Welcome to the world’s best loved book. What a wonderful book it is! The most learned academics can never fathom the depths of its teaching, yet evens a child can understand its truths. After all, the most profound truth the world has ever known is “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

The Author
John, the one-time Galilean fisherman, had left everything to follow Jesus. For three and a half years he was more intimate with the Lord than anyone else. He was known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Not surprisingly, it was John whom the Spirit inspired to write the deepest things concerning the Saviour.

The Substance
John’s Gospel is different from the others. Most of his subject matter is only recorded in his Gospel. There is no mention of the Lord’s birth, His temptation, the Transfiguration, or the appointment of the Lord’s Supper. There are few miracles and parables.

John focuses in different direction. He introduces us to Nicodemus, to the woman of Samaria, to Lazarus, and tells us of Peter’s interview in chapter 21. The public discourses of chapters 5-10, the private ministry of chapters 13-16, and the priestly prayer of chapter 17, are all vital to the main message.

The Style
John’s sentences are short and simple. His vocabulary is the most limited of all the Gospels, but the most profound in meaning. Frequent. short explanations of Jewish customs and terms show it was written as much for the whole church as for Jewish readers.

The Synoptics
All four Gospels present a different view of the same story of Christ’s earthly life John’s Gospel is quite different from three “synoptic Gospels” of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These writers are similar in the way they report the life of Christ.

Show Him outwardly Shows Him inwardly
Emphasise His Humanity Emphasises His Deity
The Lion, Ox, and Man The Eagle
Mainly public discourses Mainly private discourses
Mainly Galilean ministry Mainly Judean ministry
Mainly factual Mainly doctrinal
Many miracles & parables Few miracles or parables

John’s Purpose
John has one focused purpose in view, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). He demands a verdict. His readers are directly challenged and must choose – to receive and be saved, or to reject and perish eternally.

John’s Theme
John writes against the dark background of national unbelief as Christ “came unto His own; and His own received Him not” (1:11). The foreground, however, is bright with accounts of those who did receive Him, illustrating that “as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (1:12).

This theme is carefully developed and John chooses his subject matter to illustrate it.

a) The Eight Miracles_
John’s eight recorded miracles all powerfully confirm that Jesus is God, and give striking illustrations of the transforming “power to become” which operates in “as many as receive Him.”

The Miracle The Transformation
Water to wine (2) Sadness to gladness
Nobleman’s son (4) Disease to health
Bethesda paralytic (5) Paralysis to energy
Feeding 5000 (6) Hunger to fullness
Walking on water (6) Agitation to peace
Sight to the blind (9) Darkness to light
Raising of Lazarus (11) Death to life
Draught of fishes (21) Failure to success

b) The Eight Interviews
John also records eight interviews with individuals or small groups which again illustrate the transforming “power to become” available to “as many that receive Him.” These are:

(i) Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathaniel (1:35-51). Jesus said to Simon, “Thou art . . . thou shalt be.”

(ii) Nicodemus (3:1-21). This new power begins with a new birth.

(iii) The Woman At the Well (4:5-26). The new power became an inner spring of life and satisfaction.

(iv) The Man Born Blind (9:35-41). I t was an inward as well as an outward eye-opening to see Jesus as “the Son of God” (9:35).

(v) Martha and Mary (11). It became a force to conquer the impossible (11:40).

(vi) The Eleven Apostles (13-16). In the Upper Room Christ taught that this new power is linked to the Holy Spirit.

(vii) Mary Magdalene (20:1-18). The manifestation of the risen Christ transforms heart-break into joy-break.

(viii) Peter (21:15-23). His first promise to Peter (1:42) is repeated, “Thou art . . . thou shaft be.” He learned that “power to become” could also become “power to overcome.”

A Parallel Picture
There is a delightful parallel between this Gospel and the O.T. Tabernacle. The Tabernacle and its furniture are progressively mirrored as we move through the Gospel.

The Tabernacle John’s Gospel
The Brazen Altar “Behold the Lamb of God” (1:29)
The Laver “Except a man be born of water…” (3:5)
Table of Shewbread The Living Bread (6:35)
The Lampstand The Light of the World (8:12)
The Altar of Incense Upper Room ministry (14-16)
In the Holy of Holies High Priestly Prayer (17)
The Ark and Mercy Seat The Cross (19). Covenant relationship (20)

Eternal Life Through Believing
John’s purpose in writing was “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life” (20:31). The word “believe” occurs in its several forms ninety-eight times; the words “life” and “live” occur fifty-five times.

Amazingly, each main reference to eternal life reveals a new truth.

a) Life is in Christ
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (1:4). This life is in the Son, and its first action on the soul is to give light which “shines in darkness,” to reveal human sin and Divine truth.

b) Life Comes Through Faith
“Whosoever believeth…shall have everlasting life” (3:16). Life is imparted through faith, and is eternal.

c) Life is a Present Possession
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (3:36). The word “hath” assures us that eternal life is for now,

d) Life Gives Inward Satisfaction
“The water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (4:14).

e) Life Exempts-from-Judgement
“. . . shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life” (5:24). The possession of eternal life exempts from judgement.

f) Life Assures of Immortality of the Body
“. . . every one which seeth the Son. and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (6:40). Eternal life not only ensures salvation of the soul, but also immortality for the body.

g) Life Means Eternal Preservation
“. . . I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Father’s hand” (10:27-29).

“I AM. . .”
Twenty three times we find our Lord’s meaningful “I am”. Seven times He couples the “I AM” with a metaphor expressing His saving relationship toward mankind:

• I am the Bread of Life (6:35)
• I am the Light of the World (8:12)
• I am the Door of the Sheep (10:7,9)
• I am the Good Shepherd (10:11,14)
• I am the Resurrection and the Life (10:25)
• I am the Way the Truth, and the Life (14:6)
• I am the True Vine (15:1,5)


John 1:1-5

John introduces his Gospel with an unmistakable statement about Christ. He will show that Christianity is not a philosophy, or a body of teachings, or even a religion. Christianity is about a Person. Christianity minus Christ leaves only a series of helpful teachings. At its core Christianity is not merely about what Jesus taught, but who Jesus is. John at least had no doubt as to who He is. He is God!

His first five verses contain a sublime presentation of Christ as the Word, the Life, and the Light,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John begins his Gospel with a presentation of Christ as “the Word.” This title is used only in the writings of John; in his Gospel (1:1,14), in his epistle (1 Jn 1;1) and in his Revelation (19:13).

A “word” is a unit of speech by which we communicate our thoughts to others. Hence Jesus expressed o us God’s thoughts. This is what Hebrews 1;2 says: “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” In Him we can see God’s love, God’s power, God’s compassion, God’s justice, God’s forgiveness. Jesus is the clearest Word God could ever speak.

a) His Eternity
“In the beginning. . .” The beginning of what? Genesis 1:1 also commences with “in the beginning,” referring to God’s act of creation. But John’s beginning” goes far further back. He tells us of the Word’s existence as the eternal “I AM” (8:58).

“In the beginning” is literally “in beginning.” The Greek has no definite article. John is speaking about a state; not an act. This state precedes the creation of “all things.”

Note that Jesus was not only “from” the beginning, He was “in” the beginning. He Himself was without beginning, i.e. eternal. He was the eternal Son of God, not just before He came to earth, but before there was any earth.

This is the united testimony of Scripture. Peter says He was “before the foundation of the world” ( I Pe 1:20). John says He was “before the world was” (Jn 17:5). Paul says He was “before all things” (Col 1:17).

b) His Identity
“. . . the word was with God.” This teaches us that He existed separately ”with God,” and was thus distinct from God the Father. He was not some vague idea or thought, or even a mere example, but a real Person with a separate and distinct personality who lived “with God.”

c) His Deity
“The Word was God.” This is the first of many clear statements in this Gospel that Jesus Christ is God. The Bible says there is one God and that there are three Persons in the Godhead. In this verse two Persons of the Godhead are mentioned – God the Father and God the Son.

Some insist that the verse says “the word was a god.” But only by violating all the laws of Greek grammar can it be made to mean this. John’s point is clear: Jesus is God! He knows that the words and works of Jesus cannot be understood until this fact has been grasped. That is why he placed it right at the beginning of his gospel.

d) His Creativity
“All things were made by him: and without him was not anything made that was made.” There is a close parallel between the opening lines of John and the opening lines of Genesis. Eight times in Genesis 1 we read about God’s creative activity, “Let there be light,” “Let there be. . .” This was God the Son at work, just as John describes Him in verses 2 and 3. He is the logos, the eternal Word, speaking into being what the Father had conceived and designed in His amazing infinite mind.

He not only made it; He holds it together. Scientists still do not understand what holds the particles of the atom together. Paul says in Colossians what that force is: “In Him all things hold together.” Hebrews says, “he sustains all things by the power of His word.”

“In him was life.” Fifty five in his Gospel John will speak about life and living. He will tell us that eternal life is received by faith (3:1.6), that it is a present possession (3:36), that it provides inward satisfaction (4:I4), and that it is a guarantee of eternal preservation (10:27-29). The whole purpose off his Gospel was “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” (20:31).

What is life? Plants, animals and people all have life given by the Son. All life comes from Him. A scientist can analyze all the elements that make up a living being and put them all together, but he cannot create life. No one even knows what life is.

But John is not just thinking of biological life: he has eternal life in mind. When we are born we receive physical life. When we are born again we receive spiritual life. Both come from Christ, “This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 Jn 5:20).

“The life was the light of men.” John in his epistle uses light to describe all the glory, holiness, and righteousness of God. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). What a perfect picture this is. Light has a wide spectrum, of which we can only understand very little. It is invisible, it is absolute (ask Einstein), and it is a perfect blend of all the colours of the rainbow.

The same One who gives us “life” in order to live is the same One who gives us “light” to know how to live. It is one thing to have life, but something else to know life’s true purposes and the way to heaven.

a) Light Gives Knowledge
Light, as John uses it, is a symbol of knowledge, understanding, and truth. We can pursue understanding in such fields as science, medicine, art, literature, etc. But if we stop at this level, then life is shallow, narrow. and limited. We will never truly understand the workings of God in the world. It is only as we seek God’s truth as found in His Word that we can truly put all the pieces together.

b) Light Dispels the Darkness
“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness; and then darkness comprehended it not.” Just as death is merely the absence of life, so darkness is merely the absence of light. Adam’s sin plunged the world into darkness, so that man neither knew God or wanted to know Him. Into this “darkness” Christ came as the Light of the World.

(i) Man Lives in the Dark. It is hard to accept that we live in a world of darkness. We are proud of our achievements; social. technological, scientific. We look back and say, “See how far we have come over the last fifty years.” That doesn’t look like darkness! Yet in the areas of basic behaviour we have made no progress in conquering the human problems of fear, hate, crime, conflict, war, racism, injustice, and sin. This is because our spiritual understanding is darkened (Eph 4:18). The darkness is not only around us, it is in us.

(ii) Man Loves the Dark. “The darkness comprehended it not.” Every man in enlightened by his Creator, but the natural man disregards this and repels it. Consequently he is plunged into darkness. Instead of living up to the light he has, he “loves darkness rather than light” (3:19). All other darkness yields and fades away before light, but the darkness here wilfully refuses it. Nothing but a miracle can ever bring one “out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Pe 2:9).

The opening lines of the 1970s song by Simon and Garfunkel are still relevant: “Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.” Darkness is our constant companion. We are familiar with it, happy with it. Our darkened hearts do not comprehend the seriousness of sin. Easy divorce, permissive sex, and pornography, all reflect the darkness of our society.

(iii) Man is Lost in the Dark. The moment light is introduced, darkness must flee. Those who live in darkness cannot possess the light. A man may have moral, intellectual, educational, or any other light. He may even have the light of his conscience. But he is still spiritually in the dark unless his eyes have been opened by the spirit of God to see “the light of men.”

How sad when a person wilfully closes his mind to this Light. He does not permit it to penetrate. John will later tell us that Judas, “then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.” Out from the presence of the Light of the World into the night! Those without Christ live in the dark, die in the dark, and spend eternity in what the Bible calls “outer darkness.”

Surely this should make the believer bow in worship as he realises that the Saviour endured the darkness. We see Him in the darkness of Gethsemane. But deeper still was the darkness of Calvary, as from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. He said “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in the darkness, in the depths” (Ps 88:6).

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.


John 1:6-18

John the Apostle now introduces another John, the Baptist, who was specifically sent to “prepare the way of the Lord,” and point men to the Lamb of God. His single-minded dedication still stands as a powerful challenge to ail who seek to please God.

John’s life’s work was short, to the point, and totally centred on Christ.

a) The Man
Several things are highlighted about John:

(i) He was “a man” in total contrast to the timeless and divine “Word.”

(ii) He was “sent from God. “ John’s specific commission came directly from God.

(iii) He was Christ-like. John was so like Christ that the Holy Spirit issues a disclaimer saying “he was not that Light,” so that there would be no misunderstanding of John’s identity.

(iv) He was “a witness.” “The same came for a witness, to bear witness a` the Light.” A witness speaks the truth by telling what he knows. It was this clear witness that drew multitudes out of their homes and into the desert.

b) The Message
John put the truth about Christ at a level the common people could understand. His simple straight message contained the ABC of the Gospel:

(i) Admit Your Need. John’s call to commitment is summed up in one word, “Repent!” This involves admission that we are confused, blind, and unable to solve our own problems.

(ii) Believe in the One who is the Light, the Life, and the Lamb of God.

(iii) Correct Your Behaviour. To the soldiers John said, “Stop oppressing people.” To the rich he said, “Give freely to the poor.” To all he said, “correct your behaviour and prove the reality of what you profess.”

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world”(1:9 NIV). This verse tells us a number of truths about the Lord Jesus as the Light:

a) He is “the true light”
“The true light” is that which is genuine and real.

(i) He is “the True Light” as opposed to all false lights. Even Satan himself earn pose as an angel of light.

(ii) He is the Real Light. In the O.T. many dim and shaded lights pointed forward to Christ. He is the fulfilment of them all.

(iii) He is the Underived Light. Light is often merely reflected. but Christ’s light is His own inward glory.

(iv) He is the Unsurpassed Light. Nothing, not even the brilliance of the sun, moon, and stars, compares with Him.

b) He came into “the world”
The word “wor1d” (kosmos) i s used four times in verses 9 and 10. It is not the physical world so much as the world of men that stands in contrast to heaven.

c) He “gives Light to every man”
This is the light of creation. Jesus is that light, the Creator behind it all. So all men have light. There are no people who have never heard about God. This is exactly what Paul argues in Romans 10 where he quotes two lines from Psalm 19 which begins “The heavens declare the glory of God: the skies proclaim the work of their hands.”

The coming of Christ met with a double reaction:

a) Those Who Rejected Him_
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not”(1:11). Jesus came to the land and place where God had put his name. Yet his own privileged people would not receive Him.

b) Those Who. Received Him
“As many as received him, to them gave he the power right t o become the children of God, even t n them that believe on his name” (1:12). Though the Messiah was seemingly rejected, God was at work in the midst of that rejection, producing an entirely new creation, a whole new family of people. Like the old creation, it started with a birth. A person becomes a child of God by receiving Him and believing on His name.
(i) “Receiving.” Christ is presented as a gift to receive. “As many as,” rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, all who receive Him become the children of God.

(ii) “Believing.” “ The word “believe” is the burden of this Gospel. This is the personal acceptance as truth of what God said concerning ourselves and His Son.

God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility
“Which are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:13). Just as verse 12 gives the human side of the Gospel, verse 13 gives the divine side. It is described by three negatives which represent the many ways by which people think they can come to God.

a) “Not of blood.” The new birth does not run in the veins, and has nothing to do with rationality or natural parentage.

b) “nor of the will of the flesh.” One cannot become a Christian by winding up his will power to live a good life. It comes from having the mind,, heart and heart being opened by God’s own sovereign will.

c)”nor of the will of man.” When we were born it was the choice of our parents, “the will of man.” When we are reborn into the new kingdom, no other human will involved. Our parents may teach us and pray for us, but they cannot cause us to be “born again.” That’s why John insists it is a divine work.

“We Beheld His G1ory”
In his opening statements John said that Jesus is the Word, the Creator, and the Giver of Life and Light. Now in verse 14 he gives us a intimate glimpse into His glory. Four striking images are used to explain the glory of Jesus.

a) “The Word was made flesh.”
“The Word” – His divine title; “flesh” – His holy humanity. What profound contrast! Three great ends were accomplished by His becoming flesh.

(i) He was to die.

(ii) He could be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

(iii) He left us an example to follow.

b)”… and dwelt among us “
The word for “dwelt” is literally “tabernacled.” A tabernacle was a tent. John says Jesus pitched his tent among us. The O.T. Tabernacle, Gospel’s dwelling place among His people, was thus a beautiful picture of Christ. It was…

(i) Outwardly Unattractive. So Christ had “no form nor comeliness…”
(ii) God’s Dwelling Place.
(iii) God’s Meeting Place, known as “the tent of meeting.” It is only in Christ that man can meet with God.
(iv) Where the Law Was Preserved. So Christ kept the law in every detail.
(v) The Place of Sacrifice. The whole purpose of Christ’s coming was to present Himself as a sacrifice for sin.
(vi) The Place Where the Priests Were Fed. The priests received their nourishment from the altar.
(vii) The Centre of Worship.

c) “We beheld His glory”
John saw something of Christ’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. At other times also His glory shone through the fabric of His bodily “tent.” Christ’s glories are fourfold:

(i) His Essential Glories. These are His own glories which He possesses by virtue of the fact that He is God.

(ii) His Official Glories. The glories of His offices as Prophet, Priest, and King.

(iii) His Moral Glories. The Lord’s beautiful life shone with glory.

(iv) His Acquired Glories. “Wherefore God also bath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9).

d) “Full of grace and truth”
What is grace? It has been defined as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. What is truth? It is the unveiling of what is actually there. Jesus was full of grace and truth, the ultimate revelation of what is real.


John 1:19-34

Why were people so attracted to John the Baptist? It was not his personality, but his message which targeted the deepest needs of the human heart. He challenged people with a change that would affect the lives of all who heard and accepted his Christ-centred message. People were hungry for what John had to say, and he said it in such a way that they had to come to grips with it.

1. JOHN’S POSITION (1:15-18)
John repeatedly emphasized his own inferior position relative to Christ. In 1:15 he stated, “He who cometh after me. . . was before me.” This apparent riddle was actually a profound statement of the truest, deepest nature of Jesus.

a) “He who cometh after me.” This tells us of His humanity. He was younger than John, born after him.

b) “He is preferred before me.” This tells us about His dignity. He possessed a dignity the John could never know.

c) “He was before me.” This emphasizes His deity. Not only was He before John, “He is before all things” (Col 1:17).

Verses 16-18 are a beautiful summary statement as to the eternity and deity of Christ.

a) His Fullness
“And of his fullness have all we received” (1:16). “Fu11ness” is yet another term indicating Christ’s absolute deity. From it have we all received life, joy, peace, and forgiveness.

b) His Grace and Truth
“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (1:17). Moses’ Law, good and right in itself, made demands which could not be kept, and resulted in man’s condemnation. Only grace could rescue us.

(i) The Law manifested what was in man – sin. Grace manifests what is in God – love.

(ii) The Law demanded righteousness from men; Grace brings righteousness to men.

(iii) The Law sentences a living man to death; Grace brings a dead man to life.

(iv) The Law tells of what man must do for God; Grace tells of what God has done for man.

c) His Declaration
“No man bath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son …hath declared him” (1:18). God is invisible. How, then, can we know God if we cannot see or feel Him?

(i) Creation declares Him. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1; Rom 1:20).

(ii) Conscience declares Him. “Their conscience also hearing witness” (Rom 2:15).

(iii) His Care for us declares Him. The things that happen day by day all testify to God’s loving hand upon us. This care and goodness is specifically designed to lead to repentance (Rom 2:4).

(iv) Christ, the Eternal Word, declares Him more than anything else. He does so because He is both the Word made flesh in His incarnation, and also the theme and substance of the Written Word, the Scriptures. The more we understand the Son the more we will understand the Father.

The Jerusalem establishment eventually sent a delegation to investigate who John was. The minutes of the commission are recorded in verse 19-28. They wanted to know:

a) His Identity – “Who are you?” (1:20-23)
John had been identified as a threat to the establishment. He had simply appeared out of the desert without ever having been ordained or even gone to seminary.

(i) “Who are you?” (1:19). The Jews were expecting someone to come, as evidenced by their further questions in 1:21. They even wondered whether or not John could be the Christ Himself (Lk 3:15). He answered their question directly, “I am not the Christ” (1:20).

(ii) “What then, art thou Elijah?” Why Elijah? The last two verses of the O.T. promised that Elijah would be come before “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal 4:5). John had much in common with the rugged, fearless prophet of old, and heralded Christ “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk 1:17). John’s reply is short and simple: “I am not.”

(iii) “Art thou that prophet?” The Priests and Levites tried again. There was a popular expectation, based on Deut 18:15, that one of the prophets was going to return. John’s answer is a blunt “No.”

(iv) “What sayest thou of thyself?” The members of the commission were in danger of going back without an answer. John’s reply takes them back to Isaiah in the O.T., “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (1:23). A voice is merely a vehicle for thoughts. It is heard but not seen. John wanted to be heard so that others might see Christ.

b) His Authority – “Why baptizest thou?” (1:25-27)
John’s reply, “I baptize with water” (1:26), emphasized that he merely dealt with externals. In contrast, standing among them was One able to deal with their innermost needs. John had two things to say about Him.

(i) His Presence. “There standeth one among you, whom ye know not” (1:26). How tragically true this was – and is! The unknown Christ, by His Spirit, still stands in the midst of many a congregation. These men were raising questions about baptism, while as yet they were utter strangers to Christ Himself.

(ii) His Pre-eminence. “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (1:27). John was the subject of O.T. prophecy, the son of a priest, born miraculously, and filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth. Already he was a famous preacher. Yet he knew Christ stood on an infinitely higher plane and could find no expression strong enough to describe the gulf separating them.

John makes a delightful twofold presentation of Christ:

a) The Lamb of God
“Behold the Lamb of God” (1:29). This statement was the climax of John’s ministry. A river of blood ran through the O.T. as millions of lambs were sacrificed. Why were they necessary? The precious and exciting doctrine of “the Lamb of God” spans the whole of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. It tells of:

(i) The Lamb Typified – in Genesis 4 the Lamb was pictured in the firstling of the flock slain by Abel.
(ii) The Lamb Prophesied – in Genesis 22 the Lamb was prophesied, “God will provide for Himself a lamb.”
(iii) The Lamb Applied – in Exodus 12 as its blood was applied to the door posts for the protection of the family.
(iv) The Lamb Personified – in Isaiah 53 the Lamb is shown to be a Man.
(v) The Lamb Identified – in John 1:29 the Lamb was identified as Jesus.
(vi) The Lamb Magnified – in Revelation 5 the Lamb is magnified by the hosts of heaven, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain . . .”
(vii) The Lamb Glorified – in Revelation 22 the Lamb is shown in all His glory.

There is also a progressive revelation of the scope of those affected by the Lamb.

(i) In Genesis 4 it is a Lamb for an individual
(ii) In Exodus 12 it is a Lamb for a household
(iii) In Leviticus 16 it is a Lamb for the nation
(iv) In John 1 it is the Lamb for the world.

What a perfect picture is presented by the Lamb! The sacrificial lamb had to be pure, unresisting, and slain in order to be an effective substitute for the sinner. We cannot ignore the awesome contrast presented in Rev 6:16 when men will one day call on the mountains to “Fall on us, and hide us…from the wrath of the Lamb.”

b) The Son of God (1:34)
John’s baptism of Christ, which had taken place sometime before, had taught him three things about the Son of God.

(i) His Superiority. “He is preferred before me” (1:30).

(ii) His Purity. “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” (1:32). This points to the purity of the Son, that the pure Dove could abide on Him.

(iii) His Deity. “I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (1:34). John had testified to Christ as the Word, the Light, the Life, as Lord, and as the Lamb. In summary he makes an emphatic declaration “that this is the Son of God.”

No wonder John felt unworthy to even unloose his shoes!


John 1:35-51

The second half of chapter 1 presents a number of ordinary men who attached themselves to the Lord Jesus. The Lord would later call and empower these insignificant Galileans so that they would change the course of history for the next 20 centuries.

The ways in which the Lord met and dealt with these first disciples contain lessons for soul-winning which are still relevant today.

1. ANDREW AND JOHN (1:35-42)
“The next day” (1:35) was the third day in a series of days shortly before the Passover. On this day two of John the Baptist’s disciples decided to leave him and follow Jesus. One of the two was Andrew, Peter’s brother (1:40). The other is unnamed, but was likely John, the writer of the Gospel himself.

a) How They Found the Lord (1:35-37)
It was John the Baptist who promoted this move.

(i) John’s Pre-occupation. “Looking upon Jesus.. .he said.” What a lesson for preachers! When John’s own gaze was filled with Jesus, he had no difficulty in pointing others to Him.

(ii) John’s Presentation. “Behold the Lamb of God.” Significantly he did not say, “Behold the Son of God” or “Behold the Messiah.” John knew that the first problem to be settled is that of sin. We will never truly know Jesus until we first meet Him as the Lamb of God, the sacrifice that deals with our sin.

b) How They Followed the Lord (1:38-39)
The Lord turned around and confronted them.

(i) “What seek ye?” The Lord’s first words in the Gospel are in the form of a question. He still challenges those who say they want to follow Him. What do they really want?

(ii) “Rabbi, where dwellest thou?” The disciples wanted to know more about Jesus. They were following through. Such people always find answers.

(iii) “Come and see.” This was the first invitation given by the Lord in John’s gospel. Jesus rewarded the seekers with an invitation to dig deeper and know more. They “came and saw where he dwelt,” spending the rest of the day with Him. At the end of the encounter Jesus had won His first two disciples.

2. PETER (1:40-42)
Peter is the best known and best loved of the disciples. Whenever he appears in a Gospel story he always comes in with a thud!

a) Andrew’s Challenge
(i) His Concern. “He first findeth his own brother. . . and brought him to Jesus.” Andrew was concerned that his brother Peter would also meet the Saviour. Now as then, the most effective testimony is the private witness of friend to friend, brother to brother.

(ii) His Conviction. “We have found the Messiah.” Only hours old as a believer, Andrew was already growing and learning more about Jesus. He already knew Him as the Lamb of God, and now concluded that He was the Messiah.

b) Peter’s Change
“Thou art Simon…shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone” (1:42).

(i) The Old Name – Simon. “Simon” means a listener, hearer, one who is influenced by what is going on around him. This was the old Simon, tempestuous, easily influenced, impulsive.

(ii) The New Name – Peter. “Thou shalt be called Cephas….A stone.” Peter’s new name Cephas is from the Aramaic, its Greek form being Petros, meaning a stone. He would be an anchor man, a steadying influence. In the hands of the Lord people like Simon can become as solid and steady as a rock.

3. PHILIP (1:43-44)
“The next day”, the fourth in the sequence, the Lord went out soul-winning Himself and found Philip.

a) His Character
The other gospels simply list Philip as one of the disciples, but John records his actions and some of the question he asked of Jesus. Jesus recognized his spiritual hunger and dealt with it by the command to “Follow me.”

b) His Conversion
Note the different ways in which the Lord met and dealt with these first disciples.

(i) Andrew and John were converted through a preacher’s message and found that the Lord tested their motives.

(ii) Peter was converted through his brother’s personal witness and found that the Lord exposed his character.

(iii) Philip was saved without the help of any human agent, and found himself challenged by the Lord’s command to service.

4. NATHANAEL (1:45-51)
Nathanael is mentioned only here and in 21:2. He is the same as Bartholomew. The story of his conversion is in three parts:

a) His Doubt (1:45-46)
Nathanael’s conversion bears all the hallmarks of

(i) Andrew’s Invitation. As Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, so “Philip findeth Nathanael” and witnessed to him. Both Philip’s and Andrew testified to the person of Christ. Philip refers to Him as “him of whom Moses and the prophets did write”. Note his appeal to the authority of the Scriptures.

(ii) Nathanael’s Indignation. “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael knew Nazareth well. In those days it was a dusty village with a bad reputation. That Messiah could come from Nazareth was too much for Nathanael, hence the scornful reply.

(iv) The Lord’s Insight. “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile!” These words can be paraphrased “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob.” Jacob was a man of guile and deceit in his early years, until God met and changed him into “Israel.” Jesus saw Nathanael’s sincerity.

See the developing pattern. Each time someone was brought to Jesus, He looked right through him, and made a penetrating announcement about his character. As John said later, “He knew what was in man.”

b) His Declaration (1:47-48)
Jesus’ summary of Nathanael’s character had hit the mark. Nathanael’s surprised reaction was, “Whence knowest thou me?” He accepted the Lord’s evaluation of his character as being true, but was amazed by the Lord’s discernment. How could this Man know him?

What had made the difference for Nathanael? Philip’s testimony, the witness of the Scriptures, his own experience of Christ’s power, and a revelation from God Himself (Mat 16:17), all combined with faith to result in genuine conversion.

c) His Discovery (1:49-51)
Nathanael had made a gigantic discovery as to who Jesus really was. The Lord, however, was to lead him much further.

(i) Basic Belief.. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, Believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these” (1:50). Nathanael’s step of faith was based on the Lord’s supernatural knowledge. Such a foundation based on the miraculous can be insecure (4:48).

(ii) Later Learning. Jesus promised Nathanael that he would see “greater things than these.” These went far beyond mere miracles. He promised, “Hereafter ye shall see the heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (1:51). He reminded Nathanael of Jacob’s vivid dream in Genesis 28, with the angels ascending and descending on a celestial stairway or ladder extending from earth to heaven.

What truth this dream contained! It presented Christ as heaven’s link between faultless deity and fallen humanity. Only He could put one hand on deity, and His other hand on humanity and link heaven and earth as the only mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5).


John 2:1-11

This miracle marked the Lord’s introduction to public life, and took Him out of quiet seclusion in Nazareth. From now on He would be the talk of every town, and the enemy of every religious leader.

a) The Lord’ s First and Last Public Miracles
There is an interesting contrast between the Lord’s first and last public miracles as recorded by John. His first was at a wedding, life’s gladdest hour; and His last (raising Lazarus) at a funeral, life’s saddest hour. It is confirmation that the Lord’s ministry encompassed the full range of human experience.

b) Contrast with Moses’ First Miracle
Moses’ first miracle was to turn water into blood, a miracle of judgement. By contrast Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine, a miracle of blessing. It reflected the fact that the Law, which came by Moses, could only bring judgement. By contrast, Christ brought grace, joy and blessing to the human heart.

c) Signs, Wonders, and Miracles
The N.T. uses three words to describe what we call “miracles.” Peter used all three on the day of Pentecost when he described Jesus as “a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22).

(i) “Miracles” (dunamis) means “mighty works”, and denotes the manifestation of power. This word is not used in John at all.

(ii) “Wonders” (teras) is a word which underlines the effect on those who witness the mighty work. It is only used by John once, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (4:48).

(iii) “Signs” (semeion) emphasizes the significance of the mighty work. John records only eight miracles wrought by Jesus, and all of them are “signs.” Interestingly, all three Greek words are used to describe the satanic power and signs and lying wonders of the Antichrist (2 Thes 2:9).

1. THE PLACE (2:1-2)
This first miracle took place at a wedding in Cana, the home town of Nathanael, and some 10 km from Nazareth. Who was getting married? As Mary figures prominently, could it have been one of Jesus’ younger brothers or sisters?

a) The Significance of the Day
The event took place “on the third day” (2:1), likely the third day after leaving Judea. Writing some 30-40 years after the event, John knew the symbolic significance of “the third day.” It was the day of resurrection, of new life, and of new joy. This was the theme of the first miracle.

b) The Wisdom of the Invitation
This unknown couple wisely made sure the Lord and his followers were invited to their wedding.

(i) Jesus Was There. The Lord’s presence is essential to a happy marriage. His presence and His power were to make all the difference. The young couple would never forget what He did for them on that day. If only every couple so sought the Lord’s presence and power in their union!

(ii) Mary Was There. “The mother of Jesus was there.” This story reveals the true relationship between Mary and the Messiah, and helps us give Mary her proper place. The day would come when it would be assumed that, just because she was the Lord’s mother, she would have influence over Him. Popes, priests and the people would light candles to her, count their beads, say their Hail Marys, and bow before her image, all in hope that she would speak to her Son on their behalf.

2. THE PROBLEM (2:3-5)
Problems in this marriage commenced very early!

a) The Report (2:3)
“The mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.” Nothing could be more devastating at an eastern wedding than to run out of wine.

(i) The Statement. Gently Mary tried to prod Jesus into action. What did she expect Him to do? Did she remember the promises given by the angel, that her son would be the Messiah? She didn’t know what He would do, but believed only He could help in this situation.

(ii) The Symbolism. Wine in Scripture is a symbol of joy and exuberance. Psalm 104:15 speaks of “wine that maketh glad the heart of man.”

b) The Reply (2:4-5)
There are two parts to the Lord’s reply:

(i) His Objection. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee?” There is no discourtesy in the term “woman,” but it did emphasize the new relationship that existed between them.

The question, “What have I to do with thee?” is the Hebrew way of saying, “You don’t understand.” Mary had wanted to see Jesus display His ability and glory, but did not understand that the time for this had not yet come. She could not know that the cross must come before the crown.

(ii) His Objective. “Mine hour is not yet come.” The Lord spoke frequently of this mysterious and momentous hour. It was central to His thinking and the watchword of His life. Eventually, on the threshold of His death he said, “Father, the hour is come” (17:1).

c) The Response (2:5)
“Whatever he saith unto you, do it.” Mary’s last recorded words contain the best advice one human being can give to another. She did not direct men to obey her, but the Lord.

3. THE PURPOSE (2:6-11)
The immediate purpose of the miracle was to meet the emergency and bring joy into a situation doomed to disaster.

a) Resources and Results
The only two human factors here were the availability of the resources and the obedience of the servants.

(i) The Availability of the Resources. “There were set six water pots of stone” (2:6). The Lord used what was available; the six large water pots used for the ceremonial cleansing of the wedding guests.

(ii) The Obedience of the Servants. The Lord commanded, “Fill the jars with water,” and the servants obeyed, filling them “up to the brim.” He then told them to “Draw out now and bear unto the governor of the feast” (2:7,8). Never mind that it didn’t make sense, they did as they were told, and the water was changed into “good wine.”

The servants drew the water, filled the pots, and bore them to the governor. Christ performed the miracle, but the servants did everything. The means used were human; the result was divine. By merely being obedient they became fellow-workers in a miracle that brought joy to all those present, and filled the occasion with flavour and fragrance.

b) The Best Is Yet To Be
The real force of this miracle is not just that the water became wine, but that it became such good wine.

(i) The World’s Way. The world makes its most attractive offers to young people at the onset of life. Youth is seen as “the days of wine and roses.” Then when youth has been frittered away, it has nothing but dregs for old age. First the pleasures of sin, then the wages of sin.

(ii) Christ’s Way. The Christian life is the opposite. Christ always keeps the best wine till the last. First the Cross, then the crown. First the wilderness, then the promised land of blessing. First the suffering, afterwards the glory that should follow. “The path of the just is as a shining light shining more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov 4:18). As the believer grows older, and feels the constant flow of God’s love, the Lord becomes more precious every day. The best is yet to be!

c) A Significant Sign
John says this miracle was a sign. Signs are miracles with special messages, intended to convey truth that would not otherwise be known.
The truth taught in this sign is that the Lord can touch our daily deeds to give them flavour and fragrance. Most lives involve merely the mundane, like filling water pots. Yet when lived in obedience to Him, He can use them to bring joy, taste, and pleasure to others.

d) Manifested Glory
The miracle “manifested His glory,” and revealed that He was none other than God manifest in flesh.

e) Deepened Faith
“His disciples believed on him.” “Believe on” is one of John’s favourite phrases. It carries the idea of unreserved transfer of trust from oneself to someone else. They were already following Him, but their faith was deepened as they observed His power and saw the blessing He could bring.


John 2:12-25

We are so conditioned by stories of Jesus’ love, gentleness, and forgiveness that we are troubled when confronted by an incident such as this which shows Him as angry and violent. The story generates many questions. How do we reconcile His anger and aggression with His love and grace? Was there not a better, more diplomatic way of handling this situation?

Following the miracle at Cana, the Lord spent some time at Capernaum in Galilee. Then shortly afterwards He left with His disciples for Jerusalem to celebrate the first Passover of His public ministry.

It was during this visit that the temple incident took place. The Lord had often been to Jerusalem and the temple. He was well aware of the commercial corruption that took place there, but had never taken any action. This trip, however, was going to be different. This time He would come as a refiner’s fire, to purify both the temple and its priests, so that the people could bring their offering: to the Lord in righteousness.

“The Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (2:12). The background to this incident was the Passover.

a) The Celebration (2:13)
The annual Passover feast commemorated Israel’s exodus from Egypt, and was celebrated on the anniversary of that event. It was followed immediately by the week-long feast of unleavened bread. Pilgrims from all parts of the world came for this great national feast.

(i) Its Preparation. On the eve of the Passover, the head of each house carefully gathered up and removed all leaven from the house. Only when this was done could the feast be celebrated properly. Leaven in the Bible is a picture of sin, and removing leaven speaks of removing sin from our lives before enjoying fellowship with God in the Passover.

(ii) Its Application. 1 Cor 5:6-8 presents the practical application of this. The Corinthian believers were to “purge out the old leaven.” Leaven refers to covetousness, extortion, idolatry, and other sins. Such things have no place in the Church of God.

(iii) Its Degeneration. So deplorable was the spiritual condition of the nation that John habitually refers to this feast as “the Jews’ Passover” (2:13), instead of “the Lord’s Passover.”

b) The Commerce (2:14)
The entire temple area was divided into four courts: the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, the Court of Israel, and the Court of the Priests. The Court of the Gentiles was the area designated for business. Two groups of businessmen operated:

(i) Money.-changers. Each year every Jewish male of 20 years age and over was required to go to Jerusalem to pay a half-¬shekel tax for the maintenance of the temple. Because this had to be paid in special temple currency, the money-changers performed the service of exchanging normal currency for temple currency, charging exorbitant rates for their service.

(ii) Merchants. “Oxen, sheep, and doves” (2:14) were sold for those who came from far and could not bring an offering with them. The priests also profited from the sale of these animals in the courtyard.

c) The Confrontation (2:15-16)
So angry was the Lord that, using a whip of small cords, He drove out the merchants and overturned tables of the money-changers. Within a few minutes the place was cleared.

We are used to a gentle, loving, and forgiving Jesus. Because He doesn’t seem to say much against our sin, we grow into the idea that He doesn’t worry about it. This lesson here is that the real Jesus will aggressively confront our sin and drive out anything that defiles His temple.

(i) A_Passion for Purity. As the disciples watched the Lord lashing the marketeers, they remembered an O.T. Scripture from Psalm 69, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (2:17). For centuries this Psalm had been regarded as a prophecy of the coming Messiah. It told how He would be driven by a zeal for God and love for His house of worship.

(ii) A Parallel. We should remember the parallel truth that the Christian’s body is also a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Just as the Lord was insistent that the temple in Jerusalem be kept pure, He will not tolerate clutter and compromise in our lives and lifestyles.

(iii) A Paradox. Here is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. The same Christ who objects so aggressively to sin invites sinners to come to Him. The only condition is that they want their sin forgiven and forsaken.

(iv) A Proclamation. The single-handed clearing of the temple was a proclamation of His deity, as was His reference to “My Father’s house.”

2. JESUS AND HIS BODY. (2:18-22)
The Jewish authorities soon reacted. How dare He interfere with their prerogatives as guardians of the temple!

a) The Reaction (2:18)
“What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” The Jews challenged Jesus to prove His authority by a sign. They knew the Scriptures foretold that when Messiah would come He would purify the temple. This should have been an adequate sign for them,

b) The Reply (2:19)
The Lord promptly gave them a sign, but it was one they neither wanted nor understood.

(i) The Sign. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” This was an amazing prediction of His death and resurrection.

(ii) The Significance. All around the world are wonderful edifices of stone and steel. But God’s true temples are not buildings, but beings. Jesus was the prototype among human temples, but our bodies are also temples of God. That is why Paul said “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the ‘Holy Ghost” (1 Cor 6:19).

c) The Response (2:20)
“Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” The Jews did not understand that the Lord was speaking about the temple of His own body, in which the fullness of the Godhead dwelt.

The only temple they knew was Herod’s. Herod the Great had begun renovations of the Jewish temple in 20 B.C. employing some 18,000. It was not finally finished until 64 A.D. Three years later, in 67 A.D., war with Rome broke out, and the temple’s doom was sealed. It went up in flames in 70 A.D.

d) The Recollection (2:22)
Three years would pass before the Lord’s disciples understood this saying. After His resurrection, they recollected that He had promised to rise again in three days. With such a marvellous fulfilment of prophecy before them “they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.”

We often come across Scriptures which are difficult to understand. When this is so we should treasure the Word of God in our hearts, just as the disciples hid this word in their hearts and the Holy Spirit later brought it back to remembrance. At that time it bolstered their faith and confidence.

All this provoked a considerable stir as the city was jammed with pilgrims from all over the world.

a) Miracles and the Multitudes (2:23)
As a result of the miracles which Jesus performed “in Jerusalem at the Passover, many believed in His name” (2:23). This does not mean they actually committed their lives to Him in simple faith. Their profession to accept Him was merely an outward display of following Jesus. Their faith did not dig deep enough. Faith needs more than miracles at its foundation to stand the test of time.

b) Caution and Commitment (2:24)
These last two verses give important insight into the Lord’s dealing with would-be converts.

(i) “Jesus did not commit himself unto them” (2:24). Although many believed in Him, yet He did not believe in them. He saw beyond the outward superficial profession.

(ii) “He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man” (2:25). The Lord realized the shallowness of their motives. He knew many would come and ask Him to be their Lord, but their lives would not change, and eventually they would drift away.

We still have to deal with a God who cannot be fooled. If we honestly confess our sin, He will deal with us in loving forgiveness. If we defend and minimize our sin, we need not be surprise if He takes action to overturn the tables we have set up in, our hearts and drive out all that hinders the fulfilment of God’s purpose in our lives.


John 3:1-21

At least one member of the Sanhedrin was mightily impressed by the events of chapter 1. Nicodemus, his mind full of questions, secretly came to Jesus by night. Who was this Jesus? By what authority had He acted? Could He possibly be the Messiah?

John’s record of the interview is a startlingly clear and simple statement of the gospel. Millions have been “born again” as a result of reading this passage. The beautiful verse 16 is the Bible’s best loved and best known text.

There is something tragic about Nicodemus. He was respected and religious, but lacked the most important things in life.

a) Nicodemus and His Position (3:1-2)
Although a Pharisee and a ruler, Nicodemus showed astonishing humility and sincerity.

(i) His Appointment – “A man of the Pharisees . . . a ruler of the Jews” (3:1). Nicodemus was a Pharisee and was appointed as a member of the Sanhedrin, the select council which governed the religious affairs of the nation.

(ii) His Approach. He “came to Jesus by night” (3:2). This timid man later reprimanded the Sanhedrin, and accompanied Joseph of Arimathea at a time when all the apostles had fled. Such is the change that Christ makes.

(iii) His Appreciation. Nicodemus’ appreciation of Christ was limited to that of “a teacher come from God” {3:2).

b) Nicodemus and His Problem (3:3-8)
Jesus immediately diagnosed Nicodemus’ basic problem and prescribed the cure. He needed to be born again.

(i) The Importance of the New Birth. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3).
* “Verily, verily.” This is an emphatic idiom telling Nicodemus to pay attention.
* “…he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Without the new birth a person “cannot” go to heaven.

(ii) The Instruments of the New Birth. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit.” “Water” here stands for the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23), while the action of the “Spirit” is essential in bringing about a new birth.

(iii) The Character of the New Birth (3:6-8). The Lord used two illustrations to show the character of the new birth:
* Species Specific. “That which is born of the flesh i s flesh; and that which i s born of the Spirit i s spirit.” (3:6). Nicodemus had been “born of the flesh” and experienced a physical birth which made him a member of his natural family. He now needed to be “born of the Spirit” and experience a spiritual birth to make him a member of God’s family.

* The Will of the Wind. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou nearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (3:8). The action of the Spirit on the soul is analogous to the action of the wind. Both are invisible, yet can be felt. Both have a sovereign will of their own.

The Lord set before Nicodemus vital information about the salvation He was offering,

a) Its Secret_ (3:11-12)
For the third time in the brief conversation the Lord used the emphatic “Verily, verily.”

(i) The Certainty of Salvation. “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen” (3:11). Jesus was placing before Nicodemus truths that were certain and uncompromising. He was not speculating, but dealing with hard spiritual facts.

(ii) The Sphere of Salvation. “If I have told you of earthly things, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (3:12). Two spheres are embraced here – the earthly and the heavenly. To grasp the unseen heavenly things called for faith. If Nicodemus was having trouble with earthly truths, how could his faith rise to grasp heavenly truths?

b) Its Source (3:13)
“And no man bath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (3:13). The Lord Jesus, because He came from heaven, knew about “heavenly things.” Heaven was his home. He knew all about it.

c) Its Simplicity (3:14-16)
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (3:14). As the interview drew to a close, the Lord reminded Nicodemus of Moses’ last miracle in Numbers 21. The sinning people had been bitten by fiery serpents, and were dying without hope. Moses made a brazen serpent and lifted it up on a pole where all could see. All a dying Israelite had to do was to look and live.

The pole speaks of the cross, the serpent speaks of sin, and the brass speaks of judgement. We are saved through looking to Him in faith. There is still life for a look.

This verse has been called “The Gospel in a nutshell.” Millions have found their way to heaven through it. It begins with God who has no beginning, and ends with eternal life which has no ending. In between, the fullness of the gospel is spelt out in language that even children can understand.

a) Key Words
The key words of the text are God, loved, world, gave, believeth, perish, have, and life. These words can be arranged in 5 pairs:

(i) God and Son. The Giver and the Gift. The author and finisher of salvation.
(ii) Loved and gave. A two-fold revelation of God’s and the proof of love.

(iii) World and whosoever. “The world” includes all without distinction; the world universally, and each one individually.

(iv) Believe and have. The hand of faith stretches out in faith to the Giver, and withdraws again in contentment and confident possession of the gift.

(v) Perish and life. These words contrast the lostness of those who die in their sins, with the endless life of those who die in the Saviour. They encapsulate man’s two destinies.

b) Key Thoughts
The text also gives us a revelation of God’s thoughts along two lines.

(i) Concerning His Son. The central word of the verse is “Son.” All God’s thoughts are centred on His Son. He has no other plans or purposes. Any measure in which our thinking centres on Christ is the measure in which our thinking is in harmony with the mind of God.

(ii) Concerning Our Salvation. “Whosoever believeth in him…” The word that activates God’s salvation is “believe.” The ultimate sin is the sin of refusing to trust Him.

(iii) Concerning the Sinner. “Perish.” What a fearful `word! What does it mean? It means what it says. It denotes the final condition those who die outside of Christ.

The coming of Jesus into the world provides people with life’s greatest test. To believe or not to believe; that is the test.

a) Why Jesus Came (3:17)
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the ,world; but that the world through. him might be saved.” One phrase keeps recurring in 3:16-17, “the world… the world…the world.” This rebel world draws out the love and compassion of God. It challenges His holiness and love.

b) Whom Jesus Condemns (3:18-19)
There are two classes of people in these verses:

(i) “He that believeth on him is not condemned.”

(ii) “He that believeth not is condemned already.” This is the inevitable working out of an absolute law. A man who has a disease but refuses to take treatment will dies of his disease. He has condemned himself.

c) What Jesus Contrasts (3:20-21)

(i) Those Who Loathe the Light (3:20). “For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”

(ii) Those Who Love the Light (3:21). “He that doeth truth cometh to the light.” This is the hinge on which the passage turns. If we are willing to obey the truth, even when that means exposure of sin in our lives, then a change will take place.


John 3:22-36

This passage is the sequel to the Lord’s visit to Jerusalem when He had offered Himself as the Messiah by spectacularly cleansing the temple. That sign was either ignored or misinterpreted. He thereafter left the city and retired to the more rural parts of Judea.

Although the passage flows as though only one person is speaking, both John the Baptist and John the Beloved are recorded. Verses 22-30 present the testimony of John the Baptist, while verses 31-36 probably record the commentary of John the Apostle.

“For John was not yet cast into prison” (3:24). These magnificent verses represent John the Baptist’s final testimony to the Lord prior to his imprisonment. They have been a powerful inspiration to believers ever since.

a) The Disciples’ Resistance

(i) The Place. “John also was baptising in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (3:23). “Aenon” means “place of springs,” “Salim” means “peace.” In Matthew 3:1 we read about John ministering in “the wilderness of Judea” and “the region round about Jordan” which speaks of drought and death. As he faithfully witnessed, so his wilderness environment became to him a refreshing place of “spring” and “peace”.

(ii) The Problem. “All men come to him” (3:26). Stimulated by the Jews, John’s disciple had seen that the crowds who had at first been with John were drifting off to Jesus. John’s reaction and reply have much to teach us. He did not give up or become discouraged with his small congregation. He just kept on doing what God had called him to do.

For us, too, the final judge of our service is not man’s popular acclaim, but a loving heavenly Father who encourages us “not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9).

(iii) The Method. “…because there was much water there.” This implies that John was baptising by immersion. This is the Scriptural method. Even the word “baptise” means to “dip or immerse.”

(iv) The Meaning. “There arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying” (3:25). “Purifying”, or ceremonial washing, here likely referred to baptism. What was the meaning of this baptism? The baptism of Jesus and His disciples was similar to that of John (although 4:2 tells us that Jesus did not baptise, but His disciples). It indicated repentance and readiness to accept God’s King. This is different from Christian baptism, which was not instituted until after the Lord’s death.

b) John’s Reply
John’s exquisitely beautiful reply in 3:27-30 is a lovely example of Christian humility. There was no resentment, just rejoicing that the Lord was pre-eminent. There was no doubt in his mind as to the contrasts between the Saviour and the servant.

(i) All He Had was Given by God. “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven” (3:27). Everything John had was as a result of God’s grace. Christ, on the other hand, was the One to whom the Father “hath given all things” (3:35). They were His by right.

(ii) He Was Not the Christ. “Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him” (3:28). John reminded his disciples that he had said before that he was not the Christ, but was simply “sent” to point men to Him. John has everything in perspective. Jesus was the Christ; John was merely the one “sent before him” (3:28).

(iii) He Was Just The Bridegroom. Christ was “the bridegroom” whereas John described himself as merely the Best Man, “the friend of the bridegroom” (3:29). His task was to facilitate the wedding, and to oversee the reception of the bride and bridegroom. He had done that. He was overjoyed to hear the voice of the Bridegroom instead of his own, and to see Him receive all the honour and glory.

“The Bride” here likely refers in a general way to all who would become disciples of the Lord Jesus. In the O.T. Israel was spoken of as “the wife” of Jehovah. Later in the N.T. the church is referred to as “the Bride.” However, John’s ministry was confined to Israel, and the Lord was still presenting Himself to Israel. The word here is used in a general sense to include those who left John the Baptist when the Messiah appeared.

“…but the friend of the bridegroom which standeth and heareth him rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice” (3:29). It is only as we are occupied with Christ, “standing” and “hearing” His voice, that we will “rejoice greatly.” Note the present tense “standeth” and “heareth,” indicating an on-going, continuous exercise.

(iv) He Must Increase. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30). Note the intimate connection with the previous verse. The more we delight in standing and hearing His voice, the more we will “decrease” and the more He will “increase.” The lesson is fundamental. The more we are occupied with Christ, the less we will be occupied with self. The more we behold His glory in the mirror of God’s Word, the more we will be “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).

“He must increase…” That kind of humility does not come naturally. We like to increase in every way possible. Some like to be the baby at every christening, the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. John Denny said once, “You can never at the same time convince people that you are a great preacher and that Jesus is a great Saviour!”

What a wonderful relationship John had with the Saviour:
• He Loved Him – He was his “friend.”
• He Listened to Him – “he heareth Him.”
• He Enjoyed Him – “this my joy is fulfilled.”
• He Exalted Him – “He must increase…”

John now concludes the chapter with his own commentary in verses 31-36. The similarity in style and content between verses 16-21 and 31-36 is readily seen.

a) God’s Witness (3:31-33).
This testimony has been:

(i) Revealed. “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.” (3:31).

* Man’s Limited Knowledge. The phrase “of the earth” expresses the limitations of all earthy messengers. The greatest men who ever lived, like John the Baptist, or Moses, or Daniel, were “of the earth,” Their treasure was in earthen vessels.

* God’s Unlimited Knowledge. The Lord, on the other hand, was free from all such limitations. He was “from heaven.” He knew the eternal counsels of God. It was like the difference between speaking to an audience through an interpreter and speaking to them in their own language.

(ii) Rejected. “What he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony” (3:32). Astonishingly, although God Himself came from heaven and testified, “no man receiveth his testimony”! Even yet they do not receive it.

* The Ultimate Testimony. “What he hath seen and heard” are the hallmarks of an impeccable witness. When the Lord spoke of creation, of marriage, of Adam, of Noah and the flood, of Abraham, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Isaiah, or Daniel, He knew what He was speaking about. He was there. He had “seen and heard” each of these events and the people involved in them. When He spoke of that “great gulf fixed” and described the torment of a soul in hell, He had “seen and heard.” When He spoke about His Father’s house, or unveiled the future, or spoke of the building of the church, He was speaking of what he had “seen and heard.”

* The Ultimate Tragedy. “No man receiveth his testimony.” Tragically only few received Him. Why do more not believe? Two things are seen as necessary in this chapter to break this blindness; a submissive attitude of the human spirit, and the sovereign action of the Holy Spirit.

(iii) Ratified. “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (3:33). To “set his seal” means to ratify or certify and has the idea of a man confirming a legal document by setting an official seal to it. Jesus is God’s perfect witness. Thus those who receive His witness are attesting to God’s truthfulness. Because he finds himself in relationship with Him, he has the assurance of eternal life. He will gladly rest his whole life on this.

b) God’s Word (3:34-36)
Having confirmed the testimony of God, John concludes this section with a further statement about God’s truth. Each word is meaningful

(i) The Spirit Of God. “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God hath not given the Spirit by measure unto him” (3:34). The O.T. prophets had the Spirit “by measure,” i.e. partially and intermittently. But the Holy Spirit was not so given to Jesus. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit from his first breath, and from the time of His baptism anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit “abode on Him.”

(ii) The Son of God. “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” (3:35). This is one of seven times in the gospel where we are told that “the Father loves the Son.” The measure of that love is manifested in that He has given Him control over “all things.”

(iii) The Salvation of God. “He that believeth on the son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (3:36).
* The Simplicity of Receiving the Saviour. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life…” How simple is salvation! It comes through simply believing on the Son. To accept His promise is not a leap in the dark; it is simply obeying what cannot possibly be wrong. Those who do so have “everlasting life” as an eternal possession.

* The Seriousness of Rejecting the Saviour. “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” The only alternative to receiving Christ is to reject Him, and that is the one thing God will not forgive. Whoever does so faces a double consequence:
– “he shall not see life,”
– “the wrath of God abideth on him.” What is “the wrath of God”? In a future sense it refers of the coming anger of God’s Son to be poured out on a Christ-rejecting, sin-loving world. But it is also what man presently endures as he rejects Christ and chooses to live in a smog of emptiness, depression, anger, pain and death. It is not something God inflicts on us, it is something we choose for ourselves when we reject His Son.


John 4:1-42

The contrast between the respected ruler of chapter 3, and the social outcast at the well in chapter 4, is startling. One, Nicodemus, was a moral Jewish man, the other was an immoral Samaritan woman. One came to Jesus by night, the other at mid-day. One fades out of the story unnoticed, the other went back to her crowd and brought them all to Jesus.

Whatever the contrast, this woman’s deep spiritual need and emotional pain make her very contemporary and relevant. The Lord’s concern for her and the way in which He dealt with her have much to teach us. Issues of racial inequality, prejudice, the status of women in society, loneliness, and the hunger for love and acceptance, all also brush the story.

1. THE ROUTE (4:1-8)

a) The Departure
“He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee” (4:3). The word “left” means “to leave something to itself.” How solemn! If no man would receive his testimony in Judea (3:32), he would leave for other parts.

b) The Detour
“He must needs go through Samaria” (4:4). Samaria is today the much-contested piece of land known as the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in the Six Day War in 1967. Menachem Begin, when P.M., reintroduced the practice of referring to it as Samaria, rather than the West Bank.

