Studies in the Gospel of Christ according to John, 3
THE LIGHT SHINES
Abd al-Masih and Colleagues
(John 6:1 - 8:36)
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057 Ė Version 16.2.2004
English Title: The Light Shines in the Darkness, 3 - John 6:1 - 8:36
WATERS-OF-LIFE ē P.O. BOX 15755
PITTSBURGH, PA 15244
B - JESUS IS THE BREAD OF LIFE (JOHN 6:1-71)
1. Feeding the five thousand (John 6:1-13)
In Jerusalem Jesus disclosed his deity on the Sabbath by way of healing, showing the chasm between Godís love and the idle thoughts of the legalists. They resolved to do away with him in hate. The Holy Spirit led Jesus northward into Galilee, where the decisive break between him and his opponents would come to a head. The northern multitudes still followed him wherever he went.
1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. 3 Jesus went up into the hills, and there sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
Since Christís rebuke of the Legalists in Jerusalem, they had plotted against him and spied on him. But his hour had not yet come. So he withdrew from the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin back to Galilee. As we read in the three earlier gospels he had performed many signs there. There was much uproar at the news of his arrival, but Jesus was not disturbed or taken in. He knew that the underhand mentality he encountered in the capital would seep into the villages, and he would be harassed there also. So he withdrew to the Golan, east of the Jordan, to be alone with his disciples. However, the crowds hungry for his words followed, wanting to experience his marvel. That year Jesus did not go back to Jerusalem for the Passover, for the hour of his death was yet to come. He celebrated the feast with the multitudes around him, a substitute for the Passover; thereby pointing to the heavenly banquet, where the Savior would join with his saints in great joy.
5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peterís brother, said to him, 9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?" 10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.
When Jesus saw the crowds approaching, he lifted his eyes towards his heavenly Father, giving him honor and glory, committing to God the care of the hungry. With this the miracle began. The Father gave the Son the task that would uncover the hearts.
First Jesus tested the disciples, to see if their faith was growing, or whether they were still bound to materialism and thought in worldly terms, when he asked Philip about the source of supply for bread. We would think of bakeries. Jesus thought of his Father. We think of money matters and the high cost of living. Jesus thought of the Divine Helper. Instantly Philip thought of the costs to be incurred, rather than turning to faith. Whoever looks to money, fails to see the divine possibilities. The disciples calculations were reasonable: There were no bakeries or flour mills nearly, no time to make bread. But the people were there, hungry after a long listening session.
Suddenly the Spirit moved Andrew, who noticed a lad with five loaves and two fishes. He called the boy, "Hand over what you have of bread and fish." Andrew had his qualms, knowing that the amount of food was totally inadequate. So Jesus led the disciples to admit their failure. They did not know what to do, nor the will of God, and what Jesus was about to do.
Jesus ordered the disciples to organize those present, and they seated the people as if at a banquet.
Green grass covered the ground, symbol of the faith sprouting in the crowds. Five thousand men with women and children is a vast number. Most of them had not seen Jesus before, nor his works. But they settled down at his word.
Calmly Jesus took the loaves and resolved to demonstrate his creative might on this occasion. He laid before his Father the five loaves, thanking Him for the paltry quantity. He believed that God would bless the small amount to multiply it to overflowing. The thanksgiving for the few and his honoring of the Father were the secret of this miracle. Do you gratefully accept the small amount that God gives, or do you take it and complain? Do you share the little with friends? Jesus was unselfish; Godís love was abiding in him. He honored the Father and distributed Godís blessing to all.
This miracle recorded in all four gospels is introduced without fanfare. It is likely that none but those seated near Christ witnessed it: and noticed that as he broke the loaves more appeared, and the supply seemed unending. They went back and forth distributing to all. Each would take the amount that he needed. This is the sign of grace. God offers pardon and the Spirit without measure. Take what you will; believe to the degree you can. Give of the blessing to others. Bless them as you have been blest, thus you will become a source of blessings to others.
In Cana Jesus changed water into wine, and in the Golan he turned the five loaves into a supply enough to five thousand people. Surprisingly more was left at the end of the feeding than the quantity at the start! The number of baskets filled with the leftovers were twelve. Jesus commanded that nothing be wasted. It is a shame that today people throw their leftover food into rubbish bins, despite knowing that every hour thousands die of starvation. Do not waste the blessings given you by your unconcern. But gather the crumbs of grace. You will gain more than you can hold of Godís bounty.
Visualize the young ladís attitude, when Jesus took the bread from his hands, and he saw the loaves multiplying. His eyes were opened in wonder. Never would he forget this miracle.
PRAYER: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your patience and love. Forgive our lack of faith. Teach us to turn to you in distress, and not rely on our abilities, but rely on your resources. We thank you for the spiritual riches you granted us, and even for the little of the material possessions we hold. You will bless us in the day of our humble possessions, and help us not to waste anything or neglect our gifts.
QUESTION 44: What is the secret of the feeding of the five thousand?
2. † Jesus withdraws from the clamor for his crowning
††††† (John 6:14-15)
14 When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!" 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the hills by himself.
Jesus came to the world to win over mankind. After his feeding of the five thousand, people gathered round him eagerly. They clapped and danced to do homage for him as king. They realized that this Galilean was Godís man; Godís voice spoke through him, and the power of the Highest was magnified in him. Nature obeyed him. He had given them bread as Moses did in the wilderness. He was the promised prophet to lead a despised race into truth (Deuteronomy 18:15). They also thought that if Jesus became their king, they would not need to work or tire in the future. "We shall have time to study Scripture and pray, and he will give us food freely. Such a king would be powerful enough to defeat Roman armies. He may even bring down from heaven fire that would consume them. So let us crown him and proclaim him king." They all as one approached him to bear him on their shoulders. They would support him, in the hope that he would support them with the needed sustenance.
What was Jesusí stand towards this popular movement? Did he rejoice at the rising in progress or thank them for their trust in him? Did he succumb to the temptation and build his Kingdom with the help of unbelievers? Or did he repel their plans? No, he did not say a word, but withdrew into the wilderness. He did not wish to be borne by men, he was content for God to uphold him. Jesus knew the state of these enthusiasts; drunk with ecstasy they were unable to listen to his advice. This was a political union fused together in one idea.
Jesus, had no wish to build an earthly kingdom, but rather to lead people one by one to repentance and rebirth. No one can enter the Kingdom save by second birth. The crowds failed to grasp the aim of the miracles and signs. They thought of earthly bread; he spoke of the Holy Spirit to satisfy a deeper hunger. They meant earthly dominion and fading glory; he chose the cross as the basis of his Kingdom. Without repentance and a second birth you cannot enjoy the welcome of Christ.
Jesus did not need to homage of the multitude. He did not accept the glory of men, but listened to his Fatherís voice. He shut his heart to Satanís temptation. He withdrew to pray, to thank the Father and plead that the eyes of the blind might be opened by the Spirit. He could not consent to be crowned by men, knowing that they would cry ĎHosannaí one day, and Ďcrucify himí the next. Christ knows our hearts, and is never led astray.
3. Jesus comes to his disciples in distress (John 6:16-21)
16 When evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, 20 but He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 21 Then they were glad to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
When Jesus was in the seclusion of the Golan heights, he saw afar off his disciples exhausted as they struggled with the storm. As night neared he went towards them on foot over the waves of the lake. He did not leave them alone to face danger, but they mistook him for a phantom, and were terrified. Fishermen sometimes imagine they see ghosts, since they spend much time at night on the waterís surface. Jesus came and spoke distinctly and kindly, "It is I." This expression became the basis of the apostlesí faith. We find in the Old Testament an equivalent "I AM" to signify the Lordís presence with believers. The disciples perceived that Jesus possessed all authority over the elements; bread multiplied in his hands, the waves bore him aloft, the storm abated at his bidding. Grasping this they were still more fearful. So he bid them not to fear. This commandment, "FEAR NOT" is for his followers at all times, and occurs 365 times in the Bible, one for each day in the year. Trusting Christís presence overcomes our fears. Whatever your state or however grave your problem, Jesus says, "It is I, fear not."
When the disciples recognized Jesus, they were amazed, and invited him into the boat. At once they reached the shore. This is the third part of the miracle on the same day. Jesus is Lord of Space and Time and can lead the vessel of the Church in the midst of the storm and the billows to its destination. He loves the disciples and comes to them, but requires absolute trust in himself. He strengthens their confidence in him, in the midst of darkness and trial, so that fear is removed, and they cling to him always.
QUESTION 45: For what reason did Jesus refuse to be crowned king by the multitude?
4. † Jesus offers people the choice, "Accept or Reject!"
††††† (John 6:22-59)
22 On the next day the people who remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 However, boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"
When the crowds realized that Jesus had not sailed away in the boat, they were surprised that he had managed to evade them. He had shipped away by night under cover.
Thousands returned to Capernaum, relaying the news of the bread freely offered. People marveled and were envious, wishing to share in this bounty. The crowds rushed searching for Jesus in the homes of his disciples, till they found him among them. They began to see the truth of a Christian principle, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst."
Those anxious for miracles were aware of a new wonder. They asked, "How and when did you arrive here?" Jesus did not answer that question. Instead with spiritual concern he clarified the meaning of faith, seeking to draw the sincere folk among the enthusiasts to his love, and show up the deceit and refused of his foes. Jesus disliked the lukewarm condition, and he separated the circle of believers from the masses of superficially religious people.
