Why did Jesus Weep? What Application is There for Us?

Why did Jesus Weep?

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 11:32-37 (Compare Romans 12:15; Hebrews 4:15, 16)

32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

Introduction

We often hear about John 11:35 in terms of it being the “shortest verse in the Bible.” That is true, of course. But it doesn’t have much bearing on what it means for us as believers. Who cares that it is the shortest? That fact is interesting, perhaps, but in itself is meaningless. The content of every verse is what we need. What does it say, and what does it mean? And, ultimately, how can I apply it to my own life?

The context was Lazarus’ death and the grief it had caused his family and friends. In thAt context, the fact that Jesus also wept takes on much more meaning. Was He just “overwhelmed with grief” at having lost His friend? That seems unlikely, since He knew He was about to raise him back to normal life. It seems far more likely that Jesus wept for the grief that the others were experiencing.

Get the Whole Context

In verses 1-14, we saw that Jesus knew all about what was going on in Bethany. Though he was a long distance away, He knew that Lazarus was sick. He knew that it would ultimately not result in death, (v.4) but in His own glorification. He waited two days after hearing the news that Lazarus was sick, before leaving. This was so that Lazarus would not have “just died” when Jesus arrived. He waited that long so that Lazarus would have been dead long enough that no one had any doubt about his death. In fact, they would know that his body would have begun to decay!

Then Jesus told His disciples that He was going back to Judaea. They were worried that He would be killed. He finally explained to them that Lazarus was dead, and that He, Jesus, was going to “awaken” him. They were still pretty anxious about going back to a town so close to Jerusalem, but ultimately, they all went along.

When Jesus arrived, the majority of the people who initially met Him were believers. Some said to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, Lazarus would not have died.’ Others, to one another, said “This man healed the blind. Couldn’t he have prevented the death of His friend?” So, we can see that many of them at least had a rudimentary faith in His ability to heal.

What about Death itself?

The issue they were all struggling with, was “Why didn’t you save his life?” But it had not yet occurred to most of them, that Jesus could actually raise the dead. Martha seemed to have a glimmer of the idea. She believed that Jesus could ask God to bring Lazarus back from the dead. (See verse 22: She said, “Even now, whatsoever you will ask of God, God will give it to you.”)

Can God raise the dead?

So, the question now is, “How far does the authority of Jesus, the Messiah, really extend? Can He raise the dead?” We need to remember that this is not the first time God raised the dead. In 1st Kings 17:17-24, we see that the son of the Widow at Zarephtha had died. Elijah asked God to restore him, and God honored that request and raised the boy back to life.

2nd Kings 4:1-37 tells of Elisha, the protégé of Elijah, and another child God raised from the dead. And, at the end of Elisha’s life, long after his death, in 2nd Kings 13:20, 21, we see some men sent out to bury the corpse of a dead man. But, because the men saw a band of enemy raiders coming, they hurriedly let the man’s body down into the grave of Elisha.

It must have been a shocking experience to those men: When the dead body touched the bones of Elisha, it sprang back to life! (I especially enjoy this story, as I imagine these men assigned to do the burying, running back within the city walls to escape the raiders, and looking back to see the dead man running with them.)

Finally, in Ezekiel 37, though it was “just a vision,” it still spoke of the authority of God to raise those who had long been dead. In that particular case, it referred to the resurrection of the Jews as a nation, both physically and spiritually.

But; Can Jesus Raise the Dead?

So, the concept of being raised from the dead was not new: it is just that none of them had ever seen it, and now they would see whether Jesus actually possessed the authority He claimed. That is the real question: “Does Jesus truly have the Authority He claims to have?” We still ask that question today: “Can Jesus really take care of me and my family? Is His blood really sufficient to take away all my sins? How sure am I, really, that everything He says is really true? And, Does He really caree about me?”

Jesus wants us to be sure. He wants us to know that we have eternal life, now, not waiting until we die to find out whether we were “Good Enough.” 1st John 5:11-13 says that He wants us to know that we have eternal life… not hope, or just be persuaded, or think so. He wants us to know it.

The Widow of Zarephtha had already believed that Elijah was a man of God. She agreed to make the small cake of bread for him, because he promised that her little barrel of meal and her little jar of oil would not run out until the famine was past. And it didn’t!

But then her son died. She immediately reproached Elijah, in grief and anger. But he took the dead child from her, carried him up to the loft where he was living, and prayed for God to “return his soul to his body.” And God did so. Her response was “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the Word of the LORD in thy mouth is Truth!”