Who were the Samaritans, and why were they so despised? After the 10 tribes were taken by the Assyrians into captivity, the land was repopulated by colonies of various nations who mingled with the local remaining inhabitants and formed a strange medley of religions. When the Jewish remnant came back from Babylon, the Samaritans offered to enter into an alliance with them. When this offer was refused they became bitter enemies and built their own temple to Jehovah on Mt Gerizim, in rivalry to the one at Jerusalem. Their Scriptures consisted of only the five books of Moses, and they had mingled idolatry with the law of Moses. Most Jews in Jesus’ time hated and despised the Samaritans, and would make any detour to avoid having to go through their city.

The Lord was a Jew and was fully aware of all the prejudice surrounding Samaria and the Samaritans. He also knew that waiting in that city was an outcast woman, a thirsty soul who needed a Saviour. It was for this reason that “He must needs go through Samaria.” It was for this reason, too, that He must needs leave heaven’s heights to go to the depths of Calvary. For me!

c) The Destination
“Now Jacob’s well was there” (4:6). Jacob’s well is one of the few places in the Holy Land about which there is no dispute. It was a very substantial structure, originally over 100 feet deep, and walled with masonry to a depth of 10’, below which it was cut through solid rock. All around the well were marks of Hebrew history: Joseph’s tomb was only 400 yards north, and Mt Gerizim where half of the tribes had assembled to pronounce the blessing contained in the mosaic law was also close by. It was thus in a very historical setting that the Lord’s interview with the woman took place.

d) The Description
These verses give a wonderful window into the Lord’s humanity.

(i) He Was Weary. “Jesus therefore being wearied with his journey” (4:6). How human he was! How he can fully sympathise with those today who are wearied with their journeys. Repeatedly the Scriptures show how His humanity was so real. Yet side beside with his humanity we are also shown his divinity. His omniscience knew of His appointment with the woman.

At his birth we see his humiliation in a manger, but we discover His glory too as the angels announce Him as Christ the Lord. We see him asleep in the boat, yet he rises to still the storm. We see him weeping at Lazarus’ grave, yet He calls him forth.

(ii) He Was Thirsty. “Jesus said unto her, Give me to drink” (4:7). The creator of the Nile and Niagara, and the one who filled all the world’s rivers and lakes, was thirsty. Centuries before He had brought water from the rock for Moses. Just a short while before he had changed water into wine. But Jesus never performed a miracle for himself. He was here, after all, to taste life to the full, and that included the life of ordinary people. Hence it was necessary for him to be thirsty and hungry and tired.

In these verses John introduces us to a lonely Samaritan woman, and gives us an account of one of the most remarkable conversations the Lord ever had. What sort a person was she? Her morals may not have been many, but she clearly had a quick mind and a sharp tongue. She came in the middle of the day, likely to avoid the sneers and glances of the other women who gathered when the day was cooler. There were only two thoughts in her mind as she approached the well; she wanted to be discreet, and she wanted water.

The Lord opened the conversation with a request, “Give me to drink” (4:7). Thereafter followed an amazing conversation. Her replies to the Lord’s remarks and questions indicate a gradual awakening, a developing awareness of just what He was offering to her, and who He was.

a) Her Prejudice (4:9-10)
“How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?” (4:9). She begins with a question of racial prejudice. Most Jews would not dream of asking a favour from a Samaritan, especially a woman, as it would defile them ceremonially. In asking for a drink, Jesus swept aside such racial and gender prejudices.

The Lord ignored the racial elements of her question, and focused instead on the core issue. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou would have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” (4:10).
Already He was presenting the kernels of the gospel message: what she needed was “living water,” and all she had to do was to “ask of me,” and receive it as “the gift of God.”

It is just as important today that people discard their own notions and prejudices about religion, and find out what God says. Too many say, “I like to think….” It will not do. Only in the open Bible can the answers to these questions about man’s destiny be found.

b) Her Unbelief (4:11-14)
The woman was now confused. She was beginning to realise that this man was someone special, more than just “a Jew” as in 4:8. She calls him “Sir,” and already He has gone up in her estimation. But she has a long way to go before she understands just who He is. Hence her mind went back to “our father Jacob” (4:12) who had dug the well through solid rock – no small achievement. She fell back on tradition and history. They were so ancient and solid, and seemed much more substantial than the “living water” offered by this Stranger.

In reply the Lord said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” In thinking about literal water, she was missing the Lord’s spiritual application. It is not that a single drink cures one’s thirst for life. Jesus says if we want to keep from thirsting we must have a continuous flow, like piped water in a house. Christ offers a constant, continuous flow of spiritual refreshment. Our inner thirst can be instantly gratified. Jesus says the source of this water is within, because that is where the Holy Spirit dwells (4:14). As we drink, we experience a quality of life the Bible calls “eternal life.”

“Whosoever drinketh…” What is “drinking”? It is the personal act of appropriation that results in a never-failing internal source of water.

c) Her Request (4:15)
“The woman saith unto him, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.” The woman could not follow the Lord’s symbolism, but began to realise that what the Lord offered was what she needed. She thus asked Him for a drink. Her prejudice was being over come, as she asked water from a Jew. There was a dawning of awareness as to her need. However, her conscience still had to be reached.

d) Her Exposure (4:16-18)
Jesus proceeded to deal with the core issue in her life.

(i) The Challenge. “Go, call thy husband” (4:16). He knew that this woman to understand herself before she could understand Him.

(ii) The Confession. “The woman answered and said, I have no husband” (4:17). She tried to give the impression that she lived alone, but Jesus penetrated her denial and defences. Instantly she knew that he knew all about her. “Thou has well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thine husband: in that saidst thou truly” (4:18). He had exposed her emptiness, her thirst and her attempts at cover up. She was now ready to hear the gospel truth.

What had gone wrong in this woman’s life to create such a thirst for love and drive her from relationship to relationship? Perhaps she was raised by parents who rejected her, or broke down her sense of self-worth. Or perhaps her emotional wounds were inflicted during a difficult adolescence or a troubled marriage. Perhaps one or more of the men she married was an abuser.

She had tried so hard for love – and failed. Time after time she “fell in love,” always hoping for a secure binding type of love. Sadly, each new marriage brought new heartache. So she eventually shacked up with a man who wanted a relationship, but was afraid of a commitment. In her desperation to find romantic fulfilment, she had made herself available to him and became a moral outcast. Jesus confronted her with the very thing that was ruining her life and her reputation. He presented the alternative, and offered what she deep down knew she needed more than anything else.

The Lord knew she must confront the central problem of her life. Redemption requires two steps : repentance and regeneration. Repentance is a human act. Regeneration is an act of God. Only when we admit our need can God be released to act and to regenerate.

e) Her Understanding (4:19-24)

(i) A Tribute (4:19–20). “I perceive that thou art a prophet.” She had begun by calling him “a Jew,” and progressed to calling Him “Sir.” Now, astonished by his insights, she called Him a “a prophet.”

Then suddenly, like many another when confronted with the question of sin, she resorted to a tactical diversion and raised a religious question that would steer the discussion to safe subjects. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain: and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (4:20). Mt Gerezim was important to both Jews and Samaritans. Here the children of Israel rehearsed the law’s blessing and curses, soon after entering the promised land, and here Joshua gave his last address to the tribes. On top of this the Samaritans claimed to know that it was from the dust of Gerizim that Adam was made, and that the ark rested on it. Also that it was there that Abraham offered up Isaac. The Mt. Gerizim debate was designed to keep any honest enquirer side-tracked for days. But the Lord would not be diverted into a discussion of such details.

How deceitful is the human heart. She knew all about “our father Jacob,” and about the mountains of Gerizim and Jerusalem, but she was ignorant of her basic needs. Some worship here, some there, where should we worship? Her problem was that she needed salvation before she could worship anywhere!

(ii) A Truth. “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father” (4:21). The Lord had to teach her that worship has to do with:
* Not a place… – true worship had nothing to do with a place. Within a generation the temple at Jerusalem would be as extinct as the temple that once stood on Gerizim.

* …but a Person. “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (4:23). The Lord took her mind away from a place to a Person. He lifted her thoughts to a living, loving Father, who yearned for the worship of any who would worship him in spirit and in truth. For that she needed a full revelation of the Spirit of God, so that she could worship in spirit, and a full revelation of the Son of God, so that she could worship in truth.

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (4:24). There is nothing here about external worship – beautiful decorations, religious hangings, etc. What is “worship”? It is the action of a new nature seeking contact with God. It is the activity of a redeemed people. Israel did not worship God in Egypt – there they only “cried” and “groaned.” Only when delivered did thy “sing unto the Lord.” It proceeds from the heart. God can tell the difference.

f) Her Revelation (4:25-27)
The woman voiced what little she now knew: “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.” She was now ready for the revealed Saviour. He then said, “I that speak unto thee am he” (4:24). It was a final revelation and a critical moment. Nothing more was needed. No mountain, no temple. Just the person of Christ.

g) Her Reaction (4:28-30)
“The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city.” Note that she left her water pot, because she had now found the well of living water. Why would they stream out of the city when called by a women they had always despised? Because there is a power in her – the power of “living water,” the power of the Holy Spirit energising her words and drawing them to the Saviour.

Her testimony was simple “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: Is not this the Christ?” (4:29). It was also successful: “Then they went out of the city, and came unto him” (4:30). From now on, for her to live would be Christ. She was now transformed from a convicted sinner into a devoted saint. The first things she did was to tell others.
I tried the broken cisterns, Lord, But ah! The waters failed
E’en as I stooped to drink they fled, and mocked me as I wailed.
Now none but Christ can satisfy, none other name for me;
There’s love and life and lasting joy, Lord Jesus found in Thee.

3. THE DISCIPLES (4:31-42)
The disciples returned just in time to hear the Lord’s closing words to the woman, and see the effect they had on her. They expected to find Him tired, and were amazed to find Him full of energy. Instead of eating, He began to teach them two vitally important lessons:

a) Lessons About Food (4:31-34).
They had gone to Samaria to buy food, and had returned. They now waited for the Lord to eat. “Master, eat” they said (4:31).

But the Lord’s mind was far away. “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (4: 32). He then explained, “My meat is to do the will of him hat sent me, and to finish his work” (4:34). “Meat” here speaks of that which satisfies. His heart had been fed. The obedient servant has “meat to eat” that those not engaged in service know nothing about. He was teaching his disciples that there is deep satisfaction in obedience to God. It satisfies and builds up.

When Satan had tempted him to turn stones into bread, Jesus pointed to the Word of God: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Dt 8:3). That was his life principle. He was physically hungry, but above else He was hungry to do his Father’s will, and to finish (lit. “bring to a perfect end”) his work. He had just brought to a perfect end a part of that work in the conversion of the Samaritan woman. That was more satisfying than any meal.

b) Lessons About the Fields (4:35-42).
The Lord directed the disciples’ attention to the harvest fields of which he had just reaped a token of the firstfruits.

(i) The Time of the Harvest (4:35-38). “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Life up your eyes and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (4:35). He was speaking about the joys and rewards of sowing and reaping in the field of the world.
* The Need for Reapers (4:35). “Look on the fields, for they are white and ready to harvest.” If they were ripe then, what must they be now! Millions still untold!
* The Nature of Rewards (4:36-38). “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye have entered into their labours” (4:38). So often it is the reaper who gets the “reward.” There will be no such distinction at the Judgement Seat of Christ. Often unknown Christian plant a seed, while others come and reap.

(ii) The Token of the Harvest (4:39-42). An eager and welcoming throng of Samaritans arrived, wanting to know more. They invited Him to their town, and he gladly went, staying two days. Revival broke out, as “many more believed because of his own word” (4:41). They received the Word with readiness and began to experience the power of God’s presence in their own lives. He performed no miracles in their midst and they asked for no signs.

“Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (4:42). Like the Jews, the Samaritans thought of the Messiah as a political liberator. But now they saw Him as the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of all who place their trust in Him.


John 4:43-54

The Lord Jesus and His disciples had just seen an amazing spiritual awakening over two eventful days in Samaria. But, although a time of revival and rejoicing, it had all been a pre-planned interruption in His programme of leaving Judea and going to Galilee.

His reception in Galilee contrasted markedly with that given Him in Judea. There His messianic claims had been rejected, and he had not been welcomed. Galilee promised to be different. The people, having heard of the wonderful things He had done at Jerusalem, received Him warmly. Only later would the depth of their faith, interest and obedience become really apparent.

On arrival in Galilee, the Lord was approached by a distraught man with a desperate need. He rather abruptly challenged this man’s faith, and later brought untold blessing to him and his family. The story reflects many lessons about our own prayer requests and the Lord’s replies to them. Now as then, He sometimes seems to handle them harshly, and very differently from what we expect.


a) His Departure from Samaria (4:43-44)
“Now after two days he departed thence, and went in to Galilee” (4:43). After two days of ministry in Samaria the Lord left the happy scene, and set out for Galilee.

(i) Reasons for Staying. He had been comfortable, successful and popular in Samaria, and it would have been easy to stay there. Also, He had previously been rejected and dishonoured in Galilee, where the people had even tried to kill Him when He entered into the synagogue and read from Isaiah 60. Why go to Galilee when He could stay in Samaria?

(ii) Reasons for Going. How did the Lord discern His Father’s will in the matter? Matthew 4:15 says, “He departed into Galilee…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet.” Here was God’s Word revealing God’s will. Nothing else was required.

b) His Arrival in Galilee (4:45)
“The Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things he did at Jerusalem at the feast.” The returning pilgrims had been impressed by what they had seen at Jerusalem as He cleansed the temple, healed the sick, and made the lame to walk. John 2:23 says many believed on Him at the Passover. He was now returning home with a greatly enhanced reputation.

How fickle is human nature! For more than twenty years he had lived amongst them. They knew His life, and His ways, but were blind to His glory. His true nature was unknown and unrecognised.

Immediately on arrival in Cana, a distraught father from Capernaum came to Jesus seeking help for his critically ill son. What happened next, John tells us in 4:54, was more than just a miracle; it was a significant “sign” which taught some significant truths

Hebrews 12:3 tells us that the Lord Jesus is the Author and Finisher, or Perfecter, of our faith. This man’s faith was limited. He could not think that the Lord would act in any other way than what he prescribed. But by the end of the story the Lord had so increased and “perfected” his faith that it focuses on the Lord’s Person, not merely on His power.

As with this dear man, so with ourselves. When we pray, we have faith that the Lord will answer. But, like this man, we tell the Lord what to do and how He is to do it! In reply the Perfecter of faith may put us through circumstances we don’t want to go through, just so that our faith will grow and we, too, can focus on His Person and not just His power.

a) The Request (4:46b)

(i) The Parent. “There was a certain nobleman” (4:46). He was an important person, likely an official of King Herod. News of the return and reputation of Jesus reached the ears of this concerned father, who immediately rushed to Cana to find Him.

(i) The Parent. “… whose son was sick at Capernaum” (4:46). He was an important person, likely an official of King Herod. News of the return and reputation of Jesus reached the ears of this concerned father, who immediately rushed to Cana to find Him.

(iii) The Plea. The nobleman urgently pleaded with Jesus to “come down, and heal his son” (4:47). This seems like prayer at its best. It was totally sincere, and focused on the only One who could answer it. Only as the story unfolds do we find how limited his faith really was. The Lord was going to coach it to a deeper level, thereby bringing bigger blessing to the man and his family.

b) The Reply (4:48)
Knowing what we do of the Lord’s compassion, we might have expected him to drop everything and dash off to Capernaum to answer the distraught father’s prayer. What he said next is almost unbelievable. Instead of offering to help, He ignored the man’s request and challenged the ground of his faith. What a harsh word for a man on the verge of losing his child! Where is the Lord’s compassion? Why did He act in this way?

The Lord’s reply carried both a rebuke and a challenge.

(i) A Rebuke. “Except ye see signs and wonder, ye will not believe” (4:48). Why should He rebuke those who demand signs and wonders in order to believe? Isn’t that what miracles are for; to inspire faith? Wouldn’t we all like to see God’s intervention in nature and human affairs?

(ii) A Challenge. Of course the Lord was willing to heal his son, but He did not do so right away. He wanted to do something greater in this man’s life than merely heal his son! He wanted to transform his life and faith. He loved him too much to allow him to leave his presence unchanged. As part of this tempering process to harden his faith, Jesus said to him, “Except ye see…” It was a severe mercy, but the man had reason later to be profoundly grateful for the experience.

The Lord’s statement powerfully challenges our immature Christianity. Too often faith depends on a regular dose of emotional and sensational answers to prayer. That is why faith-healers and tele-evengelists in the States are so successful. They satisfy the constant demand for “signs and wonders,” the instant evidence that is required to fuel their faith. We must understand that the Lord looks for a faith that operate at deeper level.

c) The Response (4:49)
The nobleman was obviously frustrated by what seemed to be an irrelevant discussion about the niceties of faith. His boy was dying, and he was involved in a desperate race with time. Now the only One who could help was getting bogged down in an irrelevant discussion about whether or not they would believe in Him without miracles! There was exasperation and desperation in his voice as he cried, “Sir, come down ere my child die!” (4:49).

d) The Reward (4:50)
(i) Healing. “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” Jesus both answered the father’s prayer and denied it at the same time! He answered it, but on His own terms. He was saying, “We will find out whether or not you will believe without seeing. I am not coming down to Capernaum. I’ll stay here and heal your son. Go home. Your son lives.”

(ii) Believing. “The man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.” He trusted Jesus to keep his word and started out for home. Doubtless he had doubts! True faith does not mean an absence of doubts, just as true courage does not mean an absence of fear. Courage is the will to act positively in spite of fears. Faith is the will to trust and obey regardless of doubts. That is what this man did. Faith is not what we feel, it’s what we do.

We all also know what it is to come to Jesus with an urgent request, “Lord, please answer this prayer. Do this and supply that, and do it now!” Our anguish hearts can think of no other way for Him to respond to our need. But Jesus has something larger in mind for us than mere answers to prayer as we want them answered. He wants to increase and perfect our faith.

(iii) Just Checking! Even though this man had acted in faith and obedience to Jesus, he checked the hour when his boy began to improve. The result was that he “himself believed, and all his household” (4:53).

But hadn’t he already believed in verse 50? Hadn’t the Lord healed his son in response to his faith? Yes, but that first kernel of faith was being nurtured by Jesus. Once he arrived home and the miracle of his restored son became real, the man’s faith broke through to a deeper level. Suddenly he understood that he could trust God to work out all the crises of his life in ways far beyond what he himself could engineer or anticipate.

He had initially gone to Jesus when all else had failed. It had been a last-ditch faith in an unknown Stranger with reputed powers. It was a demanding faith that prescribed how the request was to be answered. That faith had grown to focus on an appreciation of just who Jesus is, and spread out to bring blessing to his whole household.


John 5:1-15

In his first four chapters John has presented the Lord Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah. Now, from chapter 5 onwards, he traces an increasing rejection of these claims, and a darkening mood of hostility towards Him, especially in official circles. This rejection centres around three remarkable acts of healing by Jesus: the healing of the impotent man in chapter 5, the healing of the blind man in chapter 9, and the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11.

Strangely, the Lord Himself precipitated much of the hostility in this chapter by deliberately healing the man on the Sabbath day. It was a clear challenge to Jewish tradition and set the scene for the confrontation in the rest of the chapter.

“After this there was a feast of the Jews” (5:1). What feast was this? It may have been the feast of Purim (March), or the Passover (April), or Pentecost. John usually identifies the Passover, so it was unlikely to be it. Others say the Feast of Purim, but that was a human invention, and the Lord would hardly have observed it. More likely it was the feast of Pentecost, occurring 50 days after the Passover, as the feast mentioned in 5:1 follows the Passover mentioned in 2:13. Or it may have been the feast of Trumpets, the day on which the Jews believed that the Lord created the world and gave the law to Moses.

The medical miracle described here occurred at a Jewish feast time, when there would be heightened expectation of an angelic visitation, particularly at a place with a reputation like the Pool of Bethesda.

1. THE POOL (5:1-4)
“There is at Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool which is called Bethesda. Having five porches.” This pool of Bethesda, meaning “house of mercy,” or “house of the pity.”

a) The Location
For many years the site of the pool lay lost, buried under the debris of the centuries until it was discovered and excavated in the 1960s. It is located near what is now called St. Stephen’s Gate which is built on the site of the Sheep Gate mentioned in verse 2.

There were two adjacent pools surrounded by four covered colonades, with a fifth one centred between the two pools. These formed cloisters, or alcoves, around the pool, and served as shelters for the large number of sick people who stayed there.

b) The Legend
It is clear that something did happen from time to time, but what was it? The popular belief was that an angel came down “at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water” (5:4). Did this really happen? Were some people actually healed?

The pools were part of a reservoir system, and was also fed from an underground spring. Experts say that at times water was released in surges from these hidden reservoirs, causing the springs to rise and fall suddenly. This apparently mysterious activity, gave rise to the belief about an angel troubling the waters. Many translators, including the NIV, omit verse 4, considering that it may not have been written by John, and only inserted later to explain why people came to the pool of Bethesda.

Were some people actually healed? Perhaps it was similar to the legends that surround Lourdes in France, or Guadeloupe in Mexico City. These places have thousands of crutches stacked along the walls to mark that sites where people received healing from God.

Do people actually receive healing at such places? Yes, they do! Even today, healings take place in Lourdes and Mexico City when people go to such places in the belief that they can be healed. Researchers have shown that many genuine illnesses can actually be healed when people believe strongly enough that healing is taking place. This is the “placebo effect.” In controlled clinical trials, when a sugar pill is given as a placebo to compare it with the real drug, the placebo can frequently out-cure the real drugs!

So the fact that healings may have taken place at such a site does not mean that they were actually the work of God or angels. The pool may have been merely a large water-filled placebo!

2. THE PEOPLE (5:3)
“A great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered” (5:3). What a sad collection of humanity lay around the pool. Day by day they were brought and left there, hoping against hope for the one miracle that could alter their sad situations. The misery of the multitude accurately reflects our own spiritual disability.

a) Physically Disabled
The original Association For The Disabled! The chapter describes them as “impotent,” or disabled, and tells us they included those who were “blind,” (couldn’t see), “lame,”(couldn’t walk), and “withered,” (couldn’t work).

b) Spiritually Disabled
What an accurate reflection of spiritually disabled humanity! Not for nothing does the Bible describe man as spiritually impotent, “without strength” (Rom 5:6). In his natural state he also is “blind” (he cannot see either his need or the glories of the Saviour), “lame” (he cannot walk with God and enjoy His presence), and “withered,” (he cannot work for God).

Note also the connection between these. Until our blindness is cured and we see both our need and the One who can supply it, we cannot walk with God or have communion with Him. Until we have communion we cannot work for Him.

“A certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years” (5:5). His situation was characterised by:

a) No Hope
38 years; half a lifetime of illness! Was it polio, or TB, or some slow degenerative disease, or had he had an accident as a child? Likely his early enthusiastic hope had gradually given way to disappointment, then to despair, and finally to a dull hopeless acceptance of his fate.

“Hope” is one of the brightest words in the English language. It is basic to what God offers us in Christ; “which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Heb 6:19). How sadly different is the one who is not born again. He is described as “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).

b) No Help
“ I have no man… to put me into the pool” (5:7). No friends, no family , “no man!” How this echoes John’s despair in Rev 5:4, when he wept bitterly because “no man was found worthy” to redeem a lost, sin-stricken earth. This poor man was:

(i) Friendless. His only companions were in the same situation, all with the common hope that they might be first into the pool. He desperately needed a friend to come into his life, and do for him what he could not do for himself.

(ii) Powerless. We also at times feel paralyzed in some area of our lives. It may be some sense of failure, or sorrow, or physical affliction, or cruel mistreatment by someone close to us. In some sense, in some area of our lives, we know how helpless this man felt.

The way in which the Lord dealt with this man contains many lessons.

a) His Character
“When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case” (5:6). What was it that made the Lord help this man?

(i) His Compassion and Insight. Wonderfully, it was the man’s very helplessness that drew The Lord to him. He saw him lying there, and knew all about him, just as He knew all about Nathanael and about the woman at the well.

(ii) His Sovereignty and Grace. There is nothing to suggest that this man was any better or more deserving than the others. Why choose him when many others were just as ill. It was pure sovereign grace. It was the Lord who took the initiative and spoke to him first. How grateful we should be that He did not pass us by.

b) His Question
“Wilt thou be made whole?” (5:6). What ever may be said about the sovereignty of God, the human will also plays its part. The Lord never heals or saves anyone against his will.

The question challenged the man with two important truths:

(i) The Gravity Of His Condition. The question emphasised the seriousness of his condition. Turning over a new leaf would not help; he needed outside intervention. He was “without strength.”

(ii) The Necessity Of Change. To be healed would mean making major changes. Sadly some find it easier to stay mired in the trough of familiar unhappiness, than to be healed and delivered and have to make the needed changes.

Jesus asks the same question of us, “Do we want to be healed?” This kind of healing, in whatever area of our lives, always demands a wanting and willingness to change.

c) His Command
“Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (5:8). Three terse commands spelt out the Lord’s prescription to this man.

(i) “Rise.” This appeal to his will involved recognition of His authority. The gospel is a command, not merely an invitation. It was Jesus’ will that this man should obey Him, and the moment the man’s will agreed with the Lord’s will, the power was there. Faith was transferred from his own efforts to the Lord Jesus.

(ii) “Take up thy bed.” His bed was an easily rolled up cotton pallet. Perhaps he thought he had better leave it where it was, as he may need it tomorrow when the cure wore off! Jesus did not want to give this man a back door thought which he could escape back into his illness and old ways. There was to be no provision made for failure or relapse.

Many today take a few feeble steps and then return to their beds! Jesus says, “Burn your bridges!” Don’t keep a bottle around if you are giving up on booze. Or a packet of 20. Find friends who will support you in what you are trying to do. Tell them about the stand you have taken and ask for their help in the healing process.

(iii) “Walk.” The Lord expected continuous success. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going – a common source of failure. If Jesus give us the power to rise, He can certainly give the power to walk worthy of Him and keep going on.

John presents three evidences of genuine healing:

a) A New Walk
“Immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (5:9). All he did was to trust and obey. As he did so, faith flooded his soul, and strength surged into his paralyzed limbs. There is no mention of any warm feeling or strange sensation flowing, whether he felt anything at all. All we know is that strength came into his bones and nerves and muscles. Before he couldn’t stand, now he could.

“Immediately…” The cure was both instantaneous and complete. The Lord Jesus saves us instantly and completely the moment we believe.

b) A New Worship
“Jesus findeth him in the temple” (5:14). Doubtless he went there to give to offer a thanksgiving offering for what God had done. He had been given new strength, and the first thing he does is to go to the house of God and use it in thanksgiving. What a delightful thing it is to hear a new Christian give praise to God.

c) A New Witness
The healed man’s development is seen by his witness to the Healer.

(i) Early Impressions. “He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed and walk” (5:11). At first, although he had no doubt he had been healed, he was almost totally ignorant about the Healer – “He wist not who it was” (5:13). When challenged, he did not enter into theological argument. He merely quoted what the Lord had said. It is still good advice!

(ii) Later Development. “The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole” (5:15). Like the woman in chapter 4, he wanted to witness to his Saviour. His delightful sermon had only two points: who Jesus was, and what He had done. Before a hostile audience he confessed with his mouth what had happened in his heart. What delightful evidence of new life!

d) A New Warning
“Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto Thee” (5:14). Having dealt with him in grace, the Great Healer now speaks in truth. He had diagnosed a dark connection between this man’s suffering and his sin. He had healing for one, and forgiveness for the other.
(i) “Sin no more…” The order of what Jesus says is important. Only after a person has received the free gift of God’s wholeness does Jesus say, “Sin no more.” “Sinning no more” is a Christian doctrine, as John’s epistles tell us.

(ii) “…lest a worse thing come upon Thee.” The Lord saw that this man’s disability was linked in some way to his sin. Of course, not all disease is. But whatever it was, his sin had overtaken him in his yourth and robbed him of the best years of his life. Sin always gives its moment of sweet pleasure and then the bitter, lingering pain of on-going paralysis. Jesus did not subscribe to the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved! I can do what I like!” He warned that further sin would have further consequences in his life.


John 5:16-30

The world’s most famous mathematical formula is E=MC2. This is the formula for transforming a given amount of matter (say, plutonium) into pure energy (such as a nuclear explosion). Such a simple little equation, just 5 little syllables or signs in a row, yet it has totally changed our world and our history. Two tangible expressions of E=MC2 over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 19945 spelled the end to World War II. Yet the profound meaning locked within these 5 syllables is as nothing compared with the profound meaning embedded in these verses.

The healing of the impotent man on the Sabbath set the scene for a sharp confrontation with a handful of men John simply calls “the Jews.” These were the leaders, priests and members of the ruling class. Clearly they were angered by Jesus’ violation of the Sabbath code, and instead of being filled with praise for the miracle they were filled with hatred – “therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus and sought to slay him” (5:16). This was the opening barrage in a battle that would not end until He was crucified about a year and a half later.

When the Lord defended His action with a profound discourse in which He clearly claimed equality with God the Father, a second charge, blasphemy, was quickly added to their sheet. Three times, in John 5, 8 and 10, the Jews sought to kill Him, and each time it was on the grounds that He claimed to be God. This was something which the Jews refused to believe, and something which John in his gospel is determined to demonstrate.

Elsewhere in the Gospels, when the Lord defended His actions on the Sabbath, He did so on different grounds. In Matt 12:2,3 He appealed to the example of David, the king. This was suited to Matthew. In Mark 2:24,27 He stated that “the Sabbath was made for man.” Service was in view, and this was suited to Mark. In Luke 13:15 He appealed to human sympathies, suited to the gospel of His humanity. But the ground is higher here in John 5, and his answer is suited to His divine glory. It occupies the rest of the long chapter, and is divided into two parts: a declaration of His deity (5:16-30), and a presentation of witnesses in support of it (5:31-47).

The core issue was and is vital: is Jesus Christ God? The question cannot be ignored, and upon the answer depends our eternal destiny.

Verses 16-18 give the reasons for rejection, ands set the scene for the discourse which followed. The Lord’s action on the Sabbath was totally rejected by the Jews and, when He based His explanation on the claim of equality with His Father, their fury knew no bounds.

a) The Reason For His Claim (5:17)
“My father worketh hitherto, and I work.” In reply to their anger and misunderstanding, Jesus explained how He operated. He had just healed a man on the Sabbath, the day of rest. God, too, had rested following His work of creation. But that Sabbath was soon broken by the introduction of sin into this world. God’s creative rest having been disturbed by the ruin that sin had brought into the world, He began a new work, a redemptive work.

The Lord now put His own activity on a par with the activity of God. The broken man by the pool of Bethesda was a prime exhibit of the ruin that sin had brought into the world. He said in effect, “I am only doing what the Father does. The Father is acting through me.” This is the secret of how He lived His life. Infinite power flowed from God the Father through Jesus the Son, who served an outlet so that this infinite power could flow into the lives of men and women through the things He did and said.

b) The Rejection Of His Claim (5:18)
The Jews rightly read the Lord’s claims. It was bad enough to have “broken the Sabbath,” but when He claimed to have right to abolish the law of the Sabbath because He was “equal with God,” they were more determined than ever to kill Him.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (5:19). The secret of the Son’s life (and the example He set) is unfolded in these two verses.

a) For the Saviour
These verses let us see the intimate and interdependent relationship between the Father and the Son.

(i) “The Son can do nothing of himself.” What does this mean? He was not speaking about His inability, but was stating the impossibility of acting independently from His Father. Such a thought always lies at the very heart of sin. Satan had used it in the temptation of Adam and Eve and in the Lord’s temptation in the wilderness. This is why He refused to change stones into bread, or to leap from the temple to gain the applause of the people, or to gain the whole world for Himself when Satan tempted Him during his 40 day fast. He had power to do all these things, but He would not use if for His own benefit.

(ii) “For the father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things” (5:20). If Christ is God, why does He need to be “shown”? We show people because they are ignorant. The opening word “for” explains. The Lord was still proving that He was “equal with God.” Because of the perfect love between them, the Father has no secrets from the Son, and this love is manifested by the Father who “showeth him all things.”

(iii) “He will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” (5:20). Later in the chapter, Jesus went on to reveal two of these “greater works” that would amaze His hearers; His ability to give life to “whom he will” (5:21), and His authority to execute judgement (5:22).

* Ability To Give Life. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will” (5:21). When Jesus spoke of “the dead,” He meant those who were spiritually dead. They think their existence is only bound by the womb and the tomb. That is spiritual death, and Jesus has the power to give spiritual life to such people.

* Authority To Judge. “The Father…has committed all judgement unto the Son” (5:22). The Son has been appointed the supreme Judge of all. To be Judge He must have personal knowledge of all who have ever lived. He must know all the facts of every case; every circumstance of every individual, his passions, weaknesses, strengths, abilities, and thoughts. Only this will give Him the absolute right to pass eternal sentence, with no court of appeal, and with no cases missed. This was a claim that only God could make.

b) For the Saint
Although we cannot compare with the Son of God, there are lessons to be learned from His example.

(i) “The Son can do nothing of himself.” If this was so of the Son of God, how much more so of ourselves? This contrasts with all the New Age philosophy which teaches that we can do anything of ourselves. Jesus lived His entire life this way, and the Father wants the same principle to operate in our lives as well.

(ii) “The Father…showeth him all things that himself doeth.” God revealed to His son everything. He would even show Him greater things than these. There was thus a gradual revelation at work. Jesus the Man was growing in His understanding and strength. As He did so, He participated more and more in the works of the Father until the moment when He hung on the cross and said, “It is finished.”

So with us. God’s power is not handed to us as a package to use for our own benefit. It is released only when we use it as the Son did: for the glory of the Father and the completion of His will. When we do so, God progressively opens His heart to us and shows us what he does, i.e. His will.

(iii) “He will show Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.” Every manifestation of the Father’s power (or the Son’s power released in us), awakens a sense of wonder in those who witness it. A simple word, an act of compassion, a cup of cold water given in His name, will leave an impact that will make people marvel. The power of God in a life makes those who see it “marvel.”

God want His children to be like Christ. As we open our lives to God’s power, submitting our wills to His, and relying on His limitless power, the world will marvel at us as well. This is the kind of life Jesus modelled for us and left us an example that we should follow in His steps.

The presentation of Jesus as Life-giver and Judge begs the next question. “To whom and on what terms does Jesus give eternal life?” The answer is found in the beautiful words of verse 24. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (5:24).

a) Divine Sovereignty
“The Son quickeneth whom he will” (5:21). This verse clearly tells of the mystery of God’s divine, mysterious sovereign will.

b) Human Responsibility
When Jesus said He gives life to whoever He will, His was not being arbitrary or capricious. Verse 24 looks at the other side of the coin.

* “Verily, verily.” Pay attention! This is the formula of focused attention. It means literally “Amen, Amen.” We usually say this at the end of a prayer, although some enthusiastic souls may also say it in the middle. Here it is placed at the beginning instead of the end! What follows is not to be missed.
* “He that heareth my word.” This means to receive and obey it. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
* “And believeth on Him that sent me.” Not just believing in God’s existence, but also what He says about the Lord Jesus. That He is the Son of the Father, and the only Saviour.
* “Hath everlasting life.” Note the tense of present possession. This life is the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is received when a man is born again, in contrast to natural life he received this physical birth. Quality, not quantity, of life is involved.
* “And shall not come into condemnation.” He is not condemned now, nor ever in the future. He is free from judgement because the Lord Jesus has already been judged for his sins when He died on the cross.
* “But is passed from death unto life.” The state of spiritual death has been replaced by the state of spiritual life.

Christ’s declaration of deity claimed absolute authority over life, death, and judgement. He is:

a) The Lord of Resurrection
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (5:25). The Lord’s words are not to be restricted to the resurrection of dead people from their graves.

(i) “the hour is coming…” This refers to the Day of Pentecost, and to the new thing that would happen when the Holy Spirit would come and the gift of eternal life be given to Jews and Gentiles alike.

(ii) “and now is.” He had already begun to give the gift of life. His disciples had received it. So had Nicodemus, and the woman in Samaria. “The dead,” those who are in their sins, were hearing the voice of the Son of God in the gospel and were coming alive!

b) The Lord of Life
“For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (5:26). By claiming to have “life in Himself” the Lord was emphatically claiming to be the Son of God. We have life because we received it from our parents. It is not spontaneously generated. Life is the monopoly of God. The Father has bestowed on the Son the divine characteristic of having “life in Himself,” eternal, uncreated life.

c) The Lord of Judgement
“And hath given him authority to execute judgement also, because he is the Son of Man” (5:27). The Son has been given the sole right to judge the world, making Him coequal with the Father in judicial authority and power. Note that it is “because he is the Son of Man.” It is not some alien angelic being untouched by the feeling of our infirmities that God has committed the judgement of that world. It is not even Jesus as Son of God, in all His omniscient genius. It is the Son of Man who will judge, and His judgement will be based, not only on His omniscience as God, but also His experience as Man

(i) The Certainty of Judgement. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth” (5:28). One day every grave will be opened and all the dead shall come forth. The bad, the good, the evil, the kind, the generous – all, all, all! He will empty the world’s cemeteries. Not only will the spirits of men be judged, but their bodies will be delivered to an ultimate destiny.

(ii) The Criteria of Judgement. “…they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (5:29). Two groups are identified.
* “they that have done good.” What does this mean? Keeping the ten commandments? This is just a few verses away from where Jesus talks about the gift of eternal life. To “do good” means to receive eternal life. It refers to those who have obeyed His word, walked in fellowship with Him, and shared His life.

* “They that have done evil.” Who are these? These are those who have refused His life and turned their backs on the truth. They deny even the witness of nature, and their own inner hearts. Even if they think of themselves as “good people,” if they have not received the gift of eternal life, their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. For them there only awaits the lake of fire.

(iii) The Consequences of Judgement. The stark difference in eternal destinies is highlighted.
* “unto life.” This is the first resurrection (Rev 20:6) and is associated with blessing and holiness. It involves only saved people, those who have long since settled the matter of eternal life by their faith in Christ.
* “unto condemnation.” This involves those “have done evil,” and takes place at the Great White Throne. What a contrast between “life” and “condemnation.” Yet this is the Lord Himself summarising the eternal destiny of all mankind. He is the life-giver, and He is the judge. We are in His hands. Will He be our Saviour or our Judge? It depends on whether or not we accept or reject what He says about Himself, and what He offers us – the gift of eternal life.

A High court Judge on his way to court in India rescued a child from the path of a fast-approaching train. Later, on arrival at court, he pronounced the death sentence on a murderer. In the one day he had been both Saviour and Judge.

John 5:31-47

Earlier in this chapter the Lord had singled out a paralysed man, and performed a mighty miracle of healing. He was immediately criticised because he had done in on the Sabbath day. The Lord replied to their criticism by giving them a sevenfold declaration of His equality with the Father.

Jesus had made some amazing claims. He claimed to be the Son of God, the One sent by the Father, the Source of all life, both physical and spiritual, the Judge of all the world, the focus of history, the One who raises the dead and will one day empty the cemeteries of the world.

As Jesus made these claims, His hearers listened with open-mouthed amazement. “How do we know you are telling the truth? What evidence do you give?” This is in line with the purpose of this gospel – to present Christ at the Son of God. Less that 50 years after the Lord departed to heaven, the horrible system of gnosticism, which denied the essential deity of the Saviour, spread widely through those lands where the gospel had been preached. There was agreement that He was unique, but not “equal with God.” By the year AD 90, only John of His original disciples remained. On every side, there was denial of the deity of Christ. Hence the Holy Spirit moved John to write his gospel.

The passage divides into two sections:
– The Witnesses to His Deity (5:31-38)
– The Warnings to His Detractors (5:39-47)

The Lord knew the need to back up the declaration of His deity with firm evidence. God’s law stated that a single witness was inadequate. Two or three witnesses were required. The Lord proceeded to present four witnesses to His deity.

1. The First Witenss – The Father (5:32)
“If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.”

In verse 39 the Lord referred to One who is a “greater witness than that of John” (5:36). His idendity is revealed in 5:36-37 as the Father Himself.

How did the Father witness to the Lord’s deity?

a) By His Announcements
At his baptism, on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Again in John 12 there came a voice from heaven saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

b) By His Approval
Romans 1:4 says He was “declared to be the Son of God with power…by the resurrection from the dead.”

3. The Second witness – John the Baptist (5:32-35)
“Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.” John’s impact on the nation had been tremendous. He had faithfully witnessed to His Lord, all he said about Him was true. Now the Lord faithfully witnesses to him. If we confess Him before men, He will confess us.

a) What John said about Jesus
John made four specific claims regarding Jesus. He announced Him as

(i) The Predicted Messiah of whom the prophets had written
(ii) The Lamb of God, the sacrifice for mankind’s sin
(iii) The One Who Would Baptise with the Holy Spirit
(iv) The Son of God

b) What Jesus said about John
The Lord described John as “a burning and a shining light” (5:35). His life had lit up the nation’s darkness, showing them their own state and need, and shining on the Saviour.

Sadly it was only “for a season,” as Herod violently extinguished it. John’s message had been totally clear. His ringing “Behold the Lamb of God!” was a powerful witness that crystallized both who Jesus was and what He came to do.

(i) “a shining lamp.” A lamp should bear the light. What does light do? It exposes what is there. John chose to shine brightly. He told people how they could find and know the true light.

Many lamps do not bear light; they just take up space somewhere. They have been designed to give light, but have taken themselves out of service. How is our light? Perhaps it is hidden under a bushel. Perhaps the wick needs trimmed, and the soot of sin removed. Or perhaps it neeeds lifted up.

(ii) “a burning lamp” (5:35). John was not a light but a lamp. He brought light to others and was himself consumed in the process. Do we want to be a shining lamp for God? There is only one way – we have to burn! Let God’s truth fuel our hearts. We also need to be flames of fire, burning ourselves out to bring light to the world in the process.

(iii) “a passing lamp.” Jesus said that while many were attracted to this light and were “willing for a season to rejoice in his light,” some soon grew tired of John. He was a passing fad. They rejoiced temporarily, but there was no repentance.

Many treat Jesus in the same way. They stop, look, and listen for a while, until their attention is captured by the next craze of fashion. How sad to see the interest fade, and with it the opportunity for salvation.

3. The Third Witness – His Works (5:36)
“The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (5:36).

All that Christ did demonstrated his deity. All His “works” were part of that one “work” He had come to do. Unbelief was without excuse. They had seen His power over demons, disease, disaster, and death. It was all part of the work the Father had given Him. Miracles in themselves are no proof of deity. Men have done miracles. So do demons! But Jesus’ miracles were different because He had the power in Himself to do them. Also, the works performed by Him were the very ones prophesied in the OT concerning the Messiah.

We say we would like to see God working like that today. Then we could believe on Him. He does. People get saved and changed. These are the “greater works” that those who believe on Him will do.

4. The Fourth Witness – The Word (5:39)
“Search the Scriptures…they are they which testify of me” (5:39). How wonderfully the Scriptures testify to the person of Christ. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 He is present on every page. E.g.

– as the lamb slain to provide a covering for Adam and Eve
– as Isaac going with his father to Moriah
– as Joseph, the Saviour of the world
– as the Passover lamb
– as Moses, leading his people out of Egypt
– as Aaron, the High Priest
– as David, slaying Goliath

When he joined the couple on the road to Emmaus, their hearts burned within them as “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expooooounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27).

Sadly the unbelieving Jews did not have His word abiding in them, and had neither heard God’s voice nor seen his form. The Word was before them in the form of their Scriptures and in the person of Jesus, but they did not allow God to speak to them through them.

a) They would not receive God’s Word
“Ye have not his word abiding in you” (5:38). The religious Jews, so smug and complacent in their rites and rituals, so distorted the Scriptures that they were strangers to God’s truth embodied in Christ. God’s Word did not abide in them.

b) They would not received God’s Son
“Him ye believe not.” God’s Word and God’s Son go together. One testifies to the truth of the other. The Jews refused to accept either.

Having defended His claims to deity, the Lord turned to challenge His critics.

1. His Protest (5:39-42)
The Lord protested at the shallowness of their religion and misuse of the Scriptures.

a) Search the Scriptures
The Jews did indeed search the Scriptures, after a fashion. It was a textbook and counted every letter and weighed every word. His comment teaches us:

(i) The Means of Bible Study
* How NOT to Study. The Jews did search the Scriptures, after a fashion. Their zeal was such that they counted every letter, weighed every word, scrutinised every sentence. They hoped to find eternal life in them, but badly missed the mark. The Lord had already told them they did not have God’s word abiding in them. All their study was in vain. They thought intellectual knowledge was adequate.

* How to Study. “Search” – not merely read. The word Jesus used was a word used of a lion or a hound tracking by scent. He was telling them to go back and retrace their steps, to conduct another search and pick up the proper scent, and follow the trail to where it really led – to Him.

(ii) The Motive for Bible Study. “They are they which testify of me.” The grand motive for Bible study is that the Scriptures testify of Christ. To search the Scriptures and miss Christ is the greatest tragedy of all. The Bible is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. It is a signpost pointing the way we should go – to Him. What folly to be taken up with studying, measuring, and admiring the signpost, and not to get its message and do what it says

b) Search Your Souls (5:40-47)
“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (5:40). Having directed the Jewish leaders back to the Scriptures, the Lord went on to tell them to search their souls. Unbelief is more than a mental problem. It is a problem of the human will. It is not a case of “I can’t believe,” but of “I won’t believe.” The problem in not the intellect, but the will. People do not get saved because of failure to understand, but failure to obey.

2. His Prophecy (5:43-44)
“I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (5:43).

This was a terrible prophetic warning. To refuse the truth is to embrace a lie. Jesus came as the Truth, the visible evidence of the Word, of the Holy Spirit, and of the Father. He came with the proper introduction: John the Baptist opened the door. Yet He was rejected.

a) The Result of the Warning
“if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (5:43). If a man will not listen when pointed out the right road, he will inevitably take the wrong road. The Jews never had a false Christ until they rejected the real Christ. Then they had a whole series of pseudo-messiahs who deceived them by the thousand. But the worst has not yet happened. The day is coming when the Jewish nation will wholeheartedly endorse the coming antichrist, the one who comes in his own name.

b) the Reason for the Warning
“How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (5:44). Here is the true reason for unmbelief. Why would a man read the truth, known it to be true, know that it speaks of Jesus, know Him to be whom He claims to be, and still refuse to come to Him? Jesus says the answer is that people want the praise of other people rather than the praise of God. People want glory now, not heaven at some future time.

At issue was their inability to believe in Jesus as the Christ. The problem was, the Jews were looking to the wrong place and for the wrong kind of honour. The word “honour” can be translated “praise” or “glory.” What the Jews were looking for in Christ was the kind glory and they gave to one another. They wanted a Christ who would smash the power of Rome, make Jerusalem the capital of a new world empire and them a new imperial nobility with authority over nations. No wonder they could see not glory in Christ. He taught them to forgive their enemies, go the second mile, and to live and pray for those who despitefully used them. What kind of a messiah was that? The Lord Jesus had honour that came from God, but they were blinded to that by their own carnal notions of glory.

3. His Proclamation (5:45-47)
The Lord now refers to Moses. Next to Abraham the Jews venerated him.

a) Moses’ Accusation of them
“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust” (5:45). The chief witness for the prosecution would be Moses, whose law they venerated and whose name they exalted high above all. Moses himself would rise up in the day of judgement and condemn them for using him as their excuse to persecute Christ. The Jews were proud of their OT, especially Moses’ five books, the Torah. The trouble was that they did not obey the words of Moses, as 5:46 shows.

Jesus warns the Jews that they will have to give an account of their rejection of Him before the tribunal of God, and there they would see as their accuser the great legislator of whom they boasted, but whose testimony they rejected. Here was the final reason they would not come to Him for life – they refused to believe the written word of God.

b) Moses Accreditation of Him
“For if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (5:46,47). The writings of Moses are full of types depicting Christ: Noah’s ark, the offering of Isaac, Jacob’s ladder, the Passover lamb, the manna from heaven, the water from the rock, the serpent on the pole, to mention just a few. Jesus could well say, “Moses wrote of me.” But the Jewish leaders discounted all these types and prophecies of Christ. The indictment was clear, the consequences inevitable. To disbelieve the writings of Moses was to make any genuine faith in Christ impossible. Their case was hopeless if Moses became their great accuser, Their doom was sealed.

Jesus here states a radical principle. Most people believe that if a person does not believe something, what he needs is more light. Jesus says this will not work. If you do not believe the truth you now know, you will not believe greater truth when you hear it.


John 6v1-14

A year had elapsed between the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda in chapter 5 and the feeding of the five thousand in chapter 6. John passes over some two dozen incidents recorded by the synoptics. An attempt had been made by enthusiasts to use Jesus as the leader in a new revolt against the hated Romans. That, and the return of the twelve, made a temporary retirement desirable, so Jesus entered into a boat, and crossed over to the more quiet eastern side of the lake. The crowds, however, eager to see more miracles, followed him round the northern end and were waiting for Him when He arrived.

A little boy once said his favourite Bible story was the one where everybody loafs and fishes! But this is a very special miracle for other reasons as well:

a) It is the only miracle recorded by each of the four evangelists. This indicates it must be special and worth of special study.

b) Creation was involved. Something was called into existence which did not exist before. It was the same with the turning of water into wine. The two miracles belong to a class of their own. It is interesting that one reminds us of His blood, the other of His body. Other miracles told of His power.

Yogi Berra, a famous baseball player, once ordered an anchovy pizza at a Brooklyn restaurant. At the table the waiter asked if he would like it cut into four or eight pieces. “Well,” he replied, “Better make it four, I don’t think I could eat eight.” In John 6 we have the story of one little Jewish boy who offers Jesus his pizza, – just 5 loaves and two small fishes. Jesus took it and divided it into not just four or eight pieces, but into thousands, enough to feed a multitude. In the process we see how Jesus can multiply our own meagre offering into blessings for the hungry people around us.

“The Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near” (6:4). This is more than a date notice; it is a sad commentary on the spiritual state of the nation. It should have been a Feast of Jehovah, but God no longer recognised it as one of His own feasts, it had become a mere ritual, having lost its meaning.

a) The Way they Sought Him (6:1-4)
“A great multitude followed him” (6:2). The crowd followed Him because they saw the miracles of a wonderful Magician, and a clever Physician. A faith founded on miracles is rarely strong, and never as pleasing to God as that which is founded on His Word alone. God’s Word should not require miracles to verify it.

b) The Way they Stirred Him
“When Jesus lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company” (6:5). The other Gospels tell us that they stayed all day listening to His teaching. Matthew tells us He was moved with compassion towards this hungry multitude which comprised 5000 men besides women and children. There must have been about 8000-10000 present. The children were getting tired, the disciples impatient; all were hungry.

The stage was set for a miracle. There were the hungry people. There were the worried disciples, helpless in the face of enormous need. There was an anonymous little boy, willing to give up his lunch for the Lord. And there was the incarnate Son of God.

“This he said to prove him, for he himself knew what he would do” (6:6). The disciples had been with the Lord for two years and had heard all His amazing words. He decided it was time to test their faith. He still tests us with difficult situations, sent to “prove” us. How do we handle them? Have we learned to spread each difficulty before God, and rest on His promise “My God shall supply all your need” (Phil 4:19).

a) The Size of the Problem (6:6-7)
“Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (6:5). The Lord confronted Philip with an impossible predicament that had no human solution.

(i) Philip’s Calculation. “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little” (6:7). Philip quickly estimated how much money it would take to feed the multitude them. Since a penny was a fair day’s wages, he estimated that it would take the best part of two-thirds of an annual wage to supply what was needed.

(ii) Philip’s Conclusion. Philip gave up in despair. Instead of referring the problem back to Jesus in simple faith, he concluded that the entire idea of buying enough bread was ridiculous. But he calculated without Christ. If the Lord had commanded an atheist to feed the multitude instead of Philip, his answer would have been no different from Philip’s. He would offer only a rands and cents solution..

What do we do when we hear this command, “Feed them”? We respond like Philip. We translate the need into physical resources, like money. The needs facing us are enormous, and we are so inadequate to meet them that we throw up our hands in despair.

“Two hundred pennyworth of bread.” The number “two hundred” is significant in the Bible. Nowhere in Scripture are numbers used haphazardly. 200 is always found in Scripture as an evil connection. We trace it out in the story of Achan (Josh 7:20-21) and Absalom (2 Sam 14:26-27; 15:11), in the story of the apostate Micah of Mount Ephraim (Judges 17:1-5), and in the prophecy of the armies that will engage in the battle in the end times (Rev 9:16). So here in John 6:7 its use suitably expresses Philip’s unbelief.

b) The Smallness of the Provision (6:8-9)
“There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (6:9). If Philip was overwhelmed by the size of the problem, Andrew concentrated on the smallness of the provision. He had spotted “a lad” preparing to do something about his own hunger. He had come prepared. Doubtless his mother had packed him a little lunch. But the fish were about the size of sardines; hardly enough for one, let alone 5000.

To both Philip and Andrew, the whole idea of feeding the multitude was impossible. Of course, they were right! But they needed to learn two important lessons:

(i) Reliance. They made the mistake of failing to bring their impossible situation to Jesus. Their attitude should have been “We can’t, but You can!” The Lord had issued the instruction, and it was up to Him, not Philip, to provide the answer.

(ii) Resources. The Lord never asks us to stockpile resources until we have enough to begin. He wants us to minister with what little we have. If a little lad’s lunch is all He has to work with, then it is enough.

With what delightful simplicity the story unfolds. No stage management, or special effects. No raising of hands or shouting. The Lord simply took bread, gave thanks and began distributing food.

Note the various items contributing to the success of this miracle.

a) Obedience
“Make the men sit down” (6:10). This was a test of the disciples’ obedience. Their faith had failed, but their obedience did not. The best way to strengthen weak faith is by obedience. “Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). If we have not much light, let us walk up to the standard that we have, and we will have more. As soon as they were obedient, Jesus began to dispense His blessings. Obedience was the channel through which His blessings were to flow.

b) Quietness
“Make the men sit down.” It is still necessary to “sit down” if we would be fed. Haste is the spirit of the age. The standard is not how well a things is done but how fast. Sometimes the Lord makes us to “sit down” by illness or other events.

c) Thanks
“And when He had given thanks.” What a lovely example. The Lord here acknowledges God as the Giver of every good gift, and the One who provides for the needs of His creatures.

d) The Miracle
“And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down: and likewise of the fishes as much as they would” (6:11). How did He do it?

(i) The Divine Side. Just when did the miracle a take place? When He blessed the food? Did everyone see a huge pile of food when they opened their eyes? Or when He distributed it? Mark says “He gave thanks and broke the loaves.” The word “brake” is in the aorist tense, indicating an instantaneous act; whereas “gave” is continuous tense. Literally, “he kept on giving the loaves and fishes to his disciples.” The miracle took place in the Lord’s hands. As He held the simple meal in His hands, He broke off pieces and gave to the disciples – and kept on doing that. There was never an increase in the amount in His hand, but there was a continual supply until the whole multitude was fed.

(ii) The Human Side. “He distributed to His disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down.” Again, we see that God uses human instruments to accomplish His purpose, thus giving us the privilege of being “labourers together with God.” He fed the hungry multitude through His disciples. His was the increase, theirs was the distribution. So today, between the unsearchable riches of Christ and the hungry multitude there is room for consecrated service and ministry.

So with the gospel today. It is His hands which do the miracle, we merely keep on distributing what he gives to us. It is God who gives the increase. Also we cannot give to others unless we have first received ourselves. It is only the full vessel which overflows.

e) The Supply
“…as much as they would” (6:13). The supply stopped only with the demand. We are invited to help ourselves to Christ’s provision. Do we need cleansing, from sin? Or comfort. Or strength. He gives as much as we need.

f) The Satisfaction
“When they were filled” (6:12). What a contrast from “…that everyone may take a little” (6:7). Christ always satisfies. “He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35).

g) The Gathering
“Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (6:12). Any man feeding 5000 does not worry about a few leftover crumbs! But Jesus is God, and with God there must be no wasting of His bounties. He does not want us to squander the precious things He gives us, so He took care that the left-overs should be gathered up so that nothing might be lost. It also reminds us of the fragments of our lives. “Let nothing be lost!” Our misspent moments, our sluggish energies, our tardy affections, our neglected duties. Gather them up and use them for His glory.

h) The Reward
“Then they gathered…and filled twelve baskets with the fragments” (6:13). The 12 disciples were left with 12 baskets. They were the ones enriched by being obedient and ministering to the hungry multitude!

4. THE PROPOSED KING (6:14-15)
The people were excited by what they had seen.

a) A Correct Response
“This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (6:14). The people came to a proper conclusion, but followed it up with an improper response. The people thought back to Deut 18:15 where Moses, having fed the people in the wilderness with manna from heaven, said to them, “the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.” They concluded that this one must be the Messiah, and they were right.

b) A Wrong Result
The people quickly decided that this was the kind of king they wanted: one who would supply their material needs. Here was a ready force of 5000 men, the nucleus of an army, ready to rise and follow Him to Jerusalem, to Rome, to the uttermost parts of the earth. However, the Lord’s concept of a kingdom was spiritual, not material. “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone” (6:15).

