Studies in the Gospel of Christ according to John, 2
THE LIGHT SHINES
IN THE DARKNESS
Abd al-Masih and Colleagues
(John 2:13 - 5:47)
All rights reserved
056 – Version 16.2.2004
English Title: The Light Shines in the Darkness, 2 - John 2:13 - 5:47
WATERS-OF-LIFE • P.O. BOX 15755
PITTSBURGH, PA 15244
C - CHRIST’S FIRST VISIT TO JERUSALEM
(JOHN 2:13 – 4:54)
THEME: WHAT IS TRUE WORSHIP?
1. The cleansing of the Temple (John 2:13-22)
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen, sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away! You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.”
Jesus went up to Jerusalem on the occasion of the great feast – the Passover, where hundreds of thousands of Jews would assemble from all over the world. This was to sacrifice lambs recalling the lifting of God’s wrath from them on account of the Pascal Lamb. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. And without reconciliation worship is pointless. So Jesus had lifted or taken away their sin at Jordan symbolically. On their behalf he accepted the baptism of death, a sign that he bore the wrath of God. He knew deep down that he was the chosen Lamb of God.
When he entered the city and made his way to the temple court, He was not impressed by the splendor of the building, but was pondering the salvation of mankind by means of his sacrifice. Surprisingly, he found no sense of calm in that temple for worship. What he found was dust and clamor, the mooing of cows and the wrangling of the traders and the bleeding of the animals. He also heard the cries of money changers who were exchanging foreign currency into Jewish money, for pilgrims to pay their dues.
The noises in the temple indicated a belief that righteousness could be bought by money and special efforts. The pilgrims assumed that grace and righteousness were to be purchased by rituals and contributions, not yet aware that salvation could not be got by good works.
At this Jesus showed his righteous indignation. Zeal for true worship drove him to throw out the traders in livestock and scatter their money in the dust. We do not read that he struck anyone, but his voice spoke of the blows that God would inflict on those who would not yield before His majesty. There is no piety on earth that pleases God, apart from broken hearts surrendering to the Holy One.
Jesus grieved over the indifference of men towards the holiness of God. Such neglect and ignorance seen in superficial religiosity shows the darkness that shrouds hearts and minds, even though the Law had been given 1300 years before. At this Jesus demonstrated divine wrath and holy zeal to cleanse this center of worship. The center reflected the condition of the whole. He demanded the reform for the core of religion, for a radical change in man’s attitude to God.
18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he spoke of the Temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.
The priests knew about the cleansing of the temple and the wails of the traders, so they rushed to Jesus and asked, “Who gave you the right to do this? Who sent you? Give us solid proof for your authority.” They did not object to the cleansing; they felt that Jesus was not acting out of human anger, but out of holy zeal for the honor of God’s house, to bring back the Spirit of worship in truth for the multitude; rather they wished to ascertain the reasons and motives that moved him. So Jesus became a foe in their eyes, because he sought to reform the temple without recourse to their priestly organizations.
Jesus rebuked them for their hypocritical worship, because they preferred the tumult of worshippers en masse, and the power of wealth to the calm of God’s presence. With foresight Jesus saw the destruction of the temple as a result of superficial worship and their ignorance. Organized religious rites and preset motions do not save men, rather it is the change of hearts by God’s saving truth that transforms.
This saving presence was incarnate standing in their midst. Jesus is the true Temple. God was in Christ present there. As if Jesus was saying, “Destroy the temple of my body, because you cannot stand my zeal for God. You will do the impossible and wreck this Temple, but I will raise that body in three days; I will arise from the tomb. You will kill me, but I am alive, for I am Life itself, God in the flesh. You cannot kill me.” Thus did Jesus proclaim his resurrection implicitly. This resurrection is to the present day the greatest of his miracles.
Delegates from the high priest did not understand this parable about the temple. They stared at the marble columns and gilded domes, and assumed that Jesus had blasphemed at the divine dwelling place, built by Herod during 46 years. They spoke of stones, he meant his body. These essential discussions at the start of his ministry emerged once more at his trial before the Sanhedrin, twisted with the help of false witnesses.
Clearly the Old Testament people failed to grasp the sense of the new faith which Christ initiated. Not even the disciples understood the deeper meanings of this new religion, not until Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then they realized how the Son has atoned for sins and rose again.
Today he is with us in the spiritual Temple of which we are living stones. The Holy Spirit illumined the disciples to discover in the ancient Scriptures meanings, illumined in the saying of Jesus. They stayed firm in the faith, and together became God’s Holy Temple.
PRAYER: O Lord Jesus, you are God’s dwelling place, and the meeting point of God and sinners. Help us to practice repentance and worship and to be filled with your fullness, so that we may be together the Temple of the Holy Ghost, and magnify the Father at all times.
QUESTION 25: Why did Jesus visit the temple and drive out the traders?
2. Jesus speaks with Nicodemus (John 2:23 – 3:21)
a) People lean towards Jesus (John 2:23-25)
23 Now then he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, during the feast, many believed in his name, when they saw the signs which he did; 24 but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men 25 and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he Himself knew what was in man.
At the Passover crowds came to Jerusalem, the center of worship. They were thinking of the Lamb who shielded their forefathers from God’s judgment, so they shared the flesh of sacrifices in their meals.
Jesus, God’s appointed Lamb, had come to Jerusalem and worked many signs, showing his love and power. At this he became the notice of the crowds and his name was on many lips; they were whispering, “Is he a prophet, or Elijah the forerunner, or perhaps the Messiah?” Many were drawn to him, and believed he had come from God.
Jesus saw into their hearts, but chose none of them for discipleship. They did not yet discover his deity, but were thinking in worldly terms. On their minds was freedom from Rome, suitable careers and comfortable futures. Jesus knew all men; no heart was hid from his eyes. Not one sought God sincerely. Had they sincerely sought God, they would have been baptized in the Jordan, confessing their sin and repenting.
Christ knows your heart, your imaginings, your prayers and sins. He knows your thoughts and their sources. He realizes that you wish for a life of decency and righteousness. When will your pride be shaken? And when will you turn away from your self-esteem, to be filled by the Holy Spirit?
b) The need for a new birth (John 3:1-13)
1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night, and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
From among the crowds appeared one called Nicodemus, he was deeply pious and prominent, one of the seventy in the Sanhedrin. He recognized the power of God active in Christ. Perhaps he wished to build a bridge between this new prophet and the Jewish assembly. At the same time he feared the high priest and the common folk. He was uncertain about the person of Jesus. He came to Jesus secretly in the dark, wishing to test Jesus before joining his circle.
By ascribing the title “teacher”, Nicodemus was expressing a majority view, who saw Christ as one who taught the Scripture with a band of followers. He agreed that Jesus was sent from God, attested by signs. He confessed, “We believe that God is with you and upholds you. You may be the Messiah?” This was more an implicit admission.
Jesus answered his question, not entirely relying on this go-between from the leaders of the people to Christ. He saw Nicodemus’ straying heart, his sins and his longing for righteousness. He could help him only after showing up his spiritual blindness. Despite Nicodemus’ piety, he did not truly know God. Jesus was frank with him and said, “Surely no man can know God by his own efforts; he needs the regeneration of the heavenly Spirit.”
This pronouncement was Christ’s judgment on theological studies and dogmas based on logic alone. For knowledge of God comes not by intellectual lectures, but by new birth. On a radio set, unlike a TV, you can turn knobs as you please, but you cannot get any images. Pictures require a set that is totally different from the radio. So also the natural man, despite his piety and activity, cannot see God, not by thought or feeling. This spiritual realization requires a revolution, a heavenly birth and a new creature.
4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
Christ’s answer which implied ignorance of God on the part of Nicodemus confused him. He had not heard of the second birth. On hearing on this he was puzzled by the suggestion that an old man could go back into the womb. This response based on sense experience indicates short-sightedness. He did not understand that God the Father can beget children by His Spirit.
Jesus loved Nicodemus; after leading him to confess that he did not know the way to God’s Kingdom, he stressed the fact by affirming he was the Truth. We have to believe that we cannot enter the Kingdom without a second birth, the only condition.
What is the second birth? It is a birth, not just a concept, nor does it spring from man’s efforts, since no one can give birth to himself, God becomes the parent and giver of life. This spiritual birth is a grace, not just a reformation of character, nor a social discipline. All are wicked from their early years, and without hope for improvement. Spiritual birth is the entry of God’s life into mankind.
How does this come about? Jesus told Nicodemus, it is achieved by water and the Spirit. Water speaks of John’s baptism and the purification jars at the wedding. Members of the Old Covenant knew that water need in ablutions were signs of cleansing from sin. As if Jesus was saying, “Why do you not go down to the Baptist, confess your sins and be baptized?” Elsewhere Jesus said, “If any one would follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and come after me.” Brother confess your guilt, accept God’s judgment on your sin. You are corrupt and perishing.
Jesus was not content with water baptism, but baptized the penitent with the Holy Spirit to create new life in the broken-hearted. After his crucifixion we learn that the cleansing of our consciences is by his blood. This cleansing is by the work of the Holy Spirit. When man is drawn by the Spirit, he is filled with eternal life and its fruit; he becomes a good man led by Jesus. This transformation takes time; just as the fetus develops in the womb and is born. So also is the second birth in the believer.