God wants us to be that sure!

How can we Experience Eternal Life?

We know from the Old Testament stories that God is completely capable of getting us safely home to Himself. We believe that His authority carries beyond the grave. But He wants us not only to be sure that we already have eternal life through faith in the shed blood of Jesus. He also wants us to be secure in the knowledge that He is with us now.  He wants us to trust Him to carry us through all of life, and through death itself. This is not a “pie in the sky when you die” idea. We are called to experience that Eternal Life in the here and now!

In John 17:3, Jesus said “ And this is Eternal Life: that they may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The word translated as “know,” here, is the Greek word, “ginosko,” meaning “experiential knowledge.” Not just “knowing a lot about a person,” but having an ongoing, living, growing relationship with that person. If we are to experience eternal life today, then we need to be in that ongoing, experiential relationship with Jesus.

We can “have” eternal life, because we have placed our faith in His completed work at the Cross…faith in His shed blood for our sins. But to experience it in a real, everyday way, we need to be walking with Him.

Seeing the Dead Raised

We might be tempted to think, “Well, why doesn’t God raise the dead today, and make everyone believe?” There were people right there who saw Lazarus raised, who definitely were not persuaded to place their faith in Jesus. Quite the opposite: they plotted to kill him! Not only that, but, in the next chapter, it occurred to them that they had better include Lazarus in the bargain. (“Gotta kill him too, or people will believe in Jesus anyway!”)

In Luke 16:19-31, we see the story of the “other Lazarus.” In it, the dead rich man argued that “…if they see someone raised from the dead, they will believe!” Abraham answered, “If they will not believe Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe, though one be raised from the dead.” This passage in John 11, 12 is clear proof of that truth! Those who rebelled against Jesus were determined to oppose him despite having seen undeniable proof of His deity!

So, How does it Help Us, to Know that Jesus Wept?

Compassion should have been strong in every priest.

In the Old Testament, we see that some of the human High Priests were not very compassionate. And the High Priest at that moment (when Jesus was raising the dead) was a character named Caiaphas. He was the leader of the group that wanted Jesus murdered! (How “compassionate” is that?)

In Exodus 28:29-30, the High Priest was called to carry the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders and on his heart. Leviticus 16:1-6 says that the High Priest had to offer a sacrifice for his own sins, before he could minister as the mediator for the people. Hebrews 5:1-3 confirms this. The High Priest is supposed to “have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are ‘out of the way.’’” This is specifically because “he himself is surrounded by his own infirmity.” And that was just referring to the human high priests. They were flawed individuals themselves! And they were to have compassion upon others for that very reason.

Jesus is the Perfect High Priest

And, in Hebrews 4:15, 16, we see that “We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” I often point out that “our feelings are not always an accurate reflection of reality.” That is true, but the fact remains that the feelings themselves are a reality that we have to deal with! And Jesus is aware of our feelings and is compassionate toward us in our frailties.

Jesus had no sin, but He suffered as though He were just like any other human. He felt the grief of the people, and “wept with those who wept.” He genuinely felt their grief, and shared in it for their sake. He did not just say, “Chin up! This too shall pass!” or any other such inane platitudes: He wept with them because of their grief, even though He knew He was about to bring them indescribable Joy.

We are called to Join Jesus in His Priesthood

Jesus is the True High Priest… but every believer is called to serve as a priest in the Body of Christ. We are to be His hands and feet and heart in our lifetime here on Earth, reaching out to those around us in genuine compassion.

This is part of the unity of the church: we are all part of one body, the Body of Christ. And when one part of the body is injured, it affects the whole body to one degree or another. Every living body exhibits this care for itself. If there is an itch on the back, for example, the whole body contorts itself to relieve that discomfort by reaching to scratch it. If a toe is injured, the whole body responds to protect that toe by limping or hobbling along, avoiding further injury. We are to care for one another at that level, spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically.

Weep With Those Who Weep

Romans 12:15 clearly commands us to “Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.” This is not a command to “pretend” grief or “pretend’ joy. It is a command to extend our hearts to the needs of those around us. We should feel their sorrow as our own and feel their joy as our own. Ultimately, of course, that makes us pretty vulnerable to being hurt. But it also opens us up to experiencing the blessing of God flowing through us to those who are hurting, in the world around us.