26 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set His seal."
Jesus clearly warned the crowds: You do not love or seek me for myself, nor do you think right thoughts of God; but you think of your bellies and bread. You do not understand the sign, my purpose was not just to satisfy your hunger with bread, it was rather to make you know me in my power. You seek the gift but ignore the giver. You discuss worldly matters, but do not believe in my deity.
Do not labor all day just for food and drink, but give thought for the power of God. Do not be like beasts that live to eat, but draw near to God, who is Spirit. He is ready to make you sharers in His eternal life.
Jesus further explained: I came to the world, to give you Godís great gift. I am not just a mere man of flesh and blood. But I bear Godís gift in myself for your blessing. God has sealed me with His Holy Spirit to impart spiritual life and revive you with heavenly power.
With this statement Jesus proclaimed the great secret, that God cares for all, nourishes mankind and loves them. He is not the angry deity who insists on the keeping of Law before blessing. He blesses the righteous and the wicked, and causes His sun to shine on all without distinction, even atheists and blasphemers. God is love, and Christ sought to free the multitude from their materialistic thoughts, and bring them back to trust in God the Father. So he affirmed that His Kingdom was not worldly, based on food, wealth and domination, but a spiritual Kingdom abounding in divine life, coming to them in the Person of Christ, who gives the Spirit to all who ask him.
28 Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom He sent."
The crowds failed to grasp Jesusí teachings clearly, but realized that he was offering a great gift from God, and all wished to receive this eternal life. They were ready to do something for this gift. They were willing to observe the Law, to sacrifice, to fast, pray and go on pilgrimage; to earn Godís gift by works. Here we see their blindness. They are all legalists, anxious to gain salvation by their own efforts. They did not realize that this was impossible, since they were guilty and lost. They proudly thought of doing Godís work, assuming they had the holiness and power to do this. Man is blind to the extent that he cannot see the true condition of his heart, but regards himself as a mini-god, and expects God to be pleased with him.
Jesus showed them that it was not required from them to offer any duties or deeds. They were being called to faith by him in person. God does not ask for effort or energy, but wishes that we yield to Jesus and trust him. These words were a stumbling block to the people; thus began the split between Jesus and the multitude. He further explained that Godís work was that they believe in him. "If you open your souls to the Holy Spirit, you will know my authority, aims and love. Then you will realize that I am not just a prophet, but the Creator, the Son sent by the Father to you. You will change from your worldly concerns to become the children of God."
To believe in Jesus is to hold on to him, and allow him to act in your lives, accept his leading and receive eternal life through his might. Faith is bonding with Jesus in time and eternity. This is Godís work, who binds the believers to His Son, that sin may vanish from their lives and that they may abide with him for ever.
30 So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ĎHe gave them bread from heaven, to eatí " 32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."
Jesusí demand for full surrender on the part of the crowd came as a rude shock. They felt that Jesus had demanded something from them that could be offered only to God. So they asked him for a text to justify his claim. As if they were saying, "Give us proof of your deity, Moses gave bread (the Manna) to the people in the wilderness, daily renewed. But you have given us bread just once. Moses gave bread to hundreds of thousands, you gave to a mere five thousand. Show us a further miracle and then we shall believe." This is human malady. Man refuses to yield to Jesusí love unconditionally, but insists on proofs first. But Jesus says, "Blessed are those who believe and have not seen. Those are the ones who honor me with their trust."
Jesus is the supreme guide, who led his hearers step by step from legalistic thinking to a clear faith in him. He freed men from a craving for food, and illumined them; he is himself Godís great gift.
As part of this gradual clarification Jesus freed them from their false fancies on the meaning of Scripture, as if it had been Moses who had given them the Manna. It was God, in truth who had done this, the giver of all bounty. He brought them to a standstill to realize that God gives them the finer bread and the heavenly food that never perishes. By paying attention they would perceive that Jesus was proclaiming himself the Son of God, for he called God his Father. The crowds, however, continued to think of material food, coming down from heaven by Mosesí hand.
Jesus lifted their perceptions to understand that Godís bread was not one to be swallowed into the belly, but was the Person of Christ who satisfies manís hunger for truth and abundant life. The One who bestows has come down from heaven loaded with Godís blessings and much power. Godís bread is not material and perishing, but spiritual and abiding. It did not spring from the ground as did the Manna, but came from God, enough for all mankind throughout the ages. It is not limited to Abrahamís seed. God the Father cares for the whole world.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, keep us from selfish activity. Create in us a humble faith, to listen to what you will have us do, and work in us by your power. Impel us to full union with you. Satisfy the hunger of our hearts by your presence in us. Preserve us to life eternal. We thank you, Father, for coming to us, granting us power and blessing.
QUESTION 46: How did Jesus lead people from a desire for bread to faith in himself?
34 They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst."
Jesus aroused in his hearers a hunger for the bread of God, and freed them from the bondage to specific works. He created in them a concern for salvation, preparing them to receive Godís gift; he explained the need for faith in his person.
At that the crowd agreed with a surface enthusiasm saying, "You the bestower of divine bread, give us this unique gift always, to save us from toil. We rely on you, fill us with eternal life, give us of your power!" They still thought in terms of earthly bread, but at least knew that Godís gift was unique.
Jesus does not spurn any approach made to him. He made it clear that he was primarily the bread of God for the whole world, not the provider of food. He in his person provided the constituents of everlasting life. He implied, "Apart from me you will not find everlasting life. I am the gift of God to you; without me you will abide in death."
"As bread enters you and provides the energy for living, so I desire to come into you, to revive your minds and consciences, so that you may live in the Spirit. Without me you can do nothing. You need me daily. I give you myself freely. You need not pay anything. Just allow me to enter your hearts." Brother, you need Christ. Reading his words or grasping his thoughts is not enough. You need him personally. He is as essential for you as food and water every day. It is up to you to receive him or you will perish.
You may ask, how does he enter into the core of my being? He replies: Let your heart long for me, come near to me and receive me thankfully, believe in me. The coming of Jesus into our hearts is fulfilled by faith. Thank Jesus for he is Godís gift to you, giving himself freely; praising him with joy, because he is ready to abide in you. He will come if you ask him surely. Beseech him to abide in you for ever.
Then Jesus will assure you, "Because you received me, I shall abide in you, and satisfy your hunger for life. Do not any longer discuss the religions of the world and its philosophies as to which is right. Do not resort to every swamp to drink from it. But I will provide you with power, meaning and peace."
36 "But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me, 39 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of Him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
Jesus had already given the Galileans the bread of grace freely. The beheld him in radiant authority. Such realization did not become conviction, nor did it advance them to confess faith. They were still swaying uncertainly. They were keen on Jesus as Lord of the bread, but hesitant about trusting him as a person. They did not accept him thankfully.
Jesus affirmed to them, as he had done in Jerusalem, the reason for their separation from him. Why do many folk not trust Jesus? Strangely enough, Jesus does not say bluntly, "It is your fault," but points them to the Father, and showed them how faith builds up as a divine activity.
Jesus has no wish to win any one by tricks or mere argument; it is God who offers him sinners, as he knows the truth about them and the degree of readiness they have to repent and convert. Only those who are drawn by the Spirit will be attracted to Jesus. Christ is not disgusted by liars, adulterers, thieves, so long as they come to him as penitents. He has not rejected anyone who has drawn near to him, even his enemies. He had mercy on them and offered them salvation.
Christ lived not for himself, nor did he plan his live by personal desires. He came down to fulfill his Fatherís will, and accord perfectly with the purposes of His love, to save all those who are willing to be saved, and keep those believers who are keen to abide in him. His generosity and saving power are great. Neither death, nor Satan, nor sin can snatch those who are in his hands. In his mercy he will raise his followers on the day of judgment to eternal life.
Do you know Godís will? He wants you to look on his Son, know him and trust him. He is born of the Spirit, full of grace and truth. Then he wants you to be joined with the Savior, with all believers in an eternal covenant which is indissoluble; thereby Godís aim for you will be achieved. A believer instantly receives eternal life by the Holy Spirit coming into his frail body. Your faith in Jesus insures this eternal life in you, this life which is displayed in love, joy, peace and meekness. Godís life in you is unending. The final stage in Godís will is that Jesus will raise you from the dead. This is the believersí great hope, then the climax of life offered to you by the Son will appear Ė the glory of His Son and the radiance of His love.
PRAYER: We worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You are not far from us. But you came to us when the masses rejected you. You illumined us to see you and receive you as the true bread. Thank you for not rejecting us. You have satisfied our hungry souls, and you will raise us to eternal bliss, and the praises of everlasting joy.
QUESTION 47: What does "bread of life" mean?
41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ĎI have come down from heavení?"
John the evangelist called the Galileans Jews, even though they did not belong to this group of people, but as they refused Christís Spirit, they were not better than the Jews and those of the residence in the south.
The scribes produced another reason for them to refuse Jesus, because their lawful thinking and believes in self reformation contradicts the love of Jesus. But the Galileans stumbled on the social Jesus, for they knew his family, because "his father" (Joseph the carpenter) lived with them, a simple man, untalented in prophetic or special gifts. And his mother Mary had nothing to differentiate her from other women, except that she became then a widow, which was considered a sign that there was godly anger. So the Galileans did not believe that Jesus is the bread from heaven.