Jesus made this the aim of his preaching, the theme of God’s Kingdom. So what is this Kingdom? Not a political movement, or any economic theory, but the fellowship of the reborn with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This blessed Spirit comes on them, as they yield themselves to Christ, and acknowledge him as their King to be obeyed.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for my rebirth by grace alone. You have opened my spiritual eyes. Let me abide in your love. Open the eyes of those who seek you sincerely, to know their sin and confess, to be renewed by the power of your Holy Spirit, resting on your shed blood, so that they may enter into lasting fellowship with you.
QUESTION 26: What is the difference between the piety of Nicodemus and the aims of Christ?
6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I say to you, ‘You must be born anew’. 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus showed Nicodemus the need for radical change in everyone. That transformation is as great as the difference between flesh and spirit. The word “flesh” in the New Testament stands for fallen human nature alienated from God, the wicked moving towards doom. The word covers not just the body, but the minds and spirits of the rebellious. This is the state of total corruption, as Jesus pointed out, “From the heart comes out evil thoughts.” No man deserves to enter the Kingdom of God. Man is wicked from birth, and becomes a source of pollution.
“Spirit” stands for the Holy Spirit, God’s very self, full of truth, purity, power and love. God does not despise the wicked, but has overcome the “flesh” principle in Christ. This shows the aim of the second birth. The Spirit in us destroys fleshly lusts, so that we may live up to our calling. Are you born again, freed from the tyranny of the flesh?
On the third occasion Jesus spoke to Nicodemus gently and said, “You and all members of your Council, all the seed of Abraham must be born anew.” That is one obligation, a sacred duty. We testify to you, brother, that this word uttered by Christ, “must” is imperative. Without a radical renewal you cannot know God, and will never enter His Kingdom.
Have you heard the rushing of the wind? The reborn are like the winds that rise. It seems, the wind comes from the void and returns to it. So also God’s children are born from above and return to their Father. The sound of the wind indicates that it is there.
The clear sign in the reborn folk is the sound of the Holy Spirit spoken through them. We do not speak by the natural voice of mere men that springs from the mind. The Holy Spirit comes to us from beyond this world, as the voice of God’s power in the believer. Has he descended on your heart?
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can this be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”
In Christ’s explanation Nicodemus felt the wafting of the Holy Spirit. His heart responded to the attraction of the divine. But his mind failed to realize, nor did he grasp the truth in its depths. He murmured, “I do not know how such a birth can take place.” A confession which was an admission of failure. Jesus went on giving guidance, “Yes, you are a respected teacher, you have come to me, while others thought they were brighter and higher than to converse with me. You excel them, but even you do not really know the purposes of the Holy Spirit. All your worship and offerings and your efforts to keep the Law are in vain. You do not know the simple principles of God’s Kingdom.”
A third time Jesus spoke a crucial word, “Truly, truly, I say to you.” In every case by this phrase Jesus announces a new revelation. This is because our human minds are slow to understand.
What was the new stage in Nicodemus’ learning? Christ moved from the singular pronoun “I” to the plural “we”; this joining himself to the voice of the Spirit. Christ is one with God and His Word incarnate. Jesus teaches a truth that not all recognize. He testifies to matters that he observes in fellowship with the Spirit. We must accept this witness, and hold on to it believing.
What was it that he knew better than all men? He knew God and called Him Father. This mystery finds no entrance into the prejudiced minds of the leaders without the Spirit. Christ came from his Father and returned to him, he descended from heaven and ascended there. The separation between God and humans ended when the Spirit of God was made flesh in Jesus, and overcame that split. The Eternal is no longer far and fearful, but near and tender. Strangely, men did not grasp this testimony to God’s truth. They did not realize the unity between the One born of the Spirit and his Father; because they refused to believe, or confess their sinfulness. They failed to see the need for rebirth, rather they deluded themselves that they were good and intelligent. They should have known that self-sufficiency cannot lead them to realize the unity of the Holy Trinity.
PRAYER: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we worship you; in the surety of your love you have renewed us and made us the children of your truth. May your truth and Spirit blow over our nation, so that many may be saved, and the testimony concerning the Father, Son and Spirit spread far and wide, and become clear in our native tongue, for many to be born again.
QUESTION 27: What are the signs of rebirth in believers?
c) The cross, agent of rebirth (John 3:14–16)
14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus continued to teach Nicodemus, and assured him that spiritual birth is not completed without true repentance, a mental turn about, and faith in Christ’s vicarious death for mankind. These principles, Jesus clarified to Nicodemus by referring to a historical event in Israel.
Those who journeyed in the wilderness of Sinai murmured against God, and rebelled against His guidance (Numbers 21:4–9). God sent fiery serpents, as a result, to bite them, punishing their obstinacy; a large number died as a result.
At that point some realized their sin, they begged Moses to intercede with God to lift His wrath off them. God commanded Moses to make a brazen serpent, symbolizing God’s judgment. This he raised high over the people; proof that the divine wrath was ended. As a result anyone who looked to this sign that punishment had ended, and believed in God’s grace, was cured of the fiery serpent’s poison.
Ever since Eve’s temptation, the serpent had become a symbol of evil. When Jesus came he bore humanity’s sin. So he who knew no sin became sin for us. Jesus is like the brazen serpent in the wilderness which was free of poison, so Jesus was innocent of sin, while bearing our sin.
God’s Son did not appear on earth in radiant form, but in humility as Son of Man, carrying wounds and pain, bearing the curse of Law. In human form he was able to die in our stead. ‘Son of Man’ is a mark of distinction for him. Just as the serpent lifted up symbolized the removal of divine wrath, so also Christ crucified becomes a symbol of extinguished divine wrath. All our sins were placed on His Son, to free us through His passion.
Anyone in the wilderness looking at the serpent lifted up, and believing God’s promise, was healed of the serpent’s sting. Confidence in this sign of grace granted life and survival to the believer. Whoever looks at the cross and clings to the Crucified receives eternal life. Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ yet I live, not I but Christ lives in me.” His death is mine, so is his life. Whoever accepts Christ’s vicarious death believing is justified and lives with him for ever. This bond also gives us the fellowship of his resurrection.
Condemned as we are, to look at Jesus is to be saved. He creates in us a new birth. There is no other way to God save through the Crucified. That is why Satan attacks fiercely, night and day the two principles of Salvation: Divine Sonship and Christ’s Crucifixion. But on these two rests the world’s salvation.
God is love; His mercy is like the endless ocean. In love he did not abandon our apostate world, but continues to love us. He does not reject sinful rebels but has mercy. The sacrifice of His Son fulfills all the requirements of righteousness for their salvation. There is no salvation apart from the Son.
Brother, would you sacrifice a hundred pounds for a friend’s sake? Would you be ready to go to prison in his place? Or die in his stead? Maybe if you loved him. But never if he was your enemy. This tells of the greatness of God’s love, sacrificing His Son for criminals to save them.
Christ accomplished the salvation of the world on the cross. All of us need the sacrifice of Jesus. All types of men, cultured or ignorant, polite or rude, rich or poor, virtuous or vicious. There is none who is righteous in himself. Christ has reconciled the world to his Father.
Strangely, this truth has not been grasped by humans, except those who believe in the Crucified. Your relationship of trust with the Savior decides your salvation. Without faith you continue under God’s wrath. Your works are deemed dishonest and filthy in the light of God’s holiness. Nicodemus, the legalist and righteous teacher, had to hear these words, words that shocked him.
Whoever accepts the salvation of the cross, believing in the Son lifted up on the tree of shame will live and not find a barrier between him and God. Do you thank Jesus for his pardon? Do you devote your life to him?
Whoever believes lives; whoever abides in Christ will never die. Whoever continues to look to Christ receives the hope of eternal life. Faith assures us of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. If you realize the depth of meaning in verses 14 to 16 you will discover the essence of the gospel in one text.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we worship you for your infinite love. You gave your only Son to die in our stead. He bore our sins and punishment, and freed us from your wrath. We look towards the cross, trusting, adoring and thankful. You have pardoned our sins and reconciled the world to yourself. Help us to tell others about this message, so that they may obtain eternal life through our witness.
QUESTION 28: How does Christ resemble the Serpent in the wilderness?
d) Rejecting Christ leads to Judgement (John 3:17-21)
17 “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen, that his deeds have been wrought in God.”
The Baptist preached about a Messiah who would judge mankind, cutting off diseased trees inside his nation. But Jesus told Nicodemus that He would not burn with fire, but had come to save. Our Savior is merciful. When the Baptist realized the secret of vicarious atonement, he called Jesus the Lamb of God.
In His love God sent His Son not to the Jews only but for the world. The term “world” appears three times in verse 17. This was a shock to the Jews who treated the Gentiles as dogs. But God loved the nations also, as much as the seed of Abraham. All deserve judgment, but Jesus came not to condemn but to save. From the start, he fulfilled the metaphor of the serpent lifted up in his cross, to bear God’s judgment for humanity. God’s love is not racist but covers all people.
Christ then uses a striking phrase, “Whoever believes in the Son is not judged.” Thus all fear is cast out from the day of judgment. So faith in Christ frees us from the dead that otherwise we deserve. You are free from judgment if you trust in Jesus.
Those who reject Christ’s Salvation, thinking they have no need of it, are blind, foolish, and separated from the grace he provides. Those who do not welcome Christ’s power, keep out the rays of the Holy Spirit’s light. He who scorns Christ’s death or denies it, rebels against God and chooses self-justification. All our works are inadequate and we fall short of God’s glory.
Jesus explains why some folk reject Salvation: They love sin more than God’s righteousness, and shrink from Christ the light of the world. So they cling to their sin. Christ knows our hearts, and the root cause of our cruel thoughts. Men’s deeds are vile. No one is good in his own accord. Our thoughts, words and deeds are evil from our youth. These expressions struck deep in Nicodemus, especially as Christ had prefaced them with loving sentiments to break down his pride, and draw him to repent.
