Baptist’s answer we know the question was whether or not he was the Christ
The Greek word for Christ means “anointed One”
The Hebrew word for Messiah means “anointed One”
So, we see that the religious leaders are asking John the Baptist if he is the promised Messiah, their deliverer
In the 1st Century there was great expectation and anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival
Jesus’ miraculous birth, the announcement of the angel to the shepherds, the shepherds testimony, and the Wiseman’s appearance a couple of years later, helped to feed this expectation and anticipation of the coming Messiah
It wouldn’t have been out of place for the priests and Levites to ask this question of John
We see John the Baptist’s response
He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely
Within Christianity, when we hear the word “confess” we normally think about confessing our sins, but that is not the intent of John’s confession here
“‘Confessed’ does not refer to confession of sins but to maintaining one’s allegiance to Jesus Christ in the face of hostile interrogation, and this is what John is doing here implicitly.” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 96]
We can learn a lot from John’s example here
When faced with those who deny the deity of Christ, the existence of God, the validity of Scripture, etc., we have to maintain our allegiance to Jesus and confess Him to the world
PRINCIPLE – We should never fail to confess Christ.
My Next Step Today Is To: Speak up and confess my allegiance to Christ when others question and deny Jesus as Lord.
He told them that he was not the Christ, the Messiah
He wasn’t about to claim this name for himself
Our testimony is not about me, but about He (Jesus)
After John denies being the Christ, they move on to the next end time figure
2nd assumption – Elijah
If he was not the Christ, then perhaps he was Elijah
This tells us that the religious leaders knew prophecy
Malachi 3:1, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
The religious leaders were taking the words of the prophet Malachi, literally – Elijah would return in person
They held to this belief because they knew the history about Elijah from the Scriptures
They had learned that Elijah never died, but was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11)
So, when they read Malachi’s prophecy about Elijah preparing the way for the Lord, they understood it in a literal sense
Jesus explained that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy concerning Elijah
Matthew 11:12-14, From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.
Matthew 17:10-13, The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
An angel prophesied to Zechariah (John’s father) about him prior to his birth
The angel was telling Zechariah all that his son would accomplish
Luke 1:17, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John certainly fulfilled the prophecies from Malachi and the angel of the Lord – he was making the way ready for the Messiah
Perhaps John the Baptist even resembled Elijah
Mark 1:6, John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
2 Kings 1:8, They replied, “He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”
So, John’s wardrobe resembled that of Elijah
It wouldn’t have been a stretch for the religious leaders to make this connection and then misunderstand and misinterpret prophecy
John foils their second assumption, by telling them that he is not Elijah
3rd assumption – the Prophet
This assumption is again steeped in Jewish history and the promise of Moses found in Deuteronomy 18:15-19
Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to him . . . I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.
John’s answer to their third assumption is, “No.”
He was not the Prophet that Moses promised
Perhaps the priests and the Levites were baffled at this point, because John denied all three of their assumptions about who he was
Who are you? (vv. 22-23)
The priests and Levites know they can’t return empty handed to the Sanhedrin (Jews of Jerusalem)
They finally ask John to explain to them who he was
Have you ever struggled with remembering someone’s name when you’re trying to tell another person who you saw?
The other person starts throwing out names and you have to say “No” to everyone of their guesses
The person’s name you’re trying to think of is right on the tip of your brain, but having to respond “No” to the guesses distracts you from pulling the person’s name out of your brain
That can be so frustrating
I wonder if John the Baptist was getting exasperated with the priests and Levites
Perhaps he was thinking, “just let me tell you who I am!”
I find it fascinating, but not surprising, that John uses the words of the prophet Isaiah to answer their final question
John quotes the prophet Isaiah
Remember, the religious leader’s assumptions were all based on Old Testament prophecies about the Christ, Elijah, and the Prophet
John hits them with more Old Testament prophecy, which they probably already knew
John is not the Christ, but is rather a voice
The messenger is not as important as the message
“Though Jesus is the Word, the Baptist is ‘a voice’ directing his audience to Jesus.” [Köstenberger, 62]
Our testimony is not about me, but about He (Jesus)
PRINCIPLE – Disciples of Christ should always point people to Jesus.
Our personal testimony is the most powerful tool we have in sharing the Gospel, because no one can deny what happened to us
Now, in sharing our testimony we have to be careful that it doesn’t become about us
Greg Laurie in his book Tell Someone gives some great guidelines about sharing our testimony, especially concerning our past life of sin and rebellion against God
Don’t glorify or exaggerate your past [pg. 85]
Don’t boast about your work, boast in His [pg. 86]
It’s not about you; it’s about Him! [pg. 87]
“Our story is the bridge, not the destination. The point of sharing your story is so you can tell His story: His love for humanity, His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead.” [pg. 87]
We are simply the voice, the messenger, pointing people to Jesus
What we see next is a change in location of punctuation from the words of the prophet in the book of Isaiah to the words of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John
In the desert
Isaiah 40:3, A voice on one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”
The Israelites were being released from captivity during Isaiah’s day
They would be returning to the Promised Land
“In the original context, the Old Testament prophet is calling for a (metaphorical) improvement in the road system of the desert to the east, a levelling of hills and valleys and a straightening of the curves, to accommodate the return of the covenant people from exile.” [Carson, Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 144]
In our lives
Here in the Gospel of John, we see that John the Baptist is the voice in the desert
His message, as the voice, is to make straight the way for the Lord
“‘Make the Lord’s path straight’ conveys the image of ‘preparing a roadway by clearing away the obstacles’ (Morris 1995: 121). The task of witnessing to Jesus today is similar: clearing away obstacles that may keep people from coming to Jesus, the most glaring being their sin and need of repentance.” [Köstenberger, 62-63]
“We might liken it to constructing an interstate highway or autobahn for Christ in our lives.” [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 1-11, 131]
John the Baptist was calling people to repentance and pointing them to Jesus Christ
Even after John explains who he is, the priests and Levites are still stuck on the fact that he is not the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet
Authority questioned (vv. 24-28)
Some Pharisees question John about why he is baptizing
If he’s not one of the eschatological figures they assumed him to be, then why is he baptizing people?