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ĎAnd they shall all be taught by God.í Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except he who is from God; he has seen the Father."
Jesus did not try to explain the miracle of his birth to those who refused him, they would have not believed. Nor are we able to know on our own the deity of the man Jesus, only by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. Whoever comes to him in faith will see him and know his great truth.
Jesus forbade the crowds murmuring against divine revelations. The stubborn spirit hears nothing of Godís Kingdom. But the one who heeds who feels his need experiences Godís love.
God in this love draws people to Jesus the Savior, desiring their illumination and teaches them individually, as we read in Jeremiah 31:3. In the New Testament it is not manís will or mind that brings about faith; rather it is the Holy Spirit who illumines us, and creates in us the divine life, for us to realize that the mighty God is truly our God and Father. He teaches His children, and preserves a direct relationship with them. He creates faith in our hearts through the attraction of the Spirit. Have you felt this attraction in your conscience? Are you open to the impulse of Godís love?
The Fatherís Spirit leads us to Jesus and moves us towards him. He arouses our longing for him, until we go and meet Jesus and love him. He accepts us as we are, and does not cast us out, planting in us life eternal, so that we share in the power of the resurrection, to enter his Fatherís glory.
There remains, however, a distinction between Jesus and the born again believer. No man has seen God, apart from the Son. He was with the Father from the beginning, and saw him. Father and Son were inseparable. Jesus shared in the heavenly peace and in all divine qualities.
47 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die."
After proclaiming his unity with the Father, and the Spiritís work in his hearers, Jesus again presented the truth of his essence for them to trust him. He explained the Christian principle briefly: He who believes in Jesus lives for ever. This truth is an assurance that death cannot cancel.
Jesus is like a loaf from God to the world. Just as the bread did not run out as it passed through his hands in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, so also Jesus suffices for the need of the world at all times, for in him the fullness of God dwells. From him you receive hope, joy and blessings. In a word, he offers the world Godís life, yet the world rejected him.
Manna descending in the wilderness was a gift from God; this provision lasted only briefly. All who ate it died. Thus we see in charitable works, technical developments and scientific discoveries, that they help for a while and in part. There is no cure for death in these features or victory over sin. But whoever accepts Christ will not die. This was Christís purpose, coming and resting in you. He wishes to dwell in you personally, so that no other spirit may rule over you. He can put out all evil desires, and calm your fears, as well as strengthen your weakness. He is Godís bread appointed for you. Eat and live, so as not to perish like other sinners.
QUESTION 48: How did Jesus respond to the murmurings of his hearers?
51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
Have you ever seen bread moving or talking? Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life, the living bread Ė he speaks not of material bread from heaven, but spiritual and divine food. He does not mean us to eat his flesh literally; we are not man-eaters.
Soon Jesus began to speak of his death. It was not his spirituality that redeemed mankind, but his incarnation. He became man to give himself for our sin. His hearers were offended; he seemed an ordinary man, from a modest family. Had an angel appeared from heaven, they would have received him with applause. Jesus explained that his glory and spirit would not redeem them, but his body which would be laid down for the sake of humanity would.
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
Among the Jews there were believers and rejecters of Jesus. The two groups argued violently. The enemies of Jesus were disgusted at the thought of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Jesus precipitated the split between the two parties, to bring out those who trusted him. He tested the love of the first group and showed up the blindness of the others. He did say, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my cup, you do not have eternal life. Unless you participate in my being, you will abide in death and sin forever." These words rang in their ears and sounded like blasphemy. As if the man Jesus was daring them, "Kill and eat me, for in my self I am a miracle. My body is bread, the divine life offered you." Their blood boiled and they were furious. However, those who trusted in him responded drawn by the Holy Spirit, believing the incredible, relying on Jesus to find a way of making good his words. had they thought a little, at the Passover, they would have realized that John the Baptist had called Jesus, the Lamb of God: All Jews took part in the Passover, eating the flesh of lambs slain on that occasion. This was to ward off the wrath of God, by identifying with the sacrifices. Jesus pointed out that he was the true Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world.
Nowadays we know that the symbols of the Lordís Supper signify that Christís flesh is absorbed by us, and his blood purifies us from sin. We thank him for this grace. The Galileans at that stage did not know this mystery, and his words were dumbfounding their minds. Jesus was testing their faith, but their obstinacy soon appeared in a fiery outburst.
We worship Christ in joy and thanksgiving, for he has explained the Lordís Supper to us in symbols, and how he comes in us by his Spirit. Without his sacrifice we cannot approach God or abide in Him. The perfect forgiveness of our sins lets us merit his coming into us. Faith in him brings about this miracle and makes us sharers in his glorious resurrection. We worship the Lamb, for redeeming us. Jesus is not content to die for us on the cross, but desires to fill us, and so we become saints living forever.
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate the manna and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." 59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
Christ tells us of the life in the mighty God, who is the living Father. He is from eternity to eternity the Father of all love. Christ lives in the Father, and does not exist for his own sake but for the Father. His life finds meaning not by satisfying his own ambitions, but by total obedience to his Father, who has begotten him. The Son serves the Father, while the Father loves the Son and works in His fullness through the Son.
Jesus revealed the mystery of his union with the Father before the raging opposition. He gave them a lofty revelation, "As I live for the Father and in Him, so I wish to live for your sakes and in you. In order that you may live for me and in me." Dear brother, are you ready for this intimate bond with Christ? Will you accept him with all the aims and energies of your being or will you not? Do you wish to die to self, so that the Lord may live in you?
Christ did not come with practical reforms, nor does he send us wealth to help ourselves. He does not plan rural developments. No! he changes hearts, so that men may live godly lives for ever. He offered believers a share in his divinity. Thus he creates a new undying man, one who lives, loves and serves. His aim is God.
Revise chapter six, and count the times in which Christ utters three words, "Father", "Life" and "Resurrection" as well as their derivatives. You will quickly grasp the gist of Johnís gospel. The believer in Christ lives in the Fatherís Spirit, moving towards resurrection in glory.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for coming to us, and granting us the Fatherís life with the fullness of joy. Pardon our sins and sanctify us, so that we may serve thee patiently and lovingly, and follow thee meekly, and not live for ourselves.
QUESTION 49: Why did Jesus say to his hearers that they had to eat his body and drink his blood?
5. The sifting out of the disciples (John 6:59-71)
59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
This discourse on the bread of God and the feeding on Jesusí body was delivered on different occasions. He repeated some themes and deepened the content gradually. John, however, collected the discussions into one collection. We see Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum teaching his audience indirectly that he is better than Moses, and that all believers should partake in his body and blood.
Such a revelation was beyond the grasp even of his loyal followers. They began to question and raise doubts. They had resolved to obey God and to serve him, but they were confused by the absurdity of body and blood being eaten and drunk. At the height of their bewilderment the Lord mercifully opened the minds of his faithful followers, to grasp the parable of the Bread of Life.
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Jesus perceived the disciplesí thoughts, and did not reprove their questionings. Their complaints had to do not with their perversity as with unbelievers, but was due to their misunderstanding of the parables of Christís mystery. But before Jesus gives them knowledge, he clears up for them the obscurity of the parable, the fullest explanation of the saving plan for the world.
He will not simply die for them to feed on his body spiritually, but will ascend to his Father also, from where he had descended. He it is who comes from heaven, but will not remain in our world. They saw him walk on the lake, and realized he was superhuman. He will ascend to his Father in order to pour out his Spirit on his followers. This is the purpose of his death and the aim of his coming. His gift to them was not a cut of his flesh, rather he comes into the hearts of his followers. Not his material body, but his Holy Spirit enters us.
Jesus showed that the flesh profits nothing. Originally we were created whole and sound, but our thoughts and being became corrupt. In our bodies we find no power for true living, but only for sinning. His own body was prone to weakness, so that he said, "Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The Spirit is active but the flesh is weak."
Praise God, Jesus bore in his body the Holy Spirit at all times. The presence of this Spirit in him was the secret of his being. He wished to grant us this union of Spirit and body by his death, resurrection and ascension, and the indwelling of his Holy Spirit in our feeble bodies. Earlier he had affirmed to Nicodemus that water and the Spirit enable us to enter into the Kingdom of God, referring to Johnís baptizing with water, and Spirit baptism at Pentecost. In the context of the discourse on the bread of life, Christ explained to his disciples that he would come to them and upon them as they partook of the Lordís Supper: With the condition that these emblems profit nothing, unless the Holy Spirit has come upon us. It is the Holy Spirit who revives, the flesh is of no value. Christís Spirit alone assures his Presence in the believers.
How does the Holy Spirit come upon us? This is the key question for all who prepare to partake in his body and blood to live in perfect union with Christ. Jesus answers simply, "Hear my words, open your hearts to the treasure of the gospel." Christ is the Word of God; he who hears his words and trusts in him is filled with the Holy Spirit. Fill your affections with Godís power, by memorizing many Scripture texts. Stand on Godís promises, hold on to his affirmations, you will become mightier than inventors and their discoveries. For by Christís saving word the Creator of the universe will come upon you, giving you his life and authority.
64 "But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that should betray him. 65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
Many who followed Jesus failed to grasp this vital point, and left him. The discourse on eating his flesh and drinking his blood was the nucleus of his Galilean ministry, and also the reason why many followers forsook him. So the number of the deserters was inadequate to pass beyond the limits of human logic, to rely on Jesus unconditionally. They missed the truth of his divinity, and did not dare to make a covenant with him, on the basis of his sacrifice.