Jesus added that he who does not trust in Christ, loves evil and hates the good, clinging to his sins. Most men are hypocrites, hiding their sins under a pious smile. They hate Christ ignorantly or deliberately. Have you confessed your sins to Jesus? If you do not confess your cruelty you cannot be born again. Open your heart to God’s light, you will be cleansed; faith in God’s Lamb sanctifies us. So humble yourself and confess your corruption, trusting in Christ, and you will live forever.
Practically exercising our faith means doing the right. This readiness to accept God’s truth is a condition of our renewal. Whoever enters Christ’s truth not just by intellect but by his whole being, is transformed morally. Liars become truthful, the crooked are made straight, the treacherous become loyal. Those born again were not previously good, but have confessed their flaws, and the faithful God has pardoned them. Sanctification has begun in them; He gives them love’s power to practice the works of His Spirit. God works in believers by Christ to achieve the works of peace.
We do not reject good works, but these come not from us but from God. We take no credit, it is His grace. This means we depart from self-righteousness, based on egoistic efforts, and become open to the righteousness of grace depending on Christ’s blood. All who are reborn and abide in Christ please God. Their lives have become thanksgiving to His grace. The new birth and the holy life are worship well pleasing to God.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for bearing the judgment for the world. We bow to you, because we will not have to face that judgment, as we are united with you by faith. You have freed us from God’s wrath. We confess our sin before you; cleanse us from the urge to sin. Create in us the fruits of the Spirit, so that our lives may display the adoration and worship to God, the heavenly Father.
QUESTION 29: Why will believers in Christ not pass through judgment?
3. The Baptist testifies to Jesus the Bridegroom
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized. 23 John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been put in prison. 25 Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples over purifying. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves hear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice, therefore this joy of mine is now full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
After the Passover Jesus left Jerusalem and began to baptize. The disciples knew the need for brokenness before rebirth, and that without confession of sin salvation is not effected. Baptism for the pardon of sins symbolized brokenness, by which the penitent expresses his longing to enter the New Covenant with God.
The Baptist had changed the venue of his ministry moving to Aenon at the northern end of the Jordan valley. They came to John and poured out their hearts to him; so he baptized them, preparing them to meet Jesus.
Jesus did not return to Galilee directly after the Passover, but began to baptize the penitent elsewhere in the land. With a greater authority, more people came to him than to John. As a result a dispute arose between the two parties. The issue was: Which of the two leaders is better for the task of cleansing from sin? Which of the two is closer to God? Here was a vital question, because they contemplated devoting their lives to the teacher of their ultimate choice. Have you considered, brother, the way of your devotion?
The Baptist resisted a great temptation. He did not envy Jesus’ striking success, but realized that his own ministry had limits. He humbly admitted, “Mere man cannot undertake such a good work on his own. Only if God has granted him the power, blessing and the fruit, can he do so.” We, on the contrary, boast of ourselves, our spiritual knowledge, prayers, and fine speeches. If you should receive a spiritual gift, that is from God. You are still a slave, unworthy even if you did all that God requires. The Baptist stayed humble, nor did he claim abilities beyond his capacity, but glorified God alone.
Again John witnessed to his disciples. He was not the Messiah. He may have expected a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but this did not happen. Jesus simply kept baptizing. So the Baptist was puzzled, yet remained obedient. He was just Christ’s forerunner to prepare the way.
John remained faithful to the revelation he had been granted. He testified that Jesus is the bridegroom, who treated the penitent, cleansed by the waters of baptism as his bride. Today the Spirit creates this spiritual unity, so that Paul can say, “We are members of the body of Christ, and he is our Head; we are one with him.” Christ is no longer our judge but our Savior, the bridegroom. The joyous picture of a wedding shows us our hope in Christ.
The Baptist was standing afar, rejoicing in the growth of the Church. But he stood beside Jesus, rather than among his assembly. He confessed to being a faithful friend. While he remained isolated in the wilderness, Jesus entered directly into the capital, where he performed signs and preached his sermons. The Baptist observed the advance of the Kingdom and rejoiced. The voice and prominence of the Bridegroom pleased him. News of Christ’s successes were heavenly music in him. Thus the tenderness of Christ softened the coarse Baptist during the closing days of his service. He rejoiced as partner in the wedding feast.
John was ready to die, not anxious to widen his circle of followers. He preferred to decrease and vanish, so that the Church might grow.
Reader, who is it that heads your meetings? Does each strive against the other for leadership, or do you give way to others, to be least that Christ may grow mighty in you? Join with John and say, “He must increase, and I decrease.”
QUESTION 30: In what sense is Christ the Bridegroom?
After witnessing humbly and expressing his joy at the growth of the Christian movement, the Baptist testified to the greatness of Christ and his matchless message, and he said,
31 “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all.”
Men are worldly, needing rebirth. Jesus alone was heavenly, and became man to draw near to us and redeem us. Jesus, the Nazarene excels all prophets, philosophers and leaders, as heaven is higher than earth. Men’s inventions are staggering, but are from matter that God made. The Son is life and light and the reason for our being. There is no comparison between him and all else. The Son is begotten of the Father before the ages. He is perfect surpassing all creatures.
32 “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony; 33 he who receives his testimony sets his zeal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that He gives the Spirit. 35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.”
The man Jesus is eye-witness to heavenly truth. He truly saw the Father and heard His words. He knows His thoughts and plans. He is God’s word, springing from the bosom of the Father. His revelation is perfect. The revelation that came with the prophets is incomplete. Jesus reveals God’s will as final and complete. He is the faithful witness, who became a martyr for that testimony. He glorified the Father, sadly, most people still refuse His witness. They do not want a God who is near, for that would require a change of life. They reject Sonship and deny God’s Fatherhood.
Praise God that not all hate God and His Spirit. There is a select group who see the Father in the Son, and accept his perfect sacrifice. He who believes His revelation and redemption honors God. God cannot lie; the Son is the truth. The Father did not reveal the substance of His thoughts in a constitution or book, but in the person of Jesus. Whoever is open to the Spirit of His words is renewed. Christ calls you not just to speak the truth, but to live it and do it. His Gospel is then embodied in you.
Jesus did not speak of imaginary things or uncertainties or wishful desires; his words are creative, mighty, yet clear. God Himself spoke in His Son. The Spirit in Him is limitless. The Father bestowed on him all wisdom and authority without end.
The Father loved the Son, and handed him all things. God’s love is a gift, and the Son honors his Father. The question is not, who is greater, the Father or the Son? Such questions come from Satan. Each Person of the Holy Trinity magnifies the other and honors the other. He who ignores this principle ignores the Lord. The Father had no fears of the Son usurping His sovereignty, for God knew the Son’s meekness, obedience and total submission. Jesus rules over all as he says, “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth.”
36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.”
John the evangelist teaches us the saving formula: He who trusts in the Son has life eternal. This brief sentence enshrines the gospel. Whoever draws near to this unity of love exemplified in the Father and Son, nears God’s love, revealed on the cross. He relies on the Lamb of God knowing that the Lamb has removed our filth. With this relation to Christ we experience the current of his mercy in everlasting love. That faith in the crucified Son transfers to us his true life. Eternal life does not begin after death, but now. The Holy Spirit comes upon the believers in the Son. He who rejects the words of Christ, and refuses his Sonship and cross, grieves the Holy Spirit. He will not find rest for his conscience. He who does not submit to Jesus opposes God himself and abides in spiritual death. All religions that contradict the doctrine of the Son and his cross offend God’s truth. He who rejects His love, chooses His wrath.
Paul too affirms John’s position: God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and wickedness. For all have sinned and opposed the truth by their iniquity. Realize that God’s wrath that destroys, is poured on mankind.
Like the serpent lifted in the desert, so the Crucified has become the symbol of our salvation from God’s anger. The Son has opened the dispensation of grace. Anyone who averts His grace from the cross deliberately, abides in judgment. Satan finds a foothold in him. People without Christ are wrecked. When will you begin praying for individuals, so that they may believe in the Son and be saved? When will you talk to your friends patiently, in order that they may receive God’s life by means of your witness?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we praise you for your love and truth. We worship you, asking for an obedient heart, fixed in faith and honoring the Father. In our confidence we declare that you and the Father are one. Have mercy on those who reject you ignorantly. Grant them the witness of your word. Help us to find those to whom you send us, and tell them about you and your work for us.
QUESTION 31: How do we receive eternal life?
4. Jesus in Samaria (John 4:1–42)
a) Jesus leads the adulteress to repentance (John 4:1-26)
1 Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 (although Jesus Himself did not baptize, but only His disciples); 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Joseph’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as He was with His journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
The evangelist calls Jesus ‘Lord’, He who reigns as King eternal over history. He punishes and shows grace. He guides them and judges. He saw his glory and honors him with this majesty title.
Pharisees had begun to mobilize, ready for battle. Christ’s preaching in Judea was a shining success. He called men to repent, confessing their sins, like the Baptist. It was as if he had taken over from the Baptist (though he did not himself baptize, but left this to his disciples, since they had come from John’s circle). Jesus taught that water baptism was nothing but a symbol for Spirit-baptism. Yet his hour had not come, and he did not himself baptize.
When the Pharisaic opposition increased, Jesus departed north. He was living according to his Father’s plan. The time for open conflict with these legalists had not come. Jesus preferred to travel by way of the mountain country and enter Samaria, taking the short cut to Galilee.