If we genuinely care about the needs of those around us, then, as Jesus did, we will often find ourselves weeping in sympathy with those who weep, and experiencing the joy of those who rejoice.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to be like You, caring deeply for those around us, and deeply, genuinely empathizing with them as You demonstrated in Your life. Help us to demonstrate the Agape Love so that the World will see Your face in us.

I AM the Resurrection and the Life

I AM the Resurrection and the Life

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 11:25, 26

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Introduction:

Last week, we discussed the entire story of John 11:1-46. It is the story of the revival of Lazarus of Bethany. In the middle of the story, Jesus stated, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.”

This is one of the great  “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John, (including an identifier.) If we see the Gospel of John as addressing the Deity of Christ, presenting Him as the incarnate God, then we could list the “I AM” statements as follows.

“I AM” statements by Jesus in the Gospel of John.

(Key verse is “Before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:58) Seven amplifications: I AM the:

  1. Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48, 51)
  2. Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. Door of the Sheep (John 10:6-9)
  4. Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14)
  5. Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25, 26)
  6. Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
  7. True Vine (John 15:1, 5)

Notice that only one of these eight passages (John 8:58) gives the clear Old Testament Name of God: “I AM.” All seven of the other passages serve to qualify and amplify the main point.

Remember Chapter One

When we discussed John 8:58, we already knew that Jesus is God. John 1:1 introduces the concept, and John 1:14 makes it clear. John 1:3 states that He is the Creator of all things. Verse 4 states that He is the only source of Life, while verses 4 and 5 together show that He is the only source of Light. And, in John 1:29, we see that Jesus is God’s sacrificial Lamb. Through Him, the sins of the World were to be taken away. Those are pretty heavy doctrines to offer in the first chapter of the epistle! But they all are foundational to everything that follows.

In John 2:1-11, we began to see His Authority over Nature and the physical world. (He transformed what had been plain well-water into high-quality, aged wine!) Later in chapter 2, He claimed authority over the Temple, He cast out the people who were making it a place of commerce. (It strikes me that perhaps some people today have become guilty of this sin. They are making merchandise of the church, and becoming rich at the expense of the testimony of the Gospel.)

In John 3:3-19, we discovered that Jesus is the only Savior, and that we each must be born again through faith in Him, to enter into God’s fellowship.

In John 4:1-42, we discovered that Jesus’s top priority was to reach to the world with the Gospel: that He definitely did not limit His Mercy to Israel.

In John 5:22, 23, we discovered that He is the Eternal Judge, and is to be honored in the same manner as the Father is to be honored.. Finally, in John 6:35-51, the I AM statements begin.

Why the multiple “I AM” statements?

John 8:58 makes a “spelled out” statement (“Before Abraham was, I AM!”) The people clearly understood and they responded with violence. Without such a clear statement, the people might have “missed the point” in all the other seven statements. Grammatically, each of those statements were no more significant than simply saying, “I am Jesus.” 

But, together with the clear statement that He is God, they become very significant, as He begins to explain all that His name implies. (Bear in mind that the name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves,” or “Jehovah is Savior.”) And in Isaiah 43:11, God confirmed that apart from Himself there was no Savior. It was another clue to His eternal identity as the Creator God.

Throughout the Gospel of John, we have seen and learned the reality that He is truly the “all-in-all” for us. We have no other Hope, we serve no other Master, and we will face no Higher Judge. He is the Eternal God: the Creator, the Sustainer, the Savior and the Judge!

We saw increasingly powerful, miraculous proofs of His Deity, and increasing statements of His sufficiency. In chapters four and seven, He offered the Living Water. The scripture states that He was referring to the Holy Spirit, who was not yet given. But, when we look back to Jeremiah 2:12, 13, we see that the God of the Old Testament was the only “fountain of Living waters.” The Jews should have understood that promise as being a claim to divinity, as well!

The Warnings

The warnings really began much earlier, in John the Baptist’s ministry. (Matthew 3:7-12) John warned the Pharisees and the Sadducees (many of whom would become Jesus’s fiercest enemies) that judgment was coming. He warned that God was “winnowing the wheat harvest,” and, while He would gather the “grain,” He would also burn the “chaff” with unquenchable fire.

In John 3:3-19, Jesus warned Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees (who became a believer,) that unless he experienced the new birth, he would never see God’s Kingdom. He explained in verse 19 that the Light of God had come into the world, and the World was rejecting that light.

Death and Judgment

But everyone knew that death was a reality. Some were terrified at the prospect: some simply accepted it. Or possibly, as they do today, they may have philosophized about it, claiming it was “nothing to worry about.” But death really can be something to worry about! And Jesus clearly warned the Pharisees, in John 8:24, that they would die in their sins if they rejected Him.