Jesus told his disciples that some of them would oppose his Spirit, and shut him out. The Lord could see each of them in the emotions of his heart. He knew Judas Iscariotís treachery, who had joined the band from the start. Judas had been unwilling to open himself wholly to the Spirit of Christís love. Jesus knew as he discoursed on the slaying of his own body, that one of these present would deliver him to undergo this grievous execution.
In conclusion, Jesus repeated the mystery, that no one can believe in Jesus apart from the workings of the Spirit of God in man. No one can call Jesus Lord save by the Spirit. Our faith is no mere credence, but a personal union with Jesus, by the work of the Spirit. Open your soul to the attraction of the fatherly Spirit, do not oppose any of Jesusí truths. Then you will experience his coming upon you, to abide forever. He is the Bread of Life prepared for you.
QUESTION 50: How was the life-giving Spirit joined to Christís body?
66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. 67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Will you also go away?"
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand created mass enthusiasm. However, Jesus showed up the deceit behind this enthusiasm, which was to lead many away from him. He does not want superficial zeal or piety, or mere credence for a dubious purpose. He desires a second birth, a sincere faith yielded to him without holding back. At the same time spies from the High Council in Jerusalem infiltrated his followers. They threatened those loyal with expulsion from Judaism, if they persisted in following the one they called the deluder. Many in Capernaum turned away, so that the masses of common folk turned against him. Even the faithful feared the authority of the Council. They felt that Jesusí creed was extreme. Only a small minority of sincere followers stayed with him. The Lord was sifting the wheat from the chaff.
Prior to this, Christ had chosen twelve apostles from among his followers, reflecting the twelve tribes of his people. This number is made up of 3 x 4 representing heaven and earth, or more precisely, the Holy Trinity and the four corners of the earth. Thus, in his circle of disciples heaven and earth are intertwined.
After the parting, Jesus further tested his chosen ones, to confirm their call and said, "Do you also want to leave me?" With this question he constrained his disciples to decide their future course. In this way he asks you and your friends in anxious times and hours of persecution, do you wish to leave him or to stick by him? Which is more vital, traditions, emotions, logic or material security on the one hand, or your relation with Jesus?
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
Peter demonstrated the validity of Christís prophecy that he was the solid rock. Speaking on behalf of the rest he replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone are the source of eternal life." He may not have fully grasped Jesusí intentions, but felt deep down that the man Jesus of Nazareth was the Lord from heaven, from whom proceed creative words with reviving power, not those of a mere man. Peter believed that the Lord was present. He shared in the distribution of the bread. Jesusí hand held him up when he was about to sink. Peterís heart was attached to Jesus, he loved his Lord more than anything else, and would not leave him. Peter chose Jesus, because Jesus had first chosen him.
The leader of the apostles concluded his testimony with these words, "We have believed and know". Notice, he did not say, "We knew and then believed." For it is faith that opens the heartsí vision. It is our faith that lights up our minds. Thus Peter and his fellow disciples yielded to the attraction of Godís Spirit, who had led him to faith in Jesus illumining them to know the truth. They grew in their realization of his hidden glory. All true knowledge from Jesus is directly a gracious gift of God.
What was the nature of the disciplesí faith in Jesus? What was the content of this faith? They were attached with the divine Messiah, in whom the fullness of the Spirit dwelt. He united in his Person all the functions of priesthood, kingship and prophecy. Kings, high priests and prophets in the Old Testament were anointed by the Holy Spirit. In Christ are combined all the energies and blessings of heaven. He is the divine King omnipotent; at the same time he is High Priest reconciling mankind with their Creator. He is able to raise the dead; he will judge the world. By faith Peter perceived Christís glory.
Together the disciples believed; and with Peter as spokesman they testified offering that crucial witness: That this Jesus is the Holy One of God, and not an ordinary man but true God also. All Godís qualities were upon him as Godís Son. He remained sinless, and carried out his task as the Lamb of God, as the Baptist had prophesied. The disciples loved him and revered him, for they knew that his presence meant Godís presence. In the Son they saw him the Father, and learnt that God is love
70 Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?" 71 He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.
Jesus welcomed this testimony with joy as indicating a growing faith. Yet he realized that one of their number was opposing him on several occasions. This manís hard-heartedness developed to the extent that Jesus called him ĎSataní. All the apostles were chosen, drawn by the Father to the Son, but they were not robots in Godís hands. They were free to obey the Spiritís voice or ignore it. Judas deliberately shut his mind to Godís voice, and surrendered to Satan, who set up a mental link between the two of them. Judas did not leave Jesus alone as others who deserted Jesus had done, but he stayed on to accompany Jesus, a hypocrite pretending to believe. He became the son of the ĎFather of liesí and progressed in treachery. Whereas Peter confessed Jesusí Messianic role, Judas harbored plans to betray Christ to the High Council. Incited by hatred, he secretly mapped out his treacherous designs.
The evangelist does not conclude this important chapter with striking works on the authority given to the apostles. But gives prominence to the fact that even in the circle of the faithful, there was a traitor. Jesus did not drive him away, nor did he disclose his name to the others. But he endured him patiently, in case Judas would repent of the evil in his heart.
Dear Brother, examine yourself humbly. Are you a son of God or a child of Satan? Do you open yourself to the attraction of the Spirit, or do you tend towards a compact with Satan? Beware, lest you miss the aim of your life. Your Lord loves you, and has saved you. However, if you reject his salvation, you will drift into the paths of evil, and remain under bondage to Satan. Return to Christ, for he is waiting for you.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, you are Godís Son, holy, merciful, mighty and victorious. Forgive my trespasses, and establish me in your covenant, so that I may live in holiness, and continue in your presence, and be transformed into your image. Sanctify your followers, to grow in faith and knowledge, and to witness to all that you alone are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Amen.
QUESTION 51: What are the implications of Peterís testimony?
C - JESUS' LAST JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
††††† (JOHN 7:1 Ė 11:54)
Theme: THE PARTING OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT
1. † The words of Jesus at the feast of tabernacles
††††† (John 7:1 Ė 8:59)
a) † Jesus and his brothers (John 7:1-13)
1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. 2 Now the Jewsí Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, "Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. 4 For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world." 5 For even his brothers did not believe in him.
The crowds were astounded by Jesusí witness to his glory. Some of his friends parted company with him in Jerusalem, while many of his followers left him in Galilee. The narrow-minded in the capital would not believe that this young man is the raiser of the dead and the judge of the world, whereas the pious of Galilee were disgusted that eating his flesh and drinking his blood were vital. They failed to understand that these were symbols of the Lordís Supper.
In Jerusalem, some members of the High Council decided on killing Jesus. They sent order for his arrest, and threatened Jewish believers with expulsion from the synagogue and the exclusion from Godís blessing, if they persisted in following Jesus. Spies from the Council roaming around Galilee began to search and enquire about Jesus. No wonder the crowds withdrew from him, for their choice was persecution from the nationís leaders, or an indefinite salvation found in Jesus. They chose the here rather than the hereafter, preferring their own security to Godís gift.
The brothers of Jesus feared the prospect of being expelled from the social life of their nation. So they parted from him publicly, to avoid being banned by the Jewish synagogues (Mark 6:3). They further asked him to leave Galilee, to shed their responsibility for him, perhaps to force his hand into revealing his glory in Jerusalem. Having lived with him for years, they would not believe in his divinity, counting his love and kindness as ordinary matters. Sadly, many believers are content to respect Jesus for his love, without grasping his truth.
Jesusí brothers saw his miracles. Despite this, they did not believe that he was the coming Messiah, to whom every knee would bow. They felt badly about the decline of his movement and the move away of the crowds from him. They tempted Jesus as Satan had done earlier in the wilderness, when he proposed that Jesus should show his glory in the temple before the worshippers, to win them over by a dramatic gesture. Jesus had no love for greatness, he chose humility and the weakness of human nature, not wishing the gaining of converts by grand designs.
6 Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil. 8 Go to the feast yourselves; I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come." 9 So saying, he remained in Galilee.
Men are proud, because the devilís spirit has corrupted them. Pride is the symptom of soul sickness and a sign of psychological malady. In truth everyone in contrast to God is small, weak and fated to die. He tries to cover up his weakness by splendid attire. The proud man imagines himself to be a mini-god, who can do anything he likes or do nothing. He plans his days and his ways ignoring God. By nature, he becomes a rebel against the Creator. Man loves himself, not God; glorifies his name, but does not magnify the heavenly Fatherís name.
Not only are the thoughts and intents of people wicked, but their deeds as a whole. For whoever lives without his Lord, lives against him. Most inventions and discoveries in science, as well as political principles and philosophical systems relate to the sphere of sin. In them are the seeds of death.
Christ showed that the world hated him. He came not to do what he liked. He is one with the Father and works in fellowship with Him. Even pious folk found him a stumbling block, for the love he commends is not legalistic but divine. They hated him, because his presence abolished the claim to self-righteousness.
Christís brothers rejected the Holy Spirit, rather they were filled with a worldly spirit, and so accorded in principle with the Pharisees. Their lack of faith proved that the Spirit of Godís love was not in them; rather they were led by another spirit, one that prides itself and rebels against God. They deceived themselves, believing in the value of their good works.