We also do the same. We become angry when God isn’t available to be used for our own programme. This story teaches us about the relationship we should have with God. He is not a politician we have elected to do our bidding. He is our God, our Lord and Master. Our greatest privilege is to see ourselves as His instruments, doing His will, not using Him to do what we want to do. To be channels through which He can work out His will to lost and hungry people around us.


John 6:15-21

Christ’s power had been seen publicly in the breaking of the bread, as He fed the five thousand. It is now seen privately as He walked on the water to His fearful and struggling disciples. As John reflected on this event, he realised that Jesus had deliberately set it up for the disciples. He had sent them off against their will into the gathering darkness and storm, and then deliberately delayed His coming so that they might learn to trust Him in time of trouble.


a) Their Realisation
The crowd had been mightily impressed by the miracle Jesus had just performed. Who wouldn’t be? Their conclusion was that “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (6:14). The reference was to Deut 18:15 where Moses declared, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto Thee a prophet from the midst of thee like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” This was a reference to the coming Messiah, and they were prepared to recognise Him as such.

b) Their Reaction
However, instead of falling down before Him as sinners crying for mercy, they wanted to take him by force and make Him king. Even this would be for their own ends, to overthrow the hated Romans.

The Lord immediately perceived what the crowd was thinking and acted accordingly.

a) The Crowd
“When Jesus therefore perceived…” (6:15). The Lord knew what personal motives lay behind professed loyalty of the crowd, and sent the excited people home. This was another example of His deity.

b) The Disciples
The other gospels tell us that the Lord also sent the disciples away. Perhaps they had been talking among themselves, and thinking that things were getting somewhere. The real action was at last beginning! Now was the time for strategizing, and planning to lead a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Lord had to consider the ambition of Judas Iscariot, the impetuosity of Peter, the zealotary of Simon the Canaanite, and the tempers of James and John. It was all a volatile mixture!

c) The Lord
“He departed again into a mountain himself alone” (6:15). The Lord headed for a secluded spot on the mountain to spend the night in prayer. They crowd had publicly owned Him as a prophet and wanted to make Him a king. But he could not be a king until he had first officiated as priest, offering Himself a sacrifice for sin.

The main narrative of the story centres around the struggling disciples alone on the sea.

a) The Tempest That Overtook Them (6:18).
“It was now dark…and the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.”. How often this reflects the experience of the believer. In obedience to the Lord’s command the disciples had started out on their return trip to Capernaum. It was not to be an easy trip. Darkness, difficulty and danger soon combined to frighten even these experienced sailors.

Eventually it was so dark they could not see the shore. Worse, a strong wind was blowing from the north out of the mountains of Lebanon and Mt. Hermon. Was Satan, as “the prince of the power of the air,” behind that storm? It was symbolic of the storms which overtake us on our journeys across time’s uncertain seas. They come suddenly, do great damage, and leave ruins and wreckage, disease and despair. Often we thoughtlessly attribute them to God, but forget the bigger picture that involves Satanic activity and God’s permissive will.

The story teaches lessons about:

(i) His Commands. It was a difficult journey. Not only was it dark, but the other gospels tell us that the sea was rough and the wind contrary. But they were undertaking this journey in obedience to the Lord’s command. They were going where He wanted them to go, and this guaranteed their safety.

(ii) His Absence. “Jesus was not come to them” (6:17). What poignancy there is in these words. Where was He? The longer they waited the worse things became. It looked as though He had forgotten them. The darkness was all about them and the waves were threatening the ship. It was a real test of their faith and patience.

At times our own circumstances are dark, and conditions against us. We cry to the Lord, but he does not come. But God is never in a hurry. Infinite power, combined with infinite love, and infinite wisdom can never make a mistake. The darkness deepens, and still He waits. Yes, but He waits “that He may be gracious.” He waits that His hand may be the more evident and appreciated when He does intervene. At times He waits till all our plans and hopes are disappointed and we are at our wit’s end. Then, just when we have given up hope, He breaks forth and we are startled, as were these disciples on the sea.

(iii) His Care. Here is a beautiful picture of the Lord’s High Priestly ministry. The disciples were down below on the storm-tossed sea while He was up on the mountain praying. He saw and understood their struggle. Their every move was known to Him.

So today He knows our struggles and difficulties when the way seems dark and dangerous. He is “on high” fulfilling His ministry as our Great High Priest, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. His prayers undergird us that we cannot sink. He saw them, even though it was “dark.” We may be “toiling in rowing” (the Gk word means “fatigued”), but there is one above who sees and knows our problems, and who, even now, is preparing to come to our side. How much we owe to His High Priestly ministry.

b) The Terror That Overwhelmed Them
“So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea” (6:19). They had gone just more than half way when the Lord appeared. They may have been having problems with the storm at sea, but at least they were familiar with them. What they now saw terrified them. John simply says, “they were afraid.” Troubled and afraid of Jesus! Why?

Mark says that the reason for their fear was not dimness of physical sight which cause the disciples to mistake Him for a ghost, but dullness of spiritual vision. “They considered not the miracle of the loaves; for their hearts were hardened.” Their fears had mastered them. They were not expecting deliverance. They had forgotten all that the Lord had done only a few hours earlier. How quickly do we forget His mercies and past deliverance’s.

c) The Tenderness That Overshadowed Them
“It is I, be not afraid.” (6:20). What wonderful words, what profound reassurance. The Lord’s eye had seen them, his thoughts had surrounded them. He had sent them on the voyage, they were in His will. He knew the malignant unseen powers, and understood their distress, yet it was all part of His permissive will for them, and all intended to strengthen their faith.

(i) “It is I…” The Lord first directs their attention to Himself. “Fix your eyes on me.”

(ii) “…be not afraid.” The order is always the same. Our fears can only be dispelled by looking at Him. Look around, and we shall be intimidated; look within and we shall be discouraged. But look to Him, and our fears will vanish.

John’s comments about their arrival are interesting:

a) “Then they willingly received him into the ship.”
As soon as they recognised Him, they willingly received Him on board. Christ never forces Himself on us. He always waits to be welcomed.

b) “Immediately the ship was at the land, whither they went.”
How good to know that as soon as he entered the ship, the end of the voyage was reached. Suddenly they had arrived. It was a miracle within a miracle. When the disciples brought Jesus into their boat, they were suddenly at their destination.

Jesus still comes to us across the sea of our troubles. As our faith responds and we welcome Him into the boat of our circumstances, we suddenly find ourselves on the other side of the problem, steadied, strengthened and at peace.

Is this why John chose to include this miracle in his gospel? He wanted us to know the hidden resource of life, the One to turn to when life is overwhelming and we are pressured beyond measure. When we accept Him into our lives and invite Him into our boat, we find resources of peace and joy and strength the world knows nothing about. We will have arrived at our destination.


John 6:22-40

The mighty miracle of the feeding of the five thousand was introductory to the presentation in the middle of the chapter of Christ as the Bread of Life. The scene was the synagogue at Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. One can go there today and stand at the exact place where Jesus delivered this discourse.


a) The Missing Messiah (6:22-24)
The multitude, fired by the excitement of the miracle, looked for Jesus on the eastern shore to try to persuade Him to lead a popular uprising. They had last seen Him the night before heading for the hills after telling them to go home and sending His disciples off across the lake by themselves. They knew that there had been only one boat on their side of the sea, and they had seen the disciples depart in it alone. So, thinking He had joined His disciples somewhere along the way, they entered some boats which had just arrived from Tiberias, ands went looking for Him.

b) The Mystified Multitude (6:24-25)
They finally found the Lord in Capernaum on the western side, and asked “Rabbi, whence camest thou hither?” (6:25). He who had multiplied the loaves and fishes must also have crossed the sea in some miraculous manner. This was sensational stuff!

The Lord did not satisfy their curiosity, and instead put His finger on their basic problem.

a) Their Carnal Nature (6:26)
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” Outwardly the people appeared to honour Him. They had followed Him across the sea and sought Him out. But His deity had read their hearts and He knew that they had missed the message of the miracle. They did not even know that it had a message. All they knew was that they had been part of a wonderful feeding scheme.

b) Their Crying Need (6:27-29)
“Labour not for the food that perisheth, but for that food which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give you” (6:27). This verse at once opened a discussion on two fronts.

(i) What He Offered. “Food which endureth unto everlasting life” (6:27). The people thought that food – representing survival and pleasure – is what life is all about. This is the majority view today. People spend their lives in search of stale and mouldy “food that perisheth,” instead of pursuing the food that endures to eternal life.

Jesus asks the same question today. “What are you working for?” To make a living? To have a nice home? To be comfortable? All our glitzy possessions ultimately lose their value. They corrode, decay, and cease to satisfy. And when the time comes to leave it all behind, we take nothing into eternity but our own soul.

(ii) How it is received. Note the contrast between “Labour not,” and “that meat…which the Son of Man shall give.” The Lord had just spoken about giving, but they insist on asking about doing. “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” (6:28). Man craves to do something for his salvation.

All false religions have their answers to this question. “Fast!” says Islam, and it sets apart the month of Ramadan for that purpose. “Do penance, earn indulgences, say masses,” says Roman Catholicism. “Torture your body, perform feats of physical endurance,” says Hinduism.” “Keep the law according to the tradition of the elders,” say the Rabbis.

“Jesus answered…This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (6:20). That is all. Faith and trust in God’s Son. This was the one and only “work” required.

“What sign showest thou?” (6:30). They were not satisfied with the sign they had just seen, the feeding of the 5000. They pointed back to what had been a comparable miracle in the life of Moses, the daily miracle of manna in the wilderness. They were saying, in effect, “So you fed 5000 people with some loaves and fishes. What is so wonderful about that? Why don’t you feed us all with heavenly food for 40 years? Now that would be a miracle!”

The Jews’ demand for a sign reflects our own sad history. We are surrounded by evidences for the existence of God, yet we ask, “What proof have we that there is a God?” We have enjoyed countless tokens of His love and faithfulness; and witnessed His delivering hand again and again. Yet when some fresh trial comes, we ask, “Does God really care?” We even ask for another “sign” as proof that He does.

The Lord’s answer to such taunts was to couch the truth in symbolism, to force His hearers to think beyond the material to the spiritual, beyond the temporal to the eternal.

a) Their Mistake Revealed (6:32-34).
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” (6:32). The Lord was going to talk to them about “bread from heaven,” but first He must correct an error.

(i) Moses. It was not Moses, but God, who had performed the miracle of the manna. Moses was merely an instrument in God’s hand. Also, the One who really performed that former miracle was now performing an even greater one.

(ii) Manna. Miraculous as it was, manna was merely perishable bread, fit only to sustain the physical. In contrast, Jesus described Himself as “the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world” (6:32-33). He, Christ, had come down from heaven. The manna was heaven-sent bread; He was heaven-sent true bread. The manna only fed the Jewish nation, but the bread of life “giveth life to the world.” Also, manna had no power to ward off death, but Christ is the bread of life. Moses’ manna was merely a symbol, a shadow of the real thing.

Sadly, the Jews could not make the transition in their minds from the manna to the metaphor. Some of them never did. They said, “Lord evermore give us this bread” (6:34), just like the woman at the well who also mistook the literal for the symbolic, and said, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”

b) The Messiah Revealed (6:35-40)
The Lord answered with the key statement of the discourse, “I am the bread of life” (6:35). It was the first of His seven famous I AM sayings in which He claimed to be the I AM of the Old Testament (6:35). He would later claim to be the Light of the World…the Door…the Good Shepherd…the Resurrection and the Life…the Way, the Truth, and the Life…the True Vine.

“The bread of life” is a perfect picture of the Lord Jesus. Bread is:

(i) Necessary. As bread is essential, so without Christ we shall perish.
(ii) Suited to all. It is the food of both king and commoner.
(iii) Daily food. It is needed every day.
(iv) Satisfying.

Even the process by which bread is made tells us about Him. The grain springs up, then it is cut down, winnowed, ground into flour, and finally subjected to the oven. So Christ was bruised for our iniquities. He was subjected to the full fire of God’s judgement, that He might be the bread of life to us.

a) A Personal Response Was Needed (6:35).
All the imagined difficulties in the startling symbolism that followed are resolved when we see that the Lord is equating eating and drinking with believing and receiving Christ into our lives. Not until a person eats food will it do him any good. So a person needs to respond to Christ’s claim to be the bread of life.

b) A Personal Response Was Neglected (6:36).
“But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.” The Jews had asked for a sign (6:30). The Lord’s answer was, “I am the sign. You have seen me. You have seen the sign. You refuse to believe.” That was why the situation was so hopeless. If people will not eat the life-giving bread when it is set before them, argue about it, deny its existence, and refuse to believe it is there, by what sign can you demonstrate to them the existence of that bread?

In using this illustration to explain to the people the mystery of conversion, Jesus made five truths very clear

(i) All are invited to come. Jesus described Himself as “the bread of God which cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world” (6:33). His promise that “he that cometh…and he that believeth”(6:35) is unconditionally open to all. This is why there are so many repeated invitations to “Come!” “Come unto me, all ye that labour…” The closing invitation of the Bible is “Come! Come! Come!” God does not invite people to come and then make it impossible for them.

(ii) Not all who see will come . “You also have seen me” (6:36). The people understood much about Jesus. The recognised Him as a wonderful person, even a prophet, but still they did not come to Him to in belief. They had an intellectual apprehension of who Jesus was – but intellectual understanding falls short of true trust and commitment of one’s entire life and being to Jesus. Many had “seen” with their eyes, yet did not believe! In 5:40 Jesus had said, “Ye will not come to me.” People do not believe because they have not been “chosen,” but because they choose not to believe.

(iii) All who are chosen will come (6:39). “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (6:37). If God is at work, people will respond. The Holy Spirit leads them, the Father draws them, and all who are chosen will come. When you truly come to Jesus, you reveal that you have been chosen. You do not have to struggle with it and ask, “Am I chosen?” Just come. If you are willing to come to Jesus, you have been chosen.

(iv) All who come are welcomed (6:37). “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (6:37). No matter what you have done, when you come you will be welcomed. You will not be cast out. There is no sin Jesus cannot forgive!

(v) All who come are safe forever (6:39-40). We are safe because of the Christ’s promise that “I should lose nothing” (6:39). We are safe because it is the Father’s will “that everyone which…believeth on him may have everlasting life” (6:40). We are safe because the promise of resurrection involves the defeat of decay and corruption and the gift of eternal life.


John 6:41-59

In the first half of this long chapter we have seen Christ’s claims to be the Bread of Life revealed. Now in the second half we the those very same claims bitterly resented as the Jews murmured together against Him.

1. THEIR MURMURING (6:41-51)
There were two reasons why they objected to the Lord and “murmured at Him” (6:41)

a) The Preliminary Reason (6:41-42)
“Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He saith, I came down from heaven?” (6:42). Jesus’ announcement of Himself as the Bread come down from heaven caused disbelief and amazement amongst His hearers. How could that be? They knew where He came from, and it wasn’t from heaven! He was Joseph and Mary’s son. Immediately they forgot all the wonderful things they had seen him say and do. To them Jesus was just once again an ordinary man.

Jesus’ listeners had two problems:

(i) Their Relationship. “His mother and father we know” (6:42). In spite of His wonderful life and example, Jesus was to them merely the natural son of Joseph and Mary. Many of His listeners were related to Him. They had seen Him grow up in Nazareth and work at His carpenter’s bench. Now He was making a claim to deity! They thought they knew His Father, but they did not, and could not unless He revealed Himself to them. It is still so. It is one thing to receive intellectually as a set of religious facts that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; it is another to know him as such for myself.

(ii) Their Refusal. Why were they so quick to discount His claims? True, their facts were incomplete, but more important was their refusal to believe what evidence they had. They had no hunger for the Bread from heaven. This explains why the Lord is so ignored today. Men feel no need for Him and thus despise and reject Him.

b) The Profounder Reason (6:43-51)
The deeper reason for their murmuring is found in what He had to say about His Father, His facts, and His flesh. The more they objected to what He was saying, the more obscure His words became.

(i) The Matter of His Father (6:43-46). Jesus makes two remarkable points in these verses:

* God’s Will (6:44). “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (6:44). He says there must be an inner enlightenment of the Father. Belief is not based merely on hearing the facts about Jesus or hearing the story of His life. It is not enough to know about him, His history, His life, the facts of His death, or even His resurrection. The inner eyes of the soul must be opened and flooded with light in order for us to grasp the implications of His life for our lives. The inner ears of our souls must be opened so we can hear and understand that everything Jesus did and said personally involves us.

Yes, we do “choose Jesus,” but the deeper truth is that He chooses us! Our choices are the result of God’s attraction and compulsion. When we remember our conversion , we recall how we trusted and decided for Christ. But when we reflect, we remember how the Holy Spirit worked with us, how circumstances were arranged to influence us, how the Word of God touched us and created in us a hunger for the Bread of Life. This is what it means to be “drawn” of the Father.

* God’s Word. The Lord quoted from Isaiah 54:13. “They shall all be taught of God.” This being “taught” is the process by which our understanding is opened. It may happen suddenly or slowly. It may happen easily or painfully. It not only happens to non-believers to draw them to the Lord, but it also happens to believers who need to be continually taught of God. At times we have read and read a portion for years, and never understood its meaning until our eyes have suddenly been opened.

“Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (6:45). It is only as the Holy Spirit teaches us and we learn of the Father that we come to Christ.

(ii) The Matter Of His Facts (6:47-50). These He conveyed to His audience with fearless integrity, regardless of offence. Facts are facts, and facts don’t like to go away at times.

* The Basic fact. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (6:47). Christ was still following the line of truth begun in 6:47. In 6:44 He stated what was essential from the divine side if a sinner come to Christ: He must be “drawn” by the Father. In 6:45 He defined what this “drawing” consisted of. It is hearing and learning of the Father. He now says, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”

* The Broader Fact (6:48-50). “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” The Lord restated His I AM claim to be the Bread of Life. The bread of the old dispensation was wonderful, but it did not ward off death. All it did was to prolong physical life for a while. He, on the other hand was offering eternal life.

All of us must die. Today’s average life span is much greater than it was a century ago. But with all our technology, the death rate is still what it ha always been – 100%! No one gets out of this life alive! What Jesus is saying is that if someone dies apart from him, that person experiences eternal separation from God, true eternal death. But for the person who has come to Jesus, physical death is merely the gateway to eternal life! Here also is the eternal security of the believer – “shall not die.” When God gives new life, He does not give perishable new life. It is a life which is “hid with Christ in God.”

(iii) The Matter Of His Flesh. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, He shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life” (6:51). We must understand what the Lord means here by His “flesh.” It cannot be His literal body; such a concept is ludicrous. His flesh is the metaphor He uses for His human nature, the totality of His life on the side of His humanity. The “giving” of His flesh is a reference to His sacrificial death, a death both voluntary (“I will give”)and vicarious (“for the life of the world”).

That the Lord’s reference to His flesh must be understood in this way is clear from Hebrews 10, where God speaks of our present unhindered access into His presence. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh” (Heb 10:19-20). In that passage the Lord’s flesh is identified with the veil in the temple.” The literal veil was rent when Jesus died, opening the way into God’s presence. When at last Jesus surrendered His life, when that veil was rent, everything that barred us from God was removed.

The Lord then said to the Jews: “The bread that I will give (pointing to His sacrifice at the cross) is my flesh (his unique and sinless life as God manifest in the flesh), which I will give(repeating the fact of His death) for the life of the world (salvation for all).” All we have to do is to “eat of this bread,” that is, personally take and appropriate this Bread: personally accept Christ into our lives as a deliberate act.

The figure of “eating” is highly suggestive.

* It is a Requirement. I may look at bread and admire it, talk about it, and even philosophise about it, but until I eat it will do me no good. I must receive Christ into my heart.

* It is a Response to a felt need. That need is hunger. A hungry person asks no questions, makes no quibbles, but gladly and promptly partakes of what is set before him. Once a sinner is awakened to His lost condition, and becomes away of His need, now He will need no urging, but promptly and gladly will receive Christ as His own.

* It is Receiving – an act of appropriation. The table may be spread, but not until I commence to eat do I make that food my own. So Christ may be presented in all His attractiveness, I may even be moved to tears at the sight of him dying on the cross, but not until I personally receive him as mine, shall I be saved. Once I do that, I shall know him as the Bread of Life, ministering daily to my spiritual health and strength.

The murmuring now broke out into outright hostility. The Lord’s words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood were outrageous to the Jews that heard them. Even to our own ears they sound offensive. What is this? Cannibalism? Vampires? What goulish talk is this? These were orthodox Jews He was speaking to! For centuries the Jews had lived by strict dietary rules. All food had to be “kosher,” approved according to Jewish dietary laws. The word “kosher” means “cleansed,” and it had special reference to the preparation of meat. The Jews cannot eat any meant that has not had all the blood drained from it. The thought of consuming any kind of blood – let alone human blood! – was most offensive to the Jews.

a)The Problem
“The Jew therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat” (6:52). They did not recognise or understand the symbol He was using. “Flesh” is here used to refer to the Lord himself. But the Jews thought He was referring to some form of cannibalism, the eating of His literal flesh.

b) The Proclamation (6:53-58)
The Lord ignored their mistake, and spoke further of the bread. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (6:53-57).

The R.C. church has used these verses to support its dogma of transubstantiation, which claims that eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Lord means to partake of His real body, and blood in the holy communion. What is clearly a figure of speech is taken as literal. It is evident that the “coming” and “believing” of 6:35 mean the same as the “eating” and “drinking” of 6:51 and 6:54, since they have the same blessing attached to them. When we come to Christ and believe in him we receive into our souls the benefit of His body and blood offered for us on the cross.

The R.C. church claims that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. It is an attempt to explain the statements of Christ in Mark 14:22,24, where He says, “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” Rome insists that the word is must be taken literally. Even though the wafer feels and tastes like a wafer, it is substantially transformed into the Lord’s body, and the wine into His blood. The transubstantiation theory implies that if Christ is present, it is natural that the elements themselves should be adored.

c) The Place (6:59)
This turning point in His ministry was so important that John mentions that it all happened in Capernaum. This city had become His Galilean headquarters. There He now made His home. There, too, He performed many of His miracles, including the healing of a servant of that Roman centurion who had built the syangogue.


John 6:60-71

We love numbers, the bigger the better! Numbers mean success, security, and approval. God, however, wants quality rather than quantity. Earlier in the chapter Jesus had attracted scores of disciples with His miracles and startling new message. But many of these disciples soon discovered that He would not do miracles on demand, and that His message was not the promise of prosperity and political liberation they wanted to hear. And so they fell away, until He was left with a mere handful. Those who stayed would be the ones He would train and pour His life into. It was they who, after His resurrection, would turn the world upside-down for God.

This passage brings us to the conclusion of the Lord’s ministry in Galilee, and is full of pathos. It was here He had turned the water into wine, here He had healed the nobleman’s son without even seeing him, here He had fed the hungry multitude. None other had done such miracles! Each one plainly evidenced His deity. Moreover, He had presented Himself to the crowd as the Bread of Life, freely offering eternal life to them. Sadly, their response to it all was to “go away” (6:67).

The misunderstanding of the multitude and the active ill will of the religious authorities were bad enough, but the murmuring among many who had attached themselves to the miracle-working prophet, in hope of a soon-coming material kingdom, was the worst of all. In fact, the Lord likely provoked this crisis to weed out those who were only after the loaves and fishes. It was time to thin the ranks.

a) What He Exposed (6:60-61)

(i) His Symbolism. “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (6:60). Many of His followers were unable to follow the symbolism of His teaching. He had spoken of Himself as the Bread of Life, and of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. He was pointing to His death as the way to life. Not surprisingly they said, “Who can listen to this kind of talk?”

People often miss the thrust of Jesus’ words because they put too much emphasis on the symbols He employs. In John 2 He said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” In chapter 3 He spoke about the new birth, and Nicodemus became confused. In chapter 4 the woman at the well thought He was speaking about literal water. So when Jesus here speaks of eating flesh and drinking blood, He was using symbols to describe an eternal reality. Those who focus on the symbols solely usually become disillusioned sooner or later, and often fall away. Thousands of Christians have become disillusioned because they focus symbols, the sacraments, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, ceremonies, rituals, music. There is no reality, only symbols.

(ii) His Sovereignty. “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured” (6:61). This shows His deity. At the beginning of the chapter He had been regarded as “a prophet,” but a greater than a prophet was here. Nor was it merely because He was Spirit-filled. As God He knew “in himself” when and why the disciples murmured. He knew they were offended.

b) What He Explained (6:62-63)

(i) The Supernatural Nature Of Things. “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” (6:62). Here the Lord emphatically declared that He had been in heaven before His incarnation, and He would go back to heaven after His resurrection. The Lord’s whole life was supernatural. His birth was supernatural, His life was supernatural, His death was supernatural and attended by the supernatural, His resurrection was supernatural, His bodily ascension was supernatural.

Note how the chapter makes clear each of the vital crises in the life of the Lord. First, He referred to Himself as the Bread which had come down from heaven – the incarnation. Second, He was going to die, and die a death of violence, indicated by the repeated mention of His “blood.” Third, He would rise from the dead and ascend to heaven, thus returning to that place from whence He had come.

(ii) The Spiritual Nature Of Things. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (6:63). The Lord’s words are life-giving. They are “spirit.” They can engender spiritual life; they can “quicken,” make alive, impart the life of God. It is His Spirit in the human spirit which imparts eternal life, and that Spirit resides in His Word.

Christ has told them who did the quickening. Now He tells them what the Holy Spirit uses to bring about that quickening – the Word of God. The Spirit is the divine agent; the Word is the divine instrument. We are born again of incorruptible seed, “by the Word of God” (1 Pet 1:23). Hence the greatest need today is for Spirit-filled preaching of the Word of God. It is not the touching appeals, beautiful music, hearty singing, or even the preacher, but “the Spirit that makes alive.”

c) What He Expected (6:64).
“But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” There were two circles of disciples.

(i) The Outer Circle – made up of those who were very interested in Him. They had been attracted by His miracles and were impressed by teaching marked by such authority – so different from that of the Scribes. Some were convinced, perhaps, that Jesus was the Messiah, but they had made no real, life-transforming heart commitment to Him. The all-knowing Lord read their hearts. They may have fooled others, or even themselves, but they did not fool Him.

(ii) The Inner Circle – those who had made a heart commitment to Christ. Even here the Lord was not deceived. “He knew from the beginning….who should betray him.” From the first day that Judas joined the circle of fellowship, Jesus knew he would betray Him. This is the first indication of Judas’ future treachery.

d) What He Expanded (6:65).
“And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given Him of my Father.” The Lord knew that there were those who followed Him for all kinds of wrong reasons. Some were drawn by His miracles, or by hope of a prominent place in His kingdom.

People still come to Christ for all kinds of reasons. Some come hoping for a miracle of healing or for some “gift.” Many come under the emotional pressure of a fervent evangelistic appeal. Some have baser motives. Like Judas, they hope for material advantage. People who come for any other reason than that they are drawn to Him by God soon fall away.

It is a spiritual principle that when people obey the truth they know, then they will be taught more truth. But those who resist will lose their capacity to see and to hear the truth anymore. That is the problem Jesus addresses here. He is saying, in effect: “Instead of allowing the Father to draw you to me, you are resisting.” So they rejected Jesus and lost even the glimmering Old Testament truth they had.

Winston Churchill said, “People stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing happened.” That was about to happen to these deserting disciples of Capernaum.

a) The Cry of Jesus (6:66-69)
“From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (6:66). The Lord’s teaching divided His disciples. Those with a superficial faith not only ceased following Him but gave up whatever they had received from Him. His teaching had sifted them. Only the Twelve remained. These, too, He intended to put to the test, hence the question, “Will ye also go away?”

In reply Peter spoke up, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (6:68,69).

(i) “To whom shall we go?” Who, having heard of Christ, would want to go to Buddha, or Confucius, of Mohammed, or Krishna? Or Marx, or Lenin? Or Plato of Philo? Here is the mark of a true believer. He cannot quit Jesus, because his heart has been captured! Peter was saying in effect, “We have watched you, and we have come to see that there is nothing wrong in you. You are the Holy One of God, the One without sin. You fit the prophecies. You fulfill the predictions. You have drawn us and compelled us. You are the incomparable Christ, the Messiah.” That is the testimony of all those who walk with Him and follow Him.

(ii) “Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Peter had grasped the spiritual dimension of the Lord’s teaching, that believing in Him they could have eternal life, that Christ’s words were “spirit” and “life.” He had taken the Lord’s words at their face value, and seized the inner truth. It was not the supernatural works, but the divine words of the Lord Jesus which held them. Peter knew that the words he had heard were spirit and life (6:63). Hence his confession, “Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

(iii)“We believe and are sure.” Note the order here. It is the divinely appointed order re spiritual things. Man’s order is the reverse! Man says, “Seeing is believing,” but the spiritual man says, “Through faith we understand.” Belief about Christ does not come from listening to the laboured arguments of seminary professors, but by believing what God says about His Son in His Word. Peter was sure that Christ was the Son of God, because He had believed “the words of eternal life” he had heard from Him.

(iv) “Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” To turn away from Christ to the dead founder of one of the world’s false religions, or to the lifeless preaching of a pagan philosopher, or to the modern proponents of today’s humanistic creeds, is to exchange light for darkness, life for death, hope for despair, heaven for hell.

A new Christian phoned and said, “I just can’t continue to be a Christian. I blow it all the time. I’m going to hang it up.” Pastor said, “That’s a good idea. Just do that. Life will be a lot easier if you just hang up!” Long silence. “You know I can’t do that!” “I know it. Of course, you can’t quit. Where else can you go? Where else can you find the answers and resources you need to get you through your life?” That is the mark of a true Christian.

b)The Crime Of Judas (6:70-71)
“Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for He it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” That one of the disciples would betray Him was known to the Lord before Judas, the son of Simon, was even born in Kerioth in the land of Judea. The prophecy of Ps 41:9 said so. The Lord deliberately chose Judas to be one of the twelve. It was love for the soul of Judas that led Him to chose him. He would have saved him if only he had been willing. He drew him to Himself to show him His love and concern, to set before him the hope of a home in heaven, to appeal to his mind, to awaken his conscience. But Judas hardened his heart again and again.

(i) He was chosen. Jesus chose all the twelve, including Judas. In Lk 6 we see that Jesus spent an entire night in prayer before choosing His disciples. Out of the hundreds who were following Him, these Twelve were the ones who, according to the wisdom of the Father, would be alongside Jesus during His earthly ministry. Jesus knew the character of Judas. He was not chosen by mistake or accident. It was the will of the Father that one among that Twelve-member band would betray Him.

(ii) Jesus gave power to Judas. He even had power to cast out demons and heal the sick. The Twelve came back – including Judas, reporting that they had done all these things. Judas was also the trusted treasurer of the band. As the story develops it is clear that Judas was never really with Jesus. Jesus said he was “a devil,” always opposed, always out for himself, always subversive. He travelled, ate, lived with talked like and acted like the other disciples, but he was never one of them!

(iii) Judas is branded forever as the traitor above all others. Outwardly he was man who loved Jesus, yet inwardly a traitor, an enemy, a devil.

Three Kinds of Disciples
There are three kinds of disciples in the passage:

a) Those who follow for a while, then fall away and quit.

b) Those who cannot quit, because their hearts have been captured.

c) One whosed himself off as genuine, but never had true faith.

John 7:1-29

The story of Jesus is a story of amazing paradoxes. Born almost 2,000 years ago in poverty and obscurity, He pos¬sessed neither wealth nor influence. He never marshalled an army or ruled a nation, yet no military or civil leader ever had a greater impact on the history of the world. Centuries before the sciences of psychiatry and psychology ever existed, He was the Great Physician of the soul, binding up broken hearts and healing fragile minds. He was also the Great Physician of the body, healing the sick and the lame and the paralyzed by the hundreds – and even raising people from the dead.

And yet, while He was alive, His own nation sought His death, and His own family did not understand and believe who He really was. In this chapter we see how Jesus confronted the unbelief of His brothers and the hostility of His nation.

The opening words of chapter 7 have an ominous tone. There was murder in the air as the religious leaders plotted His death. Our Lord was aware of growing hostility against Him.

a) The Feast(7:1-2).
After the feeding of the 5000 and the discourse on the bread of life, the Lord continued to minister in Galilee up until the time of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, the happiest of all the Jewish feasts. Along with Passover and Pentecost, this was one of three pilgrimages in the Hebrew religious year. It was a kind of harvest or thanksgiving festival, and was held in September or October. During this time the people built wooden booths with thatched roofs, and whole families actually lived in these tiny, makeshift structures. This was to remind them of the forty years the nation spent in the wilderness, living in tents.

b) The Family(7:3-8)
As this feast drew near, Jesus’ four brothers came to Him with advice.

(i) The Brothers’ Advice (7:3-5). “Depart hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest” (7:3). He should go to the capital and build a real following, instead of wasting His time in the backwoods of Galilee. Jerusalem was where the action was. He need to let the people see His miracles. He needed to think about public relations. This advice sounds natural and practical to our 20th century ears. The gospel needs to be marketed and sold to consumers.

“Go show yourself to the world” (7:4). But His time to do this had not yet come, nor has it yet arrived. One day He will display openly His glory, and “every eye shall see him.” Had He manifested himself before the cross, it would have involved the destruction of the whole human race.

John explains what was behind their advice: “For neither did his brethren believe on him” (7:5). These brothers had lived in the same Nazareth home and failed to see understand how different He was. They could not explain His miracles, but neither could they accept His claims to be Messiah. If they had, they would have known that He did not need worldly plans to accomplish His purposes. They would have seen in Isaiah and other prophets that there was a carefully outlined plan for Messiah’s life, including His suffering and death.

(ii) The Lord’s Answer (7:6-8). “My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready.” Jesus meant that the time had not yet come for Him to give himself as Messiah for the sins of the people. The brothers’ plan would never work, for it was not God’s plan. Jesus knew there was a timetable for each event to occur. He knew He would not be offered at the Feast of Tabernacles in October, but at the Passover in March or April, the ceremony that symbolised His own role as Saviour and the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

“The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (7:7). The brothers were governed by this world, and the world could not hate them. They were in fellowship with it. What is the “world”? It is human life and society opposed to God. Its prince is Satan, its motivating factors are lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. When we are tempted to compromise with the world, we need to remember that the hand it reaches out to us is stained with the blood of Christ.

2. THE JEWS’ ARGUMENTS (7:11-29)
The general feeling of indecision and hostility toward Jesus now comes into the open.

a) Arguments About Him (7:11-13)
Arriving at the Feast, Jesus found Jerusalem abuzz with rumours about Him. Jerusalem was full of pilgrims from all parts of the world, and one major item of news was the miracle-working prophet from Galilee. Some had heard him, perhaps at the Sermon on the Mount. Their verdict was, “He is a good man” (7:12). Perhaps some had been healed by him. Others had different ideas. “He is a deceiver.” He has no authority, and leads the people astray. He claims to be God, but He is merely a village carpenter, whose parents we know!

All such discussions were muted. “No man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews” (7:13). That was the one thing all agreed on – it was not safe to speak too loudly about him. Everyone was afraid of being hauled up before the religious leaders.

b) Astonishment About Him (7:14-19)
Arguments about Him soon blossomed into astonishment (7:14-19), sparked by His sudden appearance.

(i) His Appearance (7:14-15). Halfway through the Feast of Tabernacles, word flashed round the city that Jesus had come, and was boldly teaching in the temple courts. What impressed the Jews most was His learning without letters. “The Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (7:15). He had no “letters,” no learning. He did not even have a diploma to preach! In the original language, the text literally say, “How does this man know His letters so well?” The “letters” in the text refer to the Scriptures. Jesus was teaching from the Scriptures, but He did not teach like the rabbis did. Every Jewish rabbi began His teaching with words such as, “the sages say” or, “the Talmud teaches . . .” or, “the Mishnah explains…” But Jesus never quoted any authority other than Scripture. He would say, as is repeatedly recorded in John’s gospel, “Truly, truly, I say unto you.” When He talked like that, people listened, completely riveted by what He said.

(ii) His Appeal (7:16-18). The Lord told them how He could teach as He did. He was taught by God. “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether if be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (7:16,17). Says the Lord, “Put my teaching to the test.” This is the answer to those who say that Christianity has failed. Here and there a man a woman, a boy, a girl, dares to stake all on Christ. What happens? It works! The Lord’s teaching, when put to the test, makes the drunkard sober, the crooked straight.

All doctrine stands or falls by the fruit it produces in the lives of those who embrace it. Take evolution which teaches survival of the fittest. Hitler embraced this, and attempted to eradicate the despised of the human family. Behind the Panzer divisions, the Luftwaffe, and U-boat wolf packs, was the philosophy of Nazism. And behind the political philosophy of Nazism, with its Gestapo and its gas chambers, was the theory of evolution. Behind Marx, Lenin and communism, is the theory of evolution. Behind secular humanism is the theory of evolution.

In this declaration the Lord tells us how spiritual discernment and assurance are to be obtained The fundamental condition is a genuine heart-desire to carry out the revealed will of God. God will not grant light on His Word unless we are truly anxious to walk according to that light. If we are, we will obtain an as¬surance that the teaching of Scripture is “of God” that will be far more convincing than a hundred logical argu¬ments.

(iii) His Appraisal (7:19-20). “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” (7:19). The Lord looked into the faces and hearts of the people who thronged about him. The Jews venerated Moses, and regarded themselves as the interpreters and custodians of Moses’ law. They elaborated on it, decorated it, lectured about it – but failed to keep it! The hard evidence of that was that they were going about to kill him. They furiously denied it. How terrible was the accusation they levied against Him, “The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?” (7:20). They were astonished at the claims He was making for himself. Either He was insane or possessed!

c) Anger with Him (7:21-24)
“I have done one work, and ye all marvel” (7:21). The Lord reminded them once more of the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda some time before. In performing that miracle on the Sabbath, and claiming divine authority for doing so, He had taken on the whole religious establishment. They never forgave Him for that.

Jesus next questioned their ideas of the Sabbath. “Moses…gave unto you circumcision” (7:22). A child was to be circumcised on the eighth day. But what if the eighth day fell on the Sabbath? If so, it would conflict with the fourth` commandment which forbade work on the Sabbath! Yet the rule about circumcision took precedence over the law of the Sabbath. If in obedience to the law, it was necessary to mutilate a little boy on the Sabbath, was it not bet¬ter for Him to heal on the Sabbath and restore a man to wholeness who had been wholly paralyzed for 38 years? (7:22-23). There was no response to this reasoning, so the Lord closed the discussion with words that come home to our generation as strongly as they did to His, “Do not judge by appearance, but judge with right judgement.” Look at matters from God’s point of view. Only then can you make a righteous judgement.

d) Ambivalence toward Him (7:25-29)
The Jews were at odds with one another and could not make up their minds. Two questions predominated.

(i) The Question of Identification (7:25-27). The citizens of Jerusalem were perplexed because they knew the authorities wanted to kill him. “Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?” (7:25). They knew what their leaders were thinking, but were not in full approval with them yet. Their words, however, were an unconscious confirmation of the Lord’s charge, “Why go ye about to kill me?”

They expanded their surprise, “But lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?” (7:26). Could it be that the Sanhedrin had changed its mind and had now decided that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah of Israel? How else could His bold preaching in the temple be explained? The indecision of the authorities was merely because they did not wan to provoke a popular uprising.

But it was not only the authorities who were indecisive. The same was true of the multitudes. Some were saying, “We know this man whence he is, but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is” (7:27). The rabbis taught that Messiah would come from Bethlehem and would then be hidden, only to appear suddenly. There is deep irony in all this. The Jews were sure they knew all about this “Jesus of Nazareth.” He was a village carpenter who had lived in Nazareth for decades. How could he possible be the Christ? They did not even have their facts right. Jesus was from Bethlehem, He had been hidden under their very noses, in Nazareth, the place least likely to produce a Messiah. He had “suddenly come to His temple,” and, as for His origins, although Mary was His mother, Joseph was not His father. Nobody knew from whence He really was. He had told them often enough, but they did not believe it.

(ii) The Question of the Incarnation (7:28-29). The Lord enlightened them, and raised the question of the incarnation. “Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me” (7:28-29). “Ye know…ye know not!” They knew some of the more obvious outward facts. But what they did not know obliterated what they did know. There was one God in heaven, the One who had sent Him into this world, the God He knew, the God they did not know. He came from God, and they did not know God.

Jesus proclaimed this boldly. John says, “Then cried Jesus” (7:28). The word suggests that He cried aloud. If God were to be known, it was not to be in some pagan shrine, but here, in Jerusalem, in the temple, the place where God manifested himself. All the sacrifices and rituals were designed to make God known. Jesus lifted up His voice to tell people that they did not know Him because they did not know God.


John 7:30-53

Things were beginning to move swiftly. Only six months were left before the actual crucifixion of Christ. The shadows of the cross were beginning to fall more darkly across His path. The opposition of His enemies was more definite and relentless. When news of the Lord’s presence and teaching reached the ears of the Pharisees and Chief Priests, they decided to act. With murder in their minds, they sent out officers to arrest Him.

However, the Lord still had a major message to proclaim, and the passage climaxes with His ringing invitation, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink” (7:37). Never was the challenge of the gospel put more clearly. Just “Thirst…come…drink.” Centuries later, the Lord’s supply of living water continues to satisfy the spiritual thirst of all who come to Him.

1. THE DANGER (7:30-36)
The religious leaders were losing their grip on the people. The Chief Priests were drawn from the ranks of the most wealthy and influential priestly families, from whose ranks the high priest was selected. They were the backbone of the Saducees, the majority, aristo-cratic party in the Sanhedrin. Normally the Pharisees were at odds with the Saducees, but now they closed ranks. Both parties felt threatened by this unwanted Messiah. Accordingly, “they sent officers to take him” (7:32). These officers were from the temple police, charged with the maintenance of law and order within the precincts of the temple.

There are lessons here relative to:

a) God’s Time
“Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come” (7:30). God’s time for him to be arrested had not yet arrived. Notice how clearly and strongly Jesus understood God’s timetable. He knew that His time has not yet come, and there was no one who could touch or deflect Him from His course. Not until the sixty-ninth “week” of Dan. 9:24 had run its course could Messiah the Prince be “cut off.” All the hatred of men and all the enmity of Satan and his hosts could not hasten Christ’s appointed death.

We see this principle at work throughout the Scriptures. When Paul first preached and experienced opposition in Corinth, the Lord appeared to him in a vision and said, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you.” Every thing is under God’s control. Not a hair of our heads can be touched without His permission. Daniel might be cast into the den of lions, but as his time to die had not then come, their mouths were mysteriously sealed. The three Hebrews were cast into the fiery furnace, but of what avail were the flames against those protected by Jehovah!

This is a great encouragement to us today. If we are walking in the will of God we can be confident that nothing can happen to us except what He allows. We cannot, of course, be presumptuous and take chances with the life God has given us? Someone once said to Dr J. Vernon McGee, “I believe I am absolutely safe in God’s hand. No matter what I do or how dangerous it may be, God will protect me. Even if I step out into a busy street against a red light, I will be perfectly safe if my time has not yet come.” But Dr McGee replied, “If you’re foolish enough to step out into traffic against a red light in rush hour, brother, your time has come!”

b) Man’s Peril
“Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him that sent me” (7:33). The Lord knew that His time on earth was short, a bare six months. How solemnly these words apply to our own age. Christ is now here in the Person of the Holy Spirit. But He will not remain forever. When the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, then shall the Holy Spirit return to the One that sent Him. And how many indications there are that this is not far distant! The warning of the Word still says, “Yet a little while…”

“Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (7:34). He was going back home to His Father in heaven. If their unbelief made it difficult for them to find Him, when He was physically present on earth, it would make it impossible for them to find him once He had returned on high. How awful to seek Him and not find Him. These words also have a solemn message for unsaved Gentiles living today. “Seek ye the Lord white he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.”

2. THE DAY (7:37-39)
The last day of this feast was a special day. It was a solemn day kept as a special Sabbath. On each of the first seven days of the feast, at early dawn, the priests and people joined in joyful procession and made their way with a golden pitcher to the pool of Siloam. They filled the pitcher and returned to the temple. They then poured out the water at the west side of the altar as the temple choir burst into the great hallel (Psalms 113-118).

It was on this last day that the Lord startled everybody by announcing loudly, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He who believes in me, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (7:37,38).

a) A Type
This action pictured the Old Testament story where the nation drank from that life-giving stream flowing from the riven rock. That rock was a type of Christ who was smitten by God when He bore the judgement for our sins. He returned at length to his home on high and sent the Holy Spirit to take his place on earth. The Holy Spirit filled the disciples. On the day of Pentecost the rivers began to flow. The church was born. Thousands were saved. That river flows still. Those who come to Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is abundantly able to fill them and pour out His blessing to others.

b) A Timetable
John writes these words years after the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was given to live in the hearts of believers. But when Jesus was still on earth the Spirit had not yet been given to people as an indwelling presence. Yes, the Spirit of God has always been present everywhere in the world, both before and after Pentecost, but not as an indwelling presence. Here Jesus gives us a hint as to how God’s timetable was going to be fulfilled.

c) A Thirst
Thirst is a powerful symbol. It is the most powerful drive known to man. We can go without food or other basic necessities for weeks, and still survive. But none can live long without water. When one is thirsty, the drive to find water becomes a single-minded, desperate, driving obsession. That is the symbol Jesus uses here. If we feel thirsty and desperate for satisfaction in life, then He invites us to “Come unto me, and drink”

David Brainerd said of John 7:37, there is only one…
Condition – “thirst”
Command – “come”
Way – “drink”

Note that Jesus does not say, “If anyone comes to me and drinks, I will satisfy his wants.” There is a distorted version of the Christian message which says that if we come to Jesus, He will give us everything we want. He will meet the selfish, material desires of your heart. That is not what Jesus says. He says He will satisfy our personal thirst, and make us a channel through which His blessing can flow out to others.

d) A Truth
How is the believer satisfied? By coming to Christ and drinking; which mean receiving from Him and our emptiness ministered to from His fullness. A vessel will not overflow until it is full, and to be full it has to be filled! I must first come to Him and “drink” before the rivers of living water will flow forth from my soul. I must receive from Him, before I can give out for him. The apostles came to Christ for the bread before they distributed to the hungry multitude. Here is the secret of successful service. When my own heart has been filled and satisfied by Christ, then out from me shall flow rivers of living water to others.

3. THE DEBATE (7:40-44)
The claims and call of the Saviour generated lively discussion. “Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ.”

a) The Discussion (7:41-43)
“Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” (7:41, 42). How vain is an intellectual knowledge of spiritual things when unaccompanied by grace in the heart! These people could quote prophecy while they rejected Christ! They knew where Christ was to be born, and were familiar with Scriptures about Him. Yet they did not know Him. What a solemn warning! Unless our hearts arc affected and our lives moulded by God’s Word, we are no better off than a starving man with a cook book in his hand.

b) The Division
“So there was a division among the people because of him” (7:43). How this fulfilled His own predicted word. He had earlier warned, “Suppose ye that 1 am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three” (Luke 12:51, 52). So it proved then, and so it has been ever since. Soon there will be another “division” among mankind when the Lord descends into the air to take His people to be with Himself. What a “division” that will be!

4. THE DEFENCE (7:45-52)
The Sanhedrin now received the testimony of two very different kinds of witnesses. Both were equally unwelcome to those who had already made up their minds and were no longer interested in finding out the truth.

a) What the Soldiers Said (7:45-49)
“Why have ye not brought him?” (7:45). The Sanhedrin police who returned empty-handed from their mission to arrest Jesus were asked. It seemed incredible that a body of armed men could not apprehend one unarmed man right on their own territory, the temple courts!

The answer they received was revealing. “Never man spake like this man” (7:46). They were astounded by the gracious and God-exalting words of Jesus, and their re-sponse has become almost a proverb. Amazingly the men sent out to arrest Jesus found themselves arrested by Him! Their words have rung down he centuries. It was not merely that Jesus was a great orator, or that He spoke with authority. It was that He spoke the words of God. Whether it was the Sermon on the Mount or one of His parables, each was a miracle in words; whether he was speaking with that voice that wakes the dead, answering his critics, or instructing his disciples, it was true that no one spoke as he did.

b) What the Senator Said (7:50-52)
“Nicodemus saith unto them (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (7:50-51). At this important moment Nicodemus spoke up. It must have cost Nicode¬mus a lot to make even this moderate statement in defence of Jesus. But the irony of that long talk with Jesus, on the occasion of the Lord’s first visit to Jerusalem, had gone into his soul. He had sat silent listening the vicious attacks on the One he was convinced was the Messiah. He could stand it no longer, and challenged his fellow Sanhe¬drinists that they were breaking the law themselves, passing judgement before the hearing (Ex 23:1; Deut 1:16).

But the others turned on Nicodemus in scorn. “Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (7:52). They were wrong, of course, as both Elijah and Jonah came from Galilee. Jonah was a “prophet,” and he arose from Galilee (II Kings 14:25). So, most probably, did one or two other of their prophets. When they asked Nicodemus, “Art thou also of Galilee?” they evidently meant, Are you also a Galilean, that is, one of His party?


John 8:30-45

One of the most famous speeches in the history of the U.S. was delivered by Patrick Henry in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg before the Revolution. He said, “Is life so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I care not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Liberty! Freedom! What is freedom? In this last half-century we have seen nations attain “freedom” at the cost of rivers of blood and appalling poverty.

Many define freedom as “Doing what I like.” That is what the Prodigal Son thought. He thought that if he could stuff his pockets with money, leave home, seek pleasure, and receive instant gratification – that would be freedom. He soon found that kind of freedom was just another form of slavery.

The best definition of freedom is “the opportunity to be all that you were meant to be.” We long for that. The ability to feel fulfilled, to achieve, to grow and express ourselves.
This passage contains some of the most important words spoken by the Lord Jesus, and teaches us the meaning of true freedom. It also clearly spells out the real meaning of slavery. These powerful words were spoken at the close of the Feast of Tabernacles in the temple courts in Jerusalem.
Many scientific papers present “key words” that help the reader grasp the meaning of the document. The key words in this passage are “truth,” “free,” “slave,” and “sin.” What the Lord has to say revolves around these words.

These two verses contain a compressed course in Christian discipleship. Jesus said that following Him and holding to His teaching is the only true pathway to freedom, to being all that you were meant to be.

In verse 30 we read that “many believed on him” (8:30). The phrase suggests faith in its fullest sense. In the original it literally means “onto Him.” They clambered onto Him, and took their stand on Him. In believing on Him they made the soul-saving transfer of trust to Him. This phrase is characteristic of John’s gospel. The only place where it occurs in the other gospels is in Matthew 18:6 where Jesus spoke of “these little ones which believe in me.”

a) Step 1 – Believe (8:31)
“To the Jews who had believed on Him.” John is still talking about believing, but in verse 31 he uses a different word. The words “believed on him” here indicate a type of belief inferior to that mentioned in verse 30. These are different people. They “believed on Him” but had not yet fully trusted Him. They had been intellectually challenged by what He said, but had not yet committed themselves to Him.

Discipleship begins with belief, even if it is only intellectual. These people had taken the first step. They were at the door. The first step towards freedom is to examine the evidence about Jesus. Read the four gospels. Read the Old Testament prophecies that foretold Him. Don’t reject Him because some university professor sneers at Christianity in a classroom. Or because some bizarre cult has distorted and misrepresented Him. Or because some prominent evangelist was toppled by some sordid scandal. Judge Him on the basis of His life and works. We will never find freedom until we examine and are satisfied that Jesus is who He claimed to be. That is why John wrote His gospel. “These 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” (20:31).

b) Step 2 – Continue in His Word
“If you continue in my word” (8:31). To “continue” in God’s Word is to meditate on it, to ponder it, to compare it with our own experience. We need to apply it to our daily lives, to see if it works. That is the test of any teaching. Does it work in the laboratory of my daily life. Is it reliable?

“You really are my disciples.” When we hold to His teaching, something major takes place. Clearly there are two kinds of disciples. There are those who seem to be outwardly, who conform, and join the religious club. But there are also those who hear His Word, who continue in it, dwell in it, live it, and apply it to every aspect of their lives. These are “my disciples indeed.”

c) Step 3 – Know The Truth
“You shall know the truth.” Everybody wants to know the truth. Truth is the by-passing all the “I like to think,” and “In my opinion,” statements on which people base their notions of getting to heaven. Continuing in His word will help us see through the lies and half-truths of the news media, the entertainment media, and all that try to tear down our values.

However, coming to the truth is not an instant magic-moment event. It is a process that is directly linked to knowing God’s Word. Paul prayed that the Philippians might abound more and more in all knowledge and discernment. As we read and “continue in” His word, we will become more and more free. “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding…then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov 2:1-5).

This applies to all kinds of truth.
(i) About Ourselves. We are sinners
(ii) About God.
(iii) About the Future.
(iv) About Guidance.

God is true, He cannot lie. Jesus Christ is the Truth. God’s Word is Truth. So if we want to do away with mere opinions and get down to the bedrock of truth, let us go where we can find out about God, and about His Son. That means going to God’s Word, the Bible.

We need to remember that there is nothing as narrow-minded as truth. This is unpopular in these days of consensus. “All religions are spokes on an axle.” But truth is totally specific. It is non-negotiable. 2+2=4 is truth. Telkom insists on the truth when telephone numbers are dialled. Even if only one digit is wrong the number will not ring. So the specific truth we are dealing with here is the only truth there is about God, about man, about sin, and about salvation.

Since truth is always true
And only true can be,
Keep me, O Lord, as true to truth
As truth is true to thee

d) Step 4 – Freedom!
“The truth shall make you free.” Free from what? From all those external and internal hindrances that prevent us from being all that we are mean to be in Christ. E.g.

(i) Freedom from the Future. This is the most basic level of freedom. To know without doubt that the future is secure brings wonderful freedom.

(ii) Freedom from Anger. Many Christians live out their lives in a welter of bitterness over some injury inflicted years before. It may be an abusive parent, a nasty boss, or a spiteful ex-spouse. But as we meditate on God’s word, we see how He forgave his tormentors, the truth begins to set us free. Like Ben Ford’s book, “Love in Bomb City,” in which he tells of those whose lives had become bitter and twisted through inability to forgive. Yet when they read the truth of God’s Word and left the issue with the Lord, they were released from the burden of bitterness.

(iii) Freedom from Guilt. Many of us have a massive load of guilt. It may be a specific problem, like the nurse who confessed that she had altered her Matric certificate. It could have cost her her career, but the freedom was worth it.

Or like the two brethren who were at loggerheads, until one came and confessed, apologising for any hurt he may have caused the other. The other brother did not accept it, but the first brother was free.

This is the glorious truth of 1 John 1:9. When we seek forgiveness, we confess our sins, we make amends, we heal relationships. As we do so, the chains gradually slip off and we are free from issues that we will otherwise meet at the Judgement Seat of Christ.

The Lord has been giving basic instructions for true discipleship. They must know and obey the truth. Falsehood enslaves; truth liberates. The freedom the Lord had in mind would embrace mind and morals alike.

Having spoken about freedom, the Lord says some searching points about slavery.

a) Their Boast
In their reply to the Lord’s offer of freedom, the Jews said, “ We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” (8:33). Of course, their whole history was one of bondage. They had been slaves in Egypt, and for much of Judges they had served the neighbouring nations. The northern tribes had been carried away by the Assyrians, and the tribe of Judah had been exiled to Babylon. They had writhed under the heel of Greek, Syrian, and Egyptian for centuries until at last the Romans had taken over. They knew their history, and knew all about political bondage.

But they also knew that Jesus was speaking about spiritual, not political, bondage. They were saying, “Nobody tells us how to worship. We are the chosen race, and have a God-given religion. We will die rather than allow someone to tell us how to worship.” They thought they were acceptable to God because they were descended from Abraham. They had to learn that genes have nothing to do with justification. “Dallas Cowboys” play in Texas stadium, which is only partially enclosed. Why? – “So God can watch his favourite team!” The Jews thought they were God’s favourite team, and could not understand the need for radical transformation.

b) Their Bondage (8:34-36)
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin” (8:34). When we give ourselves to sin, either in attitude or action, we become a slave to sin. We gradually slip under its control. We start to “commit sin.” This does not refer to isolated acts, but to living a life of sin. Sin always starts small, gaining a toe-hold in our lives. Like cancer it spreads slowly and gradually from that single small toe-hold, until out whole body is affected. It is not just the grosser problems of alcohol, or drugs, or immorality. But the sins of anger, pornography, lustful thoughts. Pride. Prejudice. Gossip.

But what is sin? Murder? Adultery? Lying? Not just these. Jesus had earlier said, “I do always those things that please the Father” (8:29). He had followed this with a discussion about truth and freedom. So true freedom is doing those things that please the Father.