So, “dying in one’s sins” is surely something to fear. John 1:29 promised the removal of our sins. John 3:16-19 explained how that rebirth could happen…and the result if it did not.  

Chapter four gave examples of people in whom it did happen: and these were Samaritans. They were a people utterly rejected by Israel, but people whom God justified by Grace, through faith, plus nothing.

Finally, in John 11:43, 44, we see an example of someone who died in faith…whose sins had been removed by God. We see proof that there is “life after death,” and that Jesus has full authority over Life and death. We see a man, a believer in Jesus, raised from the dead, revived, after his body has begun to decompose.

The Solution to The Final Threat

In the midst of this drama-filled scene, we see a very solid, clear statement: “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Jesus has already made it clear to everyone that, while Eternal Life was offered to all, not all would receive it. He already said that He is the only door of access to the household of God. Now He answers the question, “What about believers who die?”

He first pointed out the overarching principle that He alone is the Resurrection and the Life. Had they thought of it, they could have recalled Ezekiel 37, where the prophet was given a vision of a valley full of very dry, very dead bones: human skeletons. They were so dried and scattered that they were no longer even connected to one another. God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” And Ezekiel replied, “Thou knowest!” It was the only honest and faith-driven answer he could give. Then he witnessed, in vision-form, the resurrection of Israel as a nation, to a right relationship with God.

Jesus Alone!

Jesus said that He himself is THE resurrection and THE life! This includes both spiritual resurrection (remember, we all started out spiritually dead) and the physical resurrection we see here in John 11:43, 44.

Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear that everyone is destined to die, physically, and that judgment will surely follow, one way or another. 1st Corinthians 15:51, 52 points out the one exception, and allows us the hope that we will be part of the generation that skips “the valley of the shadow of death,” and goes directly to be with the Lord. But the overwhelming majority will get there through that valley. And Jesus shows us “what the valley looks like for believers.”

Remember that in Psalm 23, David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Let’s break that into small pieces. Remember, this describes physical death for believers only:

  • Yea, though I walk (Not “fall,” or “collapse”)
  • through (Not “into,” but “through.” Death is not a “destination” for believers, but a passage through, to something else…something which is not a fearful place or thing.)
  • The valley (Not the “pit,” the “abyss,” or any other sort of trap or place of interment.)
  • Of the shadow of death (Not  the “final reality and permanence of irremediable death.”)

And the result of this promise was that the psalmist was not in fear, but at peace, knowing that his Redeemer was with him.

Jesus is that Redeemer, and the Resurrection and the Life

The prophet Job also foresaw this final resurrection, as a believer, in Job 19:25, 26.

He said, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the Earth: and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

That Redeemer (whom Job knew, and trusted, and whom he hoped to see in his resurrected body) was the same Jesus in whom we now trust.

He was the same in the time of Job as He was in the time of Lazarus of Bethany. And He is still the same today. Jesus proved His deity and His authority and His faithfulness through all the ages, and He continues to do so today.

He wasn’t just capable of temporarily reviving a dead human body which had begun to decay. He removes the curse of death entirely. He has restored us to eternal fellowship with the Holy God from whom we were estranged. He has begotten us again, as children of that Holy God. We are permanently in Him, because He is not only “the Resurrection,” but also “the Life.” We already have eternal life in Him; by His Grace, through Faith…plus nothing.

So, What are Our Choices?

As unbelievers, the only choice we had was whether to respond in faith to the promise of redemption, confessing our guilt, and our need for a Savior….or not.

As believers, the only choice we have (moment by moment) is whether to continue in faith, walking in fellowship with Him, and obedience to Him…or not.

If we walk with him in faith and obedience, then we reapthe peace and confidence we can have in knowing Him as our Redeemer, our Protector and our Friend. If not, then, while we are “just as saved as Lot was,” we will not enjoy the benefit of that relationship, any more than Lot did. And, in the end, we will gain no more reward than he did. Salvation is a gift, not a reward.

Choose Life!

Jesus is the Resurrection, all right: but He is also the Life. We are called to experience His life through faith and obedience, not just make a one-time “deposit of faith,” and hang onto the “receipt,” as it were, hoping that “everything will be all right.” We have a steady, unshakeable confidence, if we embrace His Life, as well as His Resurrection, and experience that Life daily, as we walk with Him. With David, we can say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

If you want to have confidence that “God is with you,” then focus your attention on you being “with God.” Jesus asked Mary, “Believest thou this?” Do you really trust Me in this matter? He asks us the same thing.