These Samaritans were not a recognized group in the Old Testament, since they were a mixed multitude with some Israelite blood. When the Assyrians invaded Samaria in 722 BC, and exiled most of Abraham’s seed to Mesopotamia, they settled other groups in Samaria. Thus the mingling occurred, which also led to a fusing of beliefs.
Jesus came to Sychar near Shechem, the center for the original Patriarchs. It was also the venue for Joshua’s covenant with the people and God (Genesis 12:6 and Joshua 8:30–35). There was an ancient well nearly, assumed to be Jacob’s (Genesis 33:19). Joseph’s bones were buried somewhere near Nablus (Joshua 24:32). This area became a historical focus in the Old Testament.
Jesus sat beside the well, tired out by the long trek and the heat of the noonday. He was a real man, weary and thirsty, not a phantom or a theophany – a human with all the features of human frailty.
7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me to drink.” 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
While Jesus was standing by the well, a Samaritan woman approached to draw water. She came not in the morning or evening like other women, but at noon. She did not wish to meet anyone; with her bad reputation she was scorned by all wherever she went. Jesus could discern her troubled heart from afar, and felt her thirst for cleansing. He decided to help her; He did not bring up the Ten Commandments, nor did he scold her, rather he simply asked for a drink; he regarded her as somehow deserving to offer him a drink. But when she recognized him as Jewish she hesitated. For there was a gulf between her people and his. To the extent that neither side would touch the other’s utensils for fear of pollution. Jesus, however, behaved as if there was no ritual barrier between them, honoring her by his request.
Christ’s purpose was to arouse a hunger for God in this sinner. As the venue was a well; it was fitting to talk about water. This awakened a desire in her for the gift of God. He set before her God’s love as an aim. It was not judgment awaiting her for perdition, but it was God’s gift prepared for her in grace. What a splendid miracle.
Grace does not come spontaneously from the wind but comes in the Person of Jesus alone. He is the giver of talents and divine graces. Still the woman saw him as an ordinary man. Christ’s glory was still concealed from her eyes, but his pure love shone clearly before her. He told her that living water was his possession. The heavenly drink that he offers quenches the soul’s thirst. All men long for love and truth, and wish to return to God. He who comes to Jesus quenches his thirst.
Jesus offers God’s gift to those who ask for it. We have to confess our need, just as Jesus expressed his need for water. Whoever will not bow his head and ask, will not receive heavenly water freely offered.
The woman failed to understand Jesus. She replied in practical terms, “You have no vessel to draw water and the well is deep, so how can you give me water?” At the same time she was perplexed as she experienced Jesus’ kindness and love. Unlike her neighbors he did not despise her. He was apart from her by majesty, but loved her in his holiness. Never had she met a man as pure as he was. So she asked, “Are you greater than our father Jacob? Do you plan to work a wonder and give us a new well?”
Jesus answered explaining that he did not have earthly water in mind, since whoever slakes his thirst bodily with natural water will thirst again. The body simply absorbs the water and disposes of it.
However, Jesus gives us living water, and quenches every spiritual thirst. Christians seek God and find Him. They are not philosophers reflecting on truth without reaching it. God has found them; they know Him in essence. His love always suffices us. His revelation never becomes tedious or out-of-date, but is ever springing, renewed daily limpid and refreshing knowledge of God is not just a thought, but power, life, light and peace. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of heavenly water.
Three times Jesus repeats the affirmation that he alone is the giver of living water. No religion or party, no kinship or friendship can quench your soul’s thirst, only Jesus your Savior.
Whoever receives God’s gift is transformed. The thirsty one becomes a fountain of water overflowing to bless others, giving them grace, joy and love with other fruits of the Holy Spirit. Abiding in Christ we receive grace upon grace, becoming himself God’s gift to many.
The woman felt that Jesus was genuine in his converse with her and no magician. She asked him for that living water. She confessed her need, but continued to think that Jesus was still speaking of earthly water. She imagined that receiving that water, she would no longer need to carry the pot on her head and mingle with those who despised her.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, giver of living water. Quench our thirst for knowledge and love. Pardon our corruption; cleanse us from every stain, so that the Holy Spirit may descend on us, and abide with us for ever. May we become springs of water, that many may drink from the overflow of your Spirit, poured into our hearts. Teach us meekness, prayer, love and faith.
QUESTION 32: What is the gift that Jesus gives us? What are its qualities?
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’, 18 for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
After Jesus had aroused in the woman the thirst for living water, and granted her wish for God’s gift, he showed her the barrier that prevented her receiving this gift – her sin. He did not accuse her harshly by saying, “You are an adulteress,” but gently asked her to call her husband to him. This request struck a painful chord in her. Like all women she longed for the protection and care of a husband. But she was lonely and despised, and _ives_ing to disclose her shame to Jesus. So she shielded herself by saying, “I have no husband.”
Jesus confirmed his claim to be the truth, who knows all secrets. He knew she was abandoned alone, seeking love through lust, falling from one sin into another.
Every adulterous act is a calamity, twisting the conscience, and sickening our inner feelings, notable in women. A woman still longs for her husband even after this split, anxious for reunion and understanding.
Now she realized that Jesus was no ordinary man; his was a prophetic insight. Deep down she knew that only God could help her. But where could she find him? By what means? Prayer and ritual had become alien to her. For years she had not attended any religious services, and yet she longed for deliverance and peace with God.
After Jesus had aroused in her a thirst for cleansing, he led her onwards to realize that the site for worship was not the vital matter, rather it was the Person to worship. He announced that God was the heavenly Father. He thus bestowed on her his own salvation in the essence of knowing God. He used the key term “the Father” three times. It is not genius or piety that creates the knowledge of God, but faith in Christ alone.
Jesus made clear that not every god deserved the title of Father. Samaritans used to venerate various gods. Whereas Jews knew who was the Lord, who had revealed himself in history, and promised that a Savior for the world would appear of David’s house.
Biblical religion was to become worldwide. Since then the worship of God was freed from links with a particular temple. Believers were to be the Temple of God, with the Spirit indwelling them; their whole life was becoming the worship of God’s glory. Christ’s redemption was to become their distinction, as they entered the vastness of His love. They have chosen life that is upright, honest, clean in His power. Their heavenly Father has renewed them. Their heartfelt adoration is full of praise. God is pleased when His children address Him spontaneously, with thanksgiving and devotion as “Our heavenly Father.”
God is Spirit, not an idol or phantom. He is our Father, and we know His Spirit. He knows our weakness and our inability to approach Him. He came to us in the Son, cleansed us by His sacrifice to receive His Spirit. God wants to have many children; only His children can offer true worship in spirit and truth. We pray to the Father to fill us with His Spirit and truth and grace, so that our lives may become a response to His love.
No one can worship God fittingly, so Jesus gave us the gift of the Spirit. In Him we become faithful suppliants, joyful servants, and bold witnesses. Then our lives will be worship of our loving Father in the Spirit’s power flowing from Christ’s cross.
Christ has cleansed the temple, to institute true worship. The Father was revealed in Christ to that sinful woman. Confessing her sin and a thirst for living water, Jesus gave her grace.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we thank you that you desire that we honor you from our hearts, and be sanctified in our walk, praising your grace. Purify our worship. Make us servants who follow your Son, who glorified you always. Fill us with the Spirit of prayer, to respond at all times to your word flowing from the Gospel.
QUESTION 33: What prevents true worship, and what effects it truly?
25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming” (he who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will show us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am HE.”
The woman felt the power and truth of Jesus’ loving words. She wished to see the fulfillment of the promises that he was giving her. She remembered that prophecy of the nearing appearance of Christ. Her hopes she set on his name, believing that only he could inform her about the true worship of God.
Strangely, Jesus did not reveal himself with the clarity that he does here before this woman on any earlier occasion. He said he was the expected One, sent from God, filled with the Holy Spirit. “I myself am God’s gift to man; the word of God incarnate and the Salvation prepared for all.”
The woman failed to see that Messiah implies the King of kings, the chief of prophets and the High Priest. She may have heard that his coming would be linked with resurrection and the spread of peace on earth. She may also have heard of the political dreams of the Jews associated with this name. But all she wanted was a Savior to redeem her from sin. She believed that Christ could do this.
At this Jesus said, “I am the One speaking to you.” Heavens plans and the promises of prophets meet in this expression “I AM.” No mere man could more explicitly claim that he was the Messiah. The anti-Christ was to come, who may make such a claim falsely. But Christ is love incarnate who does not despise any ignorant sinner, but will have mercy even on an alien woman of Samaria. He is mercy not judgment.
5. Jesus leads his disciples to see the ready harvest
27 Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the city and were coming to him.
While the discussion was in progress, the disciples returned from the village with food they had bought. They were amazed to see Jesus alone with a sinful woman, who was as well a Samaritan outcast. But no one of them dared to speak, as they felt the Spirit’s presence. They noticed the divine marvel performed by Christ, for the woman’s face had been transformed by her looking unto Christ and listening to his words. The joy of knowing the Savior reigned over her.
Then the woman left her empty pot. She had not given Jesus the cup of water he had requested, whereas he had quenched her thirst by forgiveness. She became a spring of living water to many. She ran to the village and talked to the people and pointed them to Christ. Her mouth once a source of lewd talk was now a source of clear water witnessing to Christ. She drew people to the Savior, witnessing how he had uncovered her sins. The villagers guessed from this confession that an unusual event had taken place, the work of God in this woman. They longed to discover her secret. They ran to the well, where Jesus and his disciples were resting.