He is now in these verses speaking about sin, bondage, and slavery. Sin is the opposite of truth. It is the opposite of “those things that please the Father.” It is living for self. This results in man-made “freedom” which permits man to do what he likes – but it leads to slavery.

This slavery is progressive. We know this when we think of the enslaving effects of alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc. But even “lesser” sins enslave. A person who criticises cannot stop. It is the same with making hurtful remarks. It becomes a life-style and pattern.

“Ye shall be free indeed” (8:36). Free from what? From deliverance from sin’s penalty. From the power of Satan (Heb 2:14). From the bondage of sin (Rom 6:14). Positively we are free to serve God.

c) Their Birth (8:37-41)
“I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye have seen with your father” (8:38). Jesus now goes even deeper. The question of sin is a question of fatherhood.

The Jews, of course, claimed, “Abraham is our father” (8:39). In a sense he was, but they were missing the point. If it were totally true, they would have acted like Abraham. What did Abraham do? In Genesis God sent a heavenly visitor to Abraham and he welcomed Him. He set a feast for him, listened to His words, and obeyed Him. God had also sent a heavenly visitor to the Jews – Jesus Himself. But instead of welcoming Him, listening to Him, and obeying Him, they were rejecting and plotting to kill Him.

Instead of acting like Abraham and receiving Him, they were acting like the devil and plotting to kill Him. The Lord now makes a shocking charge. “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham” (8:40). Their murderous behaviour was coming from the devil.

And we cannot claim to be different. Scripture after Scriptures tells us that we are born in sin, and belong to a fallen human family. Only a new birth into God’s family can change all that.

d) Their Blasphemy (8:41-43)
The Jews now understood that the Lord was accusing them of being children of the devil.

(i) Their Accusation. “We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God” (8:41). The Lord had accused them of being children of the devil. They intimated that there was something suspicious about His birth. Who was His father? Who was He to cast slurs on their parenthood, when they, at least, were not born of fornication? As for them, God was their Father. God Himself had said so. He had called Himself “a Father to Israel” (Jer 31:9).

(ii) Their Accountability. “If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word” (8: 42-43). They were devoid of His Father’s character. There was nothing of God to be seen in them. But He had proceeded from the Father. His origin was in the being of His Father. The reference seems to be to His eternal generation. There was never a time when God and the Son did not eternally exist. The eternal, uncreated Son came forth from the Father, entered into a space-time-matter universe by way of a virgin’s womb, to act on earth as God manifest in flesh, in a way that would demonstrate His unfailing communion with His Father in heaven. This was true of no other.

e) Their Birthmark (8:44-45).

(i) The Truth Exposed by Jesus. “Ye are off your father the devil.” (8:44). He loved these people, even though He knew they would kill Him. Because He knew their thoughts He told them the sober startling truth. He told them with great sorrow in His heart and voice. He would have saved them but they would not let Him.

(ii) The Truth Expanded. “The lusts of your father you will do” (8:44). A man expresses his inner desires through the members of his physical body, as Christ now expresses His life corporately on earth through the members of His mystical body, the church, so Satan expresses his diabolical body life through those who have become his physical instruments for making real his nefarious designs in human history.

In this passage the Lord unveils the devil as only He could. He said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (8:44). A murderer is one who deliberately kills. A liar is one who deliberately deceives. All death is laid at the devil’s door. He is the ultimate mass murderer. He is the author of death, the reason for every graveyard. The Lord warned our first parents that this murderer was abroad. He gave them a hedge about them to protect them from him: His Word. He told them to trust and obey.

The devil is a liar: “He abode not in truth.” That takes us back beyond the beginning of human life, to the time when Lucifer, the son of the morning, the anointed cherub dwelling in the light of God’s presence, entertained rebellion in his heart and was cast out of heaven along with the angels he had successfully deceived. “There is no truth in him,” Jesus said. His first words on earth were a lie, “You shall not surely die, ye shall be as gods.” He is the antithesis of Christ. The Lord was “full of grace and truth.” Satan is the opposite.

(iii) The Truth Explained. “And because I tell you the truth ye believe me not” (8:45). Instead of believing these religious leaders had hatred and murder in their hearts.

f) Their Blessing (8:36)
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Such freedom is only to be found in “the Son.”

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the vilest clean;
His blood availed for me.

The freedom He gives us has nothing to do with pleasing ourselves. It has everything to do with being what God wants us to be. It makes us like Christ, and thus we begin to do those things that please the Father. That is “freedom indeed.”

A little bird am I
Shut in from fields of air;
Yet in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there.
Well pleased His prisoner to be
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

My cage confines me round;
Abroad I cannot fly;
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart’s at liberty.
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.
– Madam Guyon

The passage presents two fathers and two families and two freedoms. Children of both families do the will of their father.

a) God’s Family and True Freedom
“I do always those things that please the Father” (8:29). This family is associated with:
• Belief (8:31)
• Continuing in God’s Word (8:31)
• Knowing the truth (8:32)
• Freedom – and being “free indeed” (8:36).

b) The Devil’s Family and False Freedom
“The desires of your father you will do” (8:44). This family is associated with:
• Death – Satan was “a murderer” (8:44)
• Bondage – being the bondslave of sin (8:34)
• Deceit – he speaks lies (8:44)
• Unbelief – “I tell you the truth and you believe me not” (8:45)


John 8:46-59

This section presents the conclusion of the dialogue between Jesus and the Jews in the temple courts at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. The chapter thus far has been something of an electric storm, and the entire dialogue has crackled with electricity and drama. In it Jesus made astonishing claims about Himself, and at the same time pressed home some deeply unpopular truths about His listeners in order to shake them to their senses. By the time this stage in the dialogue has been reached, the Jewish leaders have been forced into a definitive black and white decision – either to fall down and worship, or to take up stones and kill Him!


a) The Challenge (8:46-47)

(i) The Absolute Transparency Of His Walk (8:46). “Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” The Lord challenged them to compare His life with the demands of the law, and point to a single flaw. He challenged them to talk to His family, his siblings, to go to Nazareth, and Nain, and Cana, and Capernaum, and Bethsaida, to talk to any man, woman, or child, to see if they could find the slightest flaw in His conduct. This being so, why then, did they not believe Him?
(ii) The Absolute Trustworthiness Of His Word (8: 46-47). “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” The Lord had told the Jews that they did not hear His message because they did not belong to God. When he spoke, God spoke. They failed to hear God’s voice when He spoke.
This is exactly what John says later in his epistle: “He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandment, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). There is the same emphasis on knowing God, His Word, being a liar, and truth. A person professing to be a Christian, but ignoring the Word of God, has no right to call himself a Christian. He is a liar, and the first one to be deceived is himself.

b) The Charge (8:48-50)
“Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (8:48). The only thing of which they could accuse him was that he had been to Samaria. Since no self-respecting Jew would go there, they concluded He must be a Samaritan. They detested all Samaritans and for these Jews to accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan was particularly vicious, so they thought. As for Jesus, He loved the Samaritans as much as He loved the Jews.

“Thou hast a devil” (8:48). This was a more serious charge. The Lord replied, “I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me” (8:49). Jesus replied that he was not demon-possessed, but that He honoured His Father.

The Lord then said, “I seek not mine own glory; there is one that seeketh and judgeth” (8:49,50). He handled this personal atttack by committing His reputation to His Father. He did not retaliate, He made no threats. It lets us also know how to handle such personal attacks. Jesus made the claim, “I honour my Father” (8:49). How? By refusing to respond on His own behalf, and leaving all vengeance to His Father.

The Lord was about to make some astounding claims – claims which only God could make. There were two areas where the Son of God claimed to be absolutely triumphant.

a) Triumphant Over the Tomb (8:51-55)
Jesus prefaced His statement with “Verily, verily.” Important announcement coming up! “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” (8:51). It is literally, “never, never see death.” The Jewish leaders were about to misunderstand His words, and claimed that His followers would never die. But Jesus was not saying they would never die. He was saying that when they die physically, they will never see death.

On his death bed, D. L. Moody exclaimed, “Earth is receding! Heaven is approaching! This is my crowning day!” It is this which makes Christian funerals so triumphant. Of course there are tears and sorrows and grief. But underlying all that is a sense that the loved one has finished a course and has now entered God’s rest.

Christians do not pass from life to death. But from life to life – a greater and more wonderful life that is even more abundant. But note the flip-side. If those who keep the Lord’s words pass from life to life, those who die apart from Him must, by implication, pass from life to a form of death that transcends mere physical death, and is “abundant death.”

Note the reaction of the Jews to what Jesus said:

(i) The Argument They Raised (8:52-53). “Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?” They were asking, “Who do you think you are?” Everyone dies! Even Abraham, the founding father of the nation! ”Who are you?” This was the crux of the matter. The Jews stood Him against some of the greatest men in Jewish history. Without faith they would go no further. But faith says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (6:69). At the root of the discussion was His deity. Concede this, and all things are possible, even eternal life. Deny it, and nothing is possible.

(ii) The Answer They Received (8:54-55). When Jesus said, “It is my Father that honoureth me” (8:54), He was hinting at the resurrection to come. The Jewish leaders did not understand that. Likely His disciples didn’t either. But clearly Jesus did. In anticipation of His resurrection Jesus presented Himself as the one who had conquered death.

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad” (8:56). By faith Abraham looked forward to Christ’s day, and rejoiced to know that He would come and conquer death. This helps us understand how to read the Old Testament. Jesus said that the Old Testament believers saw the Lord very clearly indeed. The symbols of the Old Testament law and prophecies pointed forward to Jesus Christ. He is prefigured in every prophet who spoke, in every sacrifice, in every ritual, and in every picture from the tabernacle to the temple. He fulfills the entire Old Testament.

The Lord made significant statements about:

– Their Ignorance (8:54-55). “Ye say that he is your God: yet ye have not known him; but I know him.” They thought they knew God, but in reality were strangers to Him. They might take their seats in the Sanhedrin, and don the cloaks of the rabbi, but they did not know Him.

– His Integrity (8:55). “I know Him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.” There are two words for know in this verse. In describing their ignorance (“you have not known him”) the Lord used a word that carries the idea of knowing by experience of by effort, by acquiring knowledge. For all their learning they did not know Him. Their efforts to know God were objective; His knowledge of God was subjective. Their knowledge was progressive, His was absolute.

b) Triumphant Over Time (8:55-59)
Many people say that Jesus never claimed to be God, and that this was something later imposed by Christian tradition. This passage leaves no doubt. Jesus uses two verbs in this statement, and both are very different forms of the verb “to be.” It is an important distinction. “Before Abraham ‘became’ I was already there.” He is not just saying that He existed before Abraham (many cults say he was created before Abraham). Jesus was saying He always existed. He is God.

When Jesus said he was “I AM,” He was using the very name of God to describe His ultimate character. This is what God told Moses at the burning bush, I AM WHO I AM.” It is the point of Jesus’ statement, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” It was a clear claim to deity.

All this made the men stoop to collect the brick-like cut stones prepared for the temple. They lifted them to hurl at Jesus, only to find that He has disappeared. There are no special Hollywood special effects. He simply melted from view. It was God at work, protecting Him until His hour had come. We also, when we walk with the Lord are protected by Him until our work is finished.

There are three movements in the closing drama of this confrontation with the Jews. Twice they had introduced Abraham into the discussion. Now the Lord has something to say about him. He mentions:

(i) The Rejoicing Of The Hebrew Patriarch (8:56). “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: he saw it, and was glad.” They had been boasting about Abraham and their descent from him. They had stood Jesus alongside him and dared Him to make Himself greater than their most revered patriarch. But Abraham had not only looked forward to seeing His day, he had actually been given a sight of it – he had seen it and rejoiced.

“Abraham saw my day and was glad.” How did he “see” it?
• By faith in God’s promises (Heb 11:13).
• By offering up Isaac and receiving him back from the dead, he received a remarkable foreshadowing of the Saviour’s death and resurrection.
• By special revelation. The “secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him” (Ps 25:14).

(ii) The Reaction Of The Hebrew People (8:57). “Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” (8:57). Two thousand years had passed since Abraham. The Lord was still younger than many of them, so how could He have seen Abraham?

(iii) The Revelation Of The Hebrew Prophet (8:58-59) whose day Abraham had rejoiced to see. This was the One to whom all the other prophets bore witness. Here is an unmistakable declaration of deity in humanity. Three swift steps climaxed this drama:

– A Clear Disclosure Of His Deity (8:58) “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” That was the third time He had said it (8:24,28). Now He couched His claim to be the I AM in terms not even the dullest could misunderstand. We remember that the name I AM was the greatest name for God known to the Jews, and was treated with utmost reverence by them. They would not speak it. A scribe, when writing the name, would take a new pen to do so. We can imagine the horror with which the unbelieving Jews heard Jesus make this statement He was stating that He Jesus, was the Jehovah of the Old Testament. He did not say “before Abraham was, I was,” but “I AM.” He was eternal.

– A Clear Denial Of His Deity (8:59). “Then took they up stones to cast at him.” They were outraged beyond words. Such a blasphemer must be put to death. There were plenty of heavy stones around, as Herod’s workmen were still employed in the temple reconstruction. It is significant that this section begins with Jesus defending a woman with the words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (8:7). It ends with the enraged Jewish leaders actually picking up stones to hurl at Him to give Him the death from which He had saved the woman.

– A Clear Demonstration Of His Deity. “Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (8:59). Again there is a blending of the human and divine in the escape. The chief point of the chapter is to present Jesus as the “light” and to show us what that light revealed. It had revealed the sinfulness of their hearts. It had all resulted in their rejection. This resulted in the Saviour “hid himself from them, and went out.” Christ still hides Himself from those who deny their need to be made free.

A. W. Tozer’s comparison between the British monarch and the Lord. He is “Majesty” but not “King.” We call Him King, but give Him no power in our lives. He does not rule over our business, social, sexual, recreational and family life. He is a mere figurehead, nothing more.

We need to see Him as the One who removes the sting of death from those who follow Him, the Object of all the Father’s plans and purposes for all ages of time, and the One who is above and beyond time as the Eternal One. Then we have a choice to make. We must either worship or ignore Him. It is the same choice given by Jesus to His opponents in the temple. They made their choice with hate in their hearts and stones in their hands.


John 9:1-12

The violent display of hostility towards at the end of the previous chapter did not deter the Lord. Instead it led Him to give another display of His deity, a deity which they would continue to reject until they had nailed Him to a cross.

The old axiom says “Seeing is believing,” but in this passage Christ demonstrated to the blind man, to the Jewish leaders, and to us all that “Believing is seeing!”

Note the connection between chapters 8 and 9. Chapter 8 ends by the people being unable to see Him as He passed by. Chapter 9 opens with a man being unable to see the passing Saviour. In both chapters He is revealed as “the Light of the World.” In chapter 8 both the Lord and His word are rejected. In chapter 9 His Word is received by one who falls down and worships Him.

1. THE CASE (9:1-5)
It would have been difficult to find a more problematic case that this poor blind beggar, with no hope and no future. Yet, it was just because his situation was so extreme and hopeless that the Lord singled him out for healing and blessing.

See the features of his case:

a) It Was Difficult (9:1)
“As Jesus passed by He saw a man that was blind from his birth” (9:1). Something about this man’s need made Jesus stop and take the initiative. It is well for the man that He did, as the man could not even see Jesus, let alone come to Him. He was:

(i) Blind. This poor man had been born blind, and thus had a congenital problem, the only one recorded in the gospels. He had never seen the light of day, or a daisy, or a bird, or a human face. He had always been blind. With this condition he was beyond the aid of man. He was helpless and hopeless unless God intervened.

“Blind from his birth.” Blindness, like all other sickness, is the effect of sin and a telling picture of man in his natural state before God. His understanding is darkened (Eph 4:8). Because of this he cannot see the awfulness of his condition. “Except a man be born again he cannot see…” (John 3:3). Such an one does not need more light – he needs capacity to see the light. Not surprisingly the gospels record more cases of blindness healed than any other affliction.

The Lord’s miracles included:
• 1 x deaf & dumb
• 1 x sick of palsy
• 1 x fever
• 2 x lepers healed
• 3 x dead raised
• 5 x blind healed

(ii) A Beggar. A beggar possesses nothing, and is totally dependent on charity. A blind beggar – what an object of need and helplessness!

b) It was Debatable (9:2-3)
“Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Three theories were current at that time. The Babylonians and heathens taught re the doctrine of re-incarnation. The rabbis taught that all sin was as a result of the sin of the parents, and quoted Ex 20:5. Some taught that the unborn child could sin in the womb – hence the question. The supposition was that all such difficulties were the result of sin.

“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.” The Lord replied to the question with a double answer – “neither this man…, but that the works of God…..” He tried to lift his disciples out of the mould of Job’s friends. This man’s blindness was not a punishment for sin. In this instance there was a higher cause.

Why, then, would an all-loving, all-powerful God allow people to suffer? For those who have a deformed child, like Down’s syndrome, or spina bifida, this is no theoretical question. It is deeply emotional and spiritual, and lies at the very core of a person’s grief and pain. This incident provides at least part of the answer, and as we walk alongside Jesus and watch Him deal with this man blind from birth, we can catch a glimpse of God’s eternal purposes in the pain of human existence.

(i) There Is A Link Between Sin And Suffering. The disciples had obviously been taught that human suffering is the result of sin. Hence their question and Jesus’ corrective answer. Note how He answered. He does not say, “Suffering is a random event that has nothing to do with sin.” He only addresses the specifics of the case: “Neither this man nor his parents…”

The subtle cause/effect relationship between sin and suffering came in at the fall of man in Genesis 3. The Fall caused the whole planet to wobble drunkenly on its axis. This world, created to function justly and perfectly, became a dysfunctional planet, filled with misery, natural disaster, disease, and death. God is not responsible for that, sin is.

We are all affected by this principle of human evil. Physically, even the most physical, powerful athlete is second-best to humanity before the Fall. Our minds and bodies don’t function as they were perfectly designed to. Our emotions, which God created in us as a source of joy, have become a source of pain and hindrance to us. Everywhere humanity reflects the weakness of the Fall.

(ii) Suffering Is Not Always Directly Traceable To Personal Sin. Jesus gave a positive reason for this man’s suffering. This man’s blindness was not a meaningless disaster. It was an opportunity through which God was going to manifest His power and His character. God often has His own wise reasons for permitting sickness and disease; oftentimes it is that He may be glorified. It was so with Lazarus (11:4), and in connection with the death of Peter (21:19). It was so with Paul’s affliction (2 Cor 12:9). It was also so with this man.
Outside the Bible there are many examples of those who allow God to display His work through their sufferings and lives. Fanny Crosby, blind from her earliest babyhood as a result of an accident, wrote many of our most loved hymns, including, “Blessed Assurance.” When only eight years old, she wrote this rhyme,

Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see.
I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be.

How many blessing I enjoy that other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t!

She lived to over 90 years, and that spirit characterised her all her life. It was not less a miracle of God than if He had reached down from heaven and instantly restored her sight.

c) It Was Deliberate (9:3-5)
It was planned in heaven with a specific divine purpose in mind.

(i) To Reveal God’s Touch (9:3). “That the works of God should be made manifest in him.” At times we get things confused from our limited perspective, but we must stand on a threefold proposition:
• God is too loving to be unkind
• He is too wise to make any mistakes
• He is too powerful to be thwarted in His infinite purpose.

Doubtless many people questioned the goodness of God in the face of this man’s congenital disability. Here was a case for agnosticism or atheism. Or for those blasphemous tirades against God heard at times among people who consider themselves to be intellectuals. All such are always wrong because they argue from incomplete data. The answer to all such bitter philosophies is to be found in the book of Job, and is further illustrated by the case of this blind man. In that book we find Job, his wife and his friends debating the calamities that had overtaken Job – and all of them were wrong because all were arguing from incomplete data.

This man’s blindness was not arbitrary or punitive. It was the touch of God in his life. It was part of a plan unknown to anyone but God, a plan that was intended to bring Christ into his life, and ultimate praise and glory to God.

(ii) To Reveal God’s Timing (9:4). “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.” God’s hour had struck in the life of this man. His blindness was timed by God to coincide with the Lord’s earthly ministry.

God has other timings in His providential dealings with other persons. Although these marvelous conjunctions of our need and God’s purposes are often obscured to us, they are clear to Him. Perhaps part of eternity will be devoted to unravelling for us some of the marvels and mysteries of God’s ways. This is brought out by David: “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the Children of Israel” (Ps 103:7). If the rank and file of the Children of Israel could not see beyond their circumstances it was because they did not know God as well as Moses knew Him. Moses could see farther than they. They could see only the what of their circumstances; Moses could see the why.

(iii) To Reveal God’s Truth (9:5). “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” This man’s blindness become the background against which Jesus made another of His I AM statements, “I am the light of the world.” He had made this once before in 8:12, in connection with a moral problem, the woman taken in adultery. Here the background is a physical problem, the problem of pain and suffering and God’s seeming indifference. The Lord proceeded to give physical light to this man in order to demonstrate that only through Christ can final answers be found to what otherwise appear to be tragedies.

2. THE CURE (9:6-12)
In healing this man, Jesus performed “work,” according to the rabbinical definition of work. Once again, this was to bring Him into conflict with the local leaders.

a) The Man Was Healed (9:6-7).

(i) The Clay (9:6). “He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” The clay points to Christ’s humanity presented to the eyes of men.

(ii) The Command (9:7). “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” The man’s eyes were anointed, but he did not see immediately. He had to obey. What he needed was water which speaks of the Word of God. The Lord had earlier told the Jews to “Search the Scriptures….” (5:39). The simple obedience of the blind man is beautiful.

b) The Man Was Heard (9:8-12)
His voice was raised in testimony and praise of the One who had given him sight. All that the man knew about Jesus was His name. That was where his faith began. Note:

(i) What the Multitudes Said (9:8-10). “How were your eyes opened?” (9:10). There was a mixed reaction to the miracle. Those who knew the man could hardly believe what they saw. “Is not this he that sat and begged?” (9:8). Not only was the man who was blind, blind no more, but the man who had begged, begged no more. The gospel turns a man into a useful member of society, as well as opening eyes to divine truth. A transformed life is still a powerful testimony.

(ii) What the Man Said (9:11-12). “A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes…” In reply to their question about Him he said, “I know not!” He did not know who Jesus was or where He was. All he knew was that His name was Jesus, and He had told him to go and wash. We do not have to know much about Jesus in order to be saved. All this man knew was His name; Jesus, the one who saves. We need only to know His name and be willing to respond in faith. That is the gospel reduced to a bare minimum.

As the chapter continues, we see the growth and development of this man’s faith:
¬- “A man called Jesus” (9:11). This was all he understood about the Saviour, but it was enough.
– “He is a prophet” (9:17). A prophet is one who speaks God’s Word. This was a deeper appreciation of who Christ is.
– “And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him” (9:38). By the end of the chapter He had made the transition from a saved sinner to a worshipper who understood the implications of calling Him ‘Lord.’


John 9:13-41

We have already seen the case of the blind man (9:1-5), and the amazing cure he received for his blindness (9:6-12). The rest of the chapter deals with the confrontation between this man and the Jewish authorities (9:13-29), and the clarity he obtained as he came to understand who exactly had healed him (9:30-34).

The Pharisees were furious! In their efforts to get to the bottom of what had happened, they attacked:

a) The Man’s Faith (9:13-17).
John draws attention to:

(i) The Question They Asked (9:13-15). “The Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight” (9:15). In reply the man told exactly what had happened; “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see” (9:15). What a marvellous testimony! No embellishments or flowery adjectives. He told what happened, and then shut up!

(ii) The Conclusion They Drew (9:16). “This man is not of God because he keepeth not the Sabbath day.” The Jews objected to the miracle having been performed on the Sabbath. In fact, it repeated the offence which caused such controversy in chapter 5. Unless Jesus subscribed to their interpretations of the law, which said that one could not heal on the Sabbath, He could not be of God. To them this was the crux of the matter. First, He had spat on the ground and made mud. Making mud was work, and work was forbidden! Second, He had healed – and the Rabbis said it was forbidden to heal on the Sabbath. They said, “If you find someone with a broken leg, you can keep it from getting worse, but you must not heal it.” Third, He used spittle as a medicine, and the use of medicine was forbidden on the Sabbath. It was all too much!

(iii) The Answer They Received (9: 17). “They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.” “A prophet…” This man was growing spiritually. He regarded Jesus as a gifted man with insight and understanding, but one who was at least the mouthpiece of God. He was beginning to understand the glory of His person. He was like the woman the woman at the well in 4:19 who said, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.”

b) The Man’s Family (9:18-23)
The Pharisees called the man’s parents who were easily intimidated. “Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? How then doth he now see?” (9:19). The parents replied cautiously: “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but by what means he now seeth, we know not” (9:20,21).

They had good reason to be cautious: “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (9:22). So much for organised religion. What should have been joyful celebration was replaced by fearful intimidation.

c) The Man’s Friend (9:24-29)
“Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: We know that this man is a sinner” (:24). The Pharisees had made up their mind and drawn their conclusion as to the Person of the Lord Jesus. And they had done it in God’s name! How could they miss the mark so widely? The rest of the chapter explains how this can happen.

(i) The Declaration. The man boldly declared, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not; one thing I know, that, whereas I was born blind, now I see” (9:25). The man knew how to witness and refused to be drawn into arguments. Some are afraid to witness because they think they will be drawn into a theological argument, and won’t be able to cope. But witnessing is simply telling the truth about what God has done. You may not be an authority on theology, but you are the world’s greatest authority on what has happened to you!

“One thing I know…” We are a people that “know.” We know…
• whom we have believed (2 Tim 1:12)
• that our Redeemer lives (Job 19:26)
• that we have passed from death unto life (1 John 3:14)
• that all things work together for good to them that love God (Rom 8:28)
• that when the Lord Jesus shall appear we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2)

(ii) The Division. Again they asked, “What did he to thee? How opened he thine eyes?” (9:26). The man was finding that either loyalty or denial was being forced on him. There was to be no easy middle road.

(iii) The Derision (9:28-29). “Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples” (9:28). Defeated in debate, they now abused him. They reviled not only the man, but also his Master: “We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is” (9:29). They reckoned that Moses stood next to God. God had spoken to Moses and through him. They were as blind spiritually as he had been physically.

2. THE CONCLUSION (9:30-34)
The man who had been blind now said that Jesus is “from God” (9:33). His faith and insight were growing, and he was beginning to draw conclusions. We see:

a) His Astonishment (9:30)
“Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.” Two wonderful things filled the man’s mind.

(i) The Miracle of Jesus’. As far as the man was concerned, such a miracle worker could have only come from one place – heaven.

(ii) The Hostility of the Jews. He could not understand their unbelief and hostility. How could they fail to welcome One who did such miracle?

b) His Assurance (9:32-22)
“If this man were not of God, he could do nothing” (9:33). Although not quite sure who Jesus was, he was learning and growing. Earlier, all he knew was that the One who had performed the miracle was “a man that is called Jesus” (9:11). Then he learned that He was “a prophet” (9:17). Now He was “from God.”

3. THE CENSURE (9:34)
“Thou was altogether born in sins.” They assumed that because of his disability he was a sinner. This gave them the right to feel superior to those with disabilities. Note:

a) What They Called Him (9:34)
“They answered and said unto him, thou was altogether born in sins.” They, the custodians of the law, were battling in argument with this unlearned man! “Dost thou teach us?” It was bad enough o come off second best in an argument, but to be taught by this Bible-quoting ex-blind man was most degrading!

c) Where they Cast Him (9:34)
In their rage “they cast him out,” and cut him off from their synagogue. He was to be cut off from the religious life of the nation, made a spiritual leper, to be avoided by all who did not want to share his fate. He could not enter the temple or synagogue. But this man was made of strong stuff. He was not discouraged. What did all that matter, as long as his eyes could see!

Where was the Lord in all this? Why did He not support him openly? There are two lessons to learn here:

(i) Maturity. The Lord wanted him to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of God. He must begin to mature as a believer, and that meant trusting Christ in spite of frowning circumstances. The Lord often does that, especially at the beginning of any new venture of faith. It is God’s way of developing spiritual muscle.

(ii) Miracles. We need to place miracles in perspective. They have only a limited place in God’s plans. The Lord’s primary purpose was to give spiritual, not physical, vision. Wonderful as it was to have his physical eyes opened, it was far more wonderful that this man, born a sinner, came to eventually see who Jesus really was, and to be brought into a relationship with him as one of His sheep, as chapter 10 will show.

4. THE CONFIDENCE (9:35-41)
The Lord knew the pressures this man was experiencing and was determined to encourage his confidence and bolster his faith. God will never allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to bear. Note that the man did not have to find Jesus. Jesus found him!

a) How Jesus Expanded His Faith (9:35-38).
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (9:35). The Lord now presented himself before this man in order to give him a further revelation of Himself. He found him, cast out by a dead religious system. He presented Himself “as the Son of God,” or, as some texts say, “the Son of Man.” As Son of Man He was here to link Himself with humanity and fulfill God’s purposes on earth. As Son of God he was co-eternal, co-equal with the Father.

The man was ready for either revelation. “Who is he, Lord that I might believe?” (9:36). The man’s willingness to believe was rewarded by further revelation: “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee” (9:37). The man’s eyes were riveted to the face of Jesus. He had no hesitation. Down he went at Jesus’ feet. “Lord, I believe, and he worshipped him” (9:38). He had begun by describing Him as “a man called Jesus.” Now he worships Him as God.

b) How Jesus Exposed His Critics (9:39-41).
“For judgement I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (9:39). The Lord clearly distinguished between the object and the effect of his mission.

(i) The Object Of His Life Was Salvation. “I am come that they might have life.”

(ii) The Effect Of His Life Was Judgement. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were responsible for the light they had and the truth they knew. If they had been blind, they would not have been accountable for the truth they could not see. But if they could see, yet wilfully ignore the truth of His word, they would be held accountable for seeing the light yet choosing to live in darkness.

“And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: But now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (9:41). If their eyes had been truly opened, they would have been prostrate in the dust before Him. But their blindness was real. It led them to murder their Messiah. It has persisted for nearly 2000 years, and led Paul to write, “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom 11:25).

So the chapter ends with two groups. There are those like the blind beggar who believe and obey. And there are the self-righteous Pharisees who refused to bow to the Lord’s decision that they were “condemned already” (3:18).


John 10:1-14

Chapter 9 closed with the healed blind man being expelled from the religious system of the day, simply because he had decided to follow the Lord Jesus. Left to fend for himself, he needed care, guidance, and food. He was a sheep who needed a Shepherd. This is the background to the presentation of the Lord in chapter 10 as the Door and as the Good Shepherd.

The idea of a shepherd as a type of God’s servants was not new. In the Old Testament, we read that Abel was a keeper of sheep; Jacob cared for his sheep; Joseph fed the flock; Moses watered, protected, and guided the sheep; David jeopardised his life for his the sheep when he saved his lambs from the lion and the bear.

This passage presents two of the Lord’s great “I AM” statements: “I AM the door” (10:9), and “I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:11). These are two of the most beautiful pictures of the Lord Jesus in the New Testament.

1. “I AM THE DOOR” (10:1-9)
The discussion of the opening verses follows on naturally from the fact that the blind man had left the fold of Israel for the flock of the Good Shepherd. In the background of the section is the Jewish fold.

Actually, this passage presents two doors. There is the door by which Christ, the True Shepherd, entered into the sheepfold (10:1,2), and there is the door of salvation (10:9).

a) The Door of Recognition (10:1,2)
In contrast to the numerous false shepherds who were leading the people, Christ as the True Shepherd came exactly as the Scriptures had predicted.

(i) “He that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” (10:2) What is “the door”? Jesus is referring to the normal, proper entrance to a sheep fold. When He presented Himself to the nation as the Good Shepherd He entered openly in fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures. Every prophecy was fulfilled. He came through “the door” exactly as predicted.
• He was born at the right place, Bethlehem ( Micah 5:2)
• He was born at the right time, “in the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4)
• He was born in the right way, of a virgin (Isa 7:14)
• He had lived in the right place, Nazareth, (Mat 2:23)
• He was introduced by the right person, John the Baptist
• He was attended by the right signs.

(ii) “To him the porter openeth” (10:3). The “porter,” or watchman, here is John the Baptist. He opened the door by identifying and introducing the Lord Jesus to the flock and nation as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). His metaphors may have been mixed, but it was John who formally introduced the Him as Israel’s Saviour and True Shepherd.

(iii) “The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name” (10:3). They recognised Him; He recognised them. He called them by name. There is a beautiful truth in that. We all like to be called by our names. Jesus called Zacchaeus, and Lazarus, and Peter by name. In John 20 He called Mary by her name, and she immediately knew His voice. It was proof of belonging to His flock. In each of these encounters He related to that person as a unique individual with a name and a face.

There is a lovely lesson about names in the Old Testament where the High Priest carried the names of the tribes on the onyx stones on his shoulders (the place of strength), and on the precious stones of the breastplate over his heart (the place of sympathy). He carried them into the presence of God. How wonderful to know that our High Priest, the Good Shepherd, knows each of His own by name. He does not forget even the least of us.

(iv) “He leadeth them out…he goes before them” (10:3,4). The Palestinian shepherd did not round up his flock by sending a sheepdog to bark at them. He did not drive them; he led them. He went before them and they followed him because they knew him and trusted him. In contrast, the devil drives and compels people to do things.

When Jesus leads us He goes before us as our example and guide. In every trial, temptation, sorrow – even through death itself – He has already gone ahead of us. That is the great truth of Scripture that encourages us to face the pressures and pitfalls of life.

(v) “The sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (10:4). Chapter 10 interprets the events of chapter 9. The Lord was now leading His sheep out of the constricting fold of Judaism. He recognised the voice of the Shepherd, and was now His ardent follower. The false Jewish shepherds had no use for him. They hated him for wanting the True Shepherd, and they hated Christ for attracting the sheep to Himself. They had “cast him out” (9:34), but the Lord showed that it was only then he had entered the place of blessing.

Note the comparison with 10:3 with 9:34. The Pharisees “casting out” of the poor beggar was in reality the Shepherd leading him out from the barren wilderness of Judaism to the green pastures of Christianity.

b) The Door Of Salvation (10:9)
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (10:9). In saying “I am the door,” the Lord was referring to the eastern shepherd who at night time led his sheep into the fold where they could rest secure from beasts of prey. He himself took up his place in the opening and thus became “the door.” As long as he was there no prowling animal could get in; no restless sheep could stray off into the night. In the morning he stood aside and called his sheep out, counting and examining them, and led them in the way he wanted to go.

Few verses present such a succinct summary of the gospel as this magnificent presentation of Christ as “the Door”!

(i) “I am the door.” A door separates. It gives access. It provides security. So Christ is “the door” into the presence of God. By nature we are separated from God. Sin as a barrier comes in between and bars us out of His holy presence. The door speaks of easy access. There are no high walls to scale to gain access to God.

(ii) “…by me…” Christ is the only Door and entrance. He is the only way to the Father. There was only one door into the ark. There was only one door into the Tabernacle. So there is only one door into the presence of the Father.

(iii) “…if any man…” This is the wide-open “whosoever” of God’s gospel. Christ is the Saviour for Jew and Gentile alike.

(iv) “… enter in…” To “enter in” means to accept Christ by a single act of faith. “Entering” doesn’t just happen; it demands decision.

(v) “…he shall be saved…” “Saved” – this much maligned word encompasses all that Christ does for His sheep. It implies that they have been saved from some awful fate, and what they have been saved for. It hidden cost of this salvation is also there.

(vi) “…and shall go in and out…” Christ’s sheep have:
* Security. To “go in” means to find security, something we all desperately need in this troubled and anxious world. Jesus is our security. He is in charge of all things.
* Liberty. To “go out” means to find liberty in new pastures. He is with us, alongside us, and that gives us the liberty to move out into life in any dimension.

(vii) “…and find pasture.” This tells of the gracious provision made for the nourishment of the sheep. Our minds think of the 23rd Psalm where the Good Shepherd made the sheep to lie down in green pastures. Those pastures speak not only of nourishment, but of rest as well.

Through the centuries, and even today, there have been many false shepherds. What is the mark of a true shepherd? Many people ask, “Who is the true Jesus? Who is the true Shepherd of the sheep?” There is the Jesus of the Moonies, the Jesus of the Jehovah Witnesses, the Jesus of the Christian Scientists, the Jesus of the Mormons, the Jesus of the New Age, and the Jesus of a thousand bizarre cults and philosophies. Which Jesus is the True Shepherd? Jesus declares a number of distinguishing marks, by which we can know which is the True Shepherd.

a) The Good Shepherd Saves
“I am come that they might have life…I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep”’ (10:11). These verses tell of:

(i) The Purpose of His Coming – “that they might have life”(10:10)

(ii) The Cost of His Coming – “the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (10:11). Calvary was the cost of His coming.

b) The Good Shepherd Secures
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life” (10:10). The thief is a threat to the sheep. The Lord throws the mantle of His protection around them. This thought is developed later in the chapter, when Jesus tells of the total security we have in Him (10:29).

c) The Good Shepherd Satisfies
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (10:10). We have abundant life through knowing Jesus. This is not just about surviving, or existing, but truly living life to the fullest. An abundant life is life filled with constant expectation of what God is doing in and through us. We have it and enjoy it because of our relationship to Him. “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (10:14-15). Knowing Him, and being known of Him; this is the essence of both abundant life and eternal life.

November 28, 1942, in the Coconut Grove, down town Boston, over 500 people were celebrating. The dance floor had been cleared, and a floor show was about to begin. The place was packed.

Suddenly a girl rushed across the room screaming, “Fire!” Downstairs, an attendant had struck a match to see how to screw a light bulb into a socket. The flame touched a plastic artificial palm and took alight. Soon if spread wildly.

The people panicked. Maddened with fear they fought their way toward the revolving door. Nearby was another door but it was locked.

Firemen, breaking down the revolving door found it blocked by the bodies of the dead, six deep. 501 persons died, the worst disaster of its kind since the Chicago fire of 1903 when 572 persons perished.

We, too, live in a world doomed for judgment. The wise will seek the door that leads to salvation and eternal security before the way of escape is removed.


John 10:15-21

Through the centuries, and even today, there have been many false shepherds. What is the mark of a true shepherd? Many people ask, “Who is the true Jesus? Who is the true Shepherd of the sheep?” There is the Jesus of the Moonies, the Jesus of the Jehovah Witnesses, the Jesus of the Christian Scientists, the Jesus of the Mormons, the Jesus of the New Age, and the Jesus of a thousand bizarre cults. Which Jesus is the True Shepherd?

Jesus declares a number of distinguishing marks, by which we can know which is the True Shepherd.


a) The Good Shepherd Saves
“I am come that they might have life…I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (10:11). These verses tell of:

(i) The Purpose of His Coming – “that they might have life” (10:10). This implies that they were dead, and that is exactly how the Bible describes a person who is unsaved (Eph 2:1).

(ii) The Cost of His Coming – “the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (10:11). Calvary was the cost of His coming.

The story is told of D.L. Moody and his song leader, Ira Sankey. Sankey was perusing a magazine when he discovered a poem which he cut out and put in his pocket. That night Moody was preaching on the Good Shepherd. When he was finished he turned to Sankey and asked him to sing. Sankey remembered the poem, and set it in front of him on the portable organ and began to sing, making up the tune as he went along.

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold
But one was out on the hills away
Far off from the gates of gold –
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Far from the tender Shepherd’s care

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.

b) The Good Shepherd Secures
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life” (10:10). The thief is a threat to the sheep. The Lord throws the mantle of His protection around them. This thought is developed later in the chapter, when Jesus tells of the total security we have in Him (10:29). “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish!” Here is the ultimate security. For TIME and for ETERNITY!

We live in a very insecure and anxious world. Crime, the sliding rand. And other disasters dominate our news stories. Here Jesus is saying that if we belong, to His fold He IS our security.

c) The Good Shepherd Satisfies
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (10:10). We have abundant life through knowing Jesus. This is not just about surviving, or existing, but truly living life to the fullest. An abundant life is life filled with constant expectation of what God is doing in and through us. We have it and enjoy it because of our relationship to Him. “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (10:14-15). Knowing Him, and being known of Him; this is the essence of both abundant life and eternal life.

Like Sindi, who runs around with her nose to the ground, responding to all kinds of smells. Man was made to look up, but, like Esau, he spends his time responding to every kind of earthy stimulus. Like the “earth dwellers” in Revelation, they are tied to earth, with no upward vision.


a) Jesus Knows The Flock
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (10:14). Jesus knows all about us. He knows our names, He knows where we live, He knows when we became His, He knows about our personalities and our peculiarities. We also know Him, not merely as an outstanding figure of history, but as the Saviour of our souls. We have a heart knowledge of Him.

b) Jesus Knows The Father
“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father” (10:15). The kind of knowledge between Jesus and the flock is comparable to the knowledge that exists between the Father and the Son. This is a picture of intimacy and intense fellowship between the Shepherd and the sheep, a beautiful relationship between Jesus and His own, which mirrors the relationship between the Father and Son. Jesus cites this relationship as a result of the sacrifice of His life for us; “…I lay down my life for the sheep” (10:15). The shadow of the cross was already on the soul of the Saviour. He would lay down His life in battle with the wolves who were already in among the sheep. His confrontation with the false shepherds would lead inevitably to His death.

The Lord, in the middle of His address, made a number of startling claims about:

a) A Great Truth
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd” (10:16). The word fold at the end of this sentence is the word flock. There is all the difference in the world between a fold and a flock. The fold was the nation of Israel. A fold is characterised by a circumference, a wall. A flock is characterised by a centre, the shepherd. Jesus was leading His sheep out of the fold, represented by the nation of Israel, and was now gathering a flock, one in which Jews and Gentiles would become one. The other sheep who were “not of this fold” were the Gentiles who through ensuing centuries would believe on Him. Today there is only one flock. There is no difference in Christ between Jew and Gentile, between races, between sexes, or social classes. All who are His sheep belong to this one flock.

b) A Great Triumph
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (10:17). There is full and eternal understanding between the Father and the Son. It was always understood that if God acted in creation, He would one day have to act in redemption, and if He acted in redemption the Son would have to come to earth and die and rise again. The Lord knew that, moment by moment, He would be in his Father’s love. That love found its focus in the trust and obedience of the Lord Jesus.

“No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (10:18). No mere man could make a claim like that. In fact, as far as His physical life was concerned, no man did take Jesus’ life from Him.

• He allowed them to arrest Him after demonstrating their powerlessness to do so.
• He remained silent before His accusers, although 12 legions of angels were ready to come to His rescue.
• He allowed Himself to be crucified even as He demonstrated His power to shake the earth to its foundations.
• He waited until all the necessary prophecies were fulfilled, and then majestically dismissed His spirit.
• When the soldiers came to break His legs and hasten His death, they discovered He was dead already.
• The Lords death was voluntary, vicarious, and victorious. “I have power to take it again,” He said. And He demonstrated that literally, gloriously, once and for all, in His resurrection.

“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings” (10:20). People are still divided over Jesus. Some ask, “How can one man’s death on the cross have any meaning to my life today?” “Why listen to Him?” Others say, “Jesus is the ultimate reality.” “He has opened my eyes and removed my blindness!” “He changed my life. He is everything to me.”

Opinion on Jesus divides sharply, because He has left us no middle ground. Once you examined the evidence and hear His words, the only reasonable conclusion is that Jesus is who He says He is, the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep, and who shares His life with you and me. None else can satisfy your heart, or resolve the issues of your life, or answer the questions about life, death, and the eternal life to come like Jesus can.

Some defamed Him and some defended Him. There were many who said “He hath a devil, and is mad. Why hear ye him.” (10:20). What a terrible thing to say about the incarnate Son of God! Others thought differently, “These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (10:21). They had heard the rantings of demon-possessed people. The authoritative teachings of Jesus had nothing in common with demonic utterances. Nor could the more thoughtful Jews really believe that the merciful, good, and well-documented miracles of Jesus have their source in the lying wonders of a demon.


John 10v22-42

There is a silent lapse of about three months between verse 21, which took place in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in early October, and verse 22, which took place at the time of the Feast of Dedication. It is most likely that Jesus had gone back to Galilee between verses 21 and 22 to minister there. However, verse 22 tells us He was back in Jerusalem and was walking in the Temple area called Solomon’s Colonnade, a roofed-in enclosure supported by beautiful decorated columns.

1. THEIR DEMAND (10:22-30)
“Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” (10:24). The original language indicates that they completely encircled Him. It was a picture of intense confrontation and threat. They forced Him to confront their question, and they would not to allow Him to melt away into the crowd as He had done before.

a) Reasons for Rejecting (10:24-30)
“Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” (10:24). “Are you the Messiah, or aren’t you?” The Lord’s answer was, “I have already told you, but you do not believe.” Actually, the Lord had not directly stated, “I am the Messiah.” Why? If He had said so, He would have conjured up in their minds the image of a conquering hero who, like the family of Judas Maccabeus, would drive out the Romans, free the Temple, and enable the Jews to once again control their own land and destiny. That was not the Messianic plan that the Father was working out in the earthly life and ministry of Jesus.

Many Christians wonder, why don’t people believe in Jesus? Why do they resist the gospel. Jesus gave two reasons why people reject Him:

(i) They Do Not Believe. “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (10:25). Both His words and His works bore unmistakable testimony to His identity, but they chose to ignore them. True, He had not told them in so many words that He was the Messiah; but the language He used spoke much louder than words. He had told them by His actions. Sadly they were so wilfully hard of hearing and hard of seeing that they could neither see His works nor hear His words.

(ii) They Do Not Belong. “You believe not, because ye are not of my sheep” (10:26). They had never come to Him. They had never really found out who He was. They had no personal experience of what He could do.

b) Features of Faith (10:27-29)
Jesus had just set the stage for one of the most precious passages in all Scripture. It answers two questions which often trouble the minds of Christians. Can a born-again follower of Christ ever lose his salvation? How can we tell a true Christian from one who merely claims to be a Christian?

(i) “They hear my voice” (10:27). Those who belong to the Lord know His voice. They are attracted to what He says. They believe that what He says is the truth, and they long to hear more. Why do Christians go to church each Sunday? Why do they attend Bible studies? They hear His voice and are attracted by it. Not the preacher’s voice, but the voice of the Shepherd Himself. They seek His insight, His understanding of the secrets, and His solutions to the problems of life. That is a prime feature of true sheep. They long to hear the Word of God.

(ii) “They follow me” (10:27). Because He knows them, they follow and obey Him. At times they will be wayward and fall, and will occasionally lose their way. But the Good Shepherd will seek them and find them, and they will follow. True sheep do not follow the ways of the world, but stay close to their Shepherd.

(iii) “They shall never perish” (10:28). In verses 28 and 29 Jesus answers the question that so many Christians ask. Can a born-again believer in Jesus ever lose his salvation? The answer Jesus gives is definite and clear! He says “they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (10:28,29). We need to take the Lord’s words at their face value. We may struggle, we may hurt, we may be depressed. Our feelings may go up and down, but God’s promises to us never change.

Some say, “We can never be plucked out of our Father’s hand, but we can take ourselves out!” Can we? No! This is because salvation is a divine work that takes place in the soul of a sinner. See what happens when a person becomes a child of God. He is:
• Chosen in Christ (Eph 1:4)
• United with Christ by the Holy Spirit who:
• Regenerates (Titus 3:5)
• Seals (Eph 1:13)
• Indwells (1 Cor 3:16)
• Baptised into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13)
• Kept by Christ (1 John 2:1,2)

None of these “one-way processes” can ever be reversed!

2. THEIR DENIAL (10:31-42)
Jesus’ outright claim to be of the same essence as God provoked a violent response. Twice in these verses the Jews tried to stone Him.

a) The First Attempt (10:31-39)
“Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (10:31). They were determined to get rid of Him. Jesus answered their anger with two questions:

(i) His Unblameable Works. “Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?” (10:32). He challenged them to show where He had erred. His works showed He was fully accredited.

Their reply showed they were not interested in proof of His power. “The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (10:33). Jesus had not merely blasphemed; He had said He was Himself God!

(ii) His Unbreakable Word. “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (10:34-36). The Lord here quoted Psalm 82 which deals with the human judges who settled the disputes of Israel. The Psalmist says that these men acted as agents of God. God was in their midst. The judgement they pronounced was the judgement of God. The Psalm clearly calls them “gods.” The argument of Jesus is, “if ordinary men can be called ‘gods’ for serving as judges and doing God’s work, and this is not called blasphemy, then how can you accuse me of blasphemy when I claim to be the Son of God and to do the work of God?”

Jesus said, “the scripture cannot be broken.” God’s Word can never be wrong. It cannot be set aside or broken. Down through the ages many have tried to break the Scriptures. Diocletian harnessed the might of a world empire to get rid of them. Voltaire held up a copy of the Scriptures and boasted he would put the Bible in the morgue. Before long he was in the morgue, and his house was being used by the Geneva Bible Society to store Bibles in. For centuries the Roman Church tried to keep the Bible out of the hands of the common people. But the promise is always the same.

b) The Second Attempt (10:39)
“Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand.” They had demanded plain speaking, and He had given it. They took up stones but could not throw them. His time had not yet come.

3. THE DEPARTURE (10:40-42)
The tailpiece at the end of the chapter is interesting:

a) Where He Went
“And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptised; and there he abode” (10:40). Jesus now went back to the place where John the Baptist had first identified Him as the Messiah. This was in December. He remained there until April, visiting Bethany (11:1) and spending the latter part of the time in Ephraim (11:54). The next time He came to Jerusalem, the Jews would have Him killed.

b) Why He Went (10:41-42)
Two reasons are identified:

(i) Because Of John The Baptist. “Many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true” (10:41). The memory of John the Baptist was still alive in that district.

“John did no miracle.” That was part of John’s greatness. God never places a premium on miracles. In only a few transitional places are miracles evident in Scriptures. There were miracles when the Children of Israel came out of Egypt and into Canaan. Then they stopped. There were miracles in the days of Elijah and Elisha, as protests against the apostasy of the people. Then they stopped. There was a brief flurry in the days of Daniel. Then they stopped. The greater part of time has been marked by a lack of miracles, for in the last analysis, miracles are a sign to unbelief. They can be explained away, just as the Jews refused to believe the miracles of Jesus.

“All things that John spake of this man were true.” That was a more powerful testimony! People simply took Him as His word. God’s Word is mightier than miracles.

(ii) Because Of The Believers. “And many believed on him there” (10:42). The word there is emphatic. It contrasts their belief with the unbelief of the Jews in Jerusalem. They considered His claims and examined the evidence. Inevitably they came to the only reasonable, just, and true conclusion, “and believed on him there.”


John 11:1-16

The seven miracles selected by John to illustrate the public ministry of the Lord Jesus begin and end with a family, one in Cana of Galilee, and one in Bethany of Judea. The one was at a wedding; the other at a funeral – life’s gladdest and saddest hours. The one miracle revealed Him as Lord of creation, as He changed water into wine; the other revealed Him as Creator of life, as He triumphed over the tomb.

At the heart of this story is the problem that God often does not act as we expect Him to. He disappoints us. He takes too long. He doesn’t answer. As a result, our faith leaks away, and we conclude that prayer “doesn’t work.” The lesson here is that God is bigger than our prayers. Imagine how Mary and Martha would have missed out if the Lord had done merely what they wanted Him to do!

1. THE LORD’S FRIENDS (11:1-6)
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha” (11:1). The close-knit Bethany family consisted of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Luke 10:38-42 tells us much about their different personalities. Martha was energetic and busy. Mary, quiet and reflective, wanted to understand deeper truths. The Lord held a special place in their hearts. In fact, the paradox of the chapter is that the events of this chapter occurred just because they were such special friends.

a) The Request (11:3)
“Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” Jesus had left Jerusalem and travelled about a two-day journey to the Jordan River. Meanwhile Lazarus had become ill. His sisters had no doubt that, had Jesus been in Jerusalem, He would have hurried the two miles to Bethany and healed His friend, or even have healed him from a distance. But the Lord at that time was about 25 miles away from Jerusalem, and seemed not to even aware of the problem!

The action of Mary and Martha and the wording of their request is a lovely lesson about prayer. It was enough for the two sisters to bring the problem before the Lord, and leave the decision to Him. Many of our petitions to the Most High command Him to respond to our bidding!

b) The Response (11:6)
“When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.” What disappointment! How dumbfounded the sisters must have been in the face of Lazarus’ death and burial. It seemed as though Jesus had been absent when He should have been present, and silent when He should have spoken. How could they explain this seeming failure?

c) The Reason (11:4)
“When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” Jesus’ response to the sisters’ message was that the final result of the sickness would not be death. Yet when He spoke the words Lazarus was already dead! What He meant was that death would intervene, but death would not have the last word.

This passage tells us much about the problem of pain and sickness. Suffering, sickness, and death may be caused by our own sinfulness. But not always. In this case they were related to:

(i) God’s Love. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus” (11:5). It was precisely because He loved them that the Lord allowed them to go through this valley of sadness and suffering. This was agape love, the highest possible love, yet He waited! If we are faced with an emergency, the last thing we do is wait! Human sentiment urged Him to rush to Bethany, but the Lord was never motivated by sentiment. He was subject to His Father’s will. Sometimes He allows loved ones to die, but there is always a reason much bigger and more solid than mere sentiment.

(ii) God’s Glory. “This sickness is…for the glory of God” (11:4). Jesus permitted this to happen because God would get glory out of it. We need to learn that we are not the centre of the universe. The headquarters of everything is in heaven, everything is running for His glory. Nothing will come into our lives without His permission. If He permits it, it will be for His glory.

Apart from God being glorified, think of all those who were blessed by this miracle. Mary and Martha were overjoyed, Lazarus was raised (was he pleased to have been called back to life?), the faith of the disciples was strengthened, and “many believed on him” (11:45) as a result. Joy, life, and faith were all by-products. Perhaps, in the grander scheme of things, a few tears were a small price to pay for such glorious triumph and blessing. Why can’t we learn the lesson?

The Lord’s followers, already dumbfounded by His seeming indifference to Lazarus’s sickness and the sisters’ distress, were now amazed at the Lord’s apparently rash decision to go into Judea.

a) The Decision (11:7-10)
“Let us go into Judea again.” It would have been dangerous enough to go to Bethany where He had friends, but to Judea where He had enemies seemed like suicide. At this point the disciples did not know that Lazarus was dead. They had heard Him say, “This sickness is not unto death.”

(i) The Disciples’ Alarm. “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee, and goest thou thither again?”(11:8). As soon as they heard the word Judea they were filled with alarm. He seemed to be making so many mistakes! First, He delayed responding to the cry for help in respect of Lazarus. Now He was deliberately putting Himself and them all at risk by heading into Judea. It would be suicide!

(ii) The Lord’s Answer. “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (11:9-10). The Lord’s reply focused on His allotted span of life, referring to it as “a day.” God’s timetable was like a twelve-hour day. To step out of that timetable, even if it was safer by human reasoning, would be to walk in the darkness of night. The disciples argued that it was dangerous for Him to return. For the Lord, the only real danger was that of not walking in the Father’s will.

The same holds true for ourselves. God has given to each “a twelve-hour day,” a lifework. We cannot extend it by one day any more than we can keep the sun from setting. We are invulnerable until that work is done. Not even Satan can thwart God’s purpose in our lives if we are following Him. Failure to follow Him is to walk in darkness, because He is the Light of the world. We can go into the danger zone with Him, and we cannot be touched. But if we stay out and walk in the darkness, we will stumble.

b) The Discussion (11:11-15)
The decision to go into Judea was made, but the disciples were still far from satisfied.

(i) A Representation (11:11-13). “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (11:11). The Lord represented death as “sleep.” We need to understand what Jesus was saying. Death is not final for one who knows Him. It is merely an introduction to another, greater, experience of life. From our limited human perspective we view it as a final farewell, a leap into mystery and silence. But Jesus says, “No, death is sleep.” Sleep – what a beautiful picture of death. Death may be an enemy, but “sleep” is a friend. It comes as welcome relief at the end of a day. It is a time of rest. We lie down to sleep and then rise again.

A 12 year-old boy who was very sick asked his father, “What is it like to die.” His father replied, “Son, you remember how you used to go to sleep in my arms as I would read you a story or sing to you? You would then wake up in your own bed. That is what it is like to die. When you wake up from death, you are in the place of security and safety and beauty.”

(ii) A Reality (11:14-15). “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless, let us go unto him.” Lazarus was dead. Death is the ultimate reality. Man leaves off at death. Even in hospital, doctors work over a patient, then, when he dies, it is time to give up. They stop working. Science is helpless in the presence of death. But where man must leave off, the Lord Jesus begins.