10 But after His brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast and saying, "Where is he?" 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, "He is a good man," others said, "No, he is leading the people astray." 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
Every year the Jews celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles joyfully. From the branches of trees they make bowers to recline in, either on the roofs of houses or by the wayside. People visit one another and enjoy tasteful meals. This is a feast of thanksgiving to God for providing them with abundant crops. These bowers and tents reminded them of their passage through the wilderness: They had no abiding city on earth.
Jesus did not dwell on the jollies of that feast, for he was being persecuted along with his disciples. He let his own brothers depart. Later he went to Jerusalem, and bid farewell to Galilee, his earthly home. The decisive moment had arrived, the climax of history Ė his death for our salvation from divine wrath.
Jews had differing opinions on Jesus. Some regarded him as coming from God, a good man and a reformer. Others saw him as leading folk astray and deserving of death; whose presence would bring Godís wrath upon them and spoil their festivities. The Sanhedrin had issued the order and broadcast it to the people, hoping his followers would hesitate to follow him. After that, no one dared speak openly of Jesus.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you for your humility and obedience to God. Free us from worldly attitudes, so that your Spirit may fill us. Keep us from evil ways, and heal us in the inner self, to serve you as you deserve.
QUESTION 52: Why does the world hate Jesus?
b) Disparate views on Jesus among the people and the high council (John 7:14-63)
14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 The Jews marveled at it, saying, "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?" 16 So Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me; 17 if any manís will is to do His will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent him is true, and in Him there is no falsehood.
Jesus did not fear death or harm from his foes. He went forward in harmony with the will of his Father to Jerusalem, secretly during the feast. There he did not hide himself, but went to the temple court, teaching his Gospel boldly, as an accredited teacher. People felt that God was addressing them directly. So they questioned one another: Whence has this young man such deep theological thoughts? He did not train under a famous scholar of the Scriptures. How can a carpenter without academic training acquaint us with the full truth of God?
Jesus answered as if to say, "True, I have teaching and am a teacher of truth. More than that I am Godís Word indeed. Every thought and wish of God is present in me. My teaching is not of myself, I am Godís voice, He dwells in me, my Father is the One to teach me. I know the fullness of His thoughts, plans, purposes and powers. I have not come with my private thoughts, for Godís thoughts alone are truth. I complete revelation where it is not clear."
Thus, he glorified his Father and submitted to Him; calling himself Godís Apostle. He did not send himself of his own accord, but he came in the name of his Father full of divine authority. So Jesus becomes Godís Son and Apostle at the same time, deserving our attention, our faith and worship as to the Father.
To facilitate faith in himself on the part of the Jews, he showed them a practical way to assure them that his teaching conforms to Godís will. So what is the decisive proof for the genuineness of Jesusí teaching and person? He said, "Strive to act according to my Gospel and you will discover its greatness. Apply Christís words verse by verse, and you will see that his words are not merely human but divine."
The attempt to apply Christís teaching requires first of all your resolve. Do you wish what he wished? Without this harmony of your will with Godís you will not grasp the true knowledge of the Lord. Where your will yields to his, that is Christís, you will begin to rise to a higher and newer level of realization Ė you will know God as He is.
Whoever trains himself to do the will of the Father, as Jesus taught us, will experience the wide gulf between Gospel and Law. Our Lord did not simply lay a heavy burden on our shoulders, but at the same time gives us the required power to bear it. You will be able to carry out his will joyfully. Whoever submits to Christís commandment, receives the strength to live out his love. His teaching does not lead to failure, as was the case with Mosesí law, but to live in the fullness of Godís grace. Whoever wishes to apply Godís will revealed in Christís teaching, becomes personally linked with God, and realizes that Christ is not one of the human teachers, but is Godís Word incarnate. He does not come with empty philosophy, but with forgiveness for sin, and he grants us the power of Godís life.
19 "Did not Moses give the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?" 20 The people answered, "You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?"
Christís conduct in holiness entitled him to say to the Jews, "You received the law, but no one has applied it properly!" This statement pierced the heart of the Jewish nation, stressing that not one of the members of the Old Testament has ever fulfilled the requirements of the Law. Anyone who transgressed a single command is guilty of all. Godís wrath abides on him. With this declaration Jesus nullified Jewish claims of righteousness, and showed that the zeal and efforts of the legalists were mere self-deception.
He announced to them that he knew their leadersí desire to destroy him. Nothing is hid before Jesus. He warned his hearers against any surface zeal, and stressed the cost of following him.
At the same he asked, "Why do you want to kill me?"
The crowd was taken aback by Christís words, alarmed because he said that none of them was righteous. Their reply was a cover to their plot, "No, no, who wants to kill you? God forbid!" Some even reckoned that an evil spirit had come over him. They were blind in their hatred, and unable to distinguish the Holy Spirit from the evil spirit. They had lost all feeling for the knowledge of Godís love.
QUESTION 53: What proofs is there that the gospel comes from God?
21 Jesus answered them, "I did one deed, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man upon the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a manís whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."
Jesus did not directly reply to the Jewsí charge that he had an evil spirit, but showed the crowd gathered that the sentence passed on him of death was a trivial one and unjust. He reminded them that the leadersí judge against him was due to his healing of the cripple at Bethesda on the Sabbath. That day Jesus ordered him to take up his bed and go home restored. This was a great wonder, and that miracle deserved a dismissal of the charge against him.
Then Jesus affirmed that the legal experts had themselves not kept the law perfectly. This law has its contradictions: Circumcision is the sign of the covenant with God, while the Sabbath speaks of fellowship in the rest of the Holy One. People had to circumcise their children on the eight day after birth, but this might fall on the Sabbath. Is not the circumcision a work?
Since illness is deemed a result of sin, the cure meant salvation, body, soul and spirit. Thus Jesus urged people to use their minds, to distinguish a service of mercy from circumcision on the Sabbath, which was more vital? He thus used logic as a means of awakening them to grasp the measure of his love and power and salvation. The effort was in vain; their ears were deaf and their spirits hardened Ė a just decision and good judgment was impossible for them.
25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, "Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 Yet we know where this man comes from; and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from."
Jerusalem folk arrived at the temple to find a large crowd. When they noticed Jesus in the midst the focus of attention they were furious, since he was still moving freely, despite the order for his arrest. That news was common knowledge.
The citizens of the capital mocked the Council for its weak handling of the case. The Romans had removed the right of imposing the death penalty from the Jewish rulers. People sneered saying, "The wanted man moves about freely in the city, preaching in the temple court unafraid. The rulers have no power to ban him. The priests were unable to bring him down with arguments or debate."
Others responded by, "You do not understand, some of the rulers may believe in him as the Messiah." This was the point made to explain their reluctance to arrest Jesus. Public opinion was divided among all groups.
A third opinion: If Messiahís coming is assumed, he would radiate in a glorious mystic form, not be an ordinary person. This young man was a carpenter from the mountain village. The true Messiah will descend straight from heaven, not wandering among common people.
28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, "You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord; He who sent me is true, and Him you do not know. 29 I know Him, for I come from Him, and He sent me." 30 So they sought to arrest him; but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.
Jesus heard these arguments as to his earthly origins. He called out saying, "Do you really know Me? or where I come from? You are superficial in your judgments and do not strive to know me intrinsically. Listen to me, delve deep into my Spirit. Then you will know who I am, and where I came from."
Jesus did not send himself, but God was behind him, from whom he proceeded; His Father was the One who sent him. Jesus was from the nature of his Father and ever united with Him. He added, "None of you know God, though you think He is here in the temple. Your priests are blind; they do not see God, nor hear His voice truly. So you deceive yourself."
Then he said, "I know Him." The essence of the Gospel is this, that Jesus knows God, and declares to us the Fatherís name and His love. The Nazarene was sinless, living in constant fellowship with his Father. Whereas all others separated themselves from the Holy One on account of their sins.
When some hearers realized the importance of his words, that Jesus had judged them decisively, they cried, "He has blasphemed against the temple and turned us into infidels." They were furious and howled trying to seize him. But none of them were able to approach Godís Son, as if the angels were encircling him. The appointed time for his final witness on earth was yet to come. His Father had settled the decisive moment in which Christ would redeem mankind. No man on earth could put back or forward that moment.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we worship you, because you know God, and have revealed to us the Father. We serve you and love you with joy. Your revelation has made us children of God. We exult in you and magnify your name with all those born again. We beseech you to reveal the Father to the pious around us, that they may return from their bigotry and neglect.
QUESTION 54: Why is Jesus the sole person who truly knows God?
31 Yet many of the people believed in him; they said, "When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?" 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd thus muttering about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him.
Despite the strained conditions in Jerusalem, many began to believe in the power working in Jesus. They said, "Perhaps he is the Messiah; for he has performed mighty signs, so that the less extreme were made to think and trust in him. We see that Jesus had his followers even in the Capital."
When the Pharisees realized, thanks to their spies, that revival had begun among the people, and his movement was taking root in Jerusalem, they were vexed and strove to co-operate with their opposing party, the priests and Sadducees. This was to prod those responsible for the temple into banning Jesus. The high priests agreed in this and condescended to work with the Pharisees in arresting Jesus.