This is a model picture of what occurs when Christ works in those who would follow him. We too will inform friends and neighbors that Christ has come to us to save. Then a desire for living water rises up in them, provided by the Holy Spirit. So have you become a spring of life for many? If not, confess your sin to Jesus, yield your life to him, so that he may cleanse you and sanctify you and thus you will be a blessing to many – as happened to the former adulteress preaching in her surroundings.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for searching me and knowing me. I am no better than this sinful woman in Samaria. Forgive my sins. Grant me God’s gift which quenches my thirst for truth, purify my life. Open my eyes to see the heavenly Father. Fill my heart with the Holy Spirit, that I may become a useful person, and my life may become an expression of worship in response to your grace. Save many, and draw them to yourself. You do not reject those who come to you.
QUESTION 34: How can we be watered by living water?
31 Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him food?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent Me, and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
After Jesus had delivered the soul of the sinful woman and led her to eternal life, he turned to his disciples to render them similar service. Their thoughts remained worldly on material things. They did not rejoice at what God’s Spirit had done in the woman’s heart. Doubtless food and drink are vital for survival, but there is more essential food than bread, and more powerful satisfaction than water provides. This they had still to understand. They were no better than her, despite their piety in following Jesus.
Jesus explained to them the meaning of heavenly or spiritual food. This satisfies the soul more than any material food. Jesus was satisfied above all in bestowing blessing and doing his Father’s will.
Jesus was God’s apostle. He was freely the Son, but obedient to his Father, doing His will joyfully, for God is love. Whoever dwells in love dwells in God. Christ’s obedience does not mean that he was inferior to the Father, but proves the extent of His love. The Son said that the world salvation was His Father’s work, even though he had carried it out himself. He gave the glory to his Father, just as previously the Father had given all things to the Son. The Father gives prominence to His Son and has seated him at His right hand, placing in him all authority in heaven and on earth.
At the well God’s will had been to save this despised woman. It was not only the Jews who had been called to redemption, but all mankind. All were corrupt and hungered for God. Jesus on meeting this woman found in her a maturity, a hunger for pardon in her inner being. A readiness to receive God’s pardon was more apparent in her than in the Jews. Suddenly, he saw before him all humanity as a vast field filled with wheat ripening for the harvest, wafted along by the Holy Spirit.
However, the disciples could not see this field symbolizing the world ready for harvest. Jesus had reached Samaria in winter and harvest requires several months to appear. Jesus seems to say, ‘You look at the superficial facts that are obvious. Look at the truths at the core of the human spirit; suppressed questionings, desire for abundant life, the search for God. Today is harvest time. Many are anxious to accept God’s Son as their Savior, if the message of salvation is presented to them with wisdom and in love.
You may feel otherwise; all those around me are stubborn, fanatical or blind. That is how the disciples felt; they judged superficially. But Jesus discerned the heart. He did not condemn the sinful woman who had initially treated him as alien. He did not hesitate to converse with her even though spiritual discourse was beyond her, but spoke simply and clearly to her. So he helped her all the more with the Spirit’s guidance, and awakened in her memories of worship and the majesty of Messiahship, until she became an evangelist. What a change! She was closer to the workings of the Spirit than the pious Nicodemus. Everyone who serves the Lord needs his loving insight of Jesus to see those who hunger for God’s righteousness in their locality. Do not worry about their coarseness and indifference, God loves them; Jesus calls them. Their minds will be enlightened by grace little by little. How long will you stay silent in a world that has so many seekers after God?
When a person returns to Christ, eternal life will be his; joy will fill many hearts. Also in heaven there will be rejoicing among the angels over one sinner repenting. After all God wishes all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Those who align themselves with God’s will, and carry it through by preaching to others humbly will satisfy their own souls and rejoice. Just as Jesus said of himself, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and fulfill His work.”
Jesus ended his message to the disciples saying, “I send you to harvest.” The Baptist had already ploughed the arid fields preaching repentance – Jesus is himself the seed of wheat that God planted in the soil already prepared. We harvest today the fruits of his death on the cross. Should Jesus call you to the harvest, recall that this is not your harvest. The work is the Lord’s. The power of Christ ripens in the Spirit’s fruits. We are all unprofitable servants, yet he calls us to share his divine ministry, sometimes in sowing, sometimes in plowing or the reaping. It is good to remember we are not God’s first workers. Many have toiled before us in tears; their prayers are recorded in heaven. You are not better equipped than God’s other servants, nor are you better behaved. You live every moment by His pardoning grace. Learn to obey the Spirit in your service. Serve Him with praise and thanksgiving during the harvest, and magnify your heavenly Father with other harvesters, who cry, ‘Your Kingdom come; yours is the sovereignty, the power and the glory for ever.’ Amen.
c) Evangelism in Samaria (John 4:39–42)
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told Me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Multitudes ran to Jesus from the town, influenced by the woman’s conversion. In them he saw the white fields, about to be harvested. He spoke to them of faith and life eternal, and stayed there two full days. His disciples visited homes as harvesters of souls. Christ’s person and words made a deep mark on the crowds. They realized that God had come in Christ to our sad world to save sinners. These Samaritans were the first to give him the title “Savior of the World” they felt that Jesus did not mean to save his own people, but was bearing all men’s sin. There is no end to the might of his love, even today he can save and free those in sins’ bondage from Satan’s grip, and preserve those who are freed. He is truly the judge of the world. Caesar in Rome was entitled “Savior and Protector of the World.” These Samaritans realized that Jesus was greater than Caesars; he gives his people eternal peace.
PRAYER: We thank you Jesus; you rebuilt the life of this sinful woman, and showed us all, that obedience to the Spirit is better than worship. Free us from delay, so that we may fulfill your will gladly and swiftly, and present your salvation to the wanderers, that they may obtain eternal life by faith in you.
QUESTION 35: How do we become useful harvesters for Jesus?
5. Healing of the court official’s son (John 4:43-54)
43 After the two days he departed from there to Galilee. 44 For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast, for they too had gone to the feast. 46a So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.
Jesus and his disciples preached in Samaria. With the power of eternal life and with joy they evangelized. The time for reaching the nations had not come; he had first to defeat evil spirits in his homeland. He went directly to Galilee, despite the mockery of the Nazarenes and the risks of violence. His friends and relatives did not yet believe in his divinity, since he was from a lowly family. They looked up to wealth and fame, and scorned the poverty in Jesus. He was unable to work a sign among them because of this mistrust.
Christ’s reputation as healer spread far and wide. The news of his miracles proceeded him, performed in Jerusalem and Galilee. Many Galileans visited Jerusalem during the Passover. They heard and saw all that Jesus did and said, preaching with surpassing authority. They cheered him when he reached the Galilean villages, and hoped to see him perform miracles among them, to gain some benefit from him. Jesus returned to the bridegroom’s home in Cana, where the wedding happiness had become his motto as it were. He wanted to complete his service among those who had begun to look up to him because of his first miracle performed at Cana.
46b And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Jesus therefore said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before the child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to mend, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
An important official of the king’s court came to Jesus, having heard of him and his authority. The folk of that village heard of the arrival and they said, “He is approaching the Healer to introduce him to the king.”
This official had a sick son in Capernaum, on the shores of the lake. The father had tried several physicians, spending a fortune, but found no cure for his son. As a last resort he tried Jesus; could he help or not? The father wanted Jesus to leave Cana and accompany him to Capernaum, hoping by his very presence the son would be healed.
Jesus made no fuss in greeting this high official. He was sorry that the official showed a lack of faith. Jesus cannot help unless a man truly believes in his matchless person. Many pray and believe while doubting at the same time, desiring mere material aid. A true believer in the Lord relies on his word unconditionally, trusting before the help arrives.
The official was not annoyed at Jesus’ chiding, but humbled himself calling him “Sir” or “Lord,” this according to the Greek, regarding himself as servant of Christ. His love for his son as well as his respect for Jesus led him again to ask Jesus to come to Capernaum, to spare his life.
At this, Jesus discerned a willingness in the official to believe in his Lordship and said, “Go, your son will live.” Jesus declined to join the official and go to Capernaum, but tested the father’s love and establish his faith. Did he have confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal in spite of the distance between them and the sick boy?
In the course of the conversation the official discovered the character of Jesus and his love. He was assured that Jesus would not lie and was not mocking him. Now he believed even though he could not witness visually his son’s cure. Obeying Jesus, he started back to Capernaum. His obedient departure honored Jesus and confirmed the healing. If Jesus could heal thus my dying son, he is greater than all. Healing proves his authority and divine origin. The way back was in itself a discipline in growing trust.
Jesus had also moved the officials servants to hurry to him and announce his son’s complete cure. His anxieties vanished and he praised the Lord. Eager to be sure of the hour when the fever had left his son, he was told it was just after noon, at the very moment that Jesus had uttered the healing command and promise.
This official witnessed to his household with gratitude of the power of Christ’s love.
This miraculous event is the second sign that John records. Christ’s influence penetrated the king’s court. People eagerly looked forward to future events. Believing that faith in Christ is the worship acceptable to God who confirms this in signs and mighty acts.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you for your coming. You healed the dying lad in Capernaum though remote from your bodily presence. You led the father to a firm faith in you. Teach us to trust in your love and power. We pray for the salvation of many dead in sin and trespasses, and believe that you answer our prayers.
QUESTION 36: What are the stages of growth in faith, that the official passed through?
LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS
(JOHN 5:1 – 11:54)
A - SECOND JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM (JOHN 5:1-47) THEME: EMERGENCE OF HOSTILITY BETWEEN JESUS AND THE JEWS
1. Healing of the paralytic at Bethesda (John 5:1-16)
1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. 5 One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.
Most likely Jesus spent nine months in Galilee. Then he went up to Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles. He knew that the battle of faith was to be decisive in the Capital. Though he was confronting legalists and the pious, He kept the law faithfully. Three times yearly he went on pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem, whenever that was possible (Deuteronomy 16:16).
In the town center there was a pool, which according to some Greek versions was occasionally moved by an angel. Herod had built porches round the pool with pillars. The remains of this portico were discovered recently. This structure was named “the House of Mercy”, for many invalids would frequent the place seeking a cure – waiting for the waters to move. They thought that the first to throw himself in the water at the movement would be healed.
Jesus visited this pool crowded with sick folk. He noticed a man paralyzed for thirty-eight years, bitter and in pain. To add to this the cripple had a hatred of others. In this house of mercy it was everyone for himself; no one to pity him. Yet he had not lost hope, but awaited the opportunity so rare to receive divine mercy. Suddenly mercy Incarnate stood before him, and Jesus began his healing treatment by first drawing the man’s gaze from the pool to himself. Then He kindled the cripple’s will to gain healing. Jesus gave him the chance to express his grievances, who had cried, “No one cares for me! Often have I have sought healing, but my confidence has faded: No one enquires about me. Maybe you will wait a while for the waters to move, so that you may put me in?”
No one cares for me! Is this your position brother? Do others reject you? We tell you that Jesus stands before you: He asks about you and has found you. He can help you and save you. These were the sentiments felt by the paralytic. His questioning glance met Christ’s eyes, whose pity created the man’s confidence in the Lord of love.
When Jesus saw the eager desire of this unfortunate man to be cured, and his trust that Jesus was able to deliver, he commanded, “Rise, take up your mattress and walk.” This was a divine injunction, making the impossible feasible. The paralytic believed Christ’s word, and trusted the power that flowed from him, feeling the currents that flowed into his bones and the power that revived his body. He gained strength and was healed.
Instantly he leapt for joy, stood up and lifted his bed over his head and carried it gladly. His faith complemented Christ’s word of power, and brought about an immediate healing.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you, you did not pass this invalid by, but noticed him in your compassion. He had no one but you, the merciful One. Help us to hold on to you, and not rely on human aid. Transform us into the image of your love, to care for others, sharing your blessings with them.
QUESTION 37: How did Jesus heal the paralytic by the pool of Bethesda?
10 So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, “Take up your pallet and walk.” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet and walk?’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.
Those present in the porches of Bethesda were delighted, except the fanatical legalists. These bigots were madly envious, especially as the healing took place on the Sabbath. Not only had Jesus healed the invalid, but also ordered him to carry his bed through the lanes of the city. This they felt was a sin against God and the Sabbath ordinance, when all work had to cease on the day of rest. Any transgressor of this law was liable to death (Numbers 15:32–36). The Jews reckoned that the Messiah would not come, unless the whole nation observed the Sabbath meticulously.
These Jews would not have stoned the man bearing his bed on the spot, for a warning had to be given before sentence was passed. The protest was meant as a threat. The healed man defended himself by mentioning Jesus’ order. Carrying the bed was a condition for the complete cure.
The legalists were furious and felt no pleasure in the healing act. Nor did they discern the authority of love that Jesus showed in the cure. They began to discuss with envy and hatred the person of the healer. He had dared to command the invalid to carry his bed on the Sabbath. So Jesus, in their opinion, was a _ives_t_sssor worthy of death.
The healed man did not know the healer, since Jesus was a stranger. This was his first visit to Bethesda. After healing he seemed to vanish. Jesus did not want faith in himself to be based on miracles, but on his loving person.
14 Afterwards, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the Sabbath.
Jesus sought the healed one to complete the cure by freeing him from his sins. He found the man in the temple praising God. He was fearful and joyful at the same time when he saw Jesus. We know what Jesus said to him:
You are healed. Realize the extent of the marvel that has come to you. You had been sick for 38 years. This was a divine deed, not a human act. The Incarnate God has Himself opened the eyes of your heart.
You know your sins. Life without God has caused this calamity. By my healing you, your sins are all pardoned. For healing to cover his inner being, Jesus asked him to obey and not to sin. Receiving pardon requires a decision not to return to the same sin. He who accepts Christ’s powerful word, and repents in sorrow, receives divine power, and can overcome evil with God’s help. Christ does not ask the impossible from us, but gives us the Spirit for that power may overcome our bodily temptations and our pet hates. The Spirit of truth enables us to avoid and resist evil.
Sometimes maladies and injuries are chastenings from God’s loving concern to bring us back to Him. At other times wealth and luxury may become divine punishment for our hardness towards God. A man becomes demonic, ending in eternal loss. Do not flirt with sin, but admit your bondage to a particular failing, and ask Christ to free you. Do not adopt a neutral stand between Jesus and your sin. Break down your sinful bent. Promise your Savior in a covenant. He will save you to the uttermost.
What a surprise! After getting advice from Jesus the healed man ran to the Jews, and told them that the Nazarene had healed him and led him ‘astray’ from the law of the Sabbath. The legalists may have hoped he would spy on Jesus to make an arrest more likely.
The hatred shown by the priests when Jesus cleansed the temple was not as fierce as the Pharisees’ hostility against Jesus, after this healing. Christ had deflated their ‘righteousness,’ and shown that righteousness does not rest on law keeping from selfish motives. God requires mercy and love. Holiness without love is false. God looks for mercy in us, not ritual. Thankfully God has freed us from thousands of legalistic rules, giving us love as the sole commandment.
QUESTION 38: Why did the Jews persecute Jesus?
2. God works with His Son (John 5:17-20)
17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God His Father, making Himself equal with God.
Prior to the healing in Bethesda, the opposition to Jesus was small-scale. But after that event it grew. His enemies resolved on killing him. So the miracle was the turning point in the relations with the Jews. Jesus was thenceforth persecuted and black-listed. What was the reason for this turning of events?
A clash occurred between Christ’s procession of love and the authority of the Law in its harshness. In the Old Testament the people lived as it were in prison. Many judgments were issued enjoining people to keep the law meticulously; for righteousness to result from good works. Pious folk took care not to trespass the minute commandments and to gain divine favor. Law-keeping became a pretext for egoism and lovelessness. Since the nation lived in covenant with God and was deemed to be a corporate whole, the extremists tried to force everyone to conform to their numerous rules. Most important was the Sabbath taboo on work. As God has rested on the seventh day from His work of creation, even so people were forbidden to do any kind of work on this day of worship, on penalty of death.
Thus the Sabbath had become a sign of the accord between the Jews and their God, and indicated His presence among them, as if there were no sins committed by them against God to mar this harmony.
Jesus had a simple answer to the Pharisees who protested against his violation of the Sabbath, the decisive “God does work”. We read the word “work” and its derivatives, such as working seven times in Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees. His reply to their frigid legalism was to declare God’s loving activity. How can God rest till now from His creative work, but now He works continuously? Since sin entered into this world, and death corrupted all creatures, and the universe split from its source, God has been powerfully striving to save wanderers, and bring back rebels into His fellowship. Our holiness is His aim, to realize His love in purity.
The Sabbath healing is a picture of God’s work in essence. Jesus preached grace and carried out loving deeds, even when his work may have seemed opposed to Law. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. The Sabbath healing was a frontal attack on false piety, devoid of love.
Then the Jews cried, “Jesus is breaking the Sabbath! Help! The pillars of the Covenant are crumbling. This enemy of Law blasphemes, and sets himself as a new lawgiver, a danger to our nation.”
None of them paid notice to Christ’s love for the wretch, nor did they see his victory on earth. They remained blind in their fanaticism. Do not be surprised if today people fail to realize Jesus as Savior, because of such bigotry.
The Jews were furious with Jesus also because of ‘blasphemies’ they thought they were hearing that God was his Father. This sounded obscene to them. So they shouted, “God is One; He has no Son.” How can Jesus call God his Father?
This stand reveals their ignorance; they were not living in the Spirit’s inspiration, nor immersed in the Scriptures. For there are remarkable prophecies of God’s Fatherhood in them. God has called the people of the Covenant “My son” (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1). While the nation call God “Father” (Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 63:16; Jeremiah 3:4,19 and 31:9). God called His believing king “My son” (2. Samuel 7:14). But no individual member of the Covenant nation could be entitled to call God “Father”. This was impossible for the Jewish mind, and accounted an arrogant extravagance. The Jews knew the promise that Jesus, the Messiah, would be of divine origin, the bringer of eternal life. Their hatred of Jesus demonstrated their unbelief in his Messiahship.
Jesus responded to the Jews’ dread at his words by saying clearly that he does the same works as his Father with wisdom and love. Jesus affirmed that he was able to do all things and is equal with God. The Jew’s reaction to such thoughts was severe and ruthless. Anyone who raises himself to God’s station is to be done away. The Jews hated Jesus as a blasphemer deserving of death.
19 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show him, that you may marvel.”
Jesus replied to the Jews’ loathing with love, and confronted their hatred by pointing to the work of God’s love. Yes, the Son does as does the Father. Jesus does not work on his own. His union with God was as close as a child watching his father closely, looking at his hands to see how it is done; doing precisely as his father. Thus he humbled himself and returned the glory to the Father. He honored his Father. Let us realize that we are unprofitable servants, called to sanctify our Father’s name as did Jesus.