The story is a reminder that death is not the final reality! Resurrection is also a reality. That is why the Lord said “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there.” The Lord was not glad because Lazarus was dead. That would have been heartless in view of the sorrow of his sisters. He was glad because He knew the outcome, and because of the opportunity to teach to His friends and followers a loud lesson. He was going to “awake him.” If He had been in the vicinity when His friend had been taken ill, it would not have been hard not to heal him. And the disciples, the sisters, the world, would have been robbed of an extraordinary demonstration of His power and of a remarkable illustration of the truth of resurrection.

c) The Disciples (11:16)
“Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas’ character is sketched by this single line of dialogue. The Master was determined to go to Judea, and that could only have one outcome – the Jews would get Him. Poor pessimistic Thomas! Perhaps we, like Thomas, get into an emotional and spiritual slump. “God cannot work in this situation. It is time to quit! Let’s resign ourselves to the worst.”

Isn’t it wonderful that, in spite of their misgivings and misunderstandings, the disciples were willing to follow wherever He went. That was the measure of their faith in Him. They may have been disappointed, but were not about to disobey!


John 11:17-37

Like climbing a mountain, each chapter in John’s Gospel brings us a little higher than the one before. In chapter 1 John told us, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and Word was God.” Then he said, “The Word was made flesh.” He supported this by recounting the Lord’s miracles and teaching. Hence, in chapter 2 He turned water into wine at Cana; in chapter 4 He healed the nobleman’s son; in chapter 5 he healed the impotent man at Bethesda; in chapter 6 He fed a whole multitude; in chapter 9 He restored sight to a blind man.

Now comes the big question: Can Jesus raise the dead? Any religion that leaves a man in his grave, and has no hope of a life hereafter, is meaningless. If there is no resurrection from the dead, Christianity is empty and lifeless. But resurrection is the great hope of the Christian faith. Ask the relatives of a Christian who has just died. When you stand at a graveside without hope, you are merely whistling in the dark and singing in the rain.

1. THE SISTERS (11:17-32)
The two sisters, Marth and Mary, had separate interviews with the Lord, and both reacted differently to the circumstances.

a) Martha’s Reaction (11:17-27)
Martha reacted to both what the Lord did and what He said.

(i) His Arrival (11:17-22). “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” During her brother’s illness, Martha must often have thought, “If only Jesus were here!” Now, as she runs to meet Him on the road to Bethany, those words came automatically to her lips. Now it was too late. With Lazarus dead and buried four days previously, all human hope was gone.

It was natural for Martha to ask, “Why?” This is the one word which so often comes to our lips when we are disappointed at heaven’s silence. Yet it all depends how we ask that one-word question. We can ask rebelliously, or bewilderedly, or prayerfully.

Martha’s faith struggled as she acknowledged, “I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give thee” (11:22). She was confident that the Lord could get anything from God. She half believed that Jesus could raise her brother – after all, He had raised others. But her words outran her actual conviction, as she showed later. Often our profession of faith is far bolder than our actual faith.

(ii) His Assurance (11:23-27). The Lord, building on what confidence she had, assured her, “Thy brother shall rise again” (11:23). In her reaction to this assurance Martha said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (11:24). She understood His words to have some distant future significance. However, it is one thing to vaguely believe that one day we shall all receive glorified bodies; it is quite another thing to here and now rest on the assurance that God is in control and that He does all things well. It is easy to say, “Well, you’ll see your loved ones someday,” but it takes a lot of faith to say, “I’ve just lost my loved one, but I know that whatever God does is for my good and His glory!”

The Muslim will say, “It is the will of Allah.” That is fatalism, and is very different from submission to what the Christian knows is the will of a loving heavenly Father whose only objectives are His glory and our good.

(iii) His Announcement (11:25-27). “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” To have Jesus is to have life.

Life begins the moment a person trusts the Saviour. That is why Jesus twice stated, “He that believeth in me….” Faith in Himself is the key to eternal life. The bodies of our loved ones may be corrupting in the ground, but they themselves are experiencing an even greater form of life. That is why the Lord said, “…though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

By contrast, not to have Jesus is real death, spiritual death. It refers to those who refuse Him. For them there is nothing ahead but darkness.

The Lord told Martha to focus, not on some future prophetic programme, or on what she remembered of the past, but on His present person. He challenged her to focus on Him as the “I AM” who could meet her need in the present. Provided her knowledge of Him and her relationship with Him were intact, nothing else mattered.

Martha replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” She confessed her heartfelt belief in Jesus as a) “the Christ,” b) “the Son of God,” c) the One “which was to come into the world,” the One predicted by the prophets. It was an astounding confession. She said, in effect, “Yes, Lord, I will focus on your Person. You are who you claim to be.”

b) Mary’s Reaction (11:28-32)
Martha ran back to the house to tell Mary that “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (11:28). Mary then rushed out of the house. Her friends, supposing she was going to the tomb to weep there, hurried after her. But Mary did not go to the sepulchre, instead she ran to the Saviour. John notes:

(i) Her Position. “When Mary was come to where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet” (11:32). Each time we read about Mary, she is at the feet of the Saviour:

– In Luke 10:39 she is at His feet, learning from Him as He ministers to her as a Prophet.
– In John 11:32 she is at His feet, weeping to unburden her troubled heart, as He ministers to her as a Priest.
– In John 12:3 she is at His feet, worshipping as she anoints her King with the precious ointment.

(ii) Her Problem. “Lord if thou had been here, my brother had not died” (11:32). No doubt the sisters had often said that to each other during the past few days. That is why Jesus said later on that it was expedient, better for Him to go away (16:7). As long as He was here in the flesh, He was limited geographically. If He were in your town, He could not be in my town. If He had not gone away He could not have sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. But now that the Holy Spirit has come He is everywhere.

2. THE SAVIOUR (11:33-37)
This passage gives us a delightful window into the heart of the Saviour. No wonder Hebrews says, “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb 4:15).

a) The Weeping Christ (11:33-35)
John’s picture of the weeping Saviour eloquently expresses His love and sympathy. We note:

(i) What He Saw (11:33). “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her…” The Lord had come from a land where there is no sin and therefore no sorrow; where there are no tombs and no tears. Now all around Him Jesus could see passionate expressions of grief. His friend Lazarus was dead and the two sisters desolate.

(ii) What He Suffered (11:33). “He groaned in his spirit and was troubled.” The word for “groaned” means to be displeased, or deeply agitated. The Lord felt indignation and outrage at what death had done. He was “troubled.” John emphasises that His reaction to the deep grief of Mary and her friends is one of anger. Why? With whom was He angry? He was angry with death, the Grim Reaper.

(iii) What He Said (11:34). “Where have ye laid him?” Jesus wanted to go to the tomb. Nowhere is His humanity more in evidence. He was going to a tomb; so was everyone else. All were on the way to their own tomb. Sooner or later the tomb would claim them all. They were all on the way to the tomb because of their sins. He was on the way to the tomb for the same reason – their sins. He had no sin, so the tomb had no claim on Him. But He was on the way to open forever the door to life for all who believe in Him.

(iv) What He Showed (11:35). “Jesus wept.” Why did Jesus weep? This was not the first time Jesus wept, nor would it be the last. The Scriptures record at least three occasions on which He wept:

– Over Jerusalem. In Luke 19:41 He wept over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” These are perhaps the saddest tears in the Bible. The cause of these tears was the disobedience of the nation.

– In the Garden of Gethsemane. Hebrews 5:7 tells us He wept “with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death.” These are the strongest tears in the Bible. The cause of these tears was the desire of His heart for the salvation of the world.

– At The Grave Of Lazarus in John 11:35. These are the strangest tears in the Bible. The cause of these tears was the distress of the sisters. What makes these tears so strange is the fact that Jesus knew He was on His way to restore Lazarus to life. In a few moments, all weeping would change to rejoicing. Why then, did Jesus weep? For a can He wept, firstly, because He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He wept out of sorrow for Martha and Mary and for Lazarus’ friends, but there was much more to it than that. Secondly, He was not weeping for the dead, but for those who were living. He wept because His heart was broken as He surveyed the effects of sin and the sadness of death.

b) The Watching Crowd (11:36-37)
As the onlookers watched, John noted:

(i) Their Comment (11:36). “Then said the Jews, behold how he loved him!” That was true. They did not realise it, but He loved them too, just as much as He loved Lazarus. He loved Herod and Pilate, and those who would nail Him to the cross as much as He loved His friend Lazarus.

(ii) Their Criticism (11:37). “And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?“ That is the question of the atheist, the agnostic, the unbeliever. “Why does an omnipotent God, if He is good, allow suffering, sorrow, injustice, pain, and death?” They argue that if He is all-powerful, then He is not good. If He is good, then He is not all-powerful. Otherwise He would intervene. That is the position adopted by the Jews. Surely He could have prevented this death, so why didn’t He?


John 11:38-46

The gospels tell us of three people who were raised from the dead by the Lord Jesus. There was a 12-year-old child who had just died. There was a young man whose body was being carried to the cemetery. And there was Lazarus, likely an older person, who had been dead and buried for four days. They were all raised, from every age group. Technically we could say that these people were “raised” from the dead, but were not “resurrected.” They were merely restored to life, and all faced death again. Resurrection, on the other hand, is the raising from the dead to have a glorified body.

Significantly, while the Lord used different methods to perform His miracles of healing, He always raised the dead in the same way. He spoke to them. It was as if they heard Him. They did hear Him! That is what will happen when He returns with a shout. Every one of us will hear his name as He calls us back from the dead.

1. THE MIGHTY MIRACLE (11:38-44)
This miracle represented the peak of the Lord’s public ministry and miracles. Unbelief now would not be due to failure to understand, but refusal to believe.

a) Death Confronted (11:38-40)
John continues to set the scene. He tells us of:

(i) The Description (11:38). “It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it”. Caves, sealed by stones doors, were frequently used as tombs. Often the door was in the shape of a mill stone and was fitted into a groove along which it was rolled either to seal the tomb or to open it.

(ii) The Direction (11:39-40). “Take ye away the stone.” That was first. Lazarus was about to be raised, but God will do nothing for us that we can do for ourselves. Jesus’ omnipotent power could have blasted that stone into oblivion. He could have commanded it to roll away. But He had not come to perform cheap wonders, nor would He do what they could do. As in the miracle at Cana and the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, there is a combination of human and divine factors at work in this miracle. God supplied the life-giving power – but it was people who removed the stone.

(iii) The Discussion (11:41). People were stunned by this command, the first intimation that Jesus intended to do something out of the ordinary. Martha especially was shocked. “Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.” She thought He wanted to view the body of His friend. That was unthinkable; death and decay had set in. Jesus simply reinforced his command. “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (11:40).

(iv) The Decision (11:41). “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.” Martha’s objection was overruled. Mary voiced no protest. Perhaps she already had an idea of what the Lord was about to do.

b) Death Conquered (11:41-44)
Tension now mounted as the Lord’s intention became clear. We see:

(i) The Lord’s Prayer (11:41-42). This prayer reflects two aspects of the Lord’s life and ministry:

– A Private Aspect. “And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me, and I knew that thou hearest me always” (11:41,42). The Lord had already done His private praying over the death and proposed resurrection of Lazarus. He had His Father’s mind on the matter and was assured of His approval. None other could say, “I knew that thou hearest me always.”

– A Public Aspect. “But because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” Jesus constantly acted for the sake of those who watched. He had said to the disciples, “I am glad for your sake that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe” (11:15). He had delayed coming to Bethany for two days because he loved Mary and Martha. His public prayer was for the sake of those now gathered around the open tomb. He wanted them to see His oneness with and dependence on His Father, and that He really was the Son of God.

(ii) The Lord’s Power (11:43-44). “And when he thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.” The Lord spoke with that word of power which in the beginning commanded, “Let there be light!,” and there was light. He commanded the waves and winds, “Be still,” and immediately there was a great calm. It was His word which said to the leper, “Be clean,” and immediately his leprosy vanished.

Now that word rang out again. Of course Lazarus came forth. What else could he do? Death was swallowed up in victory. Many years ago an infidel was ridiculing the story of the raising of Lazarus. He asked his audience, “Why did Jesus say, ‘Lazarus, come forth?’” An old believer at the back of the hall replied, “That is very simple, Sir, because if He had not said ‘Lazarus come forth,’ every dead person in the world would have come forth!” So they would, and one day they will.

(iii) The Lord’s Pronouncement (11:44). “Loose him, and let him go.” Jesus knew that Lazarus needed more than life. He needed liberty. We cannot regenerate people, but we can help to free them from the chains and bonds of the past. We can teach them the Word that frees them. We can welcome them and encourage them, and listen to their stories, we can give them a new family in which they can be surrounded by love, and be free from painful memories and emotions. He did not do what they could do. Only God can give life, but we, as human beings, can help to unbind one another. This is a beautiful image of the way we minister to one another in the body of Christ. It needed no special miracle to unwind the wrapping.

There is a picture of salvation in this. We were dead in sin, and now have been made alive to God in Christ Jesus. But all of us are being held back by the grave clothes. Paul said, “What I would do, that do I not, but what I hate, that do I….O, wretched man that I am!” (Rom 7:24). This is not an unsaved man talking, this is a believer. Jesus wants us to be free from those grave clothes. He says, “Loose him, and let him go!”

2. THE SIGN (11:45-46)
Face-to-face with this astonishing miracle, people were forced to make up their minds once for all about Jesus. There were:

a) Those Who Believed Him (11:45)
“Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.” This was the climax of the “signs” so characteristic of John’s story of Christ’s public ministry. Before this evidence of almighty power it was impossible to remain neutral. Many believed, but not all.

b) Those Who Betrayed Him (11:46)
“But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees and told them what things Jesus had done.” These refused to believe in spite of the evidence. What they had to say made the Jews more determined than ever to get rid of Jesus.


John 11:47-57

The amazing resurrection of Lazarus was followed by an amazing reaction as some believed and some did not. Those who believed did so because they were convinced that Jesus, with His power over life and death, must be the Messiah. Those who did not believe made a wilful choice in direct contradiction of the evidence.

One would have thought that the whole Sanhedrin would rush out to Bethany to investigate the miracle and accept the logical consequence that this Man with power over life and death was the Messiah. Instead, their the first reaction was to call an emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin, and set in motion machinery that would ultimately take the life of this Man who seemed to be such a threat to them.

In each case a choice was made freely, without force or coercion. That is free will in action. However, free choices always carry consequences. We can choose our course of action, but cannot choose the consequences. The consequences of our choices follow according to the sovereign program of God. In this chapter we see the inescapable consequences that follow the choice to oppose Jesus.

These verses document the increasing antagonism and official rejection of the Lord Jesus.

a) The Council (11:47-48)
“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council” (11:47). This council was the Sanhedrin, the supreme governing body of the Jews. It had seventy-one members, including the chief priests – the high priest himself, the captain of the temple, and members of the leading families of priests. The chief priests were mainly Sadducees – the “liberals” of the day. The Pharisees were mainly the conservatives and political rightists of the day. The two parties were opposed to and hated each other in every way, yet they joined together in their hatred of Christ. The same was true of Pilate and Herod.

(i) The Discussion (11:47). “What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.” With evidence of His “many miracles” in front of them, the leaders accepted intellectually the truth about Jesus. They had to. But their hearts were unmoved and unrepentant. It was a matter of the head against the heart, and the head won.

(ii) The Dilemma (11:48). “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” This latest miracle of Jesus placed the religious leaders on the horns of a dilemma. They knew all Jerusalem was excited about it. If they moved against Him they faced a popular uprising that could sweep them from office. They never grasped the fact that Christ’s mission was essentially spiritual, not material or political. But if they did nothing to stop the activities of this unwanted Messiah, the Roman army might take action. They were afraid of losing their place of power. Sadly, although they rationalised and said that Jesus should rather die than that the nation die at the hand of Rome, the nation did, in fact, perish when Titus destroyed it in A.D. 70.

In fact, Israel ceased to be a nation from that time until it was re-created by the United Nations on May 14, 1948 – all because of what the Pharisees and the Sadducees chose to do in these very verses of John 11. The Pharisees thought that the political existence of Israel was being preserved by their own clever political intrigues. But they forgot that what had kept the nation through history was the hand of God. When the leaders of Israel put the Messiah to death, God removed His protection, and the Gentiles, who had been hovering like birds of prey, swooped in and fulfilled the predictions that Jesus Himself made that the city would be destroyed.

b) The Contemplation (11:49-52)
The contemplation of the Council was well documented. Caiaphas, deeply antagonistic to the Lord, dominated the discussion. We note:

(i) His Person (11:49). “And one of them named Caiaphas, being high priest that same year.” Caiaphas was appointed high priest in A.D. 18 by the Romans, having won the office by being the highest bidder for the job. The term was supposedly only for one year, but Caiaphas held this powerful position for some 18 years. He spoke here as a Sadducee, and since the Sadducees denied the existence of miracles, resurrection, or life after death, this miracle must have struck a particularly sour note.

(ii) His Pride (11:49). “Ye know nothing at all.” Caiaphas rudely cut into the discussion being carried on by his colleagues. He used the double negative for emphasis. They did not know what they were talking about.

(iii) His Policy (11:50). “Nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” Caiaphas was not concerned about the law and rights of the situation – just in what was expedient. Far better to get rid of an unwanted Messiah than to risk an uprising and the wrath of the Roman authorities. It made sense to throw Jesus to the wolves, and get rid of the Man they hated! Caiaphas’ evil motion was carried. It was a brilliant solution to their difficulty. If the popular Nazarene be slain, it would establish their loyalty to Rome, and remove all suspicion from the nation. Caiaphas spoke as the unscrupulous politician who sacrificed righteousness and truth for party interests. It was political prudence.

(iv) His Prophecy (11:51-52). “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation.” We note:

– The Speaker. Caiaphas was a rogue and a ruthless unbeliever, but God made him a prophet and spoke through him anyway! He can use anyone, even without their being aware that they are being used! Caiaphas’ words had a double meaning of which he himself was not aware. He thought he was just being a politician; but God was using him as a prophet – just as He had once used Baalam.

– The Subject. Here is confirmation of the prophecy of Isaiah that one man would bear the sins of the nation. Even in the evil hearts of these men, God’s hand was at work. He was turning the pages of history one by one.

– The Scope. “And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (11:52). Caiaphas’ unwitting prophecy went far beyond the nation of Israel. He spoke what was in his evil heart, but by a mysterious intervention of divine inspiration, he pronounced the national and global benefits of Christ’s death.

(v) His Purpose (11:53). There was no longer any debate as to whether Jesus should be killed – just when and how. From that moment, the death of Jesus was the main item on the agenda of every meeting of the Sanhedrin. His miracles said nothing to them. They did not want to look at the evidence, or to be confused by facts. They simply wanted to eliminate the Man who threatened their own power and popularity. This section illustrates how God works in the world. He does not overrule human free will, even though it chooses in opposition to God. Yet God in His sovereignty will accomplish His purposes regardless of human choices and even human sin.

c) The Consensus (11:53-54)
The high priest’s colleagues were impressed. A united decision was taken. Murder was in their minds. Jesus must die, but even yet the Lord’s time had not yet fully come. The Lord’s death was:

(i) Planned (11:53). “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.” Acting on the counsel of Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin condemned Him to death, and that without a hearing. In doing so, they became the unwitting instruments of God’s plan to redeem the world through the sacrifice of His Son.

(ii) Postponed (11:54). “Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.” This obscure place was likely some 16 miles from Jerusalem, overlooking the Jordan. Jesus secluded Himself in this spot until just before going back to Jerusalem for the last Passover when He would be offered.

At this point John’s gospel is approaching the last week of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. The crowds came to Jerusalem “to purify themselves” before the Passover. As they went through this endless ritual and rubbed shoulders with each other, there was talk and difference of opinion about Jesus. Would He come to the feast? Everybody knew the Sanhedrin was after Him.

a) The Pilgrimage (11:55)
“And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem, before the passover, to purify themselves.” No one had any idea just how eventful this Passover was going to be.

b) The People (11:56)
“Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye. that he will not come to the feast?” Jesus’ miracles and messages were once again the topic of conversation. “Would He come?” was the question of everyone’s lips.

Each of the two previous years Jesus had been present at the Passover. In 2:13 He manifested Himself as the Vindicator of the honour of His Father’s house as He cleansed the temple. A year later He had fed the multitude on the Mount, and the people wanted to make Him a King by force (6:4,15). What would happen this time, with the leaders of the nation so incensed against Him?

c) The Priests (11:57)
“Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.” This verse is the climax of the chapter. The decree of the Sanhedrin was now common knowledge – hence the debates as to whether Jesus would dare show His face in the capital. The rulers had rejected Him and His claims. The multitudes had a general knowledge of the evil intentions of the Sanhedrin toward Jesus. When they later cried, “Let him be crucified,” it was not because of the rulers. They were deliberate accessories to the official rejection of Christ, of which they were well aware.


John 12:1-11

As chapter 12 opens, Jesus returns to Bethany, the site of His greatest miracle. As He neared the end of His life, two things became evident: a deepening devotion on the part of His friends, and a hardening of hearts on the part of His enemies. In Jerusalem they were planning His death, but here in Bethany, right in the shadow of the cross, His friends who loved Him planned a supper for Him.

The chapter is a model for true worship in its different dimensions. Each of Jesus’ three friends expressed their worship in different ways. Lazarus worshipped by fellowshipping with Him at the table and by courageous identification with Him. Martha worshipped by serving Him. Mary worshipped by openly expressing her love to Him. The whole scene is a cameo of the local church where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is there in the midst.

Sadly, the dark shadow of Judas fell across the whole scene. He could see neither beauty nor value in Mary’s act. Out of touch with the Saviour, and with motives that were light years away from the simple scene at Bethany, Judas could only describe it as “Waste.” But the verdict of the Lord, and countless Christians down through the ages, was “Wonderful!”

“There they made him a supper; and Martha served.”

a) Her Service
Every local church needs a Martha. Sometimes we feel that Martha’s service was less important than Mary’s worship. That is because of the story in Luke 12 where Martha, anxious and frustrated, had her priorities all upside down. Not so here. Things had changed. She had grown in faith. Martha was doing what she was most gifted to do, and her service was true worship.

b) Her Silence
Previously, in Luke 10, Martha had loudly protested that Mary was not helping. Now we read that “they” made him a supper – Martha and Mary working together. Isn’t that nice? There were no scars lingering from the earlier incident. Both were now quietly focusing on the Lord, and previous problems were all forgotten.

Every local church needs those who, like Mary, put themselves at Jesus’ feet.

a) The Anointing (12:3)
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” Few verses in Scriptures tell us as much about true worship as this one. Mary’s action was:

(i) Expensive. Her act of worship was “very costly.” Nard was a liquid perfume, extremely expensive. It grew only in India, and in today’s inflated terms, would have been worth some R60,000. The word “spikenard” referred to the fact that the perfume was genuine, pure, the best that money could buy.

Where did it come from? Perhaps she may have received it as a gift. Perhaps it was a precious keepsake she had kept for many years, even, perhaps, in anticipation of her wedding day. It was sealed in an alabaster jar, and could not be released without breaking the neck of the jar. Mary did so, and poured the entire pound of perfume over Jesus until the fragrance filled the whole house.

True worship is always costly. That is why the Bible calls it a “sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:15), and why David knew what he was saying when he stated that he would not sacrifice unto the Lord “that which cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24).

(ii) Expressive. “against the day of my burying hath she kept this.” Mary expressed two things by this act:

* Her Appreciation. Her act expressed all the love and gratitude that were in her heart. She understood and appreciated the change Jesus had made in her life, and this was how she was going to acknowledge it.

* Her Anticipation. Mary’s act also anticipated the Lord’s death and burial, as she expressed her awareness and understanding of what was going to happen to Him. She had listened to Him, had sat at His feet and learned from Him as He spoke about His death and burial. Slowly it dawned on her that He was about to die. Then one day, she put together what the Lord had said about being the resurrection and the life, and the miracle He performed in raising Lazarus. Suddenly it dawned on her what Jesus was going to do. He had said He would be crucified, buried, and then rise again. There was to be a resurrection like that of Lazarus. That had to be it. He was the Resurrection! Death would not be able to hold Him. His body would need no spices, for it would not see any corruption.

At some point, in preparation for that death, she bought this rare and costly ointment and hid it away. She then demonstrated her faith by this marvellous act. She had kept that ointment for His burial, but she gave it to Him a week before – because she now believed in the resurrection.

The other women who went to the tomb to anoint His body were thwarted by the resurrection. Not so Mary. She so understood what the Lord had taught her that she anticipated His burial.

(iii) Exclusive. This act was between herself and her Lord. There may have been the curious onlookers, the greedy and criticising Judas, and those who did not understand. But true worship does not consider the impression it makes on others. It looks only to the Lord, and seeks to be accepted by Him.

Does the Lord value anything more than this? Like the King in the Song of Solomon who says to his bride, “Let me see they face let me hear thy voice” (S of S 2:14). How He must love those who take time to worship and talk to Him!

(iv) Expansive. “The house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” It is not difficult to tell those who spend time in the presence of the Lord. Like Moses, their faces shine, and like Mary the sweet savour of worship wafts over all with whom they come in contact. The fragrance filled the house and lingered on Mary – and on the Lord! That fragrance testified to what she had done, and still fills the world today.

The fragrance of Mary’s ointment expanded in two dimensions:
* In Space. It expanded to fill the whole house with the fragrance of her act.
* In Time. The Lord said, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”

b) The Accusation (12:4-6)
“Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?”

(i) Judas’ Verdict – Waste! Judas put an immediate price tag on Mary’s act of love – “Three hundred pence.” The size of the sum, the better part of a working man’s annual wage, was not lost on Judas. It is so in the minds of many today. To them, time and money spent on the Lord’s work, or a life poured out in trying to reach some remote area with the gospel, is mere waste.

(ii) Jesus’ Verdict – Wonderful! Judas’ remark must have hurt Mary, but the Lord leapt to her defence: “Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (12:7). Judas also revealed what was in his heart – and it wasn’t worship! The heart of Judas is revealed in these verses. He talked about caring for the poor, but he had no real heart for the people. He wanted to buy land. That is why he complained about this “waste.” Amazingly, the Lord not only selected Judas, but appointed him as treasurer as well.

3. LAZARUS – THE WITNESS (12:9-11)
John notes that “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” Lazarus worshipped the Lord by spending time with Him. He enjoyed His presence – talking with Him, listening to Him, just being with Him. Today, Lazarus would be featured on CNN, or a thousand TV talk shows. He would be busy with book offers and movie deals. But in this chapter he is scarcely mentioned. He is content just to be with Jesus, enjoying His presence and sharing His thoughts.

. We also are challenged to be like Lazarus. We also can meet the Lord regularly for prayer, and enjoy the companionship and fellowship of His presence through the day. That, too, is a form of worship.

a) The Reality (12:9)
“Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.” John mentions two things about the people who came to see Lazarus.

(i) Why They Came. We do not know how long Lazarus had lived at Bethany. Perhaps all his life. He had become a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew Jesus personally. But nobody had ever made the two mile trip out from Jerusalem to see him because he was a believer in Christ. Instead, they came because he was a man living a resurrection life. They knew him to have died, but was now alive. That was worth seeing! Yet, all he was doing was merely to live a resurrection life.

(ii) What They Saw. “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” Now alive and seated. That speaks of fellowship. Lazarus spent his time in fellowship with the Saviour.

b) The Reaction (12:10-11)
“But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.” The witness of Lazarus’ new life was enormously effective. So the reaction of the authorities was to plot the murder of Lazarus as well as Jesus! Jesus had confronted a dead man and made him alive. These leaders confronted a resurrected man and sought to kill him.

The Fragrance of our Lives
Our lives are like Mary’s ointment. Precious. All we have got.

Suppose she had kept it in an unbroken vase, saving it for her own use, carefully preserved from “waste.” T her would have been no fragrance wafting out to others, no remembrance of her act, no honour lasting for her, no reward.

If we empty our lives out in living service, we will bring pleasure to the Lord, blessing to others, and reward to ourselves as the Judgement Seat of Christ.

The late Queen Mary was out walking at Balmoral , and was caught in a rain storm. She knocked on the door of a crofter’s house, and asked to borrow an umbrella. Not knowing who her visitor was, the lady gave her an old broken one, which she said she could use. Later the Queen returned it with a note of thanks. On discovering who her visitor had been, the lady lamented, that had she known she would have given he the best umbrella she had!

John 12:12-19

Things were now rapidly coming to a head. The Lord had already been rejected in spite of His message and miracles. Now, in an amazingly accurate fulfilment of certain specific prophecies, He was about to ride into Jerusalem, and officially present Himself to Israel as the nation’s rightful King. Sadly, not even the fulfilment of this ancient prophecy would be enough to convince His enemies.

1. THE PILGRIMS (12:12).
“On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.”

a) The Period
This “next day” day was the fourth day before Passover, what we call Palm Sunday.

b) The People
Two groups of people feature in the story:

(i) Visiting Jews. These were the “much people that were come to the feast.” Most of the enthusiastic pilgrims taking part in the procession were from outside the city. They were pilgrims, outsiders, people from around Judea and Galilee, and even foreign countries. These were the ones who actually laid down their palm branches and shouted hosannas and blessings.

(ii) Jerusalem Jews. The other gospel accounts of this event (Mat 21:1-9; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:29-38), tell us that it was not the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants who welcomed Jesus as King. The Jews of Jerusalem had little idea of what was happening, and had to ask, “Who is this?” They had to be told, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” This failure to recognise the Lord was why He wept over the city.

2. THE PROPHECY (12:14b-16)
At least two wonderful mainstream prophecies were coming together as this event took place. Those who knew their Bibles should have had this day circled in red on their calendars. People get excited about predicting what will take place on specific dates. This was one that they should have got excited about.

a) Zechariah
“Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written.” Years before Zechariah had prophesied, “Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt” (Zech 9:9). Even the disciples had forgotten this prophecy, “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him and that they had done these things unto him” (12:16).

b) Daniel
Nearly five centuries previously Daniel had predicted that a special period of 490 years of Jewish history would run its course.

(i) The Beginning. The period would begin at the time the command was given to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity (Dan 9:24-27). That happened 445 BC when, in the 20th year of his reign, Artaxerxes issued his decree permitting Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and build it (Neh 2:1-8).

(ii) The Ending. When 483 of those years would elapse, Daniel, said, Messiah would be presented to His people. On the very day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem, exactly 483 years had elapsed since the issuing of the command to build the walls of Jerusalem. That prophecy goes on to say that after 483 years are fulfilled, “Messiah shall be cut off” – a clear reference to the death of Jesus.

(iii) The Final “Week”. There is still a future final period of seven years to be fulfilled, referring to the period of world-wide upheaval, described in Revelation 6-19 as the Great Tribulation. We live in the great gap between the first 483 years and the final 7 years.

3. THE PERCEPTION (12:17-19)
John tells us that no one, understood the true meaning of this event. Different people, however, had widely different perceptions of what was taking place.

a) The People
The background to the story is the raising of Lazarus. “The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle” (12:17-18). A man who could raise the dead could deal with the Romans. At last their King had come! This event was a triumphal entry with all the trappings of triumph: shouts of praise, throngs lining the streets, palm fronds waving, and cloaks spread before Him like a royal carpet. We note:

(i) What They Said. “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (12:13). This was a quotation from Ps 118:25-26. The word “Hosanna” means “Save now!” or “Give the victory now!” They were enthused by the political and military implications of the coming of the King. They had never grasped the fact that the millennial kingdom could be manifested only on the foundation of a spiritual kingdom.

(ii) What They Did. They “took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him” (12:13). Ever since the days of the Maccabees, the Jews has used palm branches as symbols of victory. When they celebrated the rededication of their temple in 164 BC, the people waved palm branches. In 141 BC when they gained full independence under Simon they waved palm leaves. Now, once again, it was time to celebrate victory. The Messiah was coming! Roman rule was about to end!

b) The Romans
How the Romans must have laughed at the thought of a king riding a donkey! If he had ridden a war horse, now, that would be different!

c) The Disciples
The disciples were totally bewildered! Previously the Lord had always withdrawn from public notice. In John 6:15, when they had wanted to make Him king, He departed into a mount Himself alone. Now He was making a public entry into Jerusalem, and was willing to receive the acclamation of the crowd!

Eventually, “when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him” (12:16). They then had the Holy Spirit, who was able to interpret to them the things of Christ.

d) The Jewish Leaders
“The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him” (12:9). Things were getting out of hand. The Pharisees feared a violent reaction from the crowds during the Passover week. The entrance of Jesus had upset their plans, forcing them to proceed with their conspiracy ahead of schedule.

e) The Lord
Whatever the people may have thought, this was not a triumphal entry in the heart of the Lord. It was a tearful entry! He knew that in a few days their Hosannas would give way to their “Away with Him!”

In Luke 19:41-44 we get a glimpse into the heart of Jesus. As he looked over the city, instead of filling with joy, His heart broke for sorrow as He wept over its hardness. The people there ignored or resented Him, and would undergo severe judgement. This judgement took place 40 years later when the city and temple were destroyed by the Roman army. Jesus came to Jerusalem as King – not in triumph to receive a throne, but in tearful sorrow to pronounce judgement upon the nation.


John 12:20-36

Events were beginning to move rapidly, with only a few days to go before the Lord would be crucified. He was issuing His final invitation, and the sun was setting on the day of opportunity for those who has heard His messages and seen His miracles.

In this passage John recounts two events, both of which caused the Lord to comment. The first was the arrival of some Greek pilgrims who requested to see Jesus. The second was a startling announcement from heaven, understood only by the Lord Himself.

A number of Greek pilgrims had come up to Jerusalem to partake in the feast. They were God-fearing Gentiles who were attracted to the Jewish religion. Such pilgrims had likely come into contact with the teaching of the Old Testament and were drawn by the pure, monotheistic image of a great, loving Creator-God.

a) A Plea (12:20-24)
Though only proselytes, and not yet converted to Judaism, the Greek pilgrims had come to the Passover Feast to celebrate with the Jews, and were in Jerusalem “to worship at the feast.”

(i) The Request (12:20-22). The Greeks, impressed by the fervour in the city about this miracle-working Jesus, picked out Philip, who at least had a Greek name, and said, “Sir, we would see Jesus” (12:21).

Sometimes one sees these words taped to the pulpit top. They are a reminder that the people have not come to hear the speaker or admire His eloquence, or laugh at his jokes. They are challenging and humbling words.

(ii) The Reply (12:23-24). The Lord’s reply to Philip and Andrew was in three parts. They are to see:

The Lord Glorified. “And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified” (12:23). Throughout the gospels there were several times when people tugged at Jesus to declare Himself, but His response was always, “My hour has not yet come.” At Cana of Galilee he said to Mary, “Woman, my hours has not yet come.” He meant that the time for His revelation as the Messiah had not yet come. But the moment he hears of these unclean, unchosen Gentiles who were from outside the house of Israel, he responds, “the hour is come …”

The Lord Crucified. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone” (12:24a). All gardening and farming are founded on the principle that a seed has to be sown into the ground, that its germ of life can only reproduce when the seed is sown and dies. Nothing can happen apart from the process of death, burial, and reproduction in resurrection.

The Lord Multiplied. “…but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (12:24b). The visit of the Greeks enabled the Lord to see the harvest. “Much fruit!” The Lord could see Himself multiplied in the ages to come as a result of His being obedient unto death. Jesus used the symbol of a kernel of wheat not only of Himself, but as a symbol of everyone who follows Him. When we die, and our own kernel of wheat falls into the ground like that of Jesus Himself, we too can produce many new seeds. Others see Jesus through our own death. That is how the kingdom grows, and how the death of one kernel produces many seeds.

b) A Paradox (12:25)
“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” This is the great Christian paradox. The unmistakable mark of an authentic gospel is that it begins with dying. It begins with a cross. It does not mean that you have to hate yourself. It merely means that living for yourself will never supply what you really want out of life. Only when Christ assumes total control of life, will you find and keep yourself for eternal life. So many “gospels” today preach that you can have it all: you can be rich, indulge yourself, and be anything you want to be. But these are false gospels, and Jesus says that if you follow them, you will lose everything.

c) A Principle (12:26)
The Lord teaches about His:

(i) Followers (12:26a). “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.” The paradox is part of a principle: every person has to determine which world he or she intends to live for. We can live for Jesus and the world to come, and be with Him for all eternity. Or we can live for this world and be the losers in eternity, as the next clause shows.

(ii) Father (12:26b). “If any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” It is possible to have a saved soul, but a lost life. Millions have been saved, but never served. Those who have gone forth weeping, bearing precious seed, will be honoured by the Father, and this will be shown at the Judgement Seat of Christ.

2. THE VOICE OF GOD (12:27-36)
John does not mention Gethsemane, but he does mention this event (12:27-29), which has been referred to as a “little Gethsemane,” and which reflected the same soul trouble which Jesus experienced in the Garden.

a) The Lord’s Distress (12:27)
“Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” There are comparisons here with the real Gethsemane. John did not intend this to be a parallel account; he wanted us to know that the Lord’s agony did not begin in the Garden, it was something He lived with from a past eternity, and increasingly felt as He neared the cross.

That hour had come closer when He was born. It had come closer still when He was baptised, and identified with the race He had come to redeem. It had come closer still when He descended from the mount after meeting with Moses and Elijah to talk of His decease. It had come closer still when He had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. He foresaw His bloody sweat, the tears, the traitor’s kiss, the crown of thorns. It was all compressed into the words, “Now is my soul troubled” (12:27).

b) The Lord’s Desire (12:28-30)
The Lord suddenly prayed, “Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” It was not a prayer that He might be kept from suffering, but that His Father might be glorified. This is the third time God had now spoken audibly from heaven. The first was at His baptism, at the commencement of His ministry (Matt 3:17); the second was on the Mount of Transfiguration, at the climax of His ministry (Mat 17:5); the third time is here, at the crisis of His ministry.

“The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.” The people standing around heard something loud, but could not explain it. Some thought it was a thunder clap. Others thought it was some supernatural phenomenon, the voice of an angel The voice said that God had already glorified His name in the ministry of Jesus and He would glorify it again. From the context we deduce that the Father’s name had been glorified in the wilderness by the Lord’s victory over Satan, and would be glorified again by the victory over Satan on the cross at Calvary, and in the apocalypse. The Lord’s victories over Satan bring glory to God.

c) The Lord’s Declaration (12:31)
“Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” Our Lord’s ordeal would be terrible beyond description. Yet God declared that out of it will come even greater glory for God. What will that glory consist of? Jesus cites three elements.

(i) Judgement. “Now is judgement of this world.” God will be glorified when the cross brings judgement to the world. The cross will expose the evils of the world’s systems and philosophies. Jesus will lead the way to the cross – and we must follow Him, and nail our own selves to that cross. Those who take up their cross daily and follow Him have judged themselves. Those who do not will be judged by the cross.

(ii) Victory. “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” God will be glorified when Satan is overthrown by the cross. The cross is our guarantee that one day Satan will be totally overthrown. The “prince of this world” is Satan. The title is applied to Satan three times (also 14:30 and 16:11). He is the prince of demons (Matt 12:24) and the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2).
As the prince of this world Satan exercises that power over the world which God originally entrusted to Adam and Eve. That influence was surrendered to Satan in the fall. Daniel tells us that he sets his own princes over the nations in the unseen world. These princes are fallen angels of great power (Dan 10:11-12). Paul tells us we wrestle against them when we pray. He also tells us that Jesus triumphed over them on the cross (Col 2:15). From the moment of Christ’s birth Satan himself led the opposition to Jesus. But he had made a great error. Christ’s cross was God’s chosen instrument for the destruction of Satan and his power. So Jesus could say, “Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

(iii) Crucifixion. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” God will be glorified when the human race is drawn to Jesus. We hear this to mean that when Jesus is lifted up in preaching that men will be drawn to Him. That is true, but it is not what Jesus meant. Jesus said this to show the kind of death He would die. Being “lifted up” meant the death of the cross. When He is lifted up, then all of mankind, both men and women from every race will be drawn toward Him. They will be delivered and saved from their sins.

d) The Lord’s Death (12:32-34)
This is God’s means of tearing down Satan’s world system.

(i) The Death Described (12:32-33). “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” The cross is the great divide of humanity. On one side we see the dying thief, a man who died blaspheming, and who went out into a lost eternity. On the other side we see a man who died believing, and went out to be with Christ in paradise. The cross thus divides the world. Everyone is drawn to the cross. Each has to decide on which side of the cross to stand.

(ii) The Death Discussed (12:34). “The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?” The judgement process began at once. The Jews interrupted Jesus. They had heard enough. They referred Jesus to “the law.” Ps 89:29 and Ps 92 might have been on their minds. If Christ was to abide forever, what was all this talk about being “lifted up”? Who was this Son of man anyway? There was contempt in their question. They had their ideas about the Messiah. Jesus had proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah in His triumphant entry. Now He was talking about being “lifted up”! They were not going to permit that kind of talk.

e) The Lord’s Discernment (12:35-36a)
“Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.” This warning was His answer to their unbelief. Although He was the light, they refused to see it. He was nearly at the end of His earthly ministry. They urgently needed to take advantage of the light. It would soon be withdrawn, and they would be left walking in darkness.

The subsequent history of the Jewish people has been one long commentary on this. They saw no light in Christ and rejected the Saviour. They stumbled into the disaster of a war with Rome. They have persisted in unbelief to this day, and will go on doing so until they stumble into the arms of the antichrist.

Foreshadowing this, the Lord withdrew from their presence. And went and hid Himself. This seems to have been his last appeal to the Jewish people. He likely went away to Bethany.

f) The Lord’s Departure
“These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.” The sun had set on their day of opportunity. Why did the Jews refuse to recognise their Messiah, if He did such wonderful works and fulfilled such prophecies? Sadly, the people of this chapter show us the steps to unbelief.

(i) They Exercised A Selective Faith. This is a faith that believes some, not all, of the Word of God. The crowd said, “We have heard form the law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’” When Jesus spoke about being “lifted up,” the crowd knew exactly what He was speaking about. The cross. The cross offended their preconceived notion of who He was and what Messiah would do. They remembered passages that predicted His arrival as a Deliverer who would lead Israel to victory. The Jews of Jesus’ day, and our day also, focussed on those passages which told of this role, and neglected others which told of him as a suffering Messiah.

We can also fall into the same trap. We focus on this or that passage of Scriptures and claim, “This is what God is like. This is what He has promised me. He has promised healing, joy, and peace.” Then we complain later, “I claimed God’s promises, but they didn’t work.” We blame God for being unfaithful to His word.

(ii) They Ignored The Present Opportunity. That is what these Jews were doing. Jesus said to them, “You are going to have light for just a little while longer.” What was the opportunity they were ignoring? It was to listen to Jesus an learn from His words. What a privilege was slipping through their fingers. It seems that this was the last opportunity these people had of hearing His words. He never spoke to the multitudes again. Verse 36 says he hid Himself in the upper room.

(iii) They Denied The Need For Light. “The man who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” These people proudly embraced their own darkness as if it was light. We seldom experience total darkness – there is always some light. But, e.g. in Cango caves, after eyes have adjusted, one cannot see in front of one’s face. Imagine trying to find one’s way through the caves in total darkness – the low ceilings, the sudden drops, the tunnels, the pits. This is what awaits those who chose to stumble through life in the darkness.

The crowd had rejected Jesus’ light. Is it too late for them? No. He still invites them, “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” If you respond to the light you will become inwardly enlightened. You will also become a light to others. People will watch you, and by watching you live and walk in the light, they will learn to see reality as well.

The light of Jesus was about to go out in their lives. In fact, even as He spoke His light was being removed from their lives. “When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid Himself from them” (12:36). Now the darkness was complete. There would be no more miracles. No more wonderful words. The cross cast its shadow. A black darkness covered everything and everyone.


John 12:37-50

The Lord’s public ministry was at an end. From now on His ministry would be private, alone with His disciples. This section forms an epilogue in which John gives a resume of Christ’s ministry, mentioning His miracles and recapitulating His teaching.

The many proofs that Jesus was the Messiah should have left no room for prejudice and doubt. However, the Holy Spirit reminds us that such a reaction was foretold as far back as Isaiah’s time in the Old Testament. He actually warned that God would even blind His people because of their unbelief. The passage closes with a warning that doubt and unbelief can be dangerous. To reject the light is to want to walk in the dark.

John advances two causes for the stubborn unbelief of the Jewish people. One has to do with an ancient prophecy, the other with an abiding principle.

The reaction of the Jewish leaders was neither new nor unexpected. Two significant prophecies in the Old Testament book of Isaiah foretold with uncanny accuracy what their attitude and actions would be.

a) Solid Disbelief (12:37-41)
This disbelief was no accident.

(i) It Was Deliberately Fostered (12:37). “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.” Only 36 miracles of Jesus are recorded in the gospels, but the summary statements show that He performed many more miracles than these. He demonstrated His deity in many ways, day after day – over disease, disasters, demons, and even death. They deliberately tore up His credentials, and refused to believe on Him.

(ii) It Was Divinely Foretold (12:38-41). John alludes to two Old Testament prophecies, both from Isaiah:

* Isaiah 53. “That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (12:38). The prophecy depicts the Suffering Servant who was wounded for our transgressions, and tells of the treatment He received from the nation of Israel. The words “our report” refer to the Christ’s message, the “arm of the Lord” refers to His miracles which demonstrated the power of God’s arm. The Jews had written off such displays of power. John cites the rejection of Jesus as fulfilment of this prophecy.

* Isaiah 6. “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” (12:39,40). Blinded eyes and hardened hearts! Unbelief is self-propagating. A sobering Old Testament illustration is that of Pharaoh who continued to harden his heart until there came a time when God hardened it for him. The nation as a whole had refused the light, and now darkness would be their portion. The same still holds true for those who reject the truth. A time comes in the lives of those who will not repent that they cannot repent. They make a choice to reject the truth, and God simply seals it.

The implications of these prophecies are chilling. Verse 37 says they did not believe. Verse 39 says they could not believe. The harvest was past, the summer was ended, and they were not saved.

One day in the future, history will repeat itself. What God did here, He will do to the whole of unbelieving Christendom (2 Thes 2:11,12). He will send them a strong delusion that they should believe a lie. Unbelieving Christendom will receive the antichrist because “they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thes 2:10). No wonder the word says, “Seek ye the Lord while me may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Is 55:6).

John adds, “These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him” (12:41). This says simply that Jesus is God. The Lord, whose glory Isaiah saw, was Jesus. The reference is to the call of Isaiah at the time when he saw the Lord “high and lifted up,” surrounded by the seraphim whose voices proclaimed the holiness of God (Isaiah 6). Isaiah was actually looking forward in time and describing the glory of Jesus! The almighty God of the Old Testament is none other than Jesus Himself.!

b) Secret Disciples (12:42-43)
John says there were many who believed in the Lord Jesus, but secretly. What kind of belief was it?

(i) Their Convictions (12:42). “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him.” They believed that Jesus was who he said he was, that he was the Messiah. There was not doubt as to the correctness of their conclusion.

(ii) Their Cowardice (12:42). “…but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” They “believed” in their heads, but that belief did not change the way they lived their lives. Also they did not confess Him. A faith which does not confess Him is not a saving faith. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth…”

(iii) Their Compromise (12:43). “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” The stakes were high. Like all men everywhere, they wanted praise and approval. But which was the more important – God’s praise and approval, or man’s? Their choice eventually misled them into final darkness. True, a choice to follow Jesus might well have caused their excommunication. But their compromise was to prove far more costly. They lost out from being included in the inner circle of the Lord’s own and sharing the upper room ministry.

Verses 44-50 summarise the claims of Jesus made throughout his ministry. These are not the words Jesus spoke on this occasion – Jesus had hidden Himself from the crowd at this point – but they are meant to sum up the meaning of His life and ministry.

a) A Great Fact (12:44-46)
John emphasised two central and oft repeated points of the Lord’s messages.

(i) About Deity (12:44-45). “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” This blunt statement of deity and equality with God the Father cannot be misunderstood. John insists that Jesus reveals God because Jesus is God. When you deal with Jesus you deal with God!

(ii) About Darkness (12:46). “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” He kept on bringing them back to light and darkness. At the end of life’s journey it is either one or the other.

b) A Grave Future (12:47-50)

(i) Judgement Is Decreed (12:47-48). “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” There are two kinds of words spoken by the Lord in this verse:

* Words of Welcome. “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Jesus came as Saviour, not as Punisher. He is not willing that any should perish. His greatest desire is the salvation of each one. That is why judgement does not fall immediately, even though we disbelieve. God is patient and gives us every opportunity to believe. Judgement, however, does eventually come.

* Words of Warning. “He that rejecteth me…” The word for “reject” literally means, “to count as nothing.” It is a terrible offence to treat the words of the Lord Jesus in this way. God has sent His Son into the world. He has spoken to us by Him. He has no more to say until He speaks again in judgement.

(ii) Judgement Is Deserved (12:49-50). Jesus’ final statement in chapter 12 is a reminder to his hearers of the authority behind all he says. This authority relates to two issues:
* The Source (12:49). “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.” The words of anyone else are the words of a mere human. They may influence millions, but they have no divine authority. They all boil down to doing the best we can, and offering to God the fruits of our own efforts. The words of Jesus are the words of God. Final, authoritative, perfect. This was something which Christ had affirmed repeatedly. It was thus the greatest folly to ignore them.

* The Substance (12:50) “And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” Those were the Lord’s last words to the Jews in John’s gospel. Eternal life is to be found in what the Father had given Him to say. God has not given an invitation, but a commandment to obey.


John 13:1-17

In the introduction to his gospel John tells us that there were two major outcomes to the Lord’s ministry on earth. Firstly, that nation as such “received him not” (1:11), and this was fully shown in the first twelve chapters which detailed His public ministry. By the end of chapter 12 this ministry was compete, he had nothing more to say to those who had rejected the evidence of His miracles and His message.

However, there were those who did “receive him,” and in chapters 13-17 we see Christ’s private ministry to representatives of this group. Alone with His own in the upper room, separated from the world, He shared with them deep spiritual truths about His Father, Himself, the Holy Spirit, and themselves.

The Lord gave four major discourses. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), The Mystery Parables Discourse telling about the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13), the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24-25), and the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17). This Upper Room discourse is the longest. There is nothing quite like it. It tells us of His love for us, how we are to love the Christian life, the provision He has made for us. It contains nothing for the outsiders. It is all for His own.

The Lord introduced His upper room ministry with a powerful object lesson on authority and humility, as He focuses on an event which the other gospels do not mention – the washing of the disciples’ feet.

The opening verses of the chapter create an air of expectancy. The Lord’s hour had come, and little time remained before His death. Before He began His discourse, He stooped and washed the feet of His disciples. It was an act which startled and shamed them. John gives several reasons for this action by Jesus:

a) His Hour (13:1)
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father….” What the Lord referred to as His “hour” had been present in His thoughts from the beginning. Earlier, He had said to His mother, “Mine hour is not yet come,” and later, when the Jews tried to arrest Him, they could not, because His hour was not yet come. Now, as He entered the upper room with His disciples that crucial hour in His ministry had arrived. When time is short we become very focussed. We are aware of each tick of the clock.

b) His Love (13:1)
“Having love his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” The Lord was moved by overwhelming love for His disciples. He loved them to the end, to the furthest extent, to the uttermost, not in terms of time but in terms of readiness to save and serve them. Some say this refers to the end of time, or to the end of our needs, or to the end of our unworthiness.

Note what He says about:

(i) “His own.” What a contrast to the hostile unbelievers outside. Paul reminded the Corinthians, “Ye are not your own.” We are “His own” We are His because He chose us, called us and redeemed us.

(ii) “This world.” Often the Lord spoke about “this world” It was not the world He had made. It had become like this. This is the kosmos, the world system. It is man’s world; civilization that is anti-God and anti-Christ., and is under judgement.

c) His Enemy (13:2)
“And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” Jesus knew that His enemy was closing in on Him. There was an uninvited guest present. One of the twelve had already made a pact with the priests, and behind that plot was an even darker one. He knew that Satan’s instrument was one of His own disciples. Judas had already given himself over as a servant of the devil because opening his heart to a continuing pattern of deceit, greed, and selfishness.

d) His Authority (13:3)
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” Jesus was in charge of all events surrounding His coming death and resurrection. Some years ago a book, the Passover Plot, suggested that Jesus was the helpless victim of a murder conspiracy by the Jewish leaders and the Romans. Not so! He was in complete charge of events.

e) His Destiny (13:3).
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God.” The Lord was fully aware of who He was. “He had come from God” – that was His origin; “He went to God” – that was His destination. What astonishing condescension! He was about to perform the service of a slave. Not one of the disciples was prepared to render this service, even to the Master, let alone to the other disciples. He knew where He was going, up to the gates of glory, to the throne of God. Yet He “made Himself of no reputation” and stooped to the work of a household slave.

2. THE EXAMPLE (13:4-5)
The Lord was about to teach His disciples a lesson, first by example and then by exhortation, and show how true authority is always based on humility. It would be a hard lesson to learn, but it was sorely needed. Luke tells us they had just been arguing amongst themselves as to which among them was the greatest.

Leonardo da Vinci’s famous picture of “The Last Supper” is a wonderful work of art, but it hardly conveys an accurate image of what happened. It gives the impression of solemnity and dignity. The reality was different. Luke 22 and John 13 give an image of twelve grown men acting as children, refusing to do their chores, until eventually Jesus shames them with His own example. Each wanted to be a powerful right-hand-man in the kingdom – not a footwasher! Twelve quarrelsome men with dirty feet.

a) The Condescension (13:4-5)
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” Deliberately the Lord took off His outer garment, usually taken off for working and used as a cover when sleeping. He girded Himself with a towel, took a basin, and filled it with water. He then approached the first of the disciples to wash his feet and remove the dirt of the day.
Whatever else it was meant to portray, the Lord’s action was a perfect parable of the His own stooping to earth for us. See the steps He took:

(i) “He riseth from supper.” He was sitting with them at the table. A table speaks of fellowship and communion. That is what the Lord had always known with His Father in heaven. Yet He willing rose from that position of perfect harmony in order that He might fulfil the service of a slave.
(ii) “and laid aside his garments.” This pictures His making Himself of no reputation, of laying aside the outward manifestations of His glory when He became “God manifest in flesh.”
(iii) “and took a towel, and girded himself.” A towel was not a strip of terry-cloth like a bath towel. It was the garment with which a slave would have girded himself. So Jesus “took upon Himself the form of a servant.”
(iv) “After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” As if it were not enough to become a man, the Lord further humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
(v) “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again….” (13:11). How wonderful that, on account of Calvary, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name.. He once more wears His garments of glory, and is set down at the right hand of the majesty on high.

b) The Contrast
The disciples were shocked, stunned, and ashamed. What a contrast to their childish quarrel as to whom should be the greatest!

During the Revolutionary war, a stranger was riding a horse and encountered a group of three soldiers struggling to mount a heavy canon on a fortified gun emplacement against a British attack. Standing watching, and barking orders at them was a fourth soldier, who berated them but did nothing to help. The stranger asked the fourth soldier, “why don’t you help?” The soldier replied, “Sir, I’m a Corporal!” The stranger replied, “Oh, I beg your pardon. Please let me help.” He dismounted, joined the three soldiers and helped them place the canon. “Mr Corporal, next time you have a job to do and not enough men to do it, send a message to me at my headquarters and I will come again to help you. Just ask for your Commander-in-chief, Geo Washington!” General Washington then mounted his horse and rode away from the speechless corporal.

3. THE EXCHANGE (13:6-9)
At last Jesus came to Peter – who makes all the same mistakes as we do! We note:

a) Peter’s Reluctance.
“Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (13:6). Peter’s question emphasises the pronouns thou and my. He was offended by the Lord’s actions, because he totally misunderstood the nature of authority. Peter (and the rest of us) was raised to regard authority as a vertical structure, from top to down. The sign of authority is that there is a universal pecking order, with the big boy at the top and lesser mortals down the scale. Jesus had ignored this natural order of things. Peter knew that, whatever was happening, it was not right that the Lord should wash his feet.

Jesus answered and said unto him, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shall know hereafter” (13:6). There was a deeper lesson in this than mere foot washing. The significance was in the realm of the spiritual, not in the realm of the ritual. He was not merely trying to shame the disciples and quell their argument. He was giving a powerful lesson on the true meaning and nature of authority.

b) Peter’s Refusal
“Peter said unto him, Thou shall never wash my feet.” Peter was determined that the Lord would not wash his feet. The Lord’s reply was equally emphatic, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” This is fellowship. “Mary hath chosen that better part.”

c) Peter’s Request
“Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (13:9). Peter immediately gave in at the thought of anything causing a break in fellowship between himself and the Lord. Impulsively He asked the Lord to wash him all over.

“Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” (13:10). The Lord’s explanation to Peter is the heart of the entire passage. This hardly makes sense – “He that is washed needeth not to be washed.” The reason it doesn’t is that the Lord used two different words. The first word is the word for “bath,” the other is the word “to wash.”

The Lord unfolded two great truths – one doctrinal and the other practical. It is set against the background of the fact that a man would go to the public bath for “bathing.” He would then put on his sandals and come home. But the streets were full of all kinds of garbage, and when he arrived home, he had to “wash” his feet before he would enter his house.