The Lordís angels were around the divine teacher in the temple court, and prevented the servants from carrying out the orders of their superiors. Jesus saw these servants approaching, but did not run away, rather he revealed his glory, which the evangelist recorded for us as a prediction of Godís saving plan.
33 Jesus then said, "I shall be with you a little longer, and then I shall go to Him who sent me, 34 You will seek me and you will not find me; where I am you cannot come." 35 The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find him? Does he intend to go to the dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ĎYou will seek me and will not find me,í and, ĎWhere I am you cannot come?í "
Jesus announced to his foes that he would abide briefly among his fellowmen. He already knew that he would die as the Lamb of God. At the same time he knew the timing of his resurrection, his ascension and return to the Father. Jesus longed for his Father, who had sent him to redeem us. For love of us he remained in the world away from his heavenly home.
Jesus foresaw how his followers would be amazed at his resurrection and ascension. They would return sad, since they lacked the spiritual bodies that would rise with him to heaven. He also knew that his foes would search for his Ďlostí body that would vanish from the sealed tomb. Woe to them who do not love the Savior! They are unable to share in his glory or enter heaven. Their sins will separate them from God. Unbelief keeps them out of the realm of grace.
The Jews failed to grasp the words of Jesus, as they thought in human ways that he wanted to flee to Jewish synagogues in Greek cities round the Mediterranean. His purpose would have been to catch followers from among those unfamiliar with the Hebrew Scriptures. Some mocked and said, "He may be keen on becoming a learned orator and present his views to Greek philosophers and lead them to the living God.
When John recorded the discourses of Jesus and these events, he was living in Ephesus among Greeks. The good tidings of salvation had reached the Jewish dispersion there. Many Greeks believed in Christ. The evangelist saw in Jesusí words and the mockery of the Jews a proclamation that Jesus is the great teacher among the Greeks. He did not offer empty philosophies that lead to pessimism. He is the life-giver; from him springs power that never fails.
QUESTION 55: What did Jesus predict regarding his future?
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, "If any one thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ĎOut of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.í "
During the feast, Jesus preached again to the crowds in the temple court. They were waiting for the high priest to pour water on the altar. The priests came in procession with gladness and cheers to pour that water before God, an offering of thanks, symbol of the blessings they were seeking from the Creator for the coming year. They based this tradition on Isaiahís words, "They shall draw waters with joy from the springs of salvation."
Jesus saw the thirsty souls, who despite all the ritual did not know salvation. Jesus cried out to the expectant crowds, "Come to me and drink of the water of life freely. Let every one who thirsts come to me. I am the spring of life."
Those who do not long for the divine life, will not come to the Savior. But to those who resort to him, Jesus says, "Whoever believes in me and is bonded with me personally becomes a fountain of blessing to many. The Scriptures urges you to have faith in me, and God commands you to come to me and find life and joy. " Whoever boldly approaches Jesus and drinks in his words and is filled with his Spirit is transformed. The thirsty one becomes a spring; the wicked egoist becomes a faithful servant.
Have you experienced the providential care of Jesus? He wants you to become a well of clear water. No doubt your heart brings out evil thoughts. But Jesus can purify your heart and mouth. So that you may become a source of blessing to many.
Jesusí aim is not just the cleansing of mind and soul but your body too, so that you become a living sacrifice acceptable to God, serving the lost. He purposes your entire sanctification, so that you may no longer live for yourself, but use your strength freely to serve others. Whoever yields himself unconditionally to Jesus will become a blessing to many.
39 Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Whoever believes in Jesus receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. The descent of the Spirit on a man is a miracle of our generation. We still live in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. He is not simply an angel or a phantom, but God Himself, full of holiness and love. The Spirit is like a pure flame and a powerful current. At the same time he is a tender Comforter. Every genuine Christian becomes a temple of this Holy Spirit.
This divine Spirit was not poured out universally in Christís days, because sins separated mankind from their Lord. The mountains of iniquity acted as a barrier keeping the Spirit from mankind. But after Jesus had dealt with our sins by his death, and ascended to heaven and sat at the right hand of God, He then sent his Spirit of his love in union with the Father, poured on believers everywhere. God is Spirit and is able to be present at any time anywhere. He can thus dwell in a believer, who accepted His pardon for his sins by Christís blood. Brother, have you received Godís Spirit? Has Christís power come upon you? Come to Jesus, the source of revival and bounties. He assures you, "Whoever approaches me will not hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." Who so believes, as the Scripture says, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water to others."
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, "This is really the prophet." 41 Others said, "This is the Christ," but some said, "Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
Some of the listeners felt the might of truth in Jesusí words, and submitted to that power. They publicly confessed that he was a prophet, knowing Godís will, and discerning the secrets of menís hearts. He is the appointed prophet promised to Moses, who is to lead the people of the Old Testament from victory to victory in fellowship with God. In this way some of them dared to confess that the Nazarene was truly the promised Messiah.
However, the logic of the Scribes protested, "No! He comes from Nazareth, but the Messiah must be from Davidís town and of his seed." This reference to Scripture is correct. So why did Jesus not inform them that he was born in Bethlehem? There are reasons for this: Firstly, the family of Herod would not allow for a new king from outside their dynasty. They were prepared to slaughter tens of thousands to keep in power. Secondly, Jesus had no wish to win converts by way of historical proofs. He preferred to build up their trust by love and their perception of his sovereignty. Thus he drew to himself those who believed without seeing.
Controversy grew among the crowds, and they split into parties. Some confessed him to be the Messiah others denied this. The temple servants stood by aiming to arrest Jesus. But the sovereign majesty of his words deterred them and they were unable to approach him.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we worship you for your love and majesty. You are the source of life. You have bound yourself with us by faith. You have poured your Spirit into us. Your divinity has become ours by faith, we sinners. For you have cleansed us by your blood, to live for ever.
QUESTION 56: Why has Jesus the right to say, "If anyone thirst let him come to me and drink?"
45 The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why did you not bring Him?" 46 The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this man!" 47 The Pharisees answered them, "Are you led astray, you also? 48 Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd, who do not know the law, is accursed."
While Jesus was teaching the people in the temple, the Pharisees gathered expecting their servants to arrest Jesus and bring him to them. The high priests are named in the plural, even though a high priest would preside the High Council during his lifetime. But the Roman rulers would dismiss these men from time to time. For that reason there were several high priests at the time of Jesus deposed by Rome; all belonging to the priestly families. These men were Sadducees and tended to free thought, unsympathetic to the legalism of the Pharisees.
Pharisees sat alongside the priests in the Council. As legalists they rejected Greek thinking, and made the law the basis for the faith and works of their party. They were hard-hearted, honoring God by severity towards themselves and others.
Both, Pharisees and Sadducees, were angered by the failure to arrest Jesus. The disciples did not defend him, nor did the people guard him, but his words impressed all, and so they did not dare to fetter him, since they were aware of Godís power flowing through him.
At that the Pharisees were aroused and cried against the temple guards, "Have you too joined up in the ranks of this deluder? Not one of the honorable members of the Council has believed in him. No upright believer would follow this Galilean."
Many indeed loved Jesus, but they were simple folk, despised, wicked or immoral. He had sat down at table and honored them by his presence. But the pious despised such folk, and counted them accursed. They viewed them with legalistic spectacles. In reality it was this despised lot that followed Jesus. Some of them had confessed their sins before John the Baptist. So the rulers hated the masses, forgetting that they spoke the same language and held the same customs. All the people form a union whatever conflicts and divisions exist between the classes.
50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 "Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what He does?" 52 They replied, "Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee."
One of those present was troubled at the hostility of the Council. This was Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus secretly by night. Christ had shown him the need for rebirth. This man was still under Jesusí influence, and wanted to mediate on his behalf, without publicity stating that he favored Jesus. He used the style of the law in the courts, which rejected the passing of judgment on absentees.
The judges, however, laughed at this man of conscience. Even if the court sat it would be largely formal, sentencing the innocent with fraudulent steps. The plotters felt that the evidence conclusive that Jesus was a false prophet since he was a Galilean, a region despised by the Jews for being lax as regards the law. No Scripture would indicate that the promised Messiah or a prophet in the last days would hail from there. The Pharisees were convinced he was false, so that they mocked Nicodemus, who wished to present Jesus before them, to persuade them by his forcible words, as he had earlier convinced Nicodemus.
QUESTION 57: Why did the priests and the Pharisees despise the common people?
c) Legalists bring an adulteress to Jesus for trial
†††† (John 8:1-11)
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathers round him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. Now what do you say?" 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
The members of the Council departed in anger to their homes, because Jesus had slipped from their hands. The crowds assumed that their leaders had allowed Jesus the freedom to speak in the temple. But these members persisted in spying on him to trap him. Jesus went out of the city walls at evening, crossing the Kidron valley.
Next day Jesus returned to the city center, entering the crowded temple. He did not flee the capital at the end of the Feast of the Tabernacles, but continued to circulate among his foes. The Pharisees acted in the capacity of a moral police force, specially as the feast was an occasion of jollity and wine-bibbing. They got hold of a woman in adultery. It occurred to them to test Jesus with this case. Any leniency on his part would be seen by God and men as transgressing the traditions of the nation. But to insist on the legal penalty would prove his severity and lose him his popularity. His judgment on the woman would be a judgment on every man disgraced by moral blemishes. So they awaited his judgment anxiously.