That is a question you should be asking yourself, as well: If you really believeit, then bank on it and live as though you believe it. Serve as if you believe it. He has given you eternal life and a gift by which to serve Him. Believe Him and get on with the job!

Lord Jesus, fill us with the confidence of Your Eternal Presence and acceptance, and approval. Teach us to walk with You by faith, and to experience your Joy and Peace as a result. Raise us up as your ambassadors, to shine as your beacons of Hope in this lost and dying World.

Safety in Christ: How “Safe” is the Flock of God?

Safety in Christ

How “Safe” is the Flock of Jesus?

© 2022 C. O, Bishop

John 10:26-30

2But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

30 I and my Father are one.

Introduction:

Over the last twenty verses, Jesus has been teaching regarding the Sheepfold, the Good Shepherd, and the Flock of God. This is not the first time he has addressed the subject of the safety of the flock. In John chapter 5, He affirmed that anyone who believes His promise has eternal life the moment they believed. They will never be condemned, but have crossed over (permanently) from death into life.

In John chapter 6 He stated that anyone who came to Him would never be cast out. He declared that, of all who came to Him, He would lose no one, but that He would raise them all up at the last day. That is very “solid ground” upon which to rest our faith!

Over the years, we have touched on the subject of the security of the believer many times. But, since Jesus is directly addressing it, right here in John chapter 10, it seems good that we address it directly, as well.

What was the “Original Problem?”

Why did Jesus come in the first place? The answer to that question goes all the way back to Genesis 3:7, where Adam fell into sin. In disobeying God, he plunged all of his progeny (including Eve) into spiritual death. That is where all of us start out. As Ephesians 2:3 confirms, we are all born “the children of wrath,” just like everyone else. The whole human race had become spiritually dead. We were disconnected from God, at the moment Adam fell into sin. We all went with him! This is what we call “Original Sin,” and it is definitely the original problem!

What was the Solution?

The plan of God to redeem His lost Creation was actually laid before the human race was created: Revelation 13:8 states that Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World.” And, in 1st Peter 2:18-20, we see that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, who was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” So, God shed blood, to provide animal skins as a covering for the sins of Adam and Eve. That blood was a picture of the Blood that Jesus would shed at the Cross. According to John 1:29, His Blood would take away the sin of the World.

But in order for that to happen, Jesus had to be born a human (thus inheriting the right to redeem us.)  But He had to be born without a sin nature. (That is what the “Seed of the Woman” in Genesis 3:15 and the “virgin birth” in Isaiah 7:14 were all about.) Thus He would have the “price of redemption:” a perfect person.

And then He had to actually live a perfect, sinless life, in keeping with that birth. Finally, He had to be willing to pay that price of redemption: His life. And we saw in the previous verses that He had been given the authority to lay down His life, willingly: No one “took it from Him.” So, Jesus is the solution: the only solution God has ever offered. The Old Testament sacrifices were only pictures of God’s perfect sacrifice. Jesus is the “real thing:” He is our only hope, through His sacrifice.

How “Good” is that Solution?

When we talk about medicine, and diseases, and cures for those diseases, the question often arises, “How effective is that cure?” And the answer is often given in terms of percentages, such as, “If the patient receives this medicine within two weeks of infection, there is a nearly 100% cure rate. After that it drops off very rapidly.” And some “cures” are a bit of a gamble, no matter when they are applied. But what about God’s cure for spiritual death—the cure for our sin?

When we read the Old Testament, we see people who seemed to be believers, but who did bad things: terrible things in some cases. From a human perspective, it seems logical to think that “Well, you see? They fell away and they were lost!” But then in the New Testament, we see some of those same people called out by name as being saved individuals…and as righteous individuals!

What about their Sins and their failures?

For example, we see Lot, whose life did not seem to reflect any of the righteousness of God, and who lost everything in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah…and the last thing we see of him was that (because of their deliberate conspiracy) he drunkenly impregnated both of his daughters. And his progeny, the Moabites and the Ammonites, still live today, as enemies of Israel. But, in 2nd Peter 2:6-8, we see that God says Lot was a righteous man!

And then, of course, there is King David, whom God declared to be a “man after His Own heart,” but who later fell into sin, including the sins of adultery and murder, and vicious cruelty toward his enemies. How could he be called righteous?

(Wow! Maybe we need to re-examine what God defines as righteousness. At least