(i) Doctrinal – Radical Cleansing. In those days every one took a complete bath in the morning and thus was “clean.” Thus the Lord could say to the disciples, “You are clean.” They had been saved, born again. It was as thou they had had a complete bath – the washing of regeneration.

(ii) Practical – Recurrent Cleansing. The believer only needs to be “bathed” once. Once is enough. However, in our daily walk in the world our feet become defiled and need to be cleansed again and again. This is a recurrent cleansing from sin. That is why He said, “If I was thee not, thou hast no part with me.”

Note that at the beginning of John 12 we have the feet of Jesus – these were anointed with spikenard, telling of the fragrant walk of the Lord. At the beginning of chap 13 we have the feet of the disciples – these were washed! Note that it was water – not blood – used for their cleansing.

4. THE EXPLANATION (13:12-17)
“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” The Lord followed up His vivid example with an explanation of “servant authority.” He began by reviewing the contrast between the lofty titles He bore, and the lowly task He had undertaken. The disciples called Him Teacher and Lord, and He did not deny the titles. They recognised His unique authority and responded to it by following Him. Why? Not because He bossed and lorded it over them, but because He served them. It was the servant authority of Jesus that made them eager to follow.

Two major lessons loomed large in the Lord’s mind:

a) A Lesson on Humility
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (13:14). The act of foot washing stands for all kinds of acts of self-denying love. Some groups have elevated this to the level of a church ordinance.. But it is not mentioned in the epistles as such (there are only two ordinances – the Lord’s Supper and baptism) . It is a call to loving care for others, that regards no task too menial, no service too great.

b) A Lesson on Authority
“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” Jesus taught that the true basis of authority is humble, obedient, loving service to one another. They had just been arguing about the whole question of authority. The Lord’s example left nothing further to be said.


John 13:18-30

In this second half of John 13, the Lord issued a number of important warnings. The first was a warning that Judas would betray Him. At the end of the chapter He warned Peter that he would deny Him. In between, He also warned His disciples that only by the exercise of love toward each other would it be manifest that they truly belonged to Him.

Poor Judas! His story is one of the most tragic ever written. Perhaps the deepest tragedy is not just that he betrayed the Lord with a kiss, but that he did it in the full knowledge of what he was doing and in spite of red alert warnings. To be so close to the Saviour, and yet not to acknowledge Him as Lord is the ultimate tragedy. It swept Judas out into a lost eternity.

A New Testament study of the life of Judas tells us about

a) His Call
Amazingly, the Lord chose Judas just as He did the other disciples. Mark 3:31 says, He “chose whom He would…that they might be with Him. This was no thoughtless choice, for He had “continued all night in prayer” beforehand.

b) His Career

(i) Outwardly – indistinguishable from the other disciples. He endured poverty with them, he did the works that they did (healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, even raising the dead, and casting out demons). He even held the position of trust as treasurer. He remained so entirely unsuspected that the disciples asked, “Lord, is it I.?” None suspected Judas.

(ii) Inwardly – Judas was very different.
* He was a thief – John 12:6. Likely started small, but eventually was able to invest in real estate, and buy a field with the reward of his iniquity (Acts 1:18).
* He had no spiritual perception. In John 12 he could not see beyond the waste of money.
* What kept him going? Apart from the financial gain from pilfering, there was likely a hope for a position of authority in the kingdom. But as the Lord progressively revealed that he was going to suffer and not reign, so it became clear to Judas that this Christ would not be the kind of king he was looking for.

c) His Covenant
Perhaps the anointing by Mary was the last straw. It was now time to turn King’s evidence, and make a tidy profit on the side. So Judas went off to the Chief Priests, and bargained with them.

Thereafter events move rapidly:
* Jesus washes his feet.
* Then He becomes “troubled in his spirit” and speaks to the disciples, warning them, “One of you shall betray me” (13:20).
* Judas is identified as the one who receives the sop, and receives the clearest warning from the Lord, “The Son of Man indeed goeth, but woe is that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. Good it were for that man that he had never been born” (Mk 14:21).

d) His Condemnation
Mat 27:3 tells us that when he saw he was condemned, he repented himself, and brought again the 30 pieces of silver, saying I have betrayed innocent blood. He cast them down in the temple, and went and hanged himself.

1. HOW HE WAS FORETOLD (13:18-22)

a) What The Scriptures Said (13:18)
“I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.”

Jesus began by quoting Psalm 41:9, written 1000 years before, to show what was about to happen to Him. That prophecy predicted that the one who ate bread with the Lord would lift up his heel against Him. It suggests the powerful and violent image of a trusted friend who, in the midst of fellowshipping and sharing a meal, suddenly becomes treacherous, and without warning delivers a kick to the face.

The original reference was to Ahitophel, one of David’s trusted counsellors and closest friends who defected to Absalom. In his case, some excuse could be found for him, as he was Bathsheba’s grandfather, and knew all about David’s seduction of his granddaughter and his murder of her husband.

Judas had no such excuse. He was not doomed, chosen, of foreordained by God for that role. He had a free choice. He could have turned, repented at any point. The role of traitor was a role he chose for himself. He was chosen by Christ to be a disciple. Of his own free will had had agreed. Of his own choice he had become a traitor. His own frustrated ambition, greed, and dishonesty drove him further and further from Christ. Now, even the Lord’s progressively explicit warnings failed to deter him.

b) What The Saviour Said (13:19-22)
Knowledge of Judas’ intended act troubled the Lord deeply, and these verses give us a window into His soul in these darkly intimate hours before the cross. The Lord had something to say about:-

(i) Receiving Him (13:19-20). “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.”

What does Jesus mean? He is saying that the reason Judas refused to believe was that he never received Jesus as Lord. Although he walked with the disciples, he pursued his own course, his own interests, and his own purposes. Outwardly he was a follower of Jesus. It is frightening to think that he even did miracles. Our doctrine can be orthodox. We can be an elder, teacher, evangelist, or Sunday School teacher – all without having never yielded to Christ.

What makes us genuine is not what we have accomplished for Jesus. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, by only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The true test of our genuineness as followers of Christ is whether or not we have yielded out hearts and lives to His lordship. It does not mean we never sin. It does mean we are not content to allow sin to take up permanent residence in our lives. We repent and return again. That is the difference between the two stories of Peter and Judas in the one chapter.

(ii) Rejecting Him (13:21-22) “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.” The Lord was “troubled in spirit” because He had given Judas every opportunity to repent. He did not hate Judas for what he was about to do. He was in pain for a man who had doomed himself by his own lying, treachery and greed. The inevitable could be postponed no longer. The Lord now took deliberate steps to expose and expel him.

The Lord’s announcement that one of them would betray Him sent a shock wave round the room. One of them, a traitor? Who was it? Peter signalled to John who was lying on Jesus’ breast to ask which one He meant.

Perhaps out of earshot of the others, Jesus replied, “He is it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it” (13:26). It was a mark of honour for the host of the Passover to dip a piece of bread into a bowl of crushed fruit and wine – one of the dishes of the Passover supper – and then hand it to the honoured person. The Lord made Judas His guest of honour by this gesture. He extends to him the token of friendship.

The giving of the sop marked the point of no return for Judas. Eternity swung in the balance for him. It was his last opportunity. Sadly, he did not respond. Instead the chapter says that “Satan entered into him.” (13:27).

3. WHAT HE FORFEITED (13:27-30)
This is an amazing scene. Here, in the same room, are the dynamic personifications of Good and Evil, of Light and Darkness. Satan must have been there to have entered so readily into Judas. Jesus watched knowingly as Satan entered into Judas to destroy Jesus – and Jesus did nothing to stop him. As with Judas, Satan doesn’t take over a person suddenly. He moves in gradually. The Lord gave Judas an opportunity to accept Him, but Judas turned his back on the Lord, and Satan took him over completely.

Judas made his own decision. God never sent a man to hell unless that man first of all sent himself there. God ratifies human decisions. He seconds the motion. When a man says he accepts Christ, God says, “I second it; I receive you.” When a man says that he rejects Christ, as Judas did here, God says, “I second the motion.”

How sad Jesus must have been to think of Judas doing what he was about to do – all for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus’ spirit was troubled as He thought of Judas. At that moment He ceased to persuade or change him. “That thou doest, do quickly.” Judas went out into the night, for there would never be another morning.

Three graphic pictures are painted for us.

a) Judas and the Devil (13:27)
“And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” The exact moment of Satan entering into him is marked when Judas crossed the final frontier from which there was no return.

The rejection of the Lord’s final appeal, marking him out for a gesture of friendship and honour, so hardened the heart of Judas against Christ that it was now possible for Satan to move in and take full possession of the man

b) Judas and the Disciples (13:28-29)
“Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.”

So great was Judas’ reputation, and so well had he deceived the other disciples than none suspected what was actually happening. Even at this time they thought the Lord was sending him out on an errand.

c) Judas and the Darkness (13:30)
“He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.” The words of Ps 41 from which Jesus had quoted in beginning of this final struggle for the soul of Jesus, now had their fulfilment.

“…and it was night.” For Judas there was now reserved what the Holy Spirit elsewhere calls “the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13). Judas left the light of the upper room, the fellowship of God’s saints, and the presence of the Lord Jesus in the midst of His own. We see him close the door. The darkness wraps around him. He goes to the place where the Lord’s enemies were waiting. Henceforth his name would be a universal symbol of treachery. He would never know again, in time or in eternity another moment of happiness. It was night. Eternal night for Judas. God moves slowly. But the devil moves quickly. He must move quickly because his days are limited. But God has all eternity to fulfil His plans.

“Light” and “darkness” have special meaning in the gospel.

(i) “Light.” In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in darkness. That was the true light that lighteth every man… “I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

(ii) “Darkness.” John 3:18, “This is the condemnation that men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.”

30 pieces of silver for the Lord of Life they gave;
30 pieces of silver – only the price of a slave,
But it was the priestly value of the Holy One of God;
They weighed it out in the temple, the price of the Saviour’s blood.

30 pieces of silver burned in the traitor’s brain;
30 pieces of silver, but Oh! It is hellish gain.
“I have sinned and betrayed the guiltless,” he cried with fevered breath,
And he cast them down in the temple, and rushed to a madman’s death.

30 pieces of silver lay in the house of God,
30 pieces of silver, but Oh! ‘twas the price of blood.
And so, for a place to bury the stranger in, they gave
The price of their own Messiah who lay in a borrowed grave.

It may not be for silver; it may not be fore gold;
But still by the tens of thousands is this precious Saviour sold.
Sold for a godless friendship, sold for a selfish aim,
Sold for a fleeting trifle, sold for an empty name!

Sold in the mart of science; sold in the seat of power;
Sold at the shrine of fortune; sold in pleasure’s bower.
Sold where the awful bargain none but God’s eye can see;
Ponder, my soul, the question, “Shall He be sold by thee?”

Sold! Oh God, what a moment! Stifled is conscience’s voice.
Sold! and a weeping angel records the awful choice.
Sold! But the price of the Saviour to a living coal shall turn,
With the pangs of remorse for ever deep in the soul to burn.

Still, as of old, man by himself is priced.
For 30 pieces of silver Judas sold himself – not Christ!


John 13:31-38

The ugliness of today’s world appals us with its daily diet of statistics about crime, murder, rape, etc. Many of the suggested solutions are simplistic and idealistic, and are reflected on bumper stickers saying, “Abolish Hate,” “Make Love, Not War!” We try education, legislation, and rehabilitation, in an attempt to stem the tide, but it all gets worse instead of better

When we ask the Lord for a solution He says, “Yes, I have an answer.” But His solution sounds even more simplistic! “Love one another.” But as we turn to the last half of John 13 we will discover a deep and practical reality in these words of Jesus that we need to discover for our own times. He gives his disciples a new commandment, which sums up all the 10 of the old commandments in a single sentence.

1. THE LORD OF LIFE (13:31-33)
“Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” (13:31). Judas had just left the upper room. It is a moment of high drama, introduced by these mysterious words about being “glorified.” Jesus refers specifically to His betrayal when He says that He is “glorified”! Judas goes out, the door closes – and Jesus turns to his disciples and says, in effect, “Now, at this moment, as my fate is being sealed, I am being glorified.” And not only He, but his Father also.

What is this glory Jesus is referring to? It is His sacrifice on the cross.

a) His Glory (13:31-32)
This statement gives profound insight into the bigger picture of what happened at the cross.

(i) The Son Glorified. “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” From the human side, it looked like His death and resurrection would result only in shame and defeat. But God was glorified in Him because through death he destroyed him who had the power of death, the devil. The salvation of the world was to be the result. It was the greatest work which the whole history of the universe ever witnessed. He was now on His way back to that glory He had with the Father before the worlds began, the glory He laid aside when He came to earth.

At times we speak about the different glories of the Lord:
* His Essential Glories. His glory as Creator, as omniscient and omnipotent God.
* His Official Glories which reflect His offices as Prophet, Priest, and King
* His Moral Glories. His glories when here upon earth. His sinlessness, His compassion, His glories reflected in His humanity.
* His Added Glories. “God raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory” (1 Peter 1:21).

(ii) The Father Glorified. “And God is glorified in Him.” The cross work of Christ was not just the basis for our salvation, and the glorification of the Son of Man, but was also the brightest manifestation of the glory of God. See how every attribute of Deity was magnified at Calvary.
* His Power. He seemed to be weak, but his power over events and his ability to lay down his own life were evidence of his power.
* His Justice. God will by no means clear the guilty. (Ex 34:7). He must lay on him the iniquity of us all.
* His Holiness. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. That is why he was forsaken.
* His Faithfulness. God was faithful to his Word. He had said that the soul that sinneth shall die. When He offered to receive the full and fearful wages of sin, God showed to all heaven and earth that He had rather that the blood of His Fellows be spilt than that one tittle of the Word should fail. Each prophecy had to be fulfilled.
* His Love. Herein is love (1 John 4:10).

What happened at the cross? While it was an exposure of the sinfulness of man’s heart, and a concentration of Satanic activity, it was also, and primarily, a manifestation of God’s glory – “And God is glorified in Him.”

b) His Goal (13:33)
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.” The coming crisis would affect, not only Him, but also the disciples, and His heart went out to them. He could see the stunned look on their f aces as the words sank in. Within 12 hours he would be on a cross. Within 24 hrs his broken body would be cold and lifeless, sealed inside a dark tomb. There was very little time – only enough for a few last instructions.

2. THE LAW OF LOVE (13:34-35)
The lesson of the upper room is profound and simple: “Love one another.” That is the secret to power. People are convinced by that kind of love. When the world sees us loving one an other by the power of the Holy Spirit, then people will be convinced. They will know that we have been with Jesus – and they will want to know this Jesus too.

a) Its Impulse (13:34)
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

“Love one another” is a simple-sounding formula, but it is about the hardest thing we will ever have to do. The love Jesus talks about – agape love –is rooted in the will, not in the emotions. It loves even when we do not feel like loving and the person is unlovely and unloving, and under the most adverse circumstances. We don’t need to be commanded to love those who are attractive, helpful, etc. The people Jesus commands us to love are those who are stingy, nasty, dull, selfish, downright mean.

Because such love is rooted in the will, such love becomes a choice to make, a command to obey, an example to follow.

Fuzzy feelings are not the issue. At issue is obedience to a commandment to seek the good of others, to be helpful to them, to be patient with and serve them, even if they never say Thank you. To love as Jesus loved does not mean you have to be a doormat for people to wipe their feet on you. It means being like Jesus. It may mean confronting their sin and abuse. A person in an abusive relationship is not expected to subject herself to abuse in order to “love one another.” She need protected, and that abuser needs to be confronted with his sin.

By teaching His disciples to love one another as He loved them, He was reshaping them into his own image. Henry Drummond, associate of D. L. Moody, used the illustration of a magnet to illustrate Jesus’ command to love one another. A piece of steel, if attached to a magnet, will gradually acquire the magnetic properties of the magnet. It, too, will be a magnet. So, if we dwell on His love for us – a love beyond our own deserving, we will gradually acquire that kind of love. It will gradually become our nature, just as it is His nature. People will feel that magnetic attraction of our own Christ-like lives.

b) Its Impact
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (13:35). The badge of true discipleship is not in the doctrinal statements to which we subscribe, or in the rituals we cherish, or in the ordinances we observe. It is not even in our soul-winning zeal, our faithfulness to the churches. It is in our love for all those who love the Lord. When people see that, they will recognise Christ in His disciples, and recognise that love as truly as His own.

Peter’s story closes John 13. Peter was very different from Judas. Judas was a counterfeit Christian. Peter was genuine, loyal, and committed.

There is not one of us who would do what Judas did – but we would all do what Peter did! Peter really loved the Lord. He wanted to be with the Lord, and meant what he said when he said he was ready to die for Him. When the Lord told him he would deny Him three times before the cock would crow, it was already dark, and Peter could not believe that he would deny his Lord before the dawn.

a) Peter’s Curiosity (13: 36-37a)
“Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now?”

For the past six months the Lord had been telling them that He was going to die, and would be raised again. It was now dawning on them that He actually was going to die. The Old Testament revelation of the afterlife was by no means so bright as the hope we now have from the New Testament. The resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit have made a big difference. Peter, grappling with the realisation that Jesus was soon to die, wanted to know what that meant. What lay beyond death? “Where are you going?” he asked. “Where will you be? Why can’t I come with you now?” This expression of love must have warmed the heart of the Saviour, and was in contrast to the cold hate of Judas.

Jesus was gentle with His friend. He does not rebuke Him. He knows his impetuous but loyal heart. He knows Peter’s question was not so much, “Where are you gong?” as “Why can’t I go with you?”

Tradition says that, many years later, perhaps 30 or more, Peter did indeed follow where Jesus went before him. He was imprisoned in Rome, and condemned to die by crucifixion. Feeling unworthy to die in the same way as the Lord, he asked that he be crucified upside down, and the request was granted. The words of the Lord “thou shalt follow me afterwards,” were literally fulfilled.

b) Peter’s Confidence (13:37b)
“I will lay down my life for thy sake.” If the Lord was going to die, Peter was gong to die with Him. But the Lord knew Peter better than He knew himself. Over-confidence in himself was the first step leading to his downfall.

c) Peter’s Cowardice
“Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.“ That night, for all his bold words, Peter would plumb the depths of cowardice. There is no blame in the Lord’s words. He had nothing but appreciation for his good intent, but He knew better than to count on it. As he had warned Judas, now He warned Peter. Peter seems to have been overwhelmed by the prediction; he lapsed into silence, and has no more to say during the discourse that follows.

Peter was sincere when he said he would follow the Lord and was ready to lay down his life for Him. But Jesus knew that Peter’s love was not agape love. It was a purely human, natural, affection. Mere affection cannot handle the demands that the Christian life and its trials makes on our love.

In a purely natural and human sense, there were probably any number of people Peter was willing to lay down his life for. His mother, his father, his brother, his close friends. But even though natural human affection can induce someone to sacrifice oneself for the sake of another, it cannot make someone a bold witness for Jesus. That takes a special love –love born of the Spirit living within.

Many new Christians with their faces aglow and hearts afire set out to win the world for Christ. Some have great gifts of organisation and set up programmes to carry out their plans. They are sincere and loyal and exciting and enthusiastic, just like Peter. They would lay down their lives for Him. But their work for Jesus can crumble because, like Peter, they don’t understand the weakness of human flesh. That is why the Lord had to teach Peter, and build him up through the process of pain, hurt, and rejection and failure.


John 14:1-6

If there is one affliction to which everyone feels prone, it is stress. It is our physical, mental, emotional response to changes, pressures, and demands of our lives. We all know stress factors – moving house, losing a job, marriage, bereavement. To this extend, stress is normal. It enhances our performance, and enables us to cope better.

The problem arises when the elastic gets stretched beyond its limit. That is when we become “stressed out.” When that happens we often experience physical symptoms – digestive disorders, disrupted sleep patterns, high blood pressure, etc. Our moods and attitudes become coloured by stress. Even our relationship with God can undergo negative stress changes.

Here, in these verses we have “The Concise Manual for Stress Management.” God’s stressed people often turned to these wonderful words of the Lord Jesus, especially when bereaved. They were spoken to the Lord’s stressed disciples. He had just told them that one of them would betray Him, and another would deny Him. In a few hours He Himself was going to leave them. He knew He had to prepare them for the pressure of persecution. They were moving into the dark and losing control of their circumstances. That’s why these words are so important.

Does this mean that we should never be stressed? Are such feelings sinful? Jesus Himself was stressed and “deeply troubled in spirit.” He is telling us that, while we cannot prevent stress, we can overcome it.

This refers to 3 things

a) The Believer’s Heart (14:1`)

(i) The Diagnosis. “Let not your heart be troubled.” Heart trouble happens, not just when the coronary arteries narrow or the valves begin to leak. There are many troubled, broken, and sorrowful hearts. The disciples were about to face the darkest hours on the planet. Every prop was to be swept away. Jesus would lie cold and silent, His body removed, His personality gone.

(ii) The Treatment. “Believe in God, believe also in me.” The thought here is not so much “belief” as “trust.” Belief is cold and intellectual. Trust is warm and personal. How can we trust? Not by forcing faith – but because we know Him, the object of our faith. If you believe that your car will take you home, how do you get home? Not by believing it, but by committing yourself to your car. So when we believe in Christ, we trust ourselves to Him.

b) The Believer’s Home
“In my Father’s house are many mansions.” “My Father’s house,” – what a wonderful description of heaven! Death can be chilling, a terror. Often the doorway by which we exit this life causes fear. None comes back. We have an instinctive horror of it. But the word’s “my Father’s house” bring a gleam in the gloom, and introduce us to the eternal and heavenly home of the saints.

We may speculate about heaven. Where is it? What is it like? The best definition is right here in John 14 – “My Father’s house.” The Bible does not tell us much about heaven, but we know it is:

(i) A Prepared Place. “I go to prepare a place for you.” Like Eden and Canaan, God always prepares the place to which He will lead us.

(ii) A Permanent Place. 2 Cor 5:1 says it is “Eternal in the heavens.”

(iii) A Perfect Place. It is a place of warmth, filled with fellowship and good memories. Heaven is not like some bizarre science fiction-like place. It is “My Father’s house,” it is home. It is a place where there are no eviction notices, no heavy mortgages, and no removal vans standing at the door.

(iv) A Personal Place. The big question about heaven is not so much where or what is heaven – but who? That’s why we sing, “Where Jesus is, ‘tis heaven there.”

c) The Believer’s Hope (14:3)
“I will come again” Jesus had other words of comfort to offer, words designed to help His disciples in the face of death. What would happen to Jesus when he died? Would they ever see Him again? What would happen if this turmoil in Jerusalem should sweep them all up and result in their deaths?

Death has a sobering effect on us all. Samuel Johnson said, “To know you will be hanged in the morning marvellously concentrates the mind!” Suddenly there is no time to waste on trivialities; every second counts.

“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” This message was confirmed to the disciples by the angels when Jesus ascended. They announced, “This same Jesus…shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Paul calls it the “blessed hope” of the church: Jesus is coming again.

Benjamin Disraeli was a member of the British House of Commons in the days of Empire. When he was elected to Parliament he stood out from his fellows. His dress was foppish, his manner eccentric. And he was Jewish. When he rose to make his first speech, he was mocked by his fellows M.Ps. and had to abandon his speech. The uproar was so great he had to abandon his speech. He raised his voice in defiance. “I will sit down now,” he said, “but you will hear from me again.” He went on to lead Britain to greatness.

That is the story of the Lord’s rejection.. “I will sit down now, but you will hear from me again.” Judas betrayed him, Peter denied Him, the Romans crucified Him, the world has no use for him. He says, “I will come again.” That is the last promise of the Bible.

2. HOW TO GET THERE (14:4-6)
“And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (14:4). The disciples were not so sure. He had been telling them where he was going, but they didn’t understand.

Thomas spoke up, “Lord, we know not whether thou goest, and how can we know the way?” (14:5). He is known as “Doubting Thomas,” but it is not a fair name for him. Better, “Honest Thomas.” We can thank Thomas for his question, for it gave the Lord opportunity to make one of His great I AM statements, and give a concise definitive summary of the way to heaven.

Jesus’ reply, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (14:6) packs into it all we need to know about approaching God.

a) How We Can Be Saved? – “I am the way.”
Up to this any one wishing to approach the Father, had to come by way of the altar of sacrifice and through the mediation of a priest. But here is something new that sweeps away all the Old Testament ritual of ceremony and sacrifice. Jesus is the fulfilment. It rules out any other approach to God, either of the virgin, saint, angel, or man.

Hampton Court in London, palace built by Cardinal Wolsley and confiscated by Henry VIII. In the garden there is a maze of hedges. Repeatedly end up in middle. There are even seats where people, thoroughly lost, can sit down and rest. Eventually attendant comes. “Follow me.” Stop trying to find the way. Just admit you are lost. Give up effort – just follow.

No other religious leader could ever make such a claim. Buddha called himself a guide. Mohammed a prophet and teacher of the truth. Many religions contain some truth. E.g. Koran, or Book of Mormon. But none of these is The Way.

b) How Can We Be Sure – “I am the Truth”
Think about truth! It is absolute, not negotiable, dogmatic, intolerant of any non-truth, narrow-minded, exclusive. 1+1=2. Truth! 2 can life as cheaply as 1 – untruth! Truth may be mathematical, religious, scientific, medical, religious. Take a mathematical truth. “2 x 2 = 4” That is a narrow, dogmatic, intolerant statement. It cannot accommodate an approximation, e.g. 2 x 2 = 3.

When the Lord said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me,” He was merely stating a truth. The fact that it rules out all other religions, and seems unacceptably dogmatic and narrow-minded, does not make it any less the truth. Every religious dogma, every philosophical concept, every scientific theory, every political, economic, or social concept that does not find its centre, sum and substance in Him will find itself in the end to be only non-truth and false. “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.”

A student at UCLA said he didn’t like the Bible because it was too dogmatic. He was right. In particular, this verse is dogmatic. Truth has to be dogmatic. Some people are very dogmatic. Bank managers, teachers. Truth must be absolute. Many complain this is narrow-minded. But the truth IS narrow-minded. If you want to reach someone by phone you have to dial the right number. “Almost” is not good enough. We don’t complain Telkom is narrow-minded!

c) How We Can Be Satisfied – “I am the Life”
“Life” is a John word. He uses it and its cognates some 56 times. The word was first used by the Lord when speaking of the two gates, the two ways, and the two destinies: “Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that fine it” (Matt 7:14).

Man loves life. He wants to hold onto it. The thought of losing it terrifies us. Solomon, haunted by the thought of death, wanted life for ever more. He discovered that this world can offer many pleasures and pursuits, but it cannot satisfy and it cannot offer life.

The life that the Lord gives is full-orbed, abundant, eternal, secure. It is freely available, on the simplest of terms – “Whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”


John 14:7-14

In the Old Testament God is seldom spoken of as Father. He is presented as Elohim, the majestic and awesome God of creation, or Jehovah, the covenant-keeping God of Israel, or Adonai,the sovereign Lord, and owner of the universe. The lovely name of Father was the Lord’s revelation to His disciples. As Father, He is a God of comfort and compassion, one who has a home and a family.

1. THE REQUEST (14:7-8)
“Show us the Father and it sufficeth us” (14:8). Philip was usually the quiet type who rarely said anything, and perhaps the other disciples were surprised when he spoke up. Yet in his plea to have something to see and handle we hear all the yearning and hunger that mankind feels for God.

This craving for something tangible and visible is behind all ritual religion. To go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, to wash in the Ganges, to crawl up Pilate’s staircase in Rome on bare knees – these are tangible and satisfying things to be done. That was the essence of Old Testament religion which was filled with object lessons and parables. It was a kind of “picture book stage” of divine revelation. But with the coming of Christ all that was abolished.

2. THE REPLY (14:9-11)
These are important verses, for they tell give us profound insight into the true nature of the Lord Jesus. They explain for us His personality and power, and tell us all we need to know about the relationship between the Father and the Son.

a) His Personality (14:9)
“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”

The Lord told Philip there was no difference between Himself and the Father. His statement, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (14:9), was not only the theme of the Upper Room discourse, it is at the heart of Christianity itself. Christ was God manifest in the flesh.

What is God like? The only concept we have of God is to take the features of our own personality and extend them into infinity. If we take our ability to think, and extend that into infinity, we can conceive of God as all-knowing, all-wise. If we take our ability to love, and extend it to infinity, we conceive of God as all-loving. Or our strength – all-powerful. Of our own moral nature – absolutely holy. The problem with this process, of course, lies in the fact that we are fallen creatures. Hence, when we extend the lines of fallen human personality into infinity, the concept we get of God can be as bent and twisted as we are.

When Jesus came, God gave the world a perfect human being. When we take the lines of His personality and extend them into infinity, we get a totally accurate picture of what God is like. He is like Jesus Christ. Jesus was God in full focus.

b) His Power (14:10-11)
“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake”

(i) His Words. Jesus told Philip that what He said was just what the Father said – no more, no less. Through His perfect, sinless life, the disciples could see Deity. They could know what the Father was like, because they knew what He was like. They could see the Father in everything He said and did.

(ii) His Works. Some have taught that the words, “The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works” (14:10), teach that the Lord Jesus never acted out of His deity. They say He never used His own inherent power, and that all His miracles were performed by His Father and not by Him. He was filled with the Spirit and relied on His Father Who then honoured Jesus’ faith and performed the miracles through Him. They then take this a step further, and teach that we also, if we also are filled with the Spirit and rely on our Father, we will be able to do what Jesus did.

There is some truth in this thought. Yes, Jesus is our role model. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit, and should allow Him access to every aspect of our lives. Yes, we should fully rely on the Father. When we do these things, we put ourselves in the place where God can use and work through us. In doing this we are following the example of Christ.

But we need to interpret the Scriptures accurately. There is a great difference between ourselves and our Saviour. It is not true to say that He never used His deity or that he never performed miracles. At Cana we read, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him.” The seven miracles of John’s Gospel are called “signs,” that is, they had deep spiritual meaning, and were mean to teach just exactly Who the Lord Jesus was. All three members of the Trinity, in happy harmony and fellowship, were involved in their performance (cf., John 14:11; Mat 12:28).

3. THE RESULT (14:12-14)
The Lord did not want to leave all this in the realm of Himself and His Father. He wanted to apply these great truths to ourselves. That is the truth of these next few verses which contain two promises.

a) The Promise of Power (14:12)
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

What were these “greater works”? In what way could they possibly be “greater”?

(i) Greater in Number. The apostles proved these words to be true on the day of Pentecost when 3000 were converted. The Lord rarely went beyond the borders of Palestine, but they went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). In His ministry in Palestine, Jesus likely never spoke to crowds larger than 7,000 people. Billy Graham spoke to over a million people in Seoul, Korea. The point is that these “greater works” have and do take place.

(ii) Greater in Nature. They were spiritual in nature. It is a wonderful work to open the eyes of a blind man. It is a greater miracle to open the eyes of a blinded soul so he can see the beauty of Jesus. It is a miracle to cure a person of leprosy; it is another miracle to cure him so he becomes pure in heart. It is a miracle to make a deaf person hear, but it is a greater miracle to allow him to hear the gospel and receive Christ. It is a miracle to raise the dead, but it is a greater miracle to bring eternal life to someone dead in trespasses and sins. This greater work continues as all over the world thousands of new converts receive new life. All this happens because Jesus has gone to the Father, and sent the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes a starry-eyed young Christian will say, “I have been anointed to do greater works than Jesus,” meaning greater physical miracles. But Jesus was speaking about the spiritual dimension, not the physical.

b) The Promise of Prayer (14:13-14)
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

(i) Its Authority. “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” Twice He uses the phrase, “In my name.” What did He mean when He said that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it? We sign off our prayers automatically, “in the name of Jesus, Amen.” Sort of “Yours sincerely.” Is this what He meant? That if we sign our prayers in His name, we will get everything we ask for? Some think so, and get angry with God when it doesn’t turn out that way.

But it means much more than this. The conditioning phrase is “in my name.” When we pray in the name of Jesus we acknowledge that He is the Lord, not we. We pray for the advancement of His programme, His will, His agenda, not our own. The purpose of prayer is to mould our will to conformity with His. It is not to bend God’s will to ours. It means that when we pray, we recognise that we are His servants, working in partnership with Him, willing to do whatever He asks, if it will further His kingdom.

Study the gospels. See the things Jesus prayed for. Explore the reasons why He prayed. Then we will understand better what it is to pray in His name. After leaving the upper room, He went into the Garden and prayed, “Father, if you are willing….yet not my will, but thine.” Jesus did not want to go to the cross, in His humanity, it was simply not His will to endure such agony. So He prayed in the name of the Father, “Not my will but yours be done.” Jesus was praying in the Father’s name, just as we are to pray in the name of Jesus.

Our prayers should be like His – honest and humble. God allows us to spread our petitions in front of Him, but ultimately our attitude must be, “Lord, I pray this in the name of Jesus, for the sake of Jesus, that His kingdom will be advanced; not in my name, but His; not my will, but His; and if my will gets in the way of His will, may only the will of Jesus be done, not mine.” That is to pray in the name of Jesus.

(ii) Its Goal. “…that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” If we listen carefully to the words of Jesus in the upper room, we can see that this is exactly what Jesus says, I will do whatever you ask in my name, “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The goal of our prayers should not be a sleeker car or a problem-free life, or any other selfish thing we are prone to pray for. It should be that whatever we pray for may ultimately advance the purpose of God and bring glory to Him When we pray that way, then we will see that God work through us, as His Spirit empowers and inspires us to pray prayers that are pleasing and honouring to G

John 14:15-31

The disciples were disturbed and troubled by the Lord’s impending departure, but He made sure that they had all they needed to survive and succeed. In particular, He left His peace. Shalom, “Peace,” it is also the eastern greeting for both “Goodbye” and “Hello.” His “Goodbye” would be the Comforter’s “Hello.” His peace, in the Person of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would remain.

1. THE LORD’S PROMISE (14:16-17)
Earthly fellowship with the Lord Jesus was about to be terminated, But the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s “other self,” would come to take up permanent residence with His followers. The word for Comforter, parakleton, means literally “one who comes alongside.” It is a John word, found only here and in 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and 1 John 2:1 where it is rendered “Advocate.” It can be translated Comforter, Counsellor, Advocate, Strengthener, or Helper. This is the Holy Spirit.

Packed into 14:16-17 there are six remarkable facts about the Holy Spirit.

a) His Gift
“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter.” The Lord did this. He ascended on high, sat down at God’s right hand in heaven, and ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, God gave the Holy Spirit as a gift to all true believers. He was here in the Old Testament, before Pentecost, but on that day He came to do something He had never done before. He came indwell all believers, and to baptise them into the church, the mystical body of Christ. He came to inaugurate a new beginning, a new age, one that will run from Pentecost to the rapture.

b) His Nature
“He will give you another Comforter.” It means literally, “another of the same kind.” Jesus was one Comforter. The Holy Spirit was another Comforter, another of the same kind. He would take over the work Jesus was doing with the disciples. The reason they had held their faith for three years was that they had been with Him. He had upheld and counselled and comforted them. But He would be going away. So another (of the same kind) would take over, One who was fully and equally God, and be the presence of God among them.

c) His Presence
“That he may abide with you forever.” He will be an abiding presence. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, He does not come and go. He does not have to be invited again and again. He comes to dwell and comes forever. Some groups teach we can have “more of the Spirit.” We can’t! He can have more of us – more control over behaviour, conversation, thoughts, and every aspect of our lives. But as genuine Christians, we have all of the Spirit we are ever going to get. As a Person, He does not come in bits and pieces. He comes complete and he comes forever.

d) His Character
“Even the Sprit of truth.” He will be a Revealer of Truth. The Lord had just described Himself as “the Truth” (14:6), and would soon say, “Thy word is truth.” So Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God all unite to present absolute truth. That is important, for the Holy Spirit gives us the Word of God, and that Word is absolute truth, totally dependable.

e) His Revelation
“Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” The ministry of the Holy Spirit to unbelievers is revealed elsewhere – reproving (16:8-9), regenerating (3:5-6), and restraining (2 Thes 2:6-7). But for the most part the world is ignorant of Him.

Note that He does not say that the world would not receive the Spirit of truth. He says it cannot!. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and opens it to the believer, but the unsaved man must first believe in Jesus Christ as his Saviour. The man of the world cannot hear Him or see Him, as it is only by the Spirit of God that his eyes and ears are opened. Without Him the Bible is a history book, or a philosophy manual. The Holy Spirit turns it into the Word of God filled with God’s truth.

f) His Ministry
“But ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit began not only a baptising work in relation to those who believed, which puts believers into Christ, but also an indwelling work, by which He puts Christ in the believer. He takes up residence in their hearts, and their bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit.

2. THE LORD’S PRESENCE (14:18-24)
We need His presence for the reason that Christianity is Christ. All the Lord expects from us is failure. For 33 years the Lord Jesus lived a supernatural life on earth. He allowed God to live His life in Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Now we as regenerated men and women are to allow Him as God to live His life in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is the essence of the Christian life.

In other words, His life is to be ours (14:18-20). This is stated in three ways:

a) A Word Of Reassurance (14:18)
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” The word for “comfort” is the word for “orphans.” The news that the Lord was going away left the disciples feeling orphaned. They were frightened, bewildered, lost. The Lord promised a coming which was to happen at the same time as His absence! He was departing from them physically, but would be with them spiritually in a new way.

b) A Word Of Revelation (14:19)
“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” The world saw the last of Him when it crucified Him and sealed His tomb. Since then it has seen Him no more. The disciples saw Him several times after His resurrection.

“Ye see me.” The use of this tense indicates a continuing vision: it means more than the resurrection appearances, which ended with His ascension. Those who believe on Him will go on seeing Him until, at last, we shall by faith see “His face” (Rev 22:4).

c) A Word Of Reality
“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (14:20). The reality of these words burst on the disciples at Pentecost. Later Paul unfolded these mysteries in his epistles, especially Ephesians.

(i) Salvation. “You in me.” To be saved means to be in Christ. We are either in Him by faith, or out of Him in our sins.

(ii) Sanctification. ”I in you.” This is Christ living in the believer and conforming him to His own likeness.

d) A Word of Renewal(14:21-24)
“and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (14:21). The proof of divine renewal is found in::

(i) Christian Love. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (14:21). Practical obedience is love’s truest test. This is more than singing “My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine.” God’s heart goes out in a special way to those who love His beloved Son – and prove it by their obedience

(ii) Christian Loyalty. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them” (14:21). If the Lord lives in our hearts we will want to obey Him.

(iii) Christian Life. “….we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (14:23). John later wrote his epistle to show that the proof of the presence of life in the believer is evidence that God is living in him.

3. THE LORD’S PEACE (14:25-31).
The Lord was leaving His disciples, but His peace would remain, made real to them by the Holy Spirit who would be sent to minister to them. These verses tell us much about two vital aspects of His ministry.

a) To Enlighten. (14:25-26)
“The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (14:26). Having shown us who the Holy Spirit is, Jesus now tells us what the Spirit will do when He comes. The Lord had revealed many remarkable things to these men, but it was evident from their questions how little they had grasped. The answer was the Holy Spirit. When He came, He would complete the revelation and quicken their faith by writing a book that would be the complete revelation of God’s truth for God’s people for the rest of time.

(i) A Reminder. “he shall…bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John’s gospel, with its long intricate discourses, and written by an old man, is an example of this. The Holy Spirit quickened John’s memory, and enabled him to write down accurately the story and sayings of Jesus.

(ii) A Revealer. “He shall teach you all things.” The Holy Spirit later revealed to the disciples new aspects of truth now recorded in the epistles. The same Spirit opens our understanding and helps us to apply God’s truth to our hearts and the reality of our own lives.

b) To Encourage (14:27-31)
Here is a clear contrast between the peace that the Lord Jesus gives and the peace the world gives.

(i) “My peace I give unto you.” We see the Lord’s peace at work in the final week of His life. He was never stampeded or goaded or panicked. He was always in charge because He was in the centre of His Father’s will.
Even when he stood before Pilate and Herod, it is clear that they were prisoners of history and of their own sinful selves, and the He was their judge.

(ii) “not as the world giveth.” What is the world’s peace like? A doctor will give it in the form of a prescription or tranquilliser. That is chemical peace. Other peace comes through escapism. Take a trip somewhere – get away from it all. But after the vacation, the problems are still there. It is temporary. Jesus’ peace is lasting – forever.

4. THE LORD’S PLEDGE (14:28-30)
The Lord final remarks before leaving the upper room contained:

a) A Promise
“Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you” (14:28). There would be all kinds of difficulties, but the disciples’ task would be to let Christ’s peace to settle in their hearts, regardless of circumstances.

b) A Perspective
“If ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go to the Father” (14:28). When He spoke these words in the upper room, Jesus was preparing to go back to the Father, by way of crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. He was about to take back to heaven a battle-scarred, glorified, resurrection body. Jesus was looking at things from this perspective. He told his disciples they should rejoice, if they loved Him, because He was going home, something He anticipated with joy. From the disciples’ perspective, there was only gloom. From His perspective, there was joy and glory, because He was going home.

c) A Prediction (14:29)
“And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” He knew the catastrophic upheaval that lay ahead, and just wanted to bolster their faith, so that, even if it should falter, they would afterward be the stronger as they remembered this incident.

The Lord was acutely aware of who was behind all that was happening. He carefully made several points about:

a) Instigation
“Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (14:30). One of Satan’s titles is “Prince of this world.” Satan’s men were all lined up: Judas, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, the Scribes, Herod, and Pilate. He thought he would triumph. He was wrong!

b) Innocence
“He hath nothing in me.” There was no sin in the Lord’s life upon which Satan could seize. In all others sin enabled Satan to enforce death as his due. Jesus, on the other hand, laid down His life as a voluntary sacrifice.

c) Inspiration
“But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do” (14:31). Why did Jesus go through such agony for us? Simply because He loved His Father. Our view of Christ’s death is centred on His love for us. “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” The Lord’s view of the cross was centred on His love for the Father: “that the world may know that I love the Father.” We look at the cross and see the Sin Offering. Jesus looked at the cross and saw the Burnt Offering.

John 15:1-17

“Arise, let us go hence.” With these words at the end of chapter 14 the Lord called His disciples to leave the upper room and go with Him to Gethsemane. He talked as He walked along the route that would take them to the Garden. That route likely took them around the outskirts of Jerusalem and past many vineyards visible in the light of the full Passover moon.

The vine with its dependent branches is a perfect picture of unity and the sharing of a common life. The Lord had in mind all who “abi de” in and have a living connection with Him. The word “abide” is used 15 times in verses 1-10. It always refers to fellowship. The great theme here is not salvation, but fruitfulness. Only those who are saved are capable of having fellowship with the Father and His Son the Saviour.

The Lord used the picture of the vine as a framework for His teaching

a) The Vine and its Background
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman” (15:1). Here are:

(i) A Picture. The Bible uses three agricultural symbols as pictures of Israel: the vine, the fig tree, and the olive tree. The vine represents Israel as a witness for God in the past (Ps 80:8,9, Is 5:1,7) the fig tree represents the nation in the present age, and the olive indicates Israel repentant and restored, bearing fruit for God in the future (Rom 11:16-26).

(ii) A Parable. In Mat 21:33-46 the Lord told the parable of the evil husbandmen who plotted the murder of the vineyard owner’s Son. The meaning of the parable was clear. Israel was God’s vine. He had taken it from Egypt, planted it in the Promised Land, and entrusted it to a series of divinely appointed leaders or husbandmen. He had sent His servants, looking for a return on His investment, but the leaders had ill-treated or murdered them. Last of all, He had sent His Son, and they were now preparing to murder Him. Such behaviour meant that judgement was unavoidable. God’s kingdom would be removed from the fruitless nation and invested instead in the church, which would take the place of Israel as God’s “true” vine. Israel has thus been temporarily set aside, and God’s purposes are centred in the church.

(iii) A Principle. “True” is a John word. It means “genuine.” John the Baptist was a reflecting light, but Christ is the “true light.” Moses gave bread in the wilderness, but the Lord is the “true bread.” Now He was saying that the nation Israel was not the genuine or true vine – Jesus is. Their identification with the Jewish nation and religion was not what matters. Union and identity with Christ are what matters – not subscription to a religion or a ritual.

b) The Vine and its Branches (15:2-3)
Note that these branches are “in me” – in Christ. Salvation is summed up in the phrase “in Christ.” This chapter has to do with fruit-bearing and witness; not with salvation and eternal security. The Lord identified two kinds of branches:

(i) Fruitless Branches. “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away” (15:2). Who are these fruitless branches? The Lord was addressing only believers – even Judas had already gone.

What is “he taketh away”? At times the vinekeeper would cut off “sucker shoots”– branch-like off-shoots which produce leaves, but not fruit. Suckers reduce the amount of nutrient reaching the fruit, whereas pruning directs maximum amounts to the fruitful branches.

This word “he taketh away” can also be rendered as “lift up.” The husbandman “lifts up” the fruitless earthbound vine to encourage it to bear fruit. If it doesn’t it is removed. So it is with the Christian. God may remove such by taking him away from the place of fruit-bearing. This does not mean he loses his salvation, but he is removed from the place of fruit-bearing. The church at Ephesus was an example of this. While active and doing all the right things, it had become a fruitless branch, and it was in danger of being cut off.

(ii) Fruitful Branches. “Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (15:2). Productive branches are “purged” or trimmed to bear more fruit. The word literally means “to cleanse.” This is not the original cleansing form sin; rather the daily cleansing by the Word as in 13:10. All that would interfere with fruit bearing is removed. Many believers go through painful and mysterious experiences: bereavement, accidents, sickness, etc, all of which can reflect the operation of the pruning knife. Only the heavenly Husbandman knows how, where, and when to use it. His object is always the same: more fruit.

“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (15:3). As the grapes get dirty and infected, the vinedressers washes the grapes before they get ripe, so the Lord lifts us up and washes us with His Word so that we may bear more fruit.

c) The Vine and Its Bounty (15:4-5)
The Lord here describes a two sided process:

(i) Our Side – Dependence. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (15:4). The lines of life in the vine run from the root to the farthest branch, giving vitality to each branch. Without the vine a branch is fruitless, lifeless, and useless.

Believers are never exhorted to be “in Christ,” but are frequently exhorted to abide in Him. The word “abide” conveys the idea of being intimately linked to Him. His life becomes our life supplying grace and power to live the “Christ life” here on earth. The life of the believer becomes the life through which the Lord expresses His life today.

(ii) His Side – Discipline. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (15:5). Our responsibility is to remain in Jesus. Following Him, staying close to Him, talking to Him daily, reading His word, obeying His commands, and worshipping Him. These are the disciplines of the Christian life. That means building habits that bring us closer to Jesus. That is remaining in Him.

“Without me ye can do nothing.” Better, “severed from me.” It we do not remain in Him, fellowship is interrupted and we become fruitless. Note, He does not say, “Without you I can do nothing!” There is no such thing as a freelance Christian. We can full our days with activity, and impress thousands. We can even win souls, but in God’s sight we are fruitless. What does a branch do to keep its place in the vine? Nothing, apart from just abiding. True, it bears the clusters, but is powerless to produce them by itself.

This relates to:

a) The Fruitfulness of Christ (15:6-8)
His life and His fruit are ours. Thus we see:

(i) The Results of Rejection. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (15:6). A severed branch withers and is cast into the fire to be burned. Note the change here in the pronouns. Up to this verse the emphasis is on “I, me, you.” Now “he, them, and they” are used. The “ye” referred to the disciples and those who are truly His. The “he, them, they,” refer to a different group.

Here the severed branches are carefully distinguished from the real ones. Judas was a severed branch. He was attached to the cause, but not to Christ. When the cause appeared to collapse he sold his Saviour, and died an apostate’s death. He represents those who attach themselves to the church but don’t know Christ.

The Lord’s warning here is strong, “men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” No clue is given as to who the “men” are, or what the “fire” is. The horror of it penetrates the conscience. Surely Judas and his imminent deed and his impending doom were in the Lord’s mind.

(ii) The Results of Remaining. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (15:7). The abiding life is the abounding life. This is not an unconditional blank cheque. God is too loving and too wise to put the key to His treasury into the hands of carnal Christians! This great guarantee is conditional on abiding in Christ having His words abiding in us. Two things qualify the promise of 15:7. “if ye abide in me.” Abiding in Christ means the maintaining of heart communion with Christ. “and my words abide in you.” Not only must the heart be occupied with Christ, but the life must be regulated by the Scriptures.

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (15:8). The Father was certainly not glorified in the behaviour of the disciples. Within the hour: Peter, James, and John asleep in Gethsemane, Peter slashing the ear off, and then swearing that he never knew the Lord, and the rest taking to their heels and running away. Why did they do such things? His word was not abiding in them. Why do we do such things? His word is not abiding in us. When the word abides in us we bring forth fruit and His Father is glorified.

b) The Fellowship of Christ (15:9-12)

(i) His Amazing Love. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love” (15:9). How much does the Lord love us? As much as the Father loves Him. There was Peter about to deny Him, and Thomas who doubted Him, and Philip who misunderstood Him. Jesus looked at them all and said, “I love you men as much as the Father loves me. Karl Barth was once asked, What is the most profound Scriptural truth you have ever found? “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”

God’s love is unconditional. It loves without even asking anything in return. When we love like that, people will feel loved and accepted. They will see God through us, and hear our message that God loves them and sent His Son to die for them.

(ii) His Abiding Promise. “Continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (15:9-10). The Lord fully kept His Father’s law, and consequently enjoyed full communion in His Father’s love. He always did those things that pleased the Father. He challenged His disciples to also live that way. Between them as men on earth, and Him as God in heaven, there is to exist the same love-law relationship that has existed between Him as Man on earth and His Father in heaven.

(iii) His Abounding Joy. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” (15:11). This verse speaks of double joy – His and ours. His joy related to the joy set before Him. His heart was full of joy, even though His cross was just ahead. It was for the joy that was set before Him that He endured the cross, despising the shame.

Our joy relates to Christ. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit, second only to love. It is manufactured in heaven. It is not like happiness which depends on what happens, or on material things. We can have it even when health slips away, when business fails, or a loved one is lost.

(iv) His Enabling Example. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (15:12). How did Jesus love them? They were stubborn, selfish, proud, ambitious, self-assured. They failed repeatedly. They were just like us! “As I have I loved you” – that is the key. Our love should flow from a heart that has received love from God. That is how Jesus loved. He reflected on how the Father loved Him. He was repeatedly renewed and strengthened by His Father’s love, so that He could go back to the disciples and put up with their follies. That is our example.

Do we struggle with love for someone? Reflect on His love for us and Allow the Holy Spirit to spread His love abroad in our hearts (Rom 5:5). Such love doesn’t come by gritting our teeth and screwing up our wills. It comes from reflecting on God’s love for us.

c) The Friendship of Christ (15:13-17)
“You are my friends” Surely no more amazing words have every been heard! That we who once were His enemies can now be classed among His “friends” is almost incredible

(i) The Test of Friendship. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). The Lord is speaking of His death as a voluntary surrender for the well-being of those he loved. That is the greatest love anyone can show for a friend. But Jesus was not just talking about dying for love, He was speaking about living for love. Love as a lifestyle. A continual process.

(ii) The Terms of Friendship (15:14-15)
– Obeying His Commands. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (15:14). Any one can be Jesus’ friend. All that is necessary to love Him is to do what He says. Jesus elevated the disciples from the level of servants, who must obey to avoid punishment, to the level of friends who want to obey. Friends share with friends their joys, hurts, and failures. Jesus shared His secrets with His friends. He told them about His Father, about His plans for the world, even about His own struggles and emotions.

– Knowing His Will. “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (15:15). The Lord lingered over this new word, “Friends.” Friends do things for each other, love each other, enjoy each other’s company. We do things for Him, He does things for us. He does not tell us what He wants done because we are His servants. Servants do what they are told. There is no bond of intimacy. A servant is merely an instrument of his master’s will. How different from a friend. Remember how God revealed His will to His friend Abraham. Now Jesus says He has revealed the things of God to us.

(iii) The Truth of Friendship. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (15:16). Here was God…

– Taking the Initiative. He was the One who sought out His disciples. He knew all about each one of them. He could have chosen whoever He wanted from the millions of earth – clever people, attractive people, etc. But He chose this group of fishermen, and chose them to be His friends!

– Stating His Intention. “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (15:16). The word for “ordained” means to be placed, sent, or appointed. The word here describes their assignment as apostles to the special position that was being given to them in that church which was about to be born. These eleven were specially chosen and ordained by Jesus to occupy a unique, once-for-all, role in the church. Similarly, down through the ages the Lord ordains His servants for the place, great or small, that He has chosen for them in His church.

– Issuing His Invitation. “That whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” What an invitation to enter the Throne Room, to present our petitions with boldness, knowing that prayers offered in the name of Jesus have top priority with Him.

(iv) The Trust of Friendship. “These things I command you, that ye love one another” (15:17). Friends of a friend should be friends. Like the spokes of a wheel, as the spokes near the hub, they get closer to each other.


John 15:18-27

The Lord had just been speaking about love and friendship amongst “His own.” Now His tone changes as He turns from His friends to His enemies, and warns of the world’s hostility against Him and His followers. Seven times He mentions the world’s hatred. He has already mentioned the prince of this world, Satan, and his attitude to Himself (14:30). Now he warns His disciples about the attitude of the world to themselves.

A new Christian is often dismayed to find that there is much antagonism. A new job, a new house, a new relationship is greeted with enthusiasm. But people can be antagonistic when presented with a new convert.

The Lord prepared His disciples for the world’s hostility with a number of strong statements which he further develops in chapter 16. Foremost among these was the promise of the coming Holy Spirit who would work through the believers and help them bear unmistakable testimony to Christ.

1. THE WORLD’S HATRED (15:18-22)
The Lord has been commanding his disciples to love one another. Now He leaves the subject of love to warn of the world’s hatred for Him and His friends.

a) The Reasons (15:18-21).
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (15:18). The world’s hatred for Christ was totally causeless and climaxed at the cross. It was directed against both the Father and the Son, and the works that He did (15:23-24). They persecuted Him, and they will persecute His followers.

There are two basic reasons for the world’s hatred:

(i) It is Intolerant (15:18-20). Christ was different, He always spoke the truth, and refused to compromise with any kind of evil. They will hate us too, if we are like Him. It is a kind of xenophobia, as our citizenship is of another world.

The Lord’s disciples, with the exception of John, were all martyred, and John himself endured persecution. For three hundred years from Nero to Diocletian, the church was the object of constant and overwhelming persecution. It was all because God’s people are different. The Lord gave some practical advice on the subject:

– Don’t be Surprised. The hostility comes because we are transformed, different people. Society will pressurise us to conform and compromise, but if we are like Christ, we will be marked as different, and the world will react accordingly. See the response of the Christian who was told he was no fun any more. “You don’t get drunk, or sleep around, or gamble, or go joyriding any more.” “You’ve got it all wrong! I can do any of those things any time. But I don’t want to!”

– Don’t Take it Personally. The word’s hatred is directed toward the Lord Himself, and He experienced it long before we did.

How different this is from the so-called “prosperity Gospel.” This false gospel promises that God’s people will be rich, healthy, happy, and successful if they meet certain conditions. Such teaching is far removed from the Lord’s teaching here. He insisted true disciples live in enemy controlled territory, and must share the experiences of their Master.

(ii) It is Ignorant. “But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (15:21). Strangely, down through the ages persecution has often comes from religious people. Just because people are sincere in their religious beliefs does not mean that they are right. Behind all Christ-rejecters, religious or otherwise, is Satan, who masquerades as an angel of light.

The world’s first false religion was founded by Cain. It was a religion of self-effort and Satan-inspired sacrifice. It needed no blood, no lamb, and no Christ. When Cain discovered that his brand of religion was rejected by God, whereas Abel’s was accepted, he was furious, and baptised his false religion in his brother’s blood.

b) The Results
“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin” (15:22). The Lord insisted they had enormous:

(i) Privilege. He had come and spoken to them. They had seen His works and heard His words.

(ii) Responsibility. The Jewish leaders knew the way of truth, but did not walk in it. That increased their condemnation, and left them without any “cloak” or excuse for their sin. Instead of accepting the truth, the world stands guilty of the greatest crime of eternity – that of rejecting God’s Son and nailing Him to a cross. That crime has been endorsed generation after generation by ignoring God’s word and persecuting His people.

c) The Revelation (15:23-25).
The Lord has just shown that the world’s hatred of the disciples was because of their oneness with Him. Now he shows that the world’s hatred of Him was because of His oneness with the Father. Christ revealed His Father’s will and expressed His likeness. To hate Him was proof of hatred of the Father. Thus Christ is the test of every heart. “What think ye of Christ?” honestly answered, reveals whether we are God’s friends or His enemies. If men do not believe in, love, worship, and serve the Son, they hate the Father.

(i) How This Hatred Was Focused. “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father” (15:24). It was not only that Christ had borne witness in His words, He had borne witness also by His works. That witness should have convinced them, and left them without excuse.