7 When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9a At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, Ö
When the Pharisees accused the adulteress before Jesus, he bent down and using his finger, wrote on the ground. But we do not know what he wrote perhaps a new commandment in a word Ė Love.
The elders failed to see the reason for his "hesitation", not realizing that the judge of the world is patient and was to prick their consciences. They thought that they had entangled him in a mesh.
Jesus stood up and looked at them sorrowfully; it was a divine look, and his word was truth not to be denied. He said in "judgment", "He who is without sin among you, let him be first to cast a stone at her." Jesus had not altered a single clause of the law, but was completing it. The adulteress deserved death; this Jesus conceded.
By his action Jesus judged the "pious" as well as the adulteress. So he challenged them to prove their innocence by casting the first stone. With this, he tore the masks of piety from their faces. No man is free of sin. We are all weak, tempted and failures. Before God there is no difference between a sinner and a pious hypocrite. For all have strayed and become corrupt. Whoever transgressed one commandment has broken the law in its entirety, and deserves eternal perdition.
The elders and legalists were sacrificing animals in the temple to atone for their sins, confessing thereby that they were sinners. Christís word touched their consciences. They had wished to arrest the Nazarene, but he it was who had uncovered their wickedness and judged them. At the same time he kept the law. The accusers bowed their heads, feeling they were in the presence of Godís Son, awed by his holiness.
The elders and their sympathizers departed, and the place was empty, Jesus alone staying behind.
9b Ė until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, Sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
There stood the woman trembling. Jesus looked at her with mercy and fairness and asked, "Where are your accusers? Is no one here to judge you and condemn?" She felt that Jesus, the Holy One would not punish her, and yet he was the only person with the right to condemn her.
Jesus loves sinners; he came to seek the wanderers. he could not punish the sinful woman, but offer her his grace. For he bore our sin, ready to die for the world. He bore that womanís judgment.
So he offers you total pardon, since he died for you. Believe in his love so that he may free you from judgment. Accept his Spirit of forgiveness too, so that you may not judge others. Never forget that you also are a sinner, nor are you better than others. If another has committed adultery, are you not unclean yourself? If he has stolen, are you faithful? Judge not that you may not be judged. With the measure you mete out, it will be meted out to you. Why do you observe the speck in your brotherís eye, and ignore the beam in yours?
Jesus bade her not to fall back into the mistake from then on. Godís commandment to be pure is fixed and should not be softened. He led this woman longing for love to come back to God, and confess her sin. She will thus receive the Holy Spirit from the blood of the Lamb. He did require something impossible from her, but gave her the power available to the broken-hearted; to live in holiness. Thus he bids you not to sin any more; he is ready to hear your heartís confession.
PRAYER: O Lord Jesus, I am ashamed in your presence, for I am no better than the adulteress. Forgive me for judging or hurting others. Cleanse me from iniquity. I thank you for pardoning me. I praise you for your patience and mercy. Help me not to sin from now on. Strengthen my resolve and confirm me in purity. Lead me into a life of holiness.
QUESTION 58: Why did the accusers of the adulteress withdraw from Jesusí presence?
d) Jesus the light of the world (John 8:12-29)
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Jesus is the divine light. Whoever draws near to him is exposed, judged, enlightened and healed, so as to become a light in Christ. No other light can illumine us and heal our evil hearts, save Jesus. All philosophies and religions if measured will seem weak because they promise imaginary redemption and paradises. Truly they bad people into deeper blindness and bind them there. His light is a radiant sun reviving the soul. This soul healing has a condition, that is to approach Jesus by faith and to follow him by self-denial. And by this constantly following Jesus we are changed from darkness to light. We find the way in his light to reach the destination, that is the glory of the Father and Son in the brightness of life.
13 The Pharisees challenged him, "Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid. 14 Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me."
The Jews were scandalized by Jesusí words, "I am," they thought that he was boastful and proud, making himself to be the light of the world. They described his witness as error and lies, exaggerated duping the soul.
Jesus replied, "My witness to myself is true, for I do not measure myself by myself, but by Godís truth with whom I am united always. You do not realize that I came from the Father and to Him I return. I do not speak of myself, but my words accord with Godís truth. My words are true, full of power and blessing."
"Your own words are superficial, for man only sees the husks. You regard yourselves as judges and believe in your abilities to pass judgment rightly. But you are mistaken, you do not know the source of things, nor their impulses or results. The proof of that is that you do not know me. You judge me merely by my humanity, but I abide in God at all times. If you realize that, you would know the true essence of the world."
Christ is the worldís judge, the incarnate truth at the same time. He did not come to condemn or destroy us, but to save us. He did not reject any wretch, criminal or outcast, but wished to save all and draw them into his love. Do not despise anyone, but discern in him the image which Jesus wishes to renew or create.
17 "In the law is written that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me."
On account of our weakness Jesus descended to the level of the law. But he described this as your law, that is your system you need as sinners. In line with this law the person who wished to confirm the truth had to produce two witnesses to support his claims with all details. Then judgment would be passed on that basis (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). Jesus did not protest against this requirement. He treated his confession as the first witness, and his Father is the confirming witness, who substantiates the perfect harmony between them. Without His harmony the Son can do nothing. This is the mystery in the Holy Trinity. God testifies to Jesus, as Jesus testifies to God.
19 They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also." 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
The Jews misunderstood Jesus, and had no wish to understand, rather they wished to trap him in obvious blasphemy, so they asked, "Whom do you call Father?" Joseph was long since dead, and they knew what Jesus had in mind by "My Father." But they looked for a direct assertion that God was his Father.
Jesus did not answer them directly, because the knowledge of God is not apart from knowing Jesus. The Son is in the Father and the Father in him. He who rejects the Son, how can that person know God truly? But whoever believes in the Son and loves him, to him God reveals Himself; for whoever sees the Son sees the Father.
These words were spoken at a corner of the temple where contributions were gathered. Doubtless there were guards all round the temple. Despite these soldiers, no one dared arrest Jesus. Godís arm was his protection. The hour of his betrayal ordained by God had not yet struck. Only your heavenly Father can decide your destiny.
PRAYER: O Christ, we magnify and love you. You do not judge us as we deserve, but you save us. You are the light of the world, illumining those who come to you. Transform us by the rays of your love and soften our hardness that we might know you.
QUESTION 59: How does the witness of Jesus to himself as light of the world relate to our knowledge of the heavenly Father?
21 Again he said to them, "I go away, and you will seek Me and die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come." 22 Then said the Jews, "Will he kill himself, since he says, ĎWhere I am going, you cannot comeí?"
Jesus knew he was surrounded on all sides by the servants of the temple. He pointed in cryptic terms the deep meaning of the future, "The hour of my death is near. Then I shall leave this world and you will not be able to pursue me. You are not my killers according to your own plans. I decide the time of my departure."
"But I shall arise from my tomb passing through rocks and locked doors. You will seek me in vain and not find me. I shall ascend to my Father and you will not be aware of it. You have rejected me, the Lamb of God, and did not trust me, the Redeemer of mankind. You will perish in the prison of your sin." Jesus did not say, "You will die in your sins." Our manifold social sins do not constitute our original guilt, rather it is our attitude to God, and our unbelief that is our sin.
The Jews realized that Jesus was speaking of his final departure, but did not grasp his testimony that he would return to his Father. But they assumed that in his conflict with the Pharisees and priests he had arrived at the limits of his energies. Nothing was left for him but suicide. Will hell or perdition swallow him up as a suicide? The Jews thought or speculated that they would not share that fate on account of their righteousness. But when Rome besieged Jerusalem in 70 AD, thousands of Jews committed suicide from famine and despair.
23 He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He."
Jesus proclaimed that Godís realm truly exists above our evil world. We are all from below from clay, full of bitter thoughts. The devilís seed bring forth rotten fruit. The natural man cannot realize Godís realm, but may feel dimly its existence.
Christ is not of our world; His soul proceeds from the Father. He placed his Fatherís realm on high but not in a geographical sense. As gravity is lowered the higher we go, so also the nightmare of sin vanishes as we come nearer to God. Our world is a prison from which we cannot escape. We are the offspring of our environment refusing to submit to Godís love. Our lives are full of sin. At this point Jesus used "sins" in the plural, since from our opposition to God many sins and errors arise. We are like the leper full of sores and scars. Just as that wretch dies slowly, even though he is still alive. Similarly sin destroys man. We shall die because we have sinned. What is sin? It is unbelief, for he who is bound to Christ lives for ever Ė the blood of Godís Son keeps cleansing us from sin. His power cleanses our consciences and sanctifies our thoughts. But whoever stays apart from Christ, chooses death, remaining in the prison of sins, awaiting judgment. Faith in Christ alone frees us from Godís wrath.
Who then is Jesus who requires faith in his person? Again he describes himself "I am He" (John 6:20 and 8:24). Thus he summarizes all the great testimonies of himself. He called himself the Lord of truth, the living God, the Holy One who revealed Himself to Moses in the bush with the same phrase "I am" (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:1-12). In no other is salvation. Every Jew knew these two phrases, but dared not pronounce them, to avoid using Godís name in vain. But Jesus called himself by them publicly. He is not just Christ the Son of God, but also Yahweh, God in truth.
He is the epitome of the Gospel. Christ is God in the flesh. Whoever believes in him lives. But he who rejects him and objects to his authority deprives himself of forgiveness. Faith or unbelief decides manís destiny.