Baptism in the 1st Century was not a foreign concept
It was considered a form of ritual cleansing or purification
In the Jewish cultural it was reserved for Gentiles who converted to Judaism
Baptism was a way for Gentiles to be prepared for the final judgement, therefore, the Jews thinking John was the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet
The Jews obviously didn’t need to be baptized, because they were God’s chosen people (a misconception)
So, when John begins baptizing fellow Jews, it obviously creates a red flag in the religious leader’s minds
They need answers!
We see John’s response
He baptizes with water
“Water baptism for John’s disciples was a ritual act of cleansing demonstrating repentance and anticipation of the Messiah.” [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 14]
What they didn’t realize is that Jesus was already there
I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll talk about that next week
We see the humility of John
What the religious leaders are really saying to John the Baptist, in this final question is, “Who do you think you are and by whose authority are you baptizing, our fellow Jews?”
John could have thrown down his credentials at that point, but he doesn’t
“If I had been John, I would have probably said something like, ‘I’ll tell you who I am: I’m the last of the Old Testament prophets. My birth was declared to my father by an angel. The Holy Spirit empowered me for this mission when I was still in the womb. The Son of God called me the greatest man ever to walk the face of the earth [Matt 11:11]. That’s who I am! Who are you?’” [Carter and Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 30]
But John knows that his role is to become less, so that Jesus might become greater (John 3:30)
PRINCIPLE – Followers of Jesus should be characterized by humility.
John says that he is not even worthy to untie the leather straps that hold Jesus’ sandals on
In the 1st Century, the disciples of a Rabbi were to obediently do anything that was asked of them, except washing their feet
This task was reserved for the servant or slave (the lowest position in the culture)
John’s humility places him below a servant or slave
He again points to Jesus as the One who comes after him – the Messiah
Our testimony is not about me, but about He (Jesus).
Think for a moment about your testimony
Would you say that it is more about the glorification of your past and boasting about the things you’ve sacrificed?
Are there changes you need to make when sharing your testimony, so that your story is simply the bridge to telling God’s story of salvation through Jesus Christ?
My Next Step Today Is To: Review my testimony to make sure that it focuses more on Jesus and less on me.
My Next Step Today Is To: Take time this week to write out my testimony, so I’m ready to share it with my family, friends, and coworkers.
John the evangelist shares one more important note
The location of where John was baptizing disciples for Jesus was in Bethany on the other side of the Jordan
This distinguishes it from Bethany in Judea where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha lived (that location was near Jerusalem on the other side of the Mount of Olives
The actual location is lost to us, perhaps because it was not a highly populated area in Galilee
We should never fail to confess Christ
We should be characterized by humility when sharing our testimony
People need us to confess Christ, because the world’s message seems to drown out the message of the Gospel
We need to get our story out of the way, so God’s story can be seen clearly
"If you work hard, good things will happen . . . to someone else."
So goes the motto of the All-Joes Team. Each year USA Today honors overlooked and often unappreciated football players by naming them to what the newspaper calls its All-Joes Team. Now in its tenth year, the All-Joes award celebrates men who sacrifice their egos for the good of their team.
For all their hard work, these grunts receive little glory. "You have to know your role," says William Henderson, fullback for Green Bay's Ahman Green. "I'm there to create a cavity for Ahman to get through and to protect the quarterback from bodily harm." Guess who gets the accolades when Green runs for 1000 yards? "People don't respect the position," says Henderson.
But teammates notice. Fullback Mack Strong blocks for Seattle's Ricky Watters, and Watters depends on him. "Mack does all the dirty work in the run game. He does everything. I mean, if the goal posts fell, I wouldn't be surprised to see him go over there and hold them up."
As a result of being named to the All-Joe team, some players have gone on to further glory. Previous All-Joes have made it to the Pro Bowl, including Washington defensive end Marco Coleman, New York Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet, and Seattle offensive tackle Walter Jones.
We as Christians need to work for someone else's glory too. Our role is to diminish so that Jesus may increase. If we make this our goal, Jesus will make sure our efforts won't go unnoticed.
Steve Gertz, Wheaton, Illinois; source: Larry Weisman, "All-Joes honor fullbacks for dirty job well done," USA Today (12-16-02)
I’ve Been There, And I’ll Always Be There For You
Learning different languages.
BIG IDEA – Our God wants to know and be known by us.
QUESTION – Why would God become one of us?
GOD (John 1:14-18)
Experience (v. 14)
God’s experience of humanity
John 4:6-7; 11:33, 35
Exodus 25:8-9; 40:34
Humanity’s experience of God
Example (vv. 15-17)
Of how to navigate this life He gave us
Of God and His character
Who is He?
What matters to Him?
God became man, so He could die for us. As deity He couldn’t die. As a human He could die for us.