(ii) How This Hatred Was Foretold. “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause” (15:25). This was even written in their Scriptures, and the Lord quoted it from Psalm 35:19 or Psalm 69:4. Possession of the Scriptures always adds to the guilt of those who reject Christ.

The presence of the Son of God among them had the gravest possible results. To some it was an infinite blessing; to others it left them reprobate.

2. THE SPIRIT’S HELP (15:26-16:15)
The Lord’s warning of opposition from the world distressed His already saddened disciples. They wondered how their testimony could survive against such odds. Hence He reminded them again of His earlier promise of a Comforter who would be sent to help them. He assured them that they would successfully bear Him testimony, but it would be by the Spirit and not of themselves.

“When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me” (15:26). The Holy Spirit is here to remind people about Christ. John 14:26 has its fulfilment in the writing of the gospels. John 15:26-27 has its fulfilment in the events and writing of the book of Acts where we see the Holy Spirit at work through the disciples.

a) The Spirit and Truth (15:26)
Jesus told His disciples:

(i) Why He Would come (15:26). He came to bear witness to the truth in a world of lies. Satan, “the father of lies” (8:44) is far too clever for us, but he is no match for the Holy Spirit. The lies and deceptions of Satan, by means of which he reigns in the hearts of men and women, are exposed by the Spirit of truth who came to remind people that the truth is only found in Jesus Christ. He is the truth; the Holy Spirit is the truth. As Jesus, the truth, prepared to leave, the Holy Spirit, also the truth, prepared to come.

(ii) Whence He Would Come (15:26). In John 14:26 it is the Father who sends the Spirit; here it is the Son who sends Him. So the spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. This teaches the divinity of Christ and the unity of the godhead.

b) The Spirit and Testimony (15:26d-27)
“He shall testify of me” (15:26). His work on earth is to remind people about the Lord Jesus, and to win men and women to Him. As such He is the Spirit of truth. He keeps Himself in the background, and testifies concerning Christ and His glory.

“And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (15:27). The Holy Spirit not only bore witness to Christ, but He energised the disciples. This was done through the baptising, filling, and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Without him they could have done nothing. With him they turned the world upside down.

Note the Lord’s explanation of:

(i) How The Spirit Would Testify. He would not be visible, as the Son had been, but He would bear witness in and through the disciples.

(ii) What He Would Testify. He would testify that which they had already seen in Him and what they had heard from Him. The test of all Holy Spirit ministry is: does it exalt Christ? The preacher who continually talks about himself and leaves the impression that he is a wonderful man is not energised by the Holy Spirit. These disciples had been with Christ, and now their task was to bear witness to what they had seen and heard. The Holy Spirit would be the power behind that message.


John 16:1-15

As the Lord walked and talked with his disciples on the way to Gethsemane He continued to prepare them for His imminent departure. He emphasised that, although He would be absent, the Holy Spirit would come to take His place, and would be to them all that they needed. Of course, the disciples could not fully understand all that the Lord was saying, but in later years they would realise the truth and power of His words.

This section concludes the subject of witness to the world in chapter 15. Such witness would result in persecution and martyrdom. The man born blind had already been excommunicated from the synagogue for his bold testimony to Christ (John 9:22-23). Others were also threatened with expulsion (12:42). Before long James would be executed by Herod, and most of the disciples martyred. Stephen’s death introduced a period of violent persecution, when those who killed Christians thought they were doing the will of God (Phil 3:6).

Such forecasts of heavy weather ahead doubtless caused the disciples to shudder. Hence, Jesus reassured them saying:

a) They Were Not To Be Stumbled
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (16:1-2). Once the full implications of the Christian message was grasped, synagogues in city after city turned against it and those who preached it. The record of persecution is narrated in Acts. The Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and godless communism in modern times have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and young people who had committed no crime other than to witness to the truth. The story of what happened to God’s people in Russia, China, Uganda, Angola, the Chad, has never been told and is known only to God. It is estimated that in the past century more people have been martyred for the cause of Christ than in all the previous years since Pentecost.

b) They Were Not To Be Startled
“But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you” (16:4). The Lord tells them not to give up, and not to be surprised when hostility comes. Given the character of Christianity, the wickedness of the world, and the hatred of Satan, it was inevitable that persecution would arise. The handful of disciples were ignorant and unlearned; their foes would be able to harness the political, religious, economic, and military forces of the nation against them.

The Lord once again reminded the disciples that He would soon be leaving them. He told them about:

a) Things He had Concealed (16:4b)
“And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.” When God called Israel out of Egypt He did not tell them about the giants, the cities “walled up to heaven,” and the sons of the Anakim. They would find out about those in due time. But by then they would have seen God’s power unleashed against Egypt, and experienced the crossing of the Red Sea, and miracle after miracle in the wilderness. By then their faith would have matured. Thus, too, the Lord postponed talking about the sterner realities of the Christian life until now.

b) Things He Now Revealed (16:5,6)
“But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.” The disciples’ response to the Lord’s announcement of His departure was one of sorrow. They were worried how it would affect them; not how it would affect Him. They had no thought of the glorious place to which He was going. If they had realised He was going to the right hand of the Majesty on high, their minds would have been filled with joy too.

The early church took on the world and shook the mighty Roman empire to its foundations. The Jewish leaders of the day complained, “These are the people that turned the world upside-down.” The secret of this phenomenal success lay in God’s great gift to His church – the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit would do two things that would have a radical effect on both the disciples and the world around them:

a) He Would Replace (16:7)
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” Doubtless they would much rather have had the Lord’s physical presence than the invisible Holy Spirit. They were unable to as yet grasp the significance of replacing the limited bodily presence with an unlimited universal presence.

Suppose that Jesus had said, “I’ve decided to stay!” Suppose He had told Peter to be in charge of appointments. 15 minutes per appointment. From time to time He would tour other lands, but otherwise Jerusalem would be His centre. Before long the waiting list would be endless. People would wait a lifetime for just one interview. Instead He is today accessible to all who call on His name. The Holy Spirit is here to make good all those exceeding great and precious promises that are part of God’s gospel. That is why He said, “It is for your good that I am going away.”

b) He Would Reprove (16:8-11)
“When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement” (16:8). In His present ministry in the world the Holy Spirit convicts it of three things: sin, righteousness, and judgement. He is thus not only a Comforter; He is also a Prosecutor who presents evidence in our hearts to bring us to a place of conviction and decision. No person is ready to be saved who has not first come under this conviction of the Holy Spirit that he or she is lost. A person must first see himself as God sees him.

This reproving power of the Spirit touches three areas:

(i) “Of sin, because they believe not in me” (16:9). The greatest sin is not adultery or murder. These sins can be forgiven. The greatest sin is the wilful rejection of the claims and Person of Christ. That is the sin that damns, the finally unforgivable sin.

It is like a man who goes to the doctor who prescribes a remedy, but the man refuses to take it. He dies of his disease, not because he had the disease, but because he refused to take the remedy. All of us have this deadly disease of sin, but God has provided the remedy, offered on the basis of belief. To reject the remedy through refusal to believe is an insult God will not forgive. It is like spiritual AIDS.

(ii) “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father” (16:10). When the Lord Jesus died, two things happened. Our sins were subtracted because they were judged on the cross. That is what happened at His death – “He was delivered for our offences.” But He was also “raised for our justification” – not just that we might have our sins subtracted, but also have His righteousness added. The point is that Christ has added to us His righteousness. “That I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil 3:8.9). He subtracts our sin, but adds His righteousness.

(iii) “Of judgement, because the prince of this world is judged” (16:11). The Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgement because the “prince of this world” is judged. It is difficult to believe that we live in a judged world. One hears people say that they will take their chances. They act as if they are on trial. But they are not on trial. God has already declared they are lost sinners, and has already judged them. We live in a world that has already been judged, and is like the man waiting in death row for his execution. Paul reasoned with Felix about judgement. That frightened him. People resent hearing about judgement.

The Lord expanded on His teaching about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

a) The Reason.
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (15:12). The withheld teaching was more than the disciples were able to bear at this stage of their development. The picture is that of a weight a man is asked to bear. It may be pure gold, but it is too much for him.

b) The Reassurance
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will show you things to come” (15:13). Two classes of people need guidance. Those who cannot see where they are going, and those who do not know where they are going.

c) The Revelation
Note the Lord’s full-orbed teaching about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

(i) “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come…” (16:13). The day of Pentecost would usher in a change of dispensation. Israel as a nation would be replaced by the church age. The Holy Spirit would do something never done before in all His dealings with humankind. He would baptise people into the church, the mystical body of Christ (Acts 1:5; 1 Cor 12:13). Their spiritual faculties would be enlarged, and they would then be able to grasp divine truths only dimly expounded in the mystical teaching of Christ.

(ii) “He will guide you into all truth” (16:13). The word for “guide” is lit. “to lead the way.’ That suggests a moving forward. Step by step the Holy Spirit unfolded the truths that make up the epistles of the NT, and comprise what we call “church truth.” It took some time, and the saving and training of Paul, before these profounder truths could be verbalised. The Holy Spirit is both the Inspirer and Interpreter of the Scripture.

(iii) “He shall not speak of Himself; whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak” (16:13). The Lord had already said, “I speak those things which I have heard of him.” The teaching of the Son and the Spirit comes from the same infallible source of truth. The Holy Spirit had no message beyond that which was already implicit in the incarnate Word.

(iv) “He will show you things to come” (16:13). The coming of the Holy Spirit would also reveal truth about prophecy. This we have in the NT, especially in Revelation.

(v) “He shall glorify me” (16:14). The major work of the Holy Spirit is to exalt the person of Christ (16:14a). Soon men would spit at Him, and crucify him. The Lord saw beyond all that to the glory that would follow. The Holy Spirit would reveal that glory in many glowing passages, but especially in the Revelation, “the unveiling of Jesus Christ.” He glorifies Christ (16:13-14). Like Abraham’s servant, he opens and displays the treasures of the heavenly Isaac to the wondering gaze of the bride. This is the outstanding feature of all true ministry of the Spirit.

(vi) “He shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you” (16:14). The Lord Jesus had been a living exposition of the Father; now the Spirit was to be a living exposition of the Son. All that the Father was had been interpreted by the Son; all that the Son was would be interpreted by the Spirit.

If anything calling itself Christian teaching makes its approach to us and does not exalt and glorify Christ, it is not of the Holy Spirit.

“He shall receive of mine,” means He will take the things of God and show them unto us. Only He can do that. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit” (1 Cor 2:9,10).


John 16:16-33

The Lord, still walking towards Gethsemane, turned to address the distress and concerns of His disciples. Unfortunately, they felt He was speaking in riddles, and became quite frustrated though their failure to understand. Later, of course, they would understand perfectly, as the Holy Spirit opened their minds to the truth of the promises of joy, prayer, peace, and His presence that flood this last part of the upper room discourse.

1. THE LORD’S WORDS OF LIFE (16:16-28)
Having shared with His disciples some awesome truths about the Holy Spirit, the Lord told His disciples about what would happen to Him in the very near future. What He had to say revolved around three points.

a) A Matter Of Time (16: 16-19)
“A little while and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me.” To the exasperated disciples this seemed like a riddle, and they could not grasp the Lord’s meaning. He relieved their anxiety by explaining the meaning of the two “little while” periods.

(i) The Lord’s Explanation. “A little while, and ye shall not see me” (16:16). The Lord was telling them that for “a little while” He would pass out of their sight. He knew He would be taken from them, and they would forsake Him.

“Again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.” This “little while” would primarily cover his post-resurrection ministry and the ten recorded appearances among His disciples. However, the word for “see” is not the same word as the one just used. It means “to comprehend.” They would see Him in a new way, as they had never seen him before. Pentecost and the Holy Spirit would make the difference. The beginning of this new vision was at the resurrection. The enlargement of that new vision was at Pentecost. The final manifestation of it awaits the rapture when, in “a little while he that shall come will come, and will not tarry,” we shall see Him “face to face.” Today we see Him with the eye of faith.

(ii) The Disciples’ Exasperation. “Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father?” (16:17). There are notes of irritation and despair in the disciples’ voices as they express their bewilderment to each other. We can appreciate that, as this discourse is profound to us, even with our hindsight and the Holy Spirit to help us! They were still in their infancy, still in need of milk, yet the Lord was setting before them strong meat. But in six weeks’ time their confusion would be blown away by the mighty rushing Pentecostal wind.

“Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me” (16:19). Here Jesus gives us a guide to reading the Scriptures. People often say, “The Bible contradicts itself. It is full of errors!” That is what these people were saying, “Jesus is contradicting Himself. We don’t understand.” But like the disciples, we eventually find out that Jesus is not contradicting Himself, but that they were limited in their understanding.

b) A Matter Of Tears (16:20-22)
If the disciples were impatient with the Lord, He was not impatient with them. He carefully explained what would happen to them.

(i) His Explanation (16:20). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” The Lord warned of the time of mourning that they would soon experience. It would include the time of His trial, His death and burial. It was during this time that Peter wept, as did the women which also bewailed and lamented Him.

Note how He foretold that while they would mourn, “the world shall rejoice.” Peter would go out and weep bitterly. All of them would shed tears over the murder of their beloved master, but “the world shall rejoice.” Stripped of its mask, the world would be exposed for what it is, and its hatred for God and His Son would be revealed.

“Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” The women who saw the risen Saviour as they returned from the sepulchre ‘with fear and great joy” (Mt 28:8) ran to announce the glad tidings to the disciples. When He appeared to them we read, “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). Later after His ascension “they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk 24:22). It was not just that their sorrow was displaced by joy, but actually turned into joy. The very cause of their sorrow – the death of Christ – now became the ground of their joy. It was like the water of grief was being turned into wine of joy.

(ii) His Example (16:21-22), “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Jesus knew that although they did not understand His words, in a few days the horror of the cross would be displaced by the joy of the empty tomb. He illustrated His teaching with the example of child birth. What cause the intense pain of childbirth? The baby. What caused the joy? The same baby! The sadness of the cross were about to be replaced by the joy of resurrection and salvation.

c) A Matter Of Truth (16:23-28).
“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (17:23). The day was soon to come when the disciples would stop asking the Lord such questions. That would be the day when the Holy Spirit would come. He would guide them into all truth. Although He Himself would be gone, the Holy Spirit would be present and He would lead them.

In the following verses we see the Lord:

(i) Speaking Plainly (16:25), “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.” The Lord had frequently taught using parables and figures of speech. He had spoke of the vine and the pains of childbirth. The frustrated disciples had difficulty grasping His teaching. Now He had a new truth to tell them. Within 24 hours he was to be in the grave, but He would rise from the dead, ascend on high, and send the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit in their hearts, and God’s word in their hands, He would continue to speak plainly to and through his disciples.

(ii) Summarising His Ministry (16:27b-28) “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” Four majestic statements sum up the Lord’s earthly ministry.

“I come forth from the Father” (His incarnation),
“I am come into the world” (His mission),
“I leave the world” (His passion),
“I go to the Father” (His ascension).

This whole redemption process is motivated and bracketed by love. It is love from beginning to end. Love conceived the plan, love set it in motion, and love carried it through.

2. THE LORD’S WORDS OF LOVE (16:29-33)
The disciples were swept off their feet by the Lord’s fourfold summary of His coming and going. In their response they spoke about:

a) Their Confusion

(i) His Proverbs (16:29). “His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.” The Lord’s last statement was like a shaft of clear light. For a moment they saw all the mission, the marvel, the mystery, and the ultimate majesty of it all. Slowly but surely it was beginning to dawn on the disciples. They were convinced that He had come from the Father, that He had come into the world, and that He is the Messiah. But they still did not understand the dark waters of death through which He must pass, nor the resurrection and ascension by which he will enter back into the Father’s glory.

(ii) His Person (16:30). “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.” “Now we know!” they said. “Now we believe!”

b) Their Confidence (16:31-33)
The Lord balanced His promises with warnings of future challenges to their confidence. They would know what it was to have their:

(i) Faith Tested. “Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (17:31-32). Jesus knew how truly limited their understanding and faith were, and how their commitment as disciples would be stretched to breaking point. He knew that within an hour or two Peter would deny Him, and the others would desert Him, leaving Him to face His trial alone. How much they needed to beware of the fleeting emotion of the moment.

(ii) Faith Triumphant (16:33). “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” This verse tells of the believer’s two addresses:

– “in me…” Every believer in Christ has taken up abode in Him. This is the story of the ark, and those who took refuge in it.
– “in the world.” They are “in it,” but not “of it”.

In the end, in spite of the disciples’ failure, their faith would triumph. Just hours before the cross Jesus claims victory and share that victory with His fiends. He knew they did not understand, and that they would make a lot of mistakes. But – ”be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.” The victory has already been won.

That was the Lord’s strategy for this victory. It was not the strategy of a General. The strategies of this world focus on being sharp, strong, and smart. But God’s strategy is to use the foolish things to confound the plans of the wise. He uses the weak things to pull down the strongholds of the strong. God’s strategy for the church was used by the early church in Acts to turn the world upside-down. Its five essential features are:

a) Christians must experience an inner transformation.
b) Christians must rely on the guidebook of life which God has given, the Bible.
c) Christians must pray, then wait for God to transform their sorrows into joy.
d) Christians must rest on the foundation of God’s unfailing love.
e) Christians must believe God, offering up to Him their entire lives – mistakes, failings, suffering, weaknesses and all – and God can then work, turning our weakness into strength.

We don’t need better propaganda or fund-raising or more polished spokesmen. God wants us to come as we are, and lay ourselves at the feet of Jesus. “Lord, I’m a mess. I’m weak. I have a lot of problems, and those are my best qualifications! Please take me and use me as part of your strategy to each others, to heal lives, to further your eternal plan!”

“Cheer Up!”
In 1915, George Powell, a British actor, wrote a pop song that made him famous, and his father Felix composed the music to which it was sung all over Britain, and by soldiers in the trenches in France. The song was, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.”

In February 1942, 27 years later, Felix Powell went to a recreation centre, sat down at the piano and sang to the tune he had composed,

What’s the use of worrying: it never was worthwhile;
So pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.”

Shortly after strumming out the words, he went into another room and shot himself. Overcome with worry and sorrow, even when singing “smile, smile, smile,” he did not know the only One who could banish grief and give lasting peace.

John 17:1-10

The Lord is still walking along the Gethsemane road. We have been listening to Him talking to His followers. We continue listening as He now talks to His Father.

This is the true “Lord’s prayer.” The other “Lord’s prayer” of the Sermon on the Mount was a model prayer for his fallible disciples, and contains things which the Lord could never Himself have prayed (“forgive us our trespasses”). Here in this prayer, there are things which only the Lord Himself could pray.

Prayer was nothing new to the Lord. While being baptised He was engaged in prayer. Immediately on the commencement of His public ministry He went out into a mountain to pray. Before choosing his disciples he spent all night in prayer. It was while praying that He was transfigured, and while he was praying that he finally died on the cross. Only the briefest mention is made of the substance of these prayers, or none at all.

The scope of this prayer is enormous. He prayed first of all for Himself (17:1-5), then He prayed for His disciples (17:6-19), and then He prayed for all who would put their trust in Him over the next 2000 years (17:20-26).

In chapter 13 He lays one hand on the defiled feet of His disciples. Here in chapter 17 He lays the other hand on the throne of His heavenly Father.

1. HIS GOALS (17:1-4)
The Lord Jesus began His prayer by praying for Himself. There is nothing wrong with praying for ourselves. Every instrument needs to be tuned before it is played. We note what He had to say about three things.

a) His Father’s Person (17:1)
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.”

(i) The Words. “These words spake Jesus…” Which words? The words of chapters13 to 16. Although He is speaking to the Father here, He is speaking for their benefit, and ours also. He is our great Intercessor today, as our Great High Priest. We wonder what he is praying This chapter gives us a window into that ministry.

“He lifted up His eyes to heaven.” He prayed when walking along. We can pray as we walk or drive, or work.

(ii) The Hour. “Father, the hour is come.” What hour? Repeatedly He had said that His hour had not yet come. Now it had come. It was the hour when all creation would see God’s love displayed in redemption.

“Glorify thy Son…” To “glorify” means to reveal hidden riches. When the sun appears from behind the clouds, the gloom lifts from the entire landscape, and a dazzling radiance illuminates everything. That is the effect suggested by this word “glorify.” When Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, the hidden riches and radiance of God’s love and truth became visible to the world. John began his Gospel by saying, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.” What was His glory like? It was “full of grace and truth.” Though once they were hidden, all of God’s inner qualities of grace and truth became visible when Jesus came. In this prayer Jesus prays that, through the cross, something that has been hidden from the world will now be manifested.

b) His Father’s Power (17:2-3)
“As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” The cross reveals that He is both Lord and Saviour.

(i) He Is Lord. “Thou hast given him power over all flesh.” He had power over the fish of the sea and over the beasts of the earth. He was with the wild animals at His temptation, and rode an unbroken colt into Jerusalem. He had power over the fowls of the air – the cock crowed at exactly the right time after Peter’s betrayal. The full display of that “power over all flesh” will be seen when He returns and reigns and exercises that about which He here talked to His Father.

(ii) He Is Saviour. “…that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” This request generates two questions about “eternal life.”

What is it? “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (17:3). Not just conscious existence that goes on and on. Jesus has a much more elevated definition than that. It is “knowing God” through having a personal relationship with through His Son. It is not quantity of life, but quality. It is not what we know, but whom. Similarly, it is not the amount of faith that is important, it is the object of faith – Christ. How do we get this kind of faith? It comes by hearing the Word of God.

Who gets it? “as many as thou hast given him” (17:2). Here is God’s sovereignty. In some way we cannot understand, God does “choose” people. But God’s Word makes it clear that He gives eternal life only to those who hear His call and respond by coming to Christ of their own free will. The Bible is quite clear about the power of choice and responsibility to believe.

A poor old lady in southern USA was confident she was going to heaven. She was asked, “No one knows you! What difference will it make to the universe if you go to hell instead of heaven?” She replied, “It will make no difference to the universe, but it will make a great difference to the Lord. His honour would be gone!”

c) The Father’s Purposes (17:4)
“ I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” The Lord is handing in His final report to His Father. He has not yet died, but for a timeless God, future tenses are just as accurate at the past. On the cross he said, “It is finished.” That means our redemption was finished – period! Hence the Gospel is not what God is asking us to do, but what He is saying that He has already done for us.

2. HIS GLORY (17:5)
“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” The greatest of all glory is not the brightness of the noonday sun, or the sky’s most magnificent rainbow. It is the glory which Jesus put aside when He came to earth. In asking His Father to restore His glory, the Lord was looking beyond the cross to His resurrection and ascension. He would return to heaven to retake all His glories as Creator and Sustainer of all things. But added to those glory would be the glory of Redeemer.

Note the different aspects of His glory

a) His Glory as Saviour
“…that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ who thou hast sent” (17:2,3).

b) His Glory as Servant
“I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (17:4). The Servant had a task set to complete.

c) His Glory as Son
“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (17:5).

3. HIS GIFTS (17:6-8)
Twice in these verses the Lord speaks about gifts and giving:

a) Gifts Given To Him (17:6-7)
These were of two kinds of gifts given to the Lord by His Father.

(i) Certain People. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word” (17:6). All people belong to God because of creation. He created them. Some also belong to Christ by virtue of redemption. He is their Redeemer, and they have accepted the truth about the Father that His Son came to reveal. Such are the Father’s gift to His Son.

(ii) Certain Things. “Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee” (17:7). What were these “all things”? They were those things that had been given to Him by His Father: His power to cleanse lepers, set demoniacs free, give sight to the blind, raise the dead, and speak “wonderful words of life” such as no one ever spoke before. These men had entered into these “things.”

He had also shown many of them to an unbelieving world, but they had rejected and trampled them underfoot.

b) Gifts Given By Him (17:8)
“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” Pilate, Herod and Caesar believed none of these things. The world was a vast desert of unbelief. In that desert, the belief of His disciples was an oasis where the Saviour could stoop and drink. His most precious gift was the knowledge of:

(i) What He Was – the channel through which the Father’s life-giving “words which thou gavest me” could flow out to mankind;

(ii) Who He Was – the One who, eternally coequal with the Father, had come out from the Father to assume human form and sojourn here on earth for a while.

4. HIS GRACE (17:9-10)
The Lord noted those who were excluded from and included in His prayer

a) Those Excluded (17:9a)
“I pray for them: I pray not for the world.” It is startling to realise the Lord does not pray for the world today. His ministry of intercession is for His own. He died for the world. What more could He do for it? He has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict it of sin, righteousness, and judgement.

The disciples the Lord’s gift from His Father. He had spent more than three years with them, and they were His closest friend. We also pray first for those we love, for family, friends, and those closest to us.

These were the men who were to take the news to the world, and right now it was more important that He pray for them.

b) Those Included (17:9b-10)
“I pray… for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine, and all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” Even though the foul oaths and curses with which he would deny his Lord were in Peter’s heart, even though they would forsake Him and flee, he said, “I am glorified in them.”

Jesus did not see these men as they were just then, huddled around Him, half listening, sleepy, full of questions and interruptions. He saw them “complete in Him.” He saw, not just the rough stone, but the finished cut diamond. He saw them as we shall one day see them, when at last they (and we) shall be like Him, “for we shall see Him as He is.”

John 17:11-26

The Upper Room discourse began in chapter 13 with the Lord looking down, and laying His hands of the dusty feet of the disciples. It now ends by His lifting up His eyes to heaven, and laying His hands on the Father’s throne.

Once this world had been a kind of suburb of the world from which the Lord had come. That was before “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Rom 5:12). The world had become instead an infected alien outpost in the universe. It was preparing to murder Him. The wood for the cross was already cut. The nails for His hands already forged. The legal machinery of lying witnesses, bullying soldiers, cowardly judges, pragmatic politicians, and illegal sentence was already fuelled, oiled, and ready to go.

Knowing all this, what did Jesus pray for, just an hour or so before? His prayer focussed on others. He prayed that His Father might be praised, and that His followers might be protected in this world.

The Lord had just been praying for His disciples (17:9-10), asking His Father that they might be “kept,” and that His joy might be fulfilled in them. His prayer also give insight into His own relationship with the world.

a) His Relationship (17:11)
“And now I am no more in the world.” His own detachment from the world was complete. He was finished with the world, as far as His physical presence was concerned. By three o’clock of the coming afternoon He would be dead, and the world would be finished with Him. Thereafter, until His coming again in glory, heaven’s dealings with this world would be in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Once His physical protection was removed, the disciples, and His followers through the ages, would need the special “keeping” and protection of the Father.

b) His Request (17:11b-12)
“…keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (17:11). His mission had never been to change the world, but to call out from the world a people for His name. The Lord knew the world’s rage would soon be directed to His disciples.

The Lord thus prayed for two specific things:

(i) Their Security. “…keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me” (17:11). He prayed for us to be kept. He still does, as part of His High Priestly ministry. We will be kept because the Holy Spirit has sealed us, and because the Saviour is praying for us.

T. E. Wilson says the word “keep” means “watch over.” The town of Dover in WW2 was “kept” by three things: an internal garrison of artillery that traded shot for shot with the enemy; the ships of the Royal Navy; and the planes of the RAF. So we have a three fold protection from the world: the Holy Spirit in our hearts; the Word of God in our hands, and the interceding Christ on the throne.

(ii) Their Unity. “…that they may be one, as we are” (17:11). What kind of unity was that? He was not praying for an ecumenical movement, or that we all join the same denomination. He prays that they may be “one, as we are one.” The Father and Son were one in an organic unity. The Father has answered His Son’s every prayer, and has answered this one also. The Holy Spirit takes all true believers and unites them by baptising them into the body of Christ – the only true church there is.

“None of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (17:12). One such Scripture was Psalm 41:9, already quoted by Jesus. The word for “lost” used here is a strong word. It refers to a lost and hopeless destruction. Poor Judas, also chosen to be with Him, had walked away from God’s gift of eternal life, and earned himself the title, “son of perdition,” “the one doomed to destruction.” He had made his choices, and the consequences of disobedience and neglect would soon follow.

c) His Reassurance (17:13)
“And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” The Lord continued to speak of the joy set before Him. That joy that then filled His glory was to spill over into the soul of His saints, “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

The Lord had a fivefold request for His disciples. He prayed for:

a) Their Protection (17:14-15)
“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, and the world hatted them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (17:14). It is the Father’s Word that determines the world’s attitude toward those who cherish that Word. The world will not accept it. That Word denies its philosophies, and disregards its wisdom. The world’s enmity centres around God’s Word.

(i) Their Strength. “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (17:15). The prayer is not just that we might be kept from evil, but from the evil one, the prince of this world. He is a real and personal devil. The Lord did not pray that His people be immediately removed from the scene of danger. We are here as His ambassadors. The way to maintain our protection is to maintain a close love-relationship with the Lord.

(ii) Their Status. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (17:16). Paul says we have been translated into the kingdom of His dear Son. This vision of citizenship of another world gripped Abraham and made him a stranger and pilgrim here. In saying they are “not of the world,” the Lord was saying they do not belong because they are different. They have a different standing (in Christ), a different Father (God), a different citizenship (heaven), a different nature (a “new creature”), and a different destiny.

(iii) Their Sanctification. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (17:17). The word “sanctify” sounds like some kind of religious fumigation where all evil is cleansed from our lives. It merely means to separate or set apart a person or object for a specific purpose and to use it for that intended purpose.

We are a “sanctified” people when we are put to our intended use, when we are set apart for our specific, intended purpose. What is His intended purpose? To be instruments of His will. Thus when we abuse our bodies, or fill our minds with impure entertainment, or misuse our sexuality, or give vent to rage, or filthy language, then we are not putting our bodies to the use God intended. We are not being sanctified. But when we commit ourselves – body, mind and soul – to God’s service, that is sanctification.

d) Their Programme (17:18-21)
The Lord next prayed for His disciples and their programme in the world. They were to be:

(i) His Sent Ones. “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” (17:18). As the Lord Jesus lived on earth to represent the Father, so we now live on earth to represent Christ. The disciples were His “sent ones.” Six times in this prayer the Lord said He was the Sent One. It is the word apostello, or apostle.

(ii) His Sanctified Ones. “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (17:19). Again, the word “sanctify” here carries the idea of being consecrated or dedicated. The Lord was set apart for God in life (Heb 10:5-8), and now He is set apart for God in death (Heb 10 :9-10). Thus the writer to Hebrews says, “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The death of Christ automatically sets the believer aside from the world that perpetrated that murder and sets him apart for God.

(iii) His Saved Ones (17:20). “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” Although the church is not mentioned by name in John’s Gospel, by the time he wrote it, however, it was already a spreading force in the world. Here the Lord’s all-seeing eye saw all those who would believe as a result of what these first Christians did in the power of the Holy Spirit. He prayed for them. He saw us, and He prayed for us.

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (17:21). In the world today we have a church divided against itself, and torn into factions. Unsaved people look at “the church” and see Baptist, Brethren, Presbyterians, Anglicans, etc. How then can we be “one” when so many details and doctrines divide us? The Lord in His omniscience, knew the divisions that would develop. He knew they would produce what we call Christendom. How, then, can we understand the Lord’s prayer? The Lord prayed for:

– Invisible Unity. That prayer has been answered to the full. The mystical church of Christ is one, wholly and indivisibly one. This was the unique work of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and He is still baptising individual believers into the mystical body of Christ. He is the Head, we are the members. This is the universal church. The Church is an organic unity. Believers are one in Christ, for the church is one body. The minute a sinner trust Christ, he is put into the body of Christ.

– Visible Unity. This is not the universal church, which no one has yet seen; it to the local church, a local body of believers that love the Lord, who are saved by His grace, who are seeking to walk in the light of His Word, and who are drawn together for worship and fellowship. Here the Lord is praying for unity and peace within these local congregations of His people.

e) Their Perfection (17:22-23)
The Lord introduced two things in this request:

(i) His Glory (17:22). “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them.” This is not the glory of His deity, it is the glory of His perfect and sinless humanity, God seen, known, heard, and touched in His glorious Person. He has now handed on the torch to us. Hence God can be seen, heard, and touched in us, as we through the Holy Spirit become available to Him, as He made Himself available to His Father. As we do so, His glory will be seen in us.

(ii) His Goals (17:22b-23). “…that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” God’s ultimate goal for His people is that they my be brought into perfect oneness with Him, and that involves a transformation of character. They have to be made “perfect.” Positionally, that has already been accomplished. Conditionally, the Holy Spirit continues the perfecting process. One day we shall “all be changed” at the rapture, and we shall be like Him.

The Lord now comes to the closing sentences of His prayer. They are taken up primarily with His person, and how the knowledge of that should affect His own.

a) His Pre-Existence (17:24)
“…that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (17:24). He wanted them to see the glory of His deity, and know Him as He really was.

(i) His Desire (17:24a). “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” He wants us to be where He is. Heaven would be incomplete for us without Him. It is amazing that heaven should be incomplete for Him without us! These unlearned and ignorant men, who would run away at the first sign of trouble. These were those that He wanted to be with Him!

It will be heaven to be with Him in perfect fellowship with Him. This was God’s purpose in creating man. There are other creatures in the universe and on earth, but God made man a creature with whom He could have fellowship. Here is a glimpse of the great cosmic significance of the church. Jesus prays that the church will be with Him where He is. One day we will.

(ii) His Deity (17:24b). “…that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” He wanted them to see the glory of His deity, that glory that He had long before time began. Sometimes we get a glimpse of glory in a rainbow or sunset. Think of what it will be like when we come into his presence and behold His glory. That is the goal to which we are moving. To behold His glory will be the satisfaction of the believer.

b) His People (17:25-26)
His thoughts went out to:

(i) The World’s Blind Majority (17:25a). “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee.” That was His sad, final lament. He had lived, taught, and behaved to make Father known. Yet still the world had not known Him.

(ii) The World’s Believing Minority (17:25b-26). “…but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” Nobody knows God the Father better than God the Son. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had lived together in mutual harmony for an eternity.

“I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.” The Lord Jesus gave us the final revelation of the name of God. He had revealed Himself in the OT by many different names – Elohim, Jehovah, Adonai, etc. But it was Jesus who brought to earth the greatest of all names for God: Father.

John 18:1-11

The Betrayal – Judas
The Denial – Peter
The Trial – Pilate

Chapter 18 begins a new section of John’s Gospel. Chapter 1 has been introductory, chapters 2-12 record His ministry in the world; chapters 13-17 show Him alone with His disciples in the Upper Room. Now the closing chapters 18-21 tell of His death and resurrection. The scene is covered in three movements: the condemnation (18:1-19:15), the crucifixion (19:16-42), and the resurrection (20:1-21:25).

John’s presentation of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus is different from that of the other Gospel writers. We note:

a) What He Excludes
Significantly, John is silent about the Lord’s agony in the Garden. He does not mention His taking Peter, James, and John with Him; His falling on His face in prayer; the bloody sweat; the angel appearing to strengthen Him. Later he would say nothing about the darkness at the cross, or the orphan cry. John knew these details better than any of the other Gospel writers, yet they are not in line with his purpose in writing his Gospel and he passes over them. These details are used by the other writers to emphasise the Lord’s humanity.

b) What He Includes
In line with his mission is to emphasise His deity, John includes those details that reflect His glory. For example, His identification to the arresting band, His repeated statement that He was returning to His Father, and His dignified stance before Pilate all emphasise His deity. Here in the Garden, instead of Christ falling to the ground before the Father, we see those who came to arrest Him falling to the ground before Him!

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.”

“These words” refer to the Upper Room discourse and His prayer of chapter 17. Having delivered His prophetic message to His disciples in the Upper Room, the Lord now prepared to go forth to His priestly work.

The brook Cedron ran along the bottom of the Kidron valley, which followed a winding course down to the Dead Sea. In Jesus’ day the floor of the valley was about 200 feet below outer court of the temple. The mount of Olives dips down to the east of the valley, and has the Garden of Gethsemane on its lower slopes.

In crossing the brook with His faithful followers en route to His betrayal by His friend Judas, the Lord was foreshadowed by David, who in 2 Samuel 15 at the time of his betrayal by his friend Ahitophel, crossed the same river, also accompanied by his faithful followers. The similarities between the two episodes are striking. Both Judas and Ahitophel were the only two persons in the Bible to commit suicide by hanging.

2. HIS DEITY (8:2-9)
Few episodes so clearly reveal the Lord’s deity as His arrest by Judas’ band.

a) Judas’ Arrival (18:2-3)
“And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples” (18:2). See the scene John sets. Judas came with “a band of men,” which included a large detachment of Roman soldiers and some temple police provided by the Sanhedrin. Matthew says a great multitude came with him. Why so many? Perhaps the authorities were unsure how Jesus and His disciples would react, and were taking no chances.

On previous occasions He had avoided His enemies, and at times hid Himself (8:59; 12:36). But now “the hour” was come, and Jesus made for the very place where He knew Judas would find Him.

What is wrong with this picture? On one hand there was a fairly large detachment of Roman soldiers plus some temple guards and high officials among the chief priests and Pharisees. On the other hand we have an itinerant preacher and 11 very frightened fishermen. Why does it take such a large armed detachment to arrest one wandering preacher? What are they afraid of?

b) Jesus’ Authority (18:4-9)
“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?” (18:4). Note how John underlines the Lord’s omniscience – another evidence of His deity.

(i) The Revelation (18:5). “They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth….As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.” Note that the word “He” is not in the original. The Lord was identifying Himself as Jehovah, the great “I AM” of the OT.

(ii) The Response (18:6). “As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.” What an amazing flash of glory! Had Caesar sent all his legions from all over his empire, the result would still have been the same. He could have decimated Caesar’s soldiers by calling the twelve legions of angels poised and waiting to come to His aid. But such was furthermost from His mind. He merely wanted in this display of power and majesty to show them how helpless they really were.

By now the disciples were gathered round Him. Their courage was flowing back. The Lord intended to protect them, and said, “I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way.” He had come to be arrested, but did not want His disciples to be arrested. There was a Scripture to be fulfilled, as He had reminded them in 17:12, “That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none” (18:9). In this He was allowing God’s Word to be His guide.

3. HIS DEFENDER (18:10-12)
Peter’s impetuous nature flared up, and he made a clumsy attempt to defend the Lord.

a) Peter’s Courage (18:10)
“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.” Perhaps the other disciples took advantage of the soldiers’ bewildered obedience to Jesus command, and fled. Peter, however, has already vowed to defend Jesus to the death, and cannot leave. So, drawing his sword, he aimed for the head of the High Priest’s servant. Malchus kept his head, but lost an ear. Actually he was safe, for none ever died in the Lord’s presence!

Peter was acting in the self-confident energy of the flesh. Had Peter observed the ways of his Master and heeded His words, he would have seen that carnal weapons had no place in the fight to which He has called him. How we need to walk in the Spirit, so we do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.

b) Jesus’ Cup (18:11-12)
“Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it” (18:11). There are several “cups” mentioned in Scripture. There is the cup of salvation (Ps 116:13), the cup of consolation (Jer 16:7), and the cup of joy (Ps 23:5), “my cup runneth over.”

This “cup” is a cup of judgement, filled brim-full with all the ingredients which made the cross so bitter. Jesus had prayed, “Let this cup pass from me.” That cup of judgement will be drunk by all who turn their back on Christ. Psalm 11:6 tells of a cup, filled with God’s anger and judgement, which will be drunk by all who reject Him.

c) John’s Comparison
John, as he did in chapter 13, uses the dramatic figures of Judas and Peter for contrast. In the same passage we see Judas at the very depths of treachery, arriving at Gethsemane. And here we see Peter at the very height of his foolhardy self-confident courage, leaping to the Lord’s defence, yet thwarting the Lord’s plans and purposes.

John deliberately draws this contrast between Judas and Peter.

(i) Judas. It was already too late for Judas; he has passed the point of no return. Twice John refers to Judas as a betrayer (18:2,5). He has calculated the whole plan in advance. Ultimately he even outwitted himself. Soon he would be dead, and his soul confined to eternal night.

(ii) Peter. It was not too late for Peter. He had made a stupid, seeming irreparable mistake, but Jesus, the Lord of life and Healing, can undo even such a terrible act as the mutilation of the High Priest servant’s ear. He replaces the ear, and it is healed!

Throughout this account Peter is referred to as “Simon Peter” as he acts according to his old Simon nature. He does things in his own strength and his own way. We, too, can easily “lop off an ear” in misguided attempts to serve the Lord. It only takes a sharp word to someone in the church, or an argument with a family member, in which we try to debate rather than love them into the kingdom. As Jesus told Peter, that is now way to serve Him! The good news is that Jesus can heal the wounds we cause. We should take to heart His rebuke to Peter, “Put away your sword. I am not here to cut people apart. I am her to put them back together again.”

From a human standpoint, things could not have been worse. He was exhausted physically – His day had been long, and even His disciples couldn’t keep their eyes open in the Garden. He was exhausted emotionally, having just eaten the Passover with them. He had had a great desire to do that, but it had been punctuated by arguments as to who should be the greatest. There was also the question of Judas leaving, the Lord’s “own familiar friend.” He was also exhausted spiritually. He had just prayed in the garden, and been “sore amazed” and “very heavy.” Being in an agony He had “sweat as it were great drops of blood,” and an angel had to come to strengthen Him.

Now it seems as though events are about to swamp Him altogether. Judas comes and finds Him, then kisses Him. They lay hands on Him, bind Him, and take Him away. In it all the Lord seems so passive. It is as though events have overtaken Him and He has lost control!

Who really was in charge? See the ways in which the Lord established His authority:

• He took the initiative, e.g. Mk 14:42, “Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.” He didn’t wait till found behind a tree!
• He asked the first question – “Whom seek ye?” (John 18:4)
• He showed His glory, revealing Himself as the “I AM” (18:6). As a result his enemies fell to the ground.
• He healed Malchus’ ear, and reproved Peter.
• He challenged His captors, “Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?” (Mk 14:48)
• He asks that they let the others go, “Let these go their way.” (John 18:8)

Thus, even though exhausted, disappointed, frustrated, and apparent failure, He was in full control.

What was the secret of the Lord’s serenity? How was He able to remain so supremely serene and in full control?

a) His Relation to God’s Will
He had just said, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Central to all that was happening was the Lord’s conviction that He was in the centre of His Father’s will. When we understand this, we can relax in the most adverse of circumstances.

b) His Relation to God’s Word
“But the Scriptures must be fulfilled (Mk 14:49). He was acting in accordance with the Word of God. Whenever God’s Word controls our actions, we have nothing to fear.

c) His Relation to God’s Purpose
He understood that God had far reaching plans and purposes in the situation, and the Lord was moving parallel to those purposes. “Who for the joy that was set before Him….”

d) His Relation to God’s Justice
The Lord was unconcerned about the injustices done to Him, for He knew His God would eventually rectify them. The apparent injustices and unfairness of life can easily distort our perspectives, and lift our eyes away from our goals. The Lord dealt with that by We get easily deflected from our path by He committing Himself to Him that judges righteously.


John 18v13-27

Secular history tells us that Annas was one of the most brilliant and satanic of all the High Priests. Although the Romans had approved Caiaphas as High Priest, the real power behind the throne was Annas. This passage mainly deals with Christ’s trial before Annas and afterwards before Pilate, but it is interrupted repeatedly to tell of the tragedy of Peter’s fall.

“And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. And Annas sent Christ bound unto Caiaphas the high priest” (18:13-14). Annas had been appointed to the office of High Priest by the Roman governor of Syria. He was deposed after 9 years, but continued to exercise power through members of his family. Five sons, a grandson, and a son-in-law (Caiaphas) held that office. His son-in-law, Joseph Caiaphas, was the current High Priest, and would be so for 18 years, longer than anyone else in NT times.

a) The Agreement
“Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people” (18:14). This is a reminder that Jesus was about to be tried by those who had already agreed on His death. Caiaphas had earlier remarked about Jesus that it would be better for one man to die for the people than that the whole nation perish (11:50).

b) The Abuse
“And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?” (18:22). Isn’t that amazing? He did not know it, but he had just smitten his Maker. If he never afterward repented, one day at the Great White Throne he will answer for that deed. If he later found his way in repentance to Jesus, then one day the One he smote will welcome him home.

c) The Answer
“Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest” (18:23-24). Jesus’ response to being assaulted has much to teach us, and illustrates His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount about turning the other cheek. Many interpret this to mean that we should become living doormats, and never protest. But Jesus’ example here shows what He meant. He confronted the injustice of His interrogators. He does not strike back – but He does not let evil go unanswered either.

2. THE TRAGEDY (18:25-27)
Annas was getting nowhere, so he sent Jesus across the courtyard to the hall of Caiaphas, where by this time the whole Sanhedrin had gathered. John, however, ignores the entire trial before the High Priest (we get the details from the other gospels) and instead gives a highly condensed account of what happened to Peter.

a) A Closed Door (18:16)
“Peter stood at the door without.” Although the disciples initially forsook the Lord and fled, John and Peter at least, regained their courage and came back. Following the procession, Peter found himself outside the High Priest’s palace. Coming to the gate, he found it closed. The Lord had organised for the disciples to “go” and put a closed door in his way, but Peter disregarded it and went in. Costly consequences were to follow.

b) A Costly Denial
It is helpful to piece together the various features of Peter’s failure as recorded in the gospels. Incredibly, this foremost disciple who walked on the water, saw the dead raised, was with the Lord on the Mt of Transfiguration, and confessed, “We believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” one day denied His Lord before a servant girl.

What happened? The largest lesson is that Satan sets us down slowly, a gentle step at a time. He doesn’t push us over the cliff. Instead he erodes our commitment and godliness, so that neither we nor others notice what is happening. But when we look back, the downward course is almost always visible, and we wonder how we could have missed it.

(i) No Dependence – Self-confidence. The Lord warned Peter that he would be tempted, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat” (Lk 22:31). Peter confidently replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death.” He then added, “Though all shall be offended, yet not I.” Disaster could happen to others, but not to him. No wonder Paul said, “Let him that thinketh he standeth…” (1 Cor 10:12).

(ii) No Prayer – Prayerlesness. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mk 14:38). It is difficult to stumble if we are on our knees.

(iii) No Submission – Struggling instead of Submitting. Acting in the energy of the flesh, Peter lashed out to defend his Lord He covered his lack of insight and closeness to the Saviour with a burst of physical activity. For Jesus it was time to submit; for Peter it was time to struggle.

(iv) No Closeness – Following afar off. “Peter followed him afar off…” (Mk 14:54). True he was still following, but a distance had crept in. How often we see the symptoms: frequent absences from meetings, no exercise, lethargy.

(v) No Fellowship – In the wrong company. “And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.” Only a few verses previously we read that “Judas…stood with them”(18:5). Now it was Peter doing the same thing. What a perilous place for a disciple! Peter stayed at the world’s fire, and was about to be badly burned. Already he had started to betray His Lord. Satan already had the next step is lined up.

(vi) No Witness – Silent instead of witnessing. “They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not” (18:25). Members of the household staff and the temple police now echoed the words of the woman doorkeeper. Badly intimidated, Peter again flatly denied being a disciple.

(vii) No Testimony – Denial. “Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew” (18:27). The familiar sound of a rooster crowing smote Peter’s soul with grief and despair. Poor Peter! The whole trial was over before he knew he was even being tried.

John 18v28-40

John gives us a fairly full description of the Lord’s trial before Pilate. It can be divided into four parts: the accusation (18:28-32), the examination (18:33-40), the persecution (19:1-3), and the condemnation (19:4-15).

1. THE ACCUSATION (18:28-32)
Matthew tells us of the Lord’s trial before Caiaphas and the scribes and elders. After failing to incriminate the Lord using false witnesses, Caiaphas arose and said “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Mat 26:63). Christ responded by speaking before Caiaphas for the first time. He affirmed that He was the Christ, and warned that they would “see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Caiaphas then rent his official priestly robes, an act that actually intimated God had rent asunder the Aaronic priesthood. A garment is only torn in pieces when the owner has no more use for it.

Following this, Caiaphas said, “What further need have we of witnesses?…we have heard his blasphemy” (Mat 26 65). It was all they needed for their verdict, “He is guilty of death.” The trial was over. They had almost got all they wanted.

In John’s passage we see:

a) Their Concern About The Passover (18:28)
The Passover had actually been eaten the previous night. John here refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which accompanied the Passover, and for which it was necessary to keep oneself undefiled from leaven Hence they could not enter the home of a Gentile, as they might touch leaven and be defiled. John draws a clear contrast between the Jews’ sanctimonious piousness over ceremonial defilement and their complete lack of concern about the crime of sending an innocent man to his death.

(i) Their Purpose (18:28). “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgement: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgement hall, lest they should be defiled.” The place chosen for this Gentile trial was called the “Judgement Hall,” the praetorium. Normally the Roman governor of Judea held court at Caesarea, where the palace that Herod the Great had built for himself was used as the headquarters. When pressure of events brought the governor to Jerusalem, wherever he took up residence became his temporary praetorium. At this time it seems to have been the fortress of Antonia, located on the north-west end of the temple area.

Having themselves condemned Jesus to death, the Jewish authorities now had to get Pilate to ratify their sentence.

(ii) Their Preparation (18:28), “…that they might eat the passover.” It was Passover time. They had rid their houses of leaven, and performed their rituals to make themselves ceremonially clean. They had no intention of risking ceremonial defilement by entering a Gentile place of residence where there would be leaven. If only they realised that Christ was the true Passover Lamb.

b) Their Contempt For The Lord (18:29-30)
“Pilate then went out unto them” (18:29). That the whole Sanhedrin should visit Pilate at such a time as the Passover, convinced Pilate that this was an extraordinary case. Roman law demanded three things: the making of a specific indictment, the bringing of the accusers before the accused, and the liberty granted to the accused to answer for himself. Thus far Pilate was acting honourably.

(i) Their Description. “What accusation bring ye against this man?” (18:29). Pilate’s question and refusal to automatically ratify their sentence irritated them. “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.” A “malefactor”! What a name for the Son of God! This is the One who went about doing good, healing healed the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, raising the dead. They had searched His life for flaws, and had been forced in the end to hire false witnesses against Him.

(ii) Their Demand (18:31-32). Pilate said, “Take ye him and judge him according to your law” (18:31). The Jewish leaders were demanding the death sentence. The right of capital punishment was the most jealously guarded of all a Roman governors prerogatives.

(iii) Their Declaration. “That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die” (18:32). The Jews had forgotten an important prophecy which they were now helping to bring to pass. They actually declaring Him to be a true prophet. If the Jews had executed Jesus, they would have done so by stoning, not by crucifixion. The Lord’s prophecy of the manner of His death was a fulfilment of the OT prophets (Ps 22:16, Zech 12:10).

2. THE EXAMINATION (18:33-40)
The formal examination of Jesus revolved around a number of questions. It is clear that Pilate, not Jesus, was on trial.

a) Pilate’s Debate (18:33-34)
Pilate was full of questions:

(i) “Art thou the king of the Jews?”(18:33). “Then Pilate entered into the judgement hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?” Pilate went back inside the praetorium and had Jesus brought in before him. By now the Lord’s enemies had thought up a charge that no governor could afford to ignore. He claimed to be a king, King of the Jews, no less. All four Gospel writers record Pilate’s first question as, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” It reflected his astonishment. Nothing about Jesus suggested royalty. He was poor, defenceless, and without any political agenda.

“Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?” (18:34). Jesus answered Pilate’s question with a question. The Lord was addressing Pilate’s conscience. Did he really desire to act justly? Are you going to be the tool of those who delivered Him? Christ was pressing the individual responsibility of coming to a definite decision about Him.

(ii) “What hast thou done?” (18:35). “Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?” Suddenly Pilate was in the dock, and he didn’t like it. Pilate sensed he was being used by the crafty Caiaphas. He was not sure what the Jewish leaders were up to. But at the same time he was puzzled as to why they were so full of hatred against this Man. Hence his question, “What hast thou done?”

“What hast thou done?” The Lord answered immediately. That was the whole point. He was not the kind of king the Jews expected or wanted, “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (18:36). Jesus made no attempt to hide from Pilate the fact that He was a King, but His kingdom was a spiritual kingdom. It drew its power from another world. It did not depend on military might. As for the Jews, he had put Himself in their hands. The Jews were looking for a military Messiah who would give them victory over Rome. They had rejected Him because He was a meek messiah.

Jesus gave Pilate back his words. “Thou sayest that I am a king.” He then added, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.” (18:37). Note the double emphasis. “I was born… I came.” As Son of Man He was born as Son of God He came from another world.

(iii) “What is Truth?” (18:38). “Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?” Pilate replied with a question that the world’s religions and philosophies have debated for centuries. Jesus stood before Pilate as the answer to that question. He was the truth, absolute, perfect, clothed for all to see in flesh and blood. There and then Pilate could have slain his doubts, embraced Christ, and put his fears to rest, and entered into truth. With a touch of cynicism, he shrugged off the magic moment. It never came again, as far as we know.

b) Pilate’s Decision (18:38)
“ And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all” (18:36). For the moment, Pilate had made up his mind. He had been impressed by the prisoner. He was clearly no threat to Rome. He had committed no offence against Roman law, hence he declared “I find in him no fault.” He should have acquitted Him there and then. Had he done so, he would have gone down in history as the ideal judge.

c) Pilate’s Dilemma (18:39-40)
Suddenly a Passover custom came to help Pilate out of his dilemma. Needing to avoid confrontation with the Jews, Pilate sought took refuge in a local diversion that he hoped would help him. “Ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” (18:39). Pilate’s offer to release Jesus was based on this custom, rather than on the established basis of his innocence. Pilate had hoped that the Jews would accept Jesus, a good man, over Barabbas, a violent man. He could not resist the temptation of goading the Jews, by offering Jesus as “the king of the Jews.”

He did not have to wait long for a response. “Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber” (18:40). Barabbas was a terrorist, a violent troublemaker. In the synoptics we read that Pilate received a warning from his wife to have nothing to do with Jesus, because she had experienced bad dreams about this situation; that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for questioning, who then sent Him back to Pilate; that Pilate tried to find some way to release Jesus, but finally caved in to political pressure from the Jewish leaders.

Barabbas. What a choice! We see:

(i) His Origin. His name, Barabbas, means, “Son of the father.” Jesus was also often referred to Himself as the Son of His Father, but it was the Father of a different family

(ii) His Guilt. Barabbas had broken the law, had been condemned to death, and he would have to pay the penalty of his crime. In many ways his situation parallels our own.

(iii) His Condemnation. They dying thief said the he and his companion in crucifixion fully deserved the punishment they were receiving. So we fully deserve the judgment of God.

(iv) His Salvation. With what utter amazement Barabbas must have learned that Another had taken his place, and he was able to go free!

John 19:1-15

We now come to the climax of John’s account of the life of Jesus, as he leads us from Gabbatha, the place where Jesus was condemned, to Golgotha, the place where He was crucified.

Roman law became famous for its justice. On every Roman official’s desk there was a little figure of the two-faced God, Janus. One face looked forward, and the other backward. It is from this word that we get the name January, the month that looks back to the old year and forward to the new year. Janus was to remind the judge to look at both sides of the question. Sadly, the trial of Jesus has gone down in history as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice ever. Pilate wanted to play the role of a wise, fair, impartial Roman judge. He wanted to preserve the public peace, his career, and his conscience. But he was no match for the Jewish leaders as they out-maneouvered and threatened him with political ruin, suggesting that a move to acquit Jesus would be disloyal to Caesar.

Poor Pilate cut a tragic figure. He was later dismissed as governor and summoned to Rome to answer charges lodged against him by the Roman Emperor Tiberius. On his way there Tiberius died, and the charges against him were dropped. He later went to southern France, then known as Gaul, where, according to tradition, he took his own life.

Chapter 19 is a chapter of choices. Pilate chose compromise and expediency, and ended up with the blood of an innocent man on his hands. The crowd chose an evil man named Barabbas, and ended up crucifying the Son of God. Jesus chose the cross, and the end of His story is that He is crowned King Of Kings and Lord of Lords. But although different people made their different choices, God continued to work out His own will. We all make our choices, either to join God or oppose Him. But we cannot overturn His will. If we choose sin and folly, we will bear the consequences of our sin and folly ¬but God will weave our sin and our folly into His plan and bring His own good out of it. James Russell Lowell wrote

Truth for ever on the scaffold,
Wrong for ever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold holds the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God among the shadows
Keeping watch above His own.

This brief section adds to Pilate’s shame. To scourge Jesus was entirely unlawful and wrong, and Pilate did it because he thought it would placate the Jews. He callously handed over to the systematic torture or scourging, a man he had just pronounced innocent.

a) How They Scourged Him (19:1)
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him” (19:1). Trial by this method was a terrible ordeal. The victim was first fastened to a post . A soldier took the whip with its many thongs into which were woven pieces of metal or bone. He brought that whip down with all the force of his arm across the victim’s back. The first blow knocked all the breath out of the body. This second laid open the flesh. As the punishment proceeded, flesh was ripped from bone. Often those who survived it were maimed for life.

b) How They Mocked Him (19:2-3)
We note:

(i) The Crown. “And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head,” (19:2). The thought of Jesus being a king amused the soldiers. They made a crown of twisted thorns from a thorn bush, or perhaps from a palm tree. When twisted into a crown and rammed on his head, these would have penetrated deeply. Significantly, thorns are a symbol of the curse.