With the self-denial and humility, Jesus obtained the authority to do his Father’s works. The attributes, names and works of the Father, are his also. He is the true God and eternal, able, loving, glorious. His union with God is perfect.
God the Father loves Christ for his self-denial, hiding nothing from him. He shares His rights, plans and works with the Son. In these expressions we see the clearest affirmation to the unity of the Trinity – a unity of love in action. Since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit co-operate in all things, we ought to be comforted in the knowledge that the Holy Trinity works unendingly – to put an end to all wars, hatreds and bigotry in the world. How great is the contrast between the unity of love at work, and the inaction of legalism.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son to us. In his works you showed us what you do, and who you are. Free us from all legalistic works to choose works of love. May we repent of fanaticism, and beseech you for those who are spiritually blind that they may see the freedom of your love, and submit to you in meek obedience.
QUESTION 39: How and why does God work with His Son?
3. Christ raises the dead and judges the world (John 5:20-30)
20 “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show him, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him.
How mighty are these works, impossible for man, but Jesus can perform them. The Father commits them to the Son to carry through. Here we note two qualities prophesied in Scripture relating to Christ. The Jews expected the Man who typified them: Raising the dead, and judging truly. The two where together and Jesus attributed them to himself. Jesus beforehand predicted in the presence of his foes that he is the Lord of Life who will judge, even though they regarded him as mad or blasphemous. They resolved to kill him. By this affirmation Jesus wanted to change them and lead them to think aright and repent sincerely.
Our God is no destroyer, but a life-giver, not desiring the death of a sinner, but his turn about from his waywardness into life. He who forsakes God perishes gradually, spirit, soul and body. However, he who draws near to Christ is revived and experiences eternal life. The Savior desires your revival and awakening. Will you heed his voice? Or do you persist in a life of sin and guilt?
From eternity the universe is built on truth. Even if people are careless of their Lord, killing and deceiving one another, yet truth is unchanging. The day of judgment is the great accounting day. Divine vengeance will fall on all outrages and specially on the ill-treatment of widows and the weak. God has committed all judgment to Christ. He will judge all peoples, tongues and religions. Jesus was a sinless human, so he understands our human condition, and feels our weaknesses. His judgment is just. When he appears in his glory, all the tribes on earth will lament, for they ignored the Judge, despising and rejecting him. Do you realize this?
Then all will bow the knee before the Son. Those who neglected the worship of Christ on earth, will honor him in fear and trembling. Christ is worthy of all power, riches, wisdom, honor and glory (Revelation 5:12). He has reconciled the world to God. He was the meek Lamb slain for us. God and the Son are alike in the essence of love and might not just in works, but in worthiness of honor and adoration offered to them. That is why Jesus did not reject the worship of anyone while on earth. We ought to honor the Son as we do the Father. We can address the Son in prayer directly, as we do our heavenly Father.
All who reject Christ or belittle him reject the Father Himself. The Eternal is free to choose a Son. The main reason why people who deny the Sonship of Christ and his worship, is their wicked mentality. They are unwilling to know him, and so cannot know God in His reality.
24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
He who gladly hears Christ’s Gospel, and believes in his Sonship and redemption receives eternal life. A life that does not begin at death, but here on earth through the Holy Spirit. This Spirit descends on you because you believe in the Father and the Son. Not all grasp the sense of Christ’s words, even if they have heard it thousand times, and read it and analyzed its contents. They will not speak about the Son’s grace, nor walk in the Spirit. True faith is confidence in Christ and allegiance to him. Entering this bond with Christ you are justified, freed from judgment, because it is faith that saves you not works. Christ’s love covers those who take refuge in the cross, and wipes out their sins and purifies the conscience. It encourages us to approach God. For the Eternal has become our Father by our new birth. Our rebirth is the result of our justification.
Have you recognized Christ’s great promise. You have been freed from death and its terrors. You are eternally alive in Christ’s grace. God’s wrath will not fall on you.
Your faith in Christ has transformed you, a holy everlasting life is now yours. Our link with Jesus is not simply intellectual, but practical, existential and genuine. There is no greater salvation than our abiding in Christ. Learn verse 24 by heart, and fix your life in him, and we shall meet in eternity face to face.
PRAYER: We worship you Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for you have forgiven our sins and justified us. We shall not pass into judgment, because your wrath has passed over us. We adore you because your life has poured into us, and death for us has been cancelled. We live for you eternally. Make us firm in you, to magnify your name.
QUESTION 40: Which are the two important tasks that the Father gave to Christ for executing?
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in himself, …”
Jesus makes clear that he is the Truth, in saying, “Truly, truly I say to you”. He fulfils the predictions relating to his coming more profoundly than the people of the Old Testament imagined. He raises the dead today and tomorrow. All are dead in sin and corrupt. But Jesus is the Holy One, the Son of God Incarnate, who in his body overcame sin; to make us partake in his life by faith. He who gives heed today to the Gospel of salvation, and understands it and clings to Jesus, receives God’s life. From the Day of Resurrection we know that our faith is the faith of life, not the religion of death and doom. Jesus puts the Spirit of his life in those who listen to him, while not fully grasping yet, but they long to realize the fullness of his words. In them he creates the genuine hearing, and in them the miraculous word is effected. The dead cannot rise or listen of their own accord, but Jesus brings life to them and so they give heed.
Our earthly life perishes, but the divine life granted us abides for ever. As Jesus put it; “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me though he be dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die.”
Christ can revive us, since the Father bestowed the fullness of eternal life on him. Christ is like a massive spring from which flows the water of life without ceasing. From him we receive light upon light, love upon love, truth upon truth. From him no _ives_ttion or darkness proceed, nor evil thoughts. He is full of love, as Paul expressed: Christ is compassionate and a friend does not envy or boast; he does not seek things for himself or think evil of others or rejoice over guilt. He endures all things, and is patient with all; his love never fails. This he bestowed on us by his Spirit. Let us become fountains of life.
27 “… and has given Him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”
Natural man is dead, because of sin. Whoever does not hasten to God’s love judges himself. Christ’s words are loving, powerful and pure. Whoever listens to him lives. At the same time his words and conduct are the rules of our lives. God commits judgment to him; he is the Holy One, tempted like us but without sin. No man will have a pretext before the divine court. Christ remains the only Person worthy of taking over universal judgment. He can decide the destiny of all mankind. Angels and all creatures worship him.
Resurrection is sure to take place, by Jesus’ command. His call will pierce our globe; the dead do not hear ordinary calls. But the Son’s voice will cause the dead to tremble. The sleeping souls will be awakened, and leave their tombs. Wonder of wonders, some souls will arise as living, while others as seemingly dead. There are two resurrections, one for life, the other for judgment. That hour will bring wondrous surprises: Some will be shrouded in gloom, whereas we thought they were bright lights. Others will shine as the sun, while we thought they were simple and of no account!
The good folk who are alive before God, were no better than the bad. But the first group were forgiven by Christ Jesus and responded thankfully. They lived in the power of his Gospel. Their lives displayed the fruits that the Holy Spirit produces. Jesus has wiped out all their blemishes by his precious blood. This grace has come to them through faith.
However, he who thinks that his own works suffice before God, will hear this sentence, “You egoist why were you concerned for your own deliverance only, but did not love your enemies? Why did you not accept full reconciliation, which the Crucified One effected between you and God? And how did you reject His eternal life in your being? Your pride has made you choose death, so continue without the grace offered you.” Those dead in sin will rise to a severe judgment, and receive a detailed account of their words, works and thoughts. Whereas he who was drawn to Christ’s glory by faith in him, has love poured into him from Christ. This impelled him to merciful service, which is the characteristic of eternal life today.
30 “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”
Christ carries out the greatest task of all; he is the eternal Judge. Christ was aware of this authority handed him. Yet he was humble, descending to the lowest degree in humility, saying, “Of my own self I can do nothing.” That is, I cannot judge, think, love or breathe on my own. So he gave all honor to the Father.
At all times Jesus was bound to his Father. This phone line was never interrupted between the two. God’s voice informed him about the spirits in man. God’s Spirit examines the world and tests your heart as well, disclosing your thoughts and what you conceal from others. This Spirit in Christ judges you rightly. Blessed are you if you confess your sins before God and have accepted forgiveness from the Crucified. Your name will be recorded in the Book of Life. Then to the righteous he will say, “Come you, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Christ the Truth will not lie; he knows what is in the human breast. He knows those traits we inherit from our forefathers, and does not judge us hastily. He waits patiently for the sinner’s repentance. His holy nature will separate those who have become merciful through His mercy, from those who reject His Spirit, and stay hard-hearted.
Christ showed his meekness alongside his humility. He kept asking his Father in all matters what He desired. So Christ fulfilled his Father’s will in word and deed even the cross. At the decisive hour he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” He will thus dispense God’s judgments completely.
All these relationships between the Father and the Son recorded by the evangelist are aimed to ground us in the faith of Trinitarian unity. The authority for raising people from the dead belong to the Father and Son equally. God showed him all His works, and did nothing disclosing it to the Son. Christ’s voice will raise the dead; he has the keys of death and hell. Our faith is a mystery to mere intellect; only if Christ’s love is poured into us with his meekness, shall we realize the reasonableness that God is One in three Persons for our salvation.
QUESTION 41: What is the relation between the Father and the Son as explained to us by Jesus?