QUESTION 60: What does faith in the One who called himself "I am He" mean?
25 They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Even what I have told you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge; but He who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from Him." 27 They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father.
Despite Christís insistence on his deity, the Jews persisted in asking, "Who are you? Give us a pointer; clarify the issue in a way that we can grasp!" Yet he had already just before their questioning revealed himself as clearly as possible.
Jesus replied, "From the first, I am the true God; yet you failed to understand my words. My Spirit has not gained a foothold in your hearts. You have no use for my revelations regarding my names and attributes. I am Godís incarnate word. But you do not hear me or understand, because you are from the world below, not from God. So you will not permit my Spirit to create a new attentiveness in you. That I have spoken repeatedly to you has not availed much, since you are hard-hearted. For that reason my words will judge you, even though I love you and reveal myself to you. One or two of you may begin to realize my majesty. I desire to save and revive you. God is the truth, as I am. But that truth will destroy you, since you reject the Spiritís descent into your hearts." Still the Jews did not grasp the hidden meaning of these revelations, nor discern the import of his union with the Father. They heard his words and understood nothing, because they would not believe in him. Simple faith in him reveals to our minds his obvious truths.
28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. 29 And He who sent me is with me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him."
Jesus knew that his foes and even his disciples failed to perceive the truth about him. For the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out. But Jesus was convinced that his lifting up on the cross would wipe away the sin of the world. While his ascension to the Father would lead to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. At that, the knowledge of who he is would strike as lightning in the minds of Jews and Gentiles. Christís divinity is not to be discerned except through the Holy Spiritís work. Logical reasoning is of little use. Rebirth alone creates evident faith, just as firm faith in Christís gentleness creates a second birth.
Christ did not say that he was independent complete deity, but announced at the same time his vital union with the Father, and his inability to act without his Father. Further, he does nothing of his own accord. The Father works in him. The extent of his humility is shown in his acceptance of the name "Apostle of God". Even though in the same sentence he revealed himself as the Lord of history.
Our Father is not a facile one, but simple as made plain by the Holy Spirit. By what John records of these lofty meanings, Jesus shares the awesome truth of the Trinitarian union. Then he continued, "The Father was ever with me, even now, and has not left me for a moment. The Son, in turn, never left his heavenly Father or rebelled against Him, but was obedient to His good pleasure. He came down from heaven and became man, subject to his Fatherís will." What a lovely statement, "At all times I do what pleases the Father." None but the Son can utter these words, living always in accord with his Father, in the fullness of the Spirit. Jesus fulfilled the law. More than that, he was himself the perfect law of the New Testament. Yet the Jews called him a blasphemer, contradicting the law, and leading the people astray, whereas he alone has kept the law.
Do you hear the Spiritís voice in Christís announcements about himself? Do you feel his majesty and humility, his freedom and his submission to the Father? Thus he wished to draw you into the fellowship of love in submission and freedom at once. He will lead you into release and service by his presence. He will be your teacher, and you will not do anything apart from him, always acting to please him.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I feel ashamed of my obstinacy, my deceit and guilt. Pardon my transgressions. Sanctify me to yield fully to the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Be my guide and teacher; open my heart and mind to your eternal love.
QUESTION 61: How did Jesus announce his constancy in the Holy Trinity?
e) Sin is bondage (John 8:30-36)
30 As he spoke thus, many believed on him. 31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
Christís humble but impressive testimony affected many listeners. They inclined to believe in him as coming from God. Jesus felt their trust in him and accepted their readiness to heed. He urged them not just to believe his Gospel, but to think over his words and join him, so as to abide in him, just as the branch in the vine; so that his Spirit may flow into our hearts and thoughts without obstruction; so as to drive us to accomplish his will in practice. Whoever fulfills Christís words thus, realizes the truth. For truth is no mere thought, but practical reality in which we share by the conduct of our lives.
Godís truth is first of all speech that is sincere and wise; secondly it is to know God as Father, Son and Holy Ghost in the unity of love and effort. As we become rooted in Christ, we realize the beauty of the Holy Trinity.
Knowing God transforms our life. We know God to the extent that we love others. He who does not love does not know God. In knowing God through Christís words we are freed from selfishness. To talk of repentance or legalistic duties will not liberate us from the slavery of sin; what will is knowing the love of God, the acceptance of the Sonís pardon, and the coming of the Spirit into our lives. The love of God is what can break the chains of selfishness and egoism.
33 They answered him, "We are the descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ĎYou will be made free?í " 34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not continue in the house for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."
The Jews were perplexed; their forefathers had lived two hundred years under Pharaohís bondage in Egypt, and they considered themselves liberated by Godís might, since He had brought them out of that bondage (Exodus 20:2). So Jesusí words vexed them when he denied that they were freed.
Jesus had to deflate the pride of those who had begun to believe in him. He showed them that they were slaves of sin, and captives of Satan. If we fail to realize the dead weight of our bondage, we shall not long for salvation. He who knows himself to be incapable of overcoming his sins, is the one who will ask God to save him. Here we see the reason why so many people do not seek Jesus; it is that they think themselves not needing his salvation.
Jesus declares forcibly, "Whoever sins, becomes sinís slave. Many a young man begins his life with lies, sloth, and trivia. They played about with sin and wallowed in it in imagination; eventually they resolved to go for it and planned their path with deceit. They tried some vice and repeated it, until it became a habit for them. When they sensed the filth and viciousness and heard the rebukes of their consciences, the time had passed; they were now slaves of their sins. They were driven to commit a crime reluctantly. At that they would curse the hour they had begun to listen to their evil thoughts. Men have become wicked, even though they conceal the ugly truth behind masks of false piety and courtesy. Every man without Christ is a slave of his lusts. Satan toys with their nerves, as a storm does with a dry leaf.
Then Godís Son utters his royal word, "At present I am with you and know your bonds. I am able and ready to free you and wipe away your sins. I have not come for a superficial reform of the world, nor to discipline you with a harsher law. No, I aim to free you from the power of sin and the might of death and the rights claimed by Satan. I will recreate you, revive you, so that the power of God in you may be an antidote to sin. Doubtless, Satan will tempt you in a thousand ways. You will stumble, but not as slaves, but as children holding the earnest of your new rights."
"You are redeemed for ever, paid by my blood, bought in the market of sin. You are special to God. He offered you liberty, for you to be free children. Freed from sin, I transport you to fellowship with God, for service and thanksgiving voluntarily. I am the one liberator, who rescues you from the prison of guilt to the realm of God. I am Godís Son, holding authority to free all who listen to my voice."
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we worship and praise you, for you are the omnipotent Savior, who on the cross freed us finally from Satanís tyranny. You have forgiven all our transgressions. You cleanse us so as not to remain slaves of bitterness and hatred, but to serve God as sons freed and rejoicing.
QUESTION 62: How can we be liberated truly?
QUIZ - 3
Dear reader, send us correct answers to 17 of these 19 questions. We shall then send you the sequel of this series of studies.
44. What is the secret of the feeding of the five thousand?
45. For what reason did Jesus refuse to be crowned king by the multitude?
46. How did Jesus lead people from a desire for bread to faith in himself?
47. What does "Bread of Life" mean?
48. How did Jesus respond to the murmurings of his hearers?
49. Why did Jesus say to his listeners that they had to eat his body and drink his blood?
50. How was the life-giving Spirit joined to Christís body?
51. What are the implications of Peterís testimony?
52. Why does the world hate Jesus?
53. What proofs is there that the gospel comes from God?
54. Why is Jesus the sole person who truly knows God?
55. What did Jesus predict regarding his future?
56. Why has Jesus the right to say, "If anyone thirst let him come to me and drink?"
57. Why did the priests and the Pharisees despise the common people?
58. Why did the accusers of the adulteress withdraw from Jesusí presence?
59. How does the witness of Jesus to himself as the light of the world relate to the knowledge of the heavenly Father?
60. What does faith in the One who called Himself "I am He" mean?
61. How did Jesus announce his constancy in the Holy Trinity?
62. How can we be liberated truly?
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CONTENTS - 3
B - JESUS IS THE BREAD OF LIFE (JOHN 6:1-71) ............... †111
1.†† Feeding the five thousand (John 6:1-13) ....................... †111
2.†† Jesus withdraws from the clamor for his crowning
††††† (John 6:14-15) ........................................................... †114
3.†† Jesus comes to his disciples in distress
††††† (John 6:16-21) ........................................................... †115
4.†† Jesus offers people the choice, "Accept or Reject!"
††††† (John 6:22-59) ........................................................... †116
5.†† The sifting out of the disciples (John 6:59-71)................ 129
C - †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† JESUS' LAST JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
††††† (JOHN 7:1 Ė 11:54)
Theme: THE PARTING OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT ........ †135
1. † The words of Jesus at the feast of tabernacles
††††† (John 7:1 Ė 8:59) ........................................................ †135
a)† Jesus and his brothers (John 7:1-13) ............................................. ††135
b)† Disparate views on Jesus among the people and the high council
†††† (John 7:14-63) ............................................................................. ††138
c) Legalists bring an adulteress to Jesus for trial
†††† (John 8:1-11) ............................................................................... ††150
d)† Jesus the light of the world (John 8:12-29) ..................................... ††153
e)† Sin is bondage (John 8:30-36) ...................................................... ††160