(ii) The Cloak. “They put on him a purple robe” (19:2). Having crowned Him, they flung a purple military cloak over His shoulders. Now He was a real King!

(iii) The Contempt. “Hail, King of the Jews” (19:23)

(iv) The Cowardice. As Jesus stood there the tough soldiers “smote him with their hands” (19:3). The OT prophet could say “His visage was so marred more than any man” (Isa 52:14).

When the soldiers failed to draw anything out of Him, He was taken again to Pilate who had Him brought out of the praetorium By now He was hardly recognizable.
a) Seeking for Sympathy
Perhaps Pilate was trying to arouse some pity in the priests by presenting a badly beaten Jesus.

(i) Christ’s Innocence Declared (19:4-5). “Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him” (19:4). Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent no less that seven times. During His trial and crucifixion, one after another testified to the Lord’s innocence. Judas declared, “I have betrayed the innocent blood.” Pilate declared, “I find no fault in him,” and added Herod’s testimony that he had done “nothing worthy of death.” Pilate’s wife entreated, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man.” The dying thief affirmed, “This man hath done nothing amiss.” The Roman centurion said, “Certainly, this was a righteous man.” Even those who stood with the centurion at the cross acknowledged, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Sometimes people point fingers at Christians, and say, “If that’s your Chrisitanity, I want none of it!” They may point fingers at Chrisitans, but they will never succeed in pointing a finger at Christ!

(ii) Pilate’s Injustice Demonstrated (19:5). “Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe.” The Lord had been beaten and brutalized, and was now paraded before them, as evidence of Pilate’s own cowardice. If Pilate hoped that such evidence of suffering combined with the fresh affirmation of innocence would sway them, he was mistaken. The sight of the crown of thorns and purple robe drove them to even greater fury. “Behold the man!” (19:5). Pilate’s presentation of Jesus has become famous and echoed down the centuries: Ecce homo! “Behold the man!”

b) Raising the Cry (19:6)
“When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.” The temple officers looked at him. The chief priests looked at him. Caiaphas looked at him. And from the lips of those religious men came the cry, “Crucify him!” We are historically and geographically far removed from that scene, yet all of us face the same timeless challenge and respond in one way or another. We cry either, “Crucify him!” or “Crown Him!” There is no middle ground, as Pilate soon found out.

c) Tightening the Noose (19:7-8)
“The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (19:7). The law to which the Jews alluded was in Leviticus 24:16. The Jews were well aware that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. They now hoped to make the charge of blasphemy stick and earn the death sentence they sought.

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid” (19:8). What went thro Pilate’s mind when faced with this claim to be the Son of God? Could it be true? He had never before dealt with such a man. Pilate hurried back into the praetorium to sort out his thoughts and talk again with his prisoner. Pilate might be hard, but he was not above superstition, heightened by an urgent message from his wife (Mat 27:9).

d) Nothing To Say (19:9)
Pilate “went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer” (19:8-9). Pilate’s questions were met with a total silence that unnerved Pilate. The Lord had nothing to say to this man who had already shown what he was prepared to do with Christ’s innocence. Pilate had closed his mind to what truth he had, and now the Lord had nothing more to say to him. His day of grace was closing.

e) Missing The Point (19:10)
“Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” Pilate missed the point altogether. He thought he had power to act as he pleased, yet he was himself was a prisoner, a captive of his own fear of the Jews and their ability to make trouble for him with Rome.

f) Accepting The Responsibility (19:11)
“Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” Caiaphas’ High Priestly office, in God’s sight, was much higher than that of a mere Roman official. He was charged with fulfilling the highest and holiest functions of the nation. If Pilate’s abuse of his office was great and would one day be called to account by God, how much worse was the abuse of his holy office by Caiaphas?

g) Choosing One’s Friends (19:12)
“From thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend.” The Jews changed their strategy and pressed a political charge of sedition. Pilate was much more occupied with being “Caesar’s friend,” than by being a friend of this stranger whose destiny, so he thought, lay in his hands. Judas sold Jesus for money, Caiaphas sold him for religious prejudice, Pilate sold him for his job. People still sell him – for material gain, for wrong religion, for godless friendship – for a handful of money or a round of applause.

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha” (19:13). Pilate could delay no longer. He had to finally make up his mind. So he seated himself on the judgment seat (bema), a raised platform with a seat in an open court in front of the praetorium. It was called “the pavement”, lit. “strewn with stone” suggesting some kind of mosaic. In the vernacular of the Jews, in Hebrew (Aramaic), it was called Gabbatha (“the ridge”). It is generally identified with the magnificent Roman pavement excavated beneath the Ecce Homo arch. It measured about 3000 square meters, and is thought to be the courtyard of the Antonia fortress. John gives this detail, as He who is one day to sit on his own bema (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10) and who one day is to judge all the wicked dead (Rev 20:11-15) was about to have sentenced passed on him by Jew and Gentile alike.

Having rejected Jesus as the Son of Man and as the Son of God, the Jews now rejected Him as the Son of David, the rightful heir to the throne of Israel.

a) The King Presented (19:14)
“He saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” Pilate’s hand had been forced, but he determined to make their victory as unpalatable as possible. He had Jesus brought forth, His face beaten, His head crowned with thorns, his back bleeding. He had been up all night. Earlier, He had agonized in the Garden. Pilate thus took Him and said, “Behold Your king!” Little did he know he was touching many of the OT’s greatest prophecies which said a King was coming. The Lord was the last rightful claimant to the throne of David, descendant directly from David along two lines. There he stood, their King.

b) The King Rejected (19:13)
“The chief priests answered, we have no king but Caesar.” The Jews hated Rome, hated its army, and hated Caesar. In less than forty years they would fight one of the fiercest wars in history to rid themselves of Caesar. But even Caesar was preferable to Jesus. They would rather have no Messiah, no millennium, than to have these things with Jesus.

It was the formal abdication of the nation’s Messianic hope, and God has taken them at their word. For most of the time since then the Jews have been aliens in Gentile lands. They have known no king but Caesar. They have been made to drink to the dregs the bitter cup they raised to heaven that day. They have now begun to return to their ancestral home, but there is yet to rise a Caesar to be their king, a Roman antichrist who will wring even more dregs than could ever be imagined for them out of this cup (Rev 13), until at long last they “look on him whom they pierced” and own him King indeed.

John 19:16-30

What actually happened when Christ died on the cross? Books have been written and magnificent paintings painted us enter into the Saviour’s suffering on the cross. Yet they all fall far short, as it is impossible to bring together all the ingredients that were in the cup the Lord drank while on the cross. The actual historical facts were played out against a amazing backdrop of intertwined causes and effects. Some of these were:

a) A Stroke of Divine Judgment
When Christ hung on the cross “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6). He bore our guilt and sin. He bore the judgment due to us.

b) A Vicious Satanic Attack
Concerning the cross the Saviour said, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Lk 22:53). Satan several times in the OT tried to thwart God’s purpose by attacking the line that would lead to Christ being born as Saviour. These attacks continued in the life of the Lord. That is the real reason why Herod killed the innocent infants. That’s the real reason behind the temptation. That’s why three times they took up stones to stone Him. As He neared the cross, Satan put it into the heart of Judas to betray Him. The cross itself was “Satan’s hour, and the power of darkness.”

c) A Brutal Wicker Murder
“Him being delivered by the determinate counsel of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). We would be happy to blame the Jews, but the Gentiles authorized it

d) A Voluntary Sacrifice
“I lay down my life that I might take it again” (Jn 10:17). The Scriptures repeatedly state that “He gave Himself.” “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me.” “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” When on the cross He bowed His head and dismissed His spirit, it was the culmination of an voluntary act of sacrifice.

“Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified.” (19:16). Pilate had washed his hands of the matter (Mat 27: 24), and handed Jesus over for crucifixion and a detachment of soldiers to carry it out. For Pilate the matter was finished.

a) The Place
“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull” (19:17). They led the Lord of life to the place of death. Skull Hill still stands a few metres outside the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem, a low mound with two large excavations on its side, which give the appearance of eye sockets.

b) The Prophecies
“Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (19:18). This single verse fulfilled at least two Old Testament prophecies. Psalm 22 had prophesied that He would die by crucifixion, even though it was not a known method of execution when the prophecy was made. Second, Isaiah had said he would be ‘numbered with the transgressors” (Isa 53:12).

The Romans crucified people by the thousands. Everything about it was horrible: the unnatural position, the prolonged agony, sometimes dragging on for days, the heat, the thirst, the flies, the nakedness, the shame.

c) The Position
“Jesus in the midst.” Even in death the Lord took His proper place, “in the midst.” Note the various passages in the Bible which present Him as being “in the midst.”

(i) Teaching. In Luke 2:46 we read of Him in the temple, “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them question.” The Jewish experts were astonished at His understanding. Whenever we put Jesus in the midst and spend time in His presence, He reveals Himself to us. We also become “astonished.”

(ii) Dying (John 19:18). The Lord hung “in the midst” on the central cross, “numbered with the transgressors.” Even in His death He was central.

(iii) Comforting. In Luke 20:19 we read that “when the doors were shut…came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said to them, Peace be unto you.” He found them bewildered, frightened, unable to understand, Yet as He took His place in the midst, he breathed peace, comfort, reassurance.

(iv) Gathering. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” He still gathers in the midst of those who meet in His name.

(v) Examining. In Rev 1:13 we see the Lord “in the midst of the lamp stands.” As He examines the different churches, He marks those who lave left their first love (Ephesus), those whose doctrine is not pure (Pergamos), those who were lukewarm (Laodicea). But also those who had patiently laboured like Smyrna and Philadelphia.

(vi) Standing. In Rev 5:6 we see Him “in the midst of the throne, as a lamb as it had been slain.” Here we both look forward to eternity and look back to Calvary. Amazing that there in all the splendour of heaven the centre of all attraction will be the One “in the midst.” It makes sense to put Him “in the midst” of our loves now!

He sat in the midst of the sages,
As Teacher from heaven above
To them He interprets the pages,
That speak of His Father’s love.

He stands in the midst of the stricken,
To comfort their hearts so sad,
His hands and His side that are riven,
Are tokens that made them glad.

He walks in the midst of the churches,
Inspector and Potentate,
With eyes that are flaming He searches,
And sees their declining state.

He waits in the midst of the fewest,
Who gather to plead His name,
He sends to the least and the lowest,
And grants them whatever they claim.

He hangs in the midst of felons,
As Saviour He sheds His blood,
And thus He has opened for millions,
The way to the heart of God

d) The Proclamation (19:19)
“And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE Jews” (19:19). Pilate had given in to the Jews, but was determined to make their victory as unpalatable as possible. Hence the carefully worded superscription sarcastically proclaiming Jesus as King of the Jews.

“It was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.” Hebrew was the language of religion, Greek the language of culture, Latin the language of government. God wanted the world to know. None could miss it. It concerned the gospel that was to be preached to the world-wide “whosoever.”

(i) The Jews’ Request. “Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews” (19:21). Stung by the inference in Pilate’s notice, the Jews objected to the wording.

(ii) Pilate’s Refusal. “What I have written I have written” (19:22). Pilate’s answer has become famous. Earlier, Caiaphas had unwittingly proclaimed Him to be the Saviour when he said “it is expedient for us, that one man die for the people” (John 11:50). Now Pilate had equally proclaimed Him to be the Sovereign. Neither man knew what he was doing. Thus God made the wrath of man to praise Him.

2. GREED AND GRIEF (19:23-27)
The greedy gambling of the soldiers contrasted with the Lord’s courageous companions who stood by the cross.

a) The Lords’s Garments (19:23-24)
“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout” (19:23). Having nailed Jesus to the cross, the soldiers turned to the dying man’s clothes. There were two main garments: an outer cloak and an inner tunic. The soldiers simply tore the cloak into four parts along the seams. However the inner tunic was different. Little did they know that they were making two major statements:

(i) They Were Fulfilling A Prophecy. “They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did” (19:24). David’s ancient prophecy in Psalm 22:18 graphically foretold in detail how they would deal with His clothes. How accurate is Biblical prophecy!

(ii) They Were Drawing A Picture. “Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout” (19:23). The seamless inner tunic was a perfect picture of the Lord’s own sinless character and life.

b) The Lord’s Companions (19:25-27)
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene” (19:25). Standing at the cross were a handful of precious women. Among them were three Marys. There was no word of the disciples who had earlier boasted they would be ready to die for Him. Mary His mother had a million precious memories of Him. Mary Magdalene who had been delivered by Him from a terrible form of demon possession had lived her life serving Him. How much their presence must have meant to Him.

(i) His Word To His Mother. “He said to his mother, Woman, behold thy son!” (19:26). Note that He did not address her as “mother.” Earthly relationships were ending. The parental title was replaced with a more general title of respect. Subsequent history shows how far-seeing this was. Roman Catholicism has so elevated Mary that they teach she is “co-redemptrix” which makes her as much our redeemer as the Lord Jesus Himself. No wonder Jesus sent her away from the cross!

(ii) His Word To His Disciple. “Then said he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!” (19:27). In spite of His agony, the thoughts of Jesus in the last moments of His life were for His mother. He commended her into the care of John.

John passes over the three hours of darkness on the cross, and concentrates on what happened just before the Lord dismissed His spirit.

a) The Final Prophecy (19:28-29)
“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” Twenty eight prophecies had already been fulfilled while He hung on the cross. His hands and feet had been pierced (Ps 22:16). His enemies had mocked Him, using the very words of the Psalmist (Ps 22:8). The soldiers had gambled for His garment (Ps 22:18). He had been abandoned by God and had cried out (Ps 22:1). Now, in the very last moments of His life, the Lord knew that this one final prophecy remained unfulfilled.

(i) The Request. “I thirst” (19:28). Thirst is the most agonising of all discomfort. Every cell in the body cries out for relief, and the pain grows steadily worse s the body dehydrates. The thirst of the long hours on the cross was accelerated by the loss of blood from the wounds. Amazing that He who offered the water of life so freely to the Samaritan woman in John 4 should suffer such awful thirst.

(ii) The Response. “Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth” (19:29).
As exactly prophesied in Psalm 69:21, a vinegar soaked sponge was fixed to the hyssop and reached to Jesus’ parched lips. Nothing more now remained to be fulfilled.

b) The Final Word (19:30)
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished.” This is the final word recorded by John. What was finished? His suffering. Every demand of the law. Every prophecy. Every ounce of His Father’s will!

c) The Final Act (19:30)
“He bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” Jesus last act was to dismiss His spirit from His body. He had made it clear that He did not have to die. He Himself laid down His life (10:17-18). Paul tells us He became obedient unto death. By contrast we have no choice in the matter. When death comes, we submit to it. Not so Jesus. He was obedient to it of His own free will. He willingly dismissed His spirit.

John 19:31-42

John’s detailed account of events immediately after the Lord’s death describes a number of actions some of which are indescribably brutal; others equally beautiful. Both Roman soldiers and Jewish believers were involved. Whether performed by those who loathed Him or loved Him, John saw these events as highly significant and rooted in Old Testament prophecies.

John’s description of the events which followed the crucifixion emphasises two points. Firstly, the Scriptures could not be broken. Every prophesied detail was fulfilled. Secondly, Jesus really was dead. The crucifixion was not some “near death” experience where Jesus swooned and regained consciousness in the cool of the tomb.

a) The Sabbath (19:31)
“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” This Sabbath was not the ordinary weekly Sabbath but “an high day” Sabbath, “a special Sabbath” (NIV), the first day of the Passover Feast. It was unthinkable to the Jews that this “high Sabbath” be desecrated by having victims still hanging and dying on the nearby Golgotha hill.

b) The Sanhedrin (19:31)
“The Jews therefore…besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” The Jews’ cruel request to Pilate that the suffering of the victims be increased enabled them adhere to their religious scruples! The breaking of the victim’s legs administered a terrible shock of pain to the victim who could no longer support his body with his legs. The chest became fixed so that the lungs could no longer expel air. Death by asphyxiation quickly followed.

c) The Spear-thrust (19:34)
“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” Wanting to be sure the Lord was really dead, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear. The flow of blood and water satisfied them. No doubt about it. He was dead!

John, writing his gospel many years later looked beyond the mere narrative, and saw deep significance in this flow of blood and water. They showed:

(i) The Reality Of His Death. The piercing of the Lord’s side removed any vestige of doubt from the minds of the soldiers that the Lord really had died. This was no swoon from which He revived. Many medical men have tried to explain the origin of the blood and water, but we just do not know. We do not need a natural explanation of the outpoured blood and water that John clearly took to be a miracle. It is not so much where they came from, but what they signify.

(ii) The Significance of His Death. The fact that the Lord really had died proved that He had a physical body. By the time John wrote this book, there were false teachers in the church claiming that Jesus did not have a truly human body. Hence John’s insistence that “the word was made flesh” (1:14). John later wrote his epistle to counter such heresy. He constantly stressed the reality of the physical body of the Lord, and the absolute fact of His death. Anyone who suggests otherwise is an antichrist.

(iii) The Benefits of His Death. The blood and water signified the two great benefits which all believers partake of through Christ – justification and sanctification. Blood speaks of our justification; water of our sanctification. The blood takes care of the guilt and penalty of sin; the water deals with its power. In the OT a similar truth was embodied in the tabernacle, where God put the brazen altar (blood) and the brazen laver (water) between the sinner and himself. The two always go together.

Let the water and the blood
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power

d) The Scriptures (19:36-37)
“For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.” This verse contains the fulfilment of two amazing OT Scriptures. God’s sovereignty ensured that all these ancient prophecies are fulfilled. The soldiers had received orders to break His legs, but did not do so, as prophecy had to be fulfilled. They had not received orders to pierce His side, yet this they did, as Scriptures had to be fulfilled. These prophecies concerned:

(i) His Bones. Psalm 34:20, “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.” Away back in Exodus 12:46, when the Passover was instituted, strict instructions were given that no bone of the Passover lamb should be broken. The Lord was the antitype of the Passover lamb.

(ii) His Side. Zechariah 12:10, “They shall look on him whom they pierced.” This prophecy was only partially fulfilled at the cross. It was fulfilled inasmuch as those present saw His pierced hands, feet, and side. But it awaits final and future fulfilment at the Lord’s return, when a repentant Israel will look on Him whom they have pierced.

Rembrandt’s painting, “The Descent from the Cross” (1633) displays imagination for detail and shows a wonderful mixture of sorrow and helplessness. But the deed goes far beyond what a gifted artist’s paintbrush can describe.

When the Lord’s enemies were finished with their work, His friends took over. From this point on, no unbelieving hands touched the body of the Lord. God had prepared two high-ranking men to prepare His body for burial and to place it in a proper tomb. Had they not been there, it is likely that the body of Jesus would have been carried off to some obscure ditch.

a) The Secret Disciples
Both Joseph and Nicodemus were prominent men. Both were rich with highly respected public positions. Both had been secret disciples, but now came out into the open for the first time. The cross made dramatic differences to their lives, and they could never be the same again. Paul later wrote of the cross and the difference it had made in his life: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal 6:14). After what the world did to their Lord, there could be no longer any compromise for these two believers. They didn’t care who knew how much they loved Him. The cross changed forever their attitude to:

(i) Their Witness. Both men had been secret disciples. Each time Nicodemus is named, he is identified as the man who came to Jesus by night (3:2; 7:50). We are told that Joseph was a “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews” (19:38).

Now both men are bold in their witness. Joseph who had previously lived in fear of the Jews now Joseph takes his courage in his hands and ”besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus.” Mark says He “went in boldly unto Pilate” (Mk 15:43). The cross gave him courage. Nicodemus no longer came by night, but was identified with Jesus in the daytime.

For us, too, the cross makes a difference. It made Paul to be unashamed of the gospel (Rom 1:16).

I’m not ashamed to own my Lord, or to defend His cause,
Maintain the honour of His word, the glory of His cross.
At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the glory burden of my sin rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day.

(ii) Their Wealth. Isaiah had prophesied that the Lord would be buried “with the rich in his death,” so it should not surprise us to learn that Joseph was a rich man. Perhaps, like others, he had spent his life accumulating wealth with the intention of using it for himself. Certainly he had spent much money on a new tomb for himself. Nicodemus was also wealthy enough to bring about 35 kg of expensive ointment and spices.

Now, however, priorities have changed. Their wealth is no longer reserved for themselves, but lavished upon the Lord. Perhaps, if the Lord were here we would unhesitatingly do the same. We do not have the Lord personally, but we have Him by proxy. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

(iii) Their Worship. What is worship? It is the expression of the heart’s appreciation of Christ. That is what these two erstwhile secret disciples of Jesus did. They had been to the cross, and now expressed their love to their Lord by anointing his body against his burial. Tenderly they removed the body of Jesus from the scene of the crucifixion to prepare it for burial. Note that they didn’t bring anything cheap or second hand. What they did was new, expensive, and spoke directly of Christ.

b) The Garden Tomb
“Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand” (19:41-42).

Dead and buried, the Lord lay in His new tomb. Outside life continued. We can imagine how things went. Pilate went home to supper and to tell his wife of the day’s events. Annas and Caiaphas presided at their respective Passover feasts. Peter wept alone. The other disciples hid themselves from the public eye. Perhaps a Roman soldier tried on his new robe, and another tried to wash the blood off his spear.

Final Verses
In the final verses of the chapter John brings two highly symbolic details about the tomb to our attention:

(i) Its Place. The tomb was in a garden. That’s significant. Sin began in a garden. Death came in a garden. After sin entered, Adam and Eve were driven out of their garden. Perhaps John had that first garden in mind as he records Christ’s ultimate victory in a garden.

(ii) Its Proximity. It was near to the cross. There in that beautiful garden, just a few yards from the site of Jesus’ agony, was His tomb. The cross represented failure and despair. That was the mood of all those who had followed Jesus throughout His earthly ministry, only to see all their hopes nailed to a Roman cross. They didn’t then know that the place of resurrection was only a few yards from the place of despair and hopelessness.

So with us. Perhaps we feel hopeless, or we have been “crucified,” unjustly treated by the world around us, our spirits broken, no future. We need to remember that the empty tomb is near the cross. When we stand close to the cross of Jesus, when we choose to follow the will of God, where ever it leads, the day of resurrection is just around the corner! The cross and the crown go together.

John 20:1-18

Some years after the death of Lincoln, grave robbers broke into the family crypt and stole the body of the 16th president. They held it for ransom while the whole nation mourned. It was eventually ransomed and buried under tons of concrete in Springfield, Illinois. The shock that the nation felt when the body of Lincoln was stolen was much like that which the disciples of Jesus felt when His tomb was found to be empty just three days after His death. We think of Easter as an event of good news, but in those first few moments after the empty tomb was discovered, it seemed much more like bad news!

I love biographies, but eventually they all end in the same way – the subject dies. If John had been writing an ordinary biography, there would have been no chapter 20. That is what makes the story of Jesus so different.

The resurrection is central to the Christian message. It proves that Christ’s atoning work on the cross has been effective and complete. The empty cross and the empty tomb are God’s “receipts” telling us that the debt has been paid. That’s why Paul says He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25). It tells us that Jesus not only died as Saviour; He now lives as our great High Priest, and will one day return as King.

Years ago, on Princes’ Street, Edinburgh, a man was gazing at a picture of the crucifixion in an art shop. He felt a tug at his coat, and looked round to see an urchin beside him. He was also looking intently at the picture. “That’s Jesus, Sir! Do you see the nails in His hands and feet? And the crown of thorns on His head? And the spear wound in His side? He died for you, Sir, and was buried.” The man was deeply moved, and went on, but again felt a tug on his coat. “I forgot to tell you. He rose again!”

From the beginning, the Lord’s enemies tried to deny the resurrection. The Jewish leaders circulated the story that His body had been stolen from the tomb, in spite of being guarded and sealed by the world’s most powerful political and military force. Others say the disciples had hallucinations. In that case more than 500 people must have had the same hallucination at the same time (1 Cor 15:6). Others say that the disciples went to the wrong tomb, even though that they had carefully watched where he was buried. Others say He did not die, but only swooned and later revived, even though there were many witness to His death. The only logical conclusion is that He rose from the dead just as He promised.

When it eventually dawned on the disciples that their Lord was alive, what a difference it made! For Mary Magdalene it turned her tears of sorrow into tears of joy. For the disciples it turned their hopelessness to hope. For Thomas it turned his doubt into faith.

In Jerusalem today tourists are shown the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the tomb of Jesus, a garish and over-decorated palace first built by Constantine the Great in 336. But following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70, so many landmarks where destroyed, it is impossible to be certain about the site of the tomb. Not far from the Church Of The Sepulchre, however, there is a modest and unadorned tomb called the “Garden Tomb.” It is certainly the type of tomb in which the body of Jesus would have been laid, and at least gives an idea of what it was like.

It was a group of very bewildered disciples that visited the tomb on that first Easter morning.

a) Their Bewilderment (20:1-2)
John makes a number of significant remarks about:

(i) The Day (20:1). “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early.” Note the phrase, “The first day of the week.” It was fitting that the Lord Jesus, as head of the new creation, should rise from the dead on the first day of the week, intimating that a new beginning had been inaugurated. This is the reason why the Lord’s people keep Sunday as the Lord’s Day, their day of rest and worship. During Old Testament times the Sabbath was the memorial of God’s finished work in the old creation. In New Testament times the Sabbath is the memorial of Christ’s finished work from which issues the new creation.
* Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread.”
* 1Cor 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.”

(ii) The Discovery (20:2). Mary found “the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” Mary and the other women who were with her on that first Easter morning expected to see the tomb shut and sealed with a great disc-shaped stone weighing over half a ton which had been rolled along a groove like a track in front of the tomb until it covered the opening. Amazingly the stoned was rolled away, and the tomb empty!

This rolled-away stone was the first messenger they met that morning. It had been sealed and secured by the most powerful military and political authority on earth. Frank Morris wrote his book, “Who Moved The Stone?” as a personal testimony to his examination of the evidence and conclusion that Christ must have risen. There could be no other explanation! It was moved, not to let Christ out, but to allow others in!

(iii) The Declaration (20:2). “Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.” Shocked by this discovery, Mary left the other woman there and ran to tell Peter and John that the tomb had been plundered and the body of Jesus stolen. What other explanation could there be?

b) Their Belief (20:3-10)
“Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre” (20:3-4). Peter and John both raced towards the sepulchre. John, the younger of the two, arrived first, but did not enter, “he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in” (20:5). He carefully looked around and saw the empty grave clothes lying like an empty shell on the stone shelf without any evidence of violence or crime.

Then Peter arrived. Never one to hang around, he “went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (20:6-7). Everything was orderly and in place. The grave clothes and napkin were still there, but the body was gone.

“Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (20:8-9). John followed Peter into the empty tomb. “He saw, and believed.” Jesus was alive! What kind of faith was this? Even today there are two grades of faith:

(i) Science-based Belief. Too often we are like Peter and John who needed concrete scientific evidence before they would believe! Like Thomas later in the chapter their attitude was, “Excethe is is ispt I see…I will not believe!” Now they could see the grave clothes and know that the body of Jesus was not there. However, the Scriptures constantly downplay faith that depends on the miraculous. True, when we see the hand of God at work we are encouraged, and God graciously bolsters our faith from time to time to remind us that He is totally in control. But He longs to see us cultivate faith that stretches beyond the seen and rests on those things which are unseen. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 1:1). Even faith in Christ is faith in Someone “whom not having seen we love.

(ii) Scripture-based Belief. The Lord repeatedly told His disciples them that He would rise from the dead. Although they had only the Old Testament Scriptures, referred to in John 20:9, they used them to prove that Jesus is the Christ, that He died for our sins, and that He rose again (1 Cor 15:4). Faith based on the Word of God is always superior to faith based on scientific evidence of our senses. This witness is now found in the Scriptures, the New Testament. Now both Old and New Testaments agree in their witness. The Law, the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Apostles together bear witness that Jesus Christ is alive.

Of course, we should be slow to blame them. We would have been no quicker to believe such world-shattering news. However, there was little excuse for their unbelief. John himself had seen three resurrection, and heard the Lord’s repeated prophecies of his death, burial, and resurrection. Mary of Bethany had believed. Even His enemies had remembered what He said, but his friends had forgotten.

Overwhelming Evidence for the Resurrection
What is the evidence that Christ rose from the dead?

a) The Empty Tomb Says So!
Either He rose, or someone moved the body. If the tomb wasn’t empty, the resurrection story would have been blown in a matter of minutes.

b) The Great Stone Says So!
A half-ton stone levered into place, sealed with Roman authority, and guarded by soldiers whose fear of punishment bred flawless attention to duty.

c) The Grave Clothes Say So!
The body had been tightly wound with linen wrappings, and 40 kg of gummy wrappings applied to the wrappings.

d) His Enemies Said So!
By their failure to produce the body.

e) His Disciples Said So!
1 Cor 15:5ff says Peter saw Him, James saw Him, the 12 saw Him, 500 saw Him, and Paul saw Him. It was not just that they saw Him, but they were turned from a weak group into a fearless band prepared to die for this truth.

f) Countless Christians Through The Ages Have Said So!
They have lived and died for a risen Christ.

Gilbert West and Lord Lyttleton were famous legal men of the 18th century. They were both unbelievers who were determined to expose the Bible as false. Lyttleton said he would write a book to disprove Paul’s conversion. West said he would write a book to disprove the resurrection. When they later met, Lyttleton admitted, “I found that Paul really was converted, and I have become a Christian.” West said, “I studied the evidence, and became convinced that He really did rise from the dead. I have not written a book in defence of Christianity!”

John next turns to the account of Mary Magdelene. This brief account focuses first on Mary’s despair and then on the transformation of her tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

a) Mary’s Despair (20:11)
“But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping.” Twice, Mary was asked why she was weeping, once by two angels in the tomb, and once by the Lord Himself. There was gentle rebuke in the twice-asked question, implying that Mary should have known that this was that time for rejoicing, not weeping.

The Holy Spirit shows us that love needs to be regulated by faith. It was love her Christ that caused her to weep. She wept because the sepulchre was empty, yet this was the very thing that should have made her rejoice. Had the Lord’s body still been there, she might have wept indeed, for then his promise had failed, and his work on the cross had been in vain

b) Mary’s Delight (20:14)
Mary “saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.” Why did she not recognise Him? Perhaps He deliberately concealed Himself from her, as He would do later when He walked with the Emmaus disciples. Or perhaps it was still early, and perhaps in the dark in that part of the garden she could not see well. Or perhaps tears were also blinding her eyes.

She asked the friendly gardener “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” Perhaps he could tell her where the body was. Taken up with her grief she blurted it all out. If only she knew where it was, she could find it, and carry it away.

“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master” (20:16). The Lord opened Mary’s eyes with a single word – “Mary.” She instantly recognised his voice and fell at his feet with tears of joy. All the Lord had to do was to speak her name. Mary recognised Him instantly. His sheep hear His voice, and He calls them by name.

What results the revelation of the Saviour brought:

(i) It Turned Her Sorrow Into Joy. Little did heart-broken Mary understand that the Lord was silently standing nearby in the shadows. He had heard her every cry, and seen her every tear.

There are times in our lives when, like Mary, we lose the consciousness of His presence. At times He seems to hide Himself, so we fail to see or fail to hear Him. Yet he is there in the shadows, watching over us, appreciating our love for Him all the more because He knows it comes from our heart.

(ii) It Turned Her Confusion Into Conviction. One moment she was totally confused, not knowing where she was going or what she believed. Then she had a revelation of the Saviour. Suddenly she has the conviction of a new hope.

A revelation of the Saviour still makes the same differences. It dispels the confusion, and brings conviction of a new hope. She knew that because He lives, she would live also. It also brings the conviction of a new goal: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4).

John 20:19-31

What a day it had been! Rumours were sweeping Jerusalem that something had happened to the body of Jesus. Four different individuals or groups of individuals had already claimed to have seen Jesus alive: Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, the woman who were at the tomb, and the two believers on the road to Emmaus. What happened now on that evening of the resurrection day was to make all the difference. Life would never be the same again.

Sadly, one disciple, Thomas, was absent when Jesus came. He missed, not only the excitement of having seen the risen Lord, but also the blessings He gave to His disciples at the interview. Later the Lord again appeared when Thomas was present, and all his doubts vanished as he confessed Him as “My Lord and my God!”

1. THE LORD’S ARRIVAL (20:19-20)

a) The Atmosphere.
“When the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews” (20:19). The fearful and confused disciples gathered together in the evening in the upper room were taking no chances. The doors were firmly locked. The subject of conversation must have been the reports various reports of those who claimed to have seen the Lord. Some were still sceptical; some were convinced.

b) The Arrival (20:19-20)
“Then…came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side” (20:19). In His resurrection body the Lord was able to enter a room without opening the door. One moment he was not there; the next moment he was. It was a solid body, for they were able to touch Him, and He ate some food. But it was not governed by “the laws of nature.”

(ii) His Words. “Peace be unto you.” Shalom! He could have said, shame upon you! He wanted to remove from their hearts all doubt and to quiet their uneasy conscience. “Peace” was the first word he spoke in the ears of his disciples after his resurrection.

(iii) His Wounds. “He showed unto them his hands and his side” (20:19). He showed them His hands a feet, and proved that He was indeed their Master, not some ghost. The wounds were for more than identification. They were evidence that the full price had been paid, and that they could have peace with God.

When we eventually appear before him, and his first word to us will be a greeting of peace. We will see him as a Lamb that has been slain, and with the fresh wounds of the cross upon him.

Oh, how shall I then know Thee, amidst those hosts above?
What token true will tell me the object of my love?
Thy wounds, Thy wounds, Lord Jesus, Those deep, deep wounds will tell,
The sacrifice that freed me from sin and death and hell.
These link Thee once for ever, with all who own thy grace;
No hand these bonds can sever, no hand threes scars efface

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came” (20:24). On the night of the meeting, there was one vacant chair. It is always sad when there is a vacant chair at the meetings of the Lord’s people. It was someone who should have been there, and if he had been there it would have saved him much doubt and distress in the following week.

Who was Thomas? We know little about him. In the first three gospels Thomas is only a name. But John rescues him from oblivion and mentions him in three different passages – John 11:16. 15:5, and 20:24. the reference to him in chapter 11:16 where Thomas said, “Let us also go with him that we may die with Him” indicates that he was a man of action, (“Let us go…”), and courage (“that we may die with him”).

Why was Thomas not there? Why do people stay away from meetings of God’s people? Discouraged? Disappointed? Defeated? That’s when we need our friends most! Was he too busy, or too lazy, or just too tired. Or maybe there wasn’t any point in going. It didn’t promise to be much of a meeting: 10 fear-filled hopeless disciples. It would be the wrap-up meeting of the “Follow Jesus Society.” There would be lots of reminiscences, a few speeches about what might have been, and then everyone would head off home, or back to their old jobs to begin life all over again.

But the fact was that Jesus had come in a real and palpable way, and Thomas, the saddest and bitterest of them all was not there. He had missed a meeting that had thrilled with joy. Some meetings like that. We don’t want to go. We invent 1000 excuses. But when we do go the presence of Christ is real. Or if we don’t go, others tell of the joy and thrill of it.

a) The Reasons for his absence.
Why was Thomas not at the meeting?

(i) It was not for lack of interest. Thomas was not indifferent. Many become indifferent to importance of meeting together. Materialism grips the soul, and we become progressively disenchanted with meetings.

(ii) It was not for lack of love. He was not satisfied elsewhere. He knew he would never be happy elsewhere. All his hopes and affection were bound up with Jesus. He had not turned aside to satisfy himself.

(iii) It was for lack of hope. He had lost all hope. Like the two on the road to Emmaus: “We had trusted it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” Thomas knew more than many today know: that only a living Christ can help. But he had seen Him die! He had heard Him say, “Into thy hands. ..” He knew He was DEAD!

b) The Results Of His Absence
Thomas missed:

(i) The Peace That Comes From Seeing Him. “Peace be unto you.”(20:19,21). The disciples at first had little peace, but a few moments in the presence of the Saviour had changed that. Twice the Lord blessed them with His peace (20:19,21) dispelling their anxiety and giving them a sense of total security – in spite of dangerous circumstances.

How Thomas needed that! He was in fever of turmoil and restlessness. Doubt, unbelief, bitterness, all churned in his heart. Yet how the presence of Christ brings peace. “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). Thomas needed an all-weather peace that would resist outside circumstances and uncertainties.

(ii) The Assurance That Comes From Seeing Him. They had heard reports from some who claimed to see the Lord, but there were more questions than answers, and no one knew what was going on. But by verse 25 there is no longer any doubt and they confidently proclaim to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!” But Thomas is left still full of doubts. Life was still fuzzy and uncertain.

(iii) The Joy That Comes From Seeing Him. “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord” (20:20). Nothing thrills the heart like a vision of Christ. A preacher gave eloquent social sermons, till one day he found a card on his pulpit; “Sir, we would see Jesus!” He started to preach Christ regularly, and one day found another card on the pulpit. It said, “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord!”

This must have been a meeting Jesus looked forward to. He knew He would make them happy. We all like to break good news. But Thomas not there.

(iv) The Commission That Comes From Seeing Him. “As my Father hath sent me, so send I you” (20:21). The disciples were now commissioned, sent by Him to carry on the work He had begun. It was the mighty ordination of the nail pierced hands. It must have given them joy that, in spite of their failures, the Lord was giving them the responsibility of His Word and His work.

The other disciples had a living message that vibrated with joy, hope, love. They had a goal, an authority to fall back on. Thomas had received nothing, and had nothing to give. He missed sharing the joy and assurance of others who said “We have seen the Lord.” He missed privilege of helping fellow disciples. What an encouragement he might have been. We cannot starve our selves without starving others.

(v) The Power That Comes From Seeing Him. “Jesus breathed on them, and said unto them: receive ye the Holy Ghost” (20:22). This was in anticipation of Acts 2, but what an intimate experience it must have been, as His warm breath enveloped them with H. Ghost power.

Note the 3 times in the Bible where God “breathes.”
• In Gen 2 it brought life as “God breathed into his nostril the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
• In Ezekiel 37 it restored dry and dead Israel in the Valley of dry bones.
• In John 20 it empowered the sent disciples.

Point is that this “breath” of God (ruach in Hebre; pneuma in Greek) is that which regenerates, empowers, and restores. It was this which Thos missed! E.g. Abraham and Sara. They knew God. But when in Genesis 17 they know Him as the El-Shaddai, their names (characters) are changed. The aspitate “h” is introduced into their lives, so “Abram” becomes “Abraham,” and “Sara” becomes “Sarah.”

Breathe on me Breath of God
Fill me with life anew
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me Breath of God
Till I am wholly thine
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with this fire divine.

(vi) The Authority That Comes From Seeing Him. “Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (20:23). This seemed like God-like power to forgive or not to forgive sins. Whatever else it means, it cannot mean that we can, in our own right, or by virtue of some office, presume to cancel or confirm the sins of other human beings.

A woman who was a Roman catholic, but who had for many years known Christ as Saviour was visited by the Catholic priest. He offered to hear her confession and grant her absolution. The woman said to the priest, “Show me your hands.” The priest extended his hands and the woman examined them. Then she turned to the priest and said, “You can never forgive my sins. The one who forgive my sins has nail prints in his hands!”

Not only do we claim God’s forgiveness, we offer it to people. This does not mean we have authority to say to one, “You are forgiven,” and to another, “You are not forgiven.” Some have interpreted it that way, saying priests are empowered to forgive some sins, and to let others stand unforgiven. Jesus is not saying that. He is telling us we have the power to declare the gospel of the forgiveness of sin, and if any man, woman, or child receives Jesus as Lord and Saviour upon hearing the gospel, we have the authority to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” On the other hand, if someone refuses to believe we are authorised to say to him, “You have not yet been forgiven of your sins. This struggle in your life can be traced to the fact that you have never truly believed and trusted in Jesus Christ.”

c) The Restoration That Followed His Absence (20:28-29)

(i) The Great Confession (20:28). “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” Thomas the doubter becomes Thomas the worshipper. His intellectual doubts had vanished because his heart was satisfied. Thomas was the only one who owned Christ as “God.”

It should not now surprise that Thomas who started a doubter, then a became a believer when he saw the Lord (“be not faithless, but believing”), and then a worshipper, finally became a MARTYR.

(ii) The Great Contrast (20:29) “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” By the time John wrote his gospel the apostolic age was over. The Lord’s visible appearances had long since stopped. Faith had replaced sight. The “sign miracles” had ceased. It has been like that ever since.

Those who today crave miracles and signs are out of line with the Lord’s method in this age of people’s faith being totally based on the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Those who insist on signs and wonders and miracles can have them – at a price. Satan is only too wiling to oblige. After the church age God once more takes up direct dealings with Israel there will be plenty of signs and miracles. But the church age is one of faith, not sight. Hence the Lord’s special beatitude for us.

3. THE WRITER’S PURPOSE (20:30-31)
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Thomas had just confessed Jesus as God – absolutely, uncontrovertibly. This crystallises John’s purpose in writing his eye witness account of the life of Christ. His evidence has been carefully selected from the Lord’s works and words. He could recall miracle after miracle that Jesus performed – more than he could count. Of them all, only 36 are recorded in the gospels, and out of that treasury, he had only selected eight as proof of His deity. His purpose was to inspire belief – saving belief that results in the eternal life for the one who believes.

Today we cannot see Christ, or see Him perform his miracles. But the record is there, and that is all that we need. As we read John’s gospel, we come face to face with Him: how He lived, what He said, and what He did. We have all the evidence we need to conclude that He is indeed God come in the flesh to be the Saviour of the world.

“Life” is one of John’s keywords. If sinners need life, then the implication is that they are dead. Eternal life is not endless time, for even lost people are going to live forever in hell. Eternal life means the very life of God experienced today. It is a quality of life, not a quantity of time. It is the spiritual experience of heaven on earth today. That’s why John now invites us to trust Jesus and be changed from death to eternal life.


John 21:1-14

In many ways John’s gospel reads like a modern drama. It is a story of rising conflict with the hero battling against evil and overwhelming opposition. It reaches a tragic climax with the crucifixion, when all seems lost and the hero’s quest ends in failure. But then comes the resurrection with the overthrow of evil and the hero’s total triumph. In the final chapter, even though the key conflict of this drama has been resolved, there are important plot threads to be tied up. That is what John does in this chapter 21.

Just as chapter 1 is a prologue and introduction to the gospel, so chapter 21 is an epilogue. The chapter records three incidents: the fishing experience on the sea of Galilee, the breakfast on the sea shore, and the announcement of the death of Peter. T.E. Wilson divided the chapter up as, catching fish, feeding sheep, and minding your own business.

This miracle is the only one performed after the resurrection. Its striking similarity to one of the Lord’s first miracles in Luke 5, must have reminded them of the circumstances under which they were called, challenged, commissioned to catch men. This miracle involved a renewed challenge and commission.

The chapter has many lessons to teach about service. It highlights the barrenness of service in the energy of the flesh, and the blessing that comes from obedience to His Word. It also tells how the Lord graciously provided food and fellowship for His servants before reminding them of the one and only successful motive for service – love.

Fishing stories are famous, as fishermen love to tell about “the one that got away!”

Oh, give me grace to catch a fish
So big that even I,
When talking of it afterwards,
May have no need to lie!
– The Fisherman’s Prayer

a) The Fishermen
“After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself” (21:1). Galilee was home to the disciples and the sea was familiar to them all. The Lord had asked them to go into Galilee and there He would meet them.

(i) The Disciples. “There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples”(21:2). This group has been called “the convention of the problem children”! Here is impulsive Peter. Here is doubting Thomas. Here are James and John, the Sons of Thunder. Also present are two others who are unnamed. Perhaps, since this is a crowd of problem children, they represent you and me.

(ii) The Decision “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately” (21:3). Was Peter right to go fishing? After all, although the Lord had promised to meet them in Galilee, time had past and nothing happened. They needed money to live, so why sit around idle? Peter made a decision to do something and the thing he knew best to do was fish. Perhaps he should go back into business again.

But years before Peter had been called from that kind of life (Lk 5:1-11) and had forsaken everything to follow Jesus. He had no direction from God, and did not look to Him for guidance. It was thus wrong for him to return. Also, when he went fishing, he took six others with him! If he was wrong, they were wrong too. At least 7 of the 12 disciples were fishermen.

b) The Failure
“That night they caught nothing” (21:3). Right or wrong they caught nothing. Much of the fishing on the Sea of Galilee was done at night in those days, as is the case today, using torches to attract the fish. It was the failure of the experts. The fish came nowhere near the net, and like many a fisherman since, they fished for hours and caught nothing. A thoughtful wife is one who has the pork chops ready when her husband comes home from a fishing trip!

That night of failure was part of the Lord’s plan and purpose for them. It was His intention that they catch nothing. Failure is a demoralizing experience, and these men had failed miserably at the one thing they did best. There is nothing like failure to get a person’s undivided attention. Had they forgotten the Lord’s words, “Without me ye can do nothing” (15:5)? Like many a believer in the Lord’s service Peter was sincere and worked hard, but without results. How like ourselves! How easy to serve without direction from the Lord, and find our labours to be in vain.

They were fishing without the Lord’s presence (He was not with them), purpose (he had not instructed them), and power (they returned as empty-handed failures). Jesus, of course, knew where they were and what they were doing. He also knew that these were lessons they had to learn. He allowed them to have a thoroughly disappointing night of it.

“But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus” (21:4). They failed to recognise the Saviour. Just as Mary, been immersed in her sorrow, had failed to recognise Him in the garden, so these disciples, immersed in their activity and occupation, also failed to recognise Him.

a) The Reply
“Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No” (21:5). The Stranger on the shore called to them across the still waters of the lake enquiring if they had caught anything. The reply was only a curt monosyllable, but it was all He needed to hear as a confession of their failure and inability. We hope that one day, when He asks, “Did you catch anything? What did you do for men down there are on earth?” our answer will be different.

b) The Recommendation
“And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” (21:6). When the disciples admitted their failure, Jesus took over the situation. When they cast their nets according to their own intuition and expertise, they caught nothing. When they followed the Lord’s instructions, the catch exceeded their wildest dreams. He not only knew where the fish were, but He drew them into the net! We are never far from success when we permit Jesus to give the orders.

What a striking picture of Christian service. If we go in God’s power, and in God’s will, and in obedience to His instructions, He will take care of the results. “Unless the Lord builds the house.…”

c) The Recognition
“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea” (21:7). Of all the disciples John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” seemed to possess the greatest spiritual discernment. It was he who leaned on the Saviour’s breast at the supper, and was the one nearest to the cross. He was the first of the eleven to understand that the Lord had risen from the dead. Now he is first to realise that the Stranger on the shore was the Lord.

The closer we get to the Lord, the more likely we are to recognise Him and feel His presence.

d) The Result (21:8-14)
The Lord used what the disciples had as the basis for his miracle. The disciples were fishing but the nets had been empty. Then the Lord used those same nets and gave them a harvest of fish. At Cana the Lord asked them to fill the empty pots with water and then changed it into wine. He used what Moses had in this hand, a rod, and with that rod, performed miracles for Israel. Whatever it is in our hands, God can use. So often we wish they were somewhere else or in some other circumstances. But if God cannot use us right were we are, He will not use us somewhere else.

(i) The Secret. “Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught” (21:10). Jesus had laid fish out for them, but also asked for some of the fish which they had caught. He accepted their service. When they fished at His command, He accepted what they brought. What fellowship there is in this kind of service!

(ii) The Security. “Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken” (21:10-11). In Luke 5 when just before the Lord called him to be of a fisher of men, an evangelist, Peter also caught a miraculous number of fish. That time, however, the net broke and many swam away. In the work of evangelism should be no numbering, for the evangelist cannot tell how many are really saved under the gospel message. Peter would soon learn that many would follow Jesus, but they would not all be believers.

This time the net did not break, but was drawn to land “full of great fishes.” Not one escaped, and they were all carefully counted. This careful counting was connected to Peter’s new work as a pastor shepherd, as Lord was about to commission him to “Feed my sheep.” Here there is a numbering, for the should be able to count his sheep and know exactly how many belong to him.

(iii) The Summons. “Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine” (21:12). Three invitation stand out in John’s gospel. The first is, “Come and see” (1:39). Years before, at the very same lake of Galilee, John and Andrew had been listening to John the Baptist, who had pointed out Jesus to them. They had left John to follow Jesus. They had asked Him about to himself, where he lived. He had said, “Come and see.” “Later, during a feast at Jerusalem the Lord issued an invitation to all who were thirsty for God and wanted to know Him, “Come and drink” (7:37). Now he said, “Come and dine,” or literally, “Come and have breakfast.”

“Come”– the grandest word of the gospel. God first used it when He invited Noah into the ark, “Come thou and all your house into the ark” (Gen 7:1). He keeps on using the word and closes the Bible by using it twice, “The Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that hearth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come” (Rev 22:17). That word dissolves distance, and brings saint and sinner alike to Him who takes away sin and sadness and replaces them with joy and gladness.

John 21:15-25

In this moving scene the Lord clearly wanted to cancel out Peter’s 3-fold denial by inviting him to make a 3-fold expression of love for Him. The Lord’s three personal questions elicited three hesitant answers, but they were enough to assure all who heard them that Peter really did love his Lord. The Lord closed the interview by giving him a threefold commission that restored him to his ministry. Now as much as then, the Lord insists that only those whose love is genuine are qualified to lead and feed the lambs and sheep of God’s flock.

1. THE RESTORATION (21:15-17)
Peter and his Lord had already met privately (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5), but since he had denied the Lord publicly, it was important that he be restored publicly in front of the other disciples.

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas.…” (21:15). Significantly the Lord used Peter’s old name, “Simon,” the name associated with his old nature. On the night of his betrayal, Peter had used the lies and language of his old nature. The use of the old name must have stabbed Peter’s conscience. When Peter made his great confession, the Lord said to him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona … And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter” (Mat 16: 17-18). But now the Lord went back to the old name which reflected the old nature. Part of Peter’s healing process was to activate the conscience and expose both the seriousness and source of the offence.

a) The Questions
“…lovest thou me more than these?” (21:15). With this simple yet profound question the Lord was probing both the quantity and quality of Peter’s love.

(i) The Quantity. What did the Lord mean by “more than these”? Was He referring to the fish and the fishing business in which his old life had been wrapped up. After all, he had just taken the initiative and influenced others into going back to fishing. More probably it wasn’t so much his business as his brethren to which the Lord was referring. Peter had earlier boastfully claimed to love the Lord more than all the others, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended…Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee” (Mat 26:33,35). In the event, his defection was the worst. He even sealed it with an oath.

Now he had learned not to judge himself in relation to others. When challenged to compare his love with that of the other disciples, Peter read his own heart and said simply, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you.” Three times he gives that answer, and there is no mention of the others.

(ii) The Quality. “Lovest thou me?” Two different Greek words for “love” are used in the interview. In the first two questions of 21:16-17 the Lord used the word agapao, the word for God’s love, sacrificing love, love that is spiritual, pure. It involves a total commitment to another person’s benefit. He said, “Do you agape me?” Only in his last question in 21:17, did Jesus used the word phileo – affection.

b) The Answer (21:15b)
“He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” We are used to the impulsive, boastful, it-can’t-happen-to-me Peter, always up front and vocal in his commitment to follow Him. He would have had no difficulty answering this question two weeks earlier. But much had happened in the previous few days. Peter’s hesitant and halting replies tell us two things about his love for the Lord:

(i) It Was Deficient. “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” Each time he replied Peter used the word phileo. It was different from the agape love the Lord was asking about, a lesser quality of love, more of a fondness of a friend for a friend. “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you.” The third time Jesus asked the question, he descended to Peter’s word and asks, “Simon, do you phileo me?” and again Peter answered with the word phileo. Here was no boastful bravado. In its place we find an awareness of weakness

(ii) It Was Real. “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee” (21:17). The third question broke Peter completely. The threefold question matched the threefold denial. Peter vehemently denied the Lord the third time; he is passionate enough now. “You know I love You. You know me through and through. You know everything. You know what I said and what I did and what I am. You know me better than I know myself. Lord. You know my love bears no comparison to your hot heavenly love for me, but it’s the best I’ve got, and it is absolutely genuine!”

How we need to identify with Peter! We may know much, do much, and exercise our gifts, and yet be dead before God for want of love. The Corinthians did that (1 Cor 13), so did the church at Ephesus (Rev 2). Without love there is no vitality to our Christianity, and we become as wax figures in Madame Taussauds.

c) The Response
“He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” The Lord’s responses to Peter’s answers were a series of instructions to feed His lambs and His sheep. Literally these are: “Feed My lambs,” “Shepherd My sheep,” and “Feed My sheep.” The Lord used different words for “feed” and different word for “sheep” and “lambs.”

Peter the fisherman was being commissioned to feed and lead the sheep and lambs of God’s flock. What a responsibility! By nature, sheep are wayward and defenceless, and they need the protection, provision and guidance of the shepherd.

Each believer has a responsibility to help care for the flock, and each has some gift or gifts from the Lord towards this end. That is what gifts are for. Nothing is more important to the Lord than the well-being of His people). It is an awesome responsibility to be a shepherd of God’s flock. (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28-35). Only those who truly love the Lord are fitted to minister to His flock. The work is so laborious, the appreciation is so small, the response so discouraging, the attacks of Satan so fierce, that only those are constrained by the love of Christ than will stay with such work.

2. THE REVELATION (2:18-19)
The Lord had just restored Peter as a disciple, and charged him with the responsibility of feeding His sheep. Now He goes on to reveal to Peter what price he will have to pay to follow Jesus.

a) The Cost of Commitment (21:18,19)
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” The Lord’s prediction was historically fulfilled. The day would come when another would take charge of Peter and lead him to execution. Eusebius, the church historian, tells us that when Peter went to Rome near the close of his life, he was imprisoned, his hands were bound, and he was led out to the place of execution and crucified. Tradition tells us that he asked to be crucified upside-down, because he was not worthy to die exactly as his Master had died.

b) The Command to Follow (21:19)
“And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me” (21:19). The Lord’s words “Follow Me!” must have brought new joy and love to Peter’s heart. Literally, Jesus said, “Keep on following Me.” Immediately, Peter began to follow Jesus, just as he had done before.

3. THE REBUKE (21:20-23)
“Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following, which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (21:20-22). Hearing somebody walking behind him, Peter looked away from his Lord and turned round. It was John. Without thinking Peter asked Jesus, “What shall this man do?” He wanted to know what God had planned for John’s life. Beware when you get your eyes off the Lord and start to look at other Christians!

Twice previously Peter had taken his eyes off the One he was following. In Luke 5 after the first great catch of fish, Peter took his eyes off the Lord and looked at himself: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). In Mat 14, when he was walking on the water with the Lord, Peter looked round about him at the wind and waves, and immediately began to sink. Here In John 21 he again took his eyes off the Lord to look at his brethren. He earned himself a rebuke from the Master, and a reminder that his job was to follow, not to fiddle with the lives of other believers. “Looking unto Jesus” should be the aim and practice of every believer (Heb 12:1-2). To be distracted by ourselves, our circumstances, or by other Christians, is to disobey the Lord and get detoured.

4. THE REASSURANCE (21 :24-25)
These final verses mark both the end of John’s gospel, and the beginning of the story of the church – a story that continues into the book of Acts and beyond. From that shore of Galilee, where Peter and John and the other disciples shared one last meal with their Master, these me went out to change the world. The fisherman became a shepherd. A handful of disciples became the church. At Pentecost that church swelled to 3,000 in Jerusalem. Soon afterwards, it numbered in the thousands and tens of thousands in Judea and Samaria, and Galilee. Later it would spread to the uttermost parts of the earth, numbering in millions.

The story which began “in the beginning…” in chapter 1:1, does not end here in John 21:25. It continues an unbroken, unending story sweeping through the centuries of history to embrace each of our lives. The same Lord who was present with those disciples is still present with us today. The same Spirit Jesus breathed on His disciples in the Upper Room is within us today. The same power that propelled them in ministry to a lost and broken world is available to us today.

a) The True Testimony (21 :24)
“This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.” John was a credible witness. He had been with Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry, an eyewitness of the magnificent drama of God’s manifestation in human flesh.

b) The Supreme Story (21:25)
“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written everyone, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” Doubtless John had read Matthew’s account of the Messiah King, Mark’s account of God’s perfect servant, and Luke’s account of His glorious humanity. John knew it was not and exaggeration to say the whole world could not hold the books about Him if it all could be written. He is the One who died on the cross and rose again from the dead. When we get to heaven and see Him as He is, sit at His feet and listen to His voice, when face to face we shall know even as we are known, then we shall say, “Lord, the half has not been told!”