4. The four witnesses to Christ’s deity (John 5:31-40)
31 “If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true; 32 there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony which I receive is from man; but I say this that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works that I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has Himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, His form you have never seen; 38 and you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom He has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
Jesus announced to his foes that he had authority to perform the works of the promised Messiah. They hated this countryman who disturbed their organizations and rules. They asked for testimonies to verify his claims. Jesus condescended to respond to their request by proofs. We all think ourselves to be better than we actually are. Jesus gave a true assessment of himself without any trace of falsehood. His witness is true even though law normally discounts a person’s witness to himself. This Christ acknowledges in saying, “If I witness to myself; my witness is not true.” He did not need to defend himself, since Another had witnessed to him, His heavenly Father, who supported him with a fourfold sign or four lines of evidence.
God sent the Baptist to proclaim Christ among men. This forerunner testified to Christ and his ministry as Priest and his function as Judge. However, this Supreme Council doubted John and rejected his testimony to Jesus (John 1:19-28). John’s testimonies were not the motive factor for Jesus, nor his inspiration, rather Jesus was what he is from eternity. Because of the people’s ignorance, Jesus accepted the Baptist’s witness as further supporting his truth. The Baptist was not exaggerating when he described Jesus the Lamb of God, and the giver of the Spirit.
The Baptist was a lamp burning in the night, gathering a group of followers round him to be illumined. But when the Sun arose in the Person of Jesus, there was no need for a lamp. Jesus alone is the Light of the World, with endless energy. Just as the sun brings about life and growth on earth, so Jesus bestows spiritual life and love. His healings and exorcisms showed his victory of light over darkness. The stilling of the storm and the raising of the dead proved his deity. His works were in harmony with the Father. He completed his ministry on the cross, and by his resurrection he poured out the Holy Spirit on those who pray. The works of God will be fulfilled in Christ’s second coming, to raise the dead and judge the world. There is no difference between Father and Son in their activity: As the Father does till now, so also the Son.
God Himself raised his voice for us to hear the great affirmation, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). No one has obtained such a testimony save Jesus, who ever lived according to God’s good pleasure. The beloved Son was filled with true love and purity.
Jesus told the Jews that they did not know God. They had failed to hear His voice in the Law or the Prophets. They had not seen His face clearly in visions or dreams. All previous revelation was defective, since their sins had separated them from the Holy One. Just as Isaiah had cried out when he saw the train of God’s robe in the temple, “Woe is me for I am undone, I am a man of unclean lips.” The evidence for their spiritual deafness and lack of understanding was their rejection of Christ, God’s incarnate Word. He who thinks that he understands God’s Word, yet rejects Jesus the Word of God, proves by this that he has not received a genuine revelation or has not understood it.
The people of the Old Testament searched the Scriptures, hoping to gain eternal life. Instead they found the dead letter of Law. But they missed the promises pointing to the Messiah, even though such prophecies are numerous in the Old Testament. They preferred their own ideas, interpretations and principles, failing to realize that Christ was God’s final Word among them.
Jesus showed them the reason for their refusal – not wanting God as He truly was. They hated Christ and lost eternal life, missing the object of faith and grace.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you for loving your enemies, you grieved over their unbelief. You showed them the four witnesses to your deity. Help us to search the gospels and other Scriptures to see you, and discover your deity, and trust your works and receive eternal life. Open the ears of millions still deaf to hear your voice in our days.
QUESTION 42: Who are the four witnesses, and to what do they witness?
5. The reason for unbelief (John 5:41-47)
41 “I do not receive glory from men. 42 But I know that you have not the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
Jesus shattered the armor of his foes, and showed them the state of their hearts and their future fate. He pointed out their evil intents, the substance of their vile characters.
He had no need for the applause of the people or their baders, since he was convinced of his mission. That conviction did not rest on the apparent results of his ministry. If honored, he would pass on that honor to his Father. He taught to pray firstly to the Father, rather than to himself, teaching Christendom to utter, “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus denied himself of all intentions of seeking honor and glory. The glory of his Father was his motto. Zeal for God’s right consumed him.
God’s love is the incentive in creation, redemption, and perfection. It is the core of the essence in the Holy Trinity. The fulfillment of Law and the bonds of perfection characterize this love. He who possesses this, lives not for himself, nor does he honor himself, but honors others, serving them in self-denial. He gives all he has to the poor. Love never fails.
No man loves God of his own accord, but one who is pained by the filth of sin, repenting and believing in God’s love in Christ will confess that God’s love is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given us, as Paul did. This love appears in sacrifice, humility and patience. Whoever opens his soul to God’s Spirit will love the Holy Trinity and all people. But he who boasts himself, thinking he is good is not a true penitent, but an opponent of God’s Spirit. He is at bottom selfish. He does not long for renewal, nor does he realize his need for a Savior, but hardens his heart. Christ did not come in the name of a strange unknown deity, but in the name of the Father, to reveal God’s love and mercy. All who reject Christ prove that their minds are shut to God’s love. They love darkness more than light, and so hate those born of light.
Christ informed his foes of the Anti-Christ’s appearance, who will gather all self seekers and egoists, to lead them in rebellion against God’s love. He will perform miracles and imitate Christ.
Many cannot believe, preferring mutual flattery rather than true repentance. They regard themselves good, strong and clever. They do not tremble before the Holy One, and do not realize that only He is good. Self-righteousness is the cause of unbelief, and pride is a sign of this false attitude.
He who knows God and his own soul, breaks down and confesses his sin, rejecting all glory and honor, but giving glory to the Father and the Son always. He magnifies saving grace. Believing that we are forgiven sinners frees us from conceit in our conduct. We know who we are, and who God is. Love tells the truth to a friend; the proud man will deceive himself and others, departing from God’s Spirit who makes us humble.
45 “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
Christ went further in deflating the pride of the legalists, and said, “I am not the one to be your prosecutor before God to charge you, Moses himself will do the accusing. He gave you the Law of the Covenant, which condemns you. You have missed out on love, and wish to kill me in the name of the Law. Departing from God you wander in darkness. I healed a sick man on the Sabbath, and you are displeased with God’s work; rather you hate me, I – the incarnation of God’s love. You refuse to believe that these are works of the Messiah: Your spirit is rebellious and harsh. God gave you the Law for life not death. If you were to repent, you would long for a Savior. The Law and the Prophets are mere preludes to the Coming One. You have twisted the intent of the Law, and allowed your wills to judge God’s commandments. You cannot grasp prophecy. Your evil spirits prevent you from realizing the truth. You will remain ignorant and deaf, resisting God’s Spirit. On account of your obstinacy you do not believe the Word of Life.”
QUESTION 43: Why did Jesus not accept glory for himself, as others would do?
QUIZ – 2
Dear reader, send us correct answers to 17 of these 19 questions. We shall then send you the sequel of this series of studies.
25. Why did Jesus visit the temple and drive out the traders?
26. What is the difference between the piety of Nicodemus and the aims of Christ?
27. What are the signs of rebirth in believers?
28. How does Christ resemble the serpent in the wilderness?
29. Why will not believers in Jesus appear at the judgment?
30. In what sense is Christ the Bridegroom?
31. How do we receive eternal life?
32. What is the gift that Jesus _ives us? What are its qualities?
33. What prevents true worship, and what effects it truly?
34. How can we be watered by living water?
35. How do we become useful harvesters for Jesus?
36. What are the stages of growth in faith, that the official passed through?
37. How did Jesus heal the paralytic by the pool of Bethesda?
38. Why did the Jews persecute Jesus?
39. How and why does God work with His Son?
40. Which are the two important tasks that the Father gave to Christ for executing?
41. What is the relation between the Father and the Son as explained to us by Jesus?
42. What are the four witnesses, and to what do they witness?
43. Why did Jesus not accept glory for himself, as others would do?
Do not forget to write your name and full address clearly on the quiz sheet, not only on the envelope. Send it to the following address:
P.O. Box 15755
Pittsburgh, PA 15244
CONTENTS – 2
(JOHN 2:13 – 4:54)
THEME: WHAT IS TRUE WORSHIP? .............................. 55
1. The cleansing of the Temple (John 2:13-22)................... 55
2. Jesus speaks with Nicodemus (John 2:23 – 3:21).......... 58
a) People lean towards Jesus (John 2:23-25) ...................................... 58
b) The need for a new birth (John 3:1-13) ............................................ 59
c) The cross, agent of rebirth (John 3:14–16) ...................................... 64
d) Rejecting Christ leads to Judgement (John 3:17-21) ........................ 66
3. The Baptist testifies to Jesus the Bridegroom
(John 3:22–36) ........................................................... 68
4. Jesus in Samaria (John 4:1–42) .................................. 73
a) Jesus leads the adulteress to repentance (John 4:1-26) ................... 73
b) Jesus leads his disciples to see the ready harvest (John 4:27-38) ..... 80
c) Evangelism in Samaria (John 4:39–42) ........................................... 84
5. Healing of the court official’s son (John 4:43-54)............ 85
PART II – LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS
(JOHN 5:1 – 11:54) .............................................. 88
A - SECOND JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM (JOHN 5:1-47)
THEME: EMERGENCE OF HOSTILITY BETWEEN
JESUS AND THE JEWS .................................................. 88
1. Healing of the paralytic at Bethesda (John 5:1-16) ......... 88
2. God works with His Son (John 5:17-20) ........................ 92
3. Christ raises the dead and judges the world
(John 5:20-30) ........................................................... 95
4. The four witnesses to Christ’s deity (John 5:31-40) ....... 101
5. The reason for unbelief (John 5:41-47)......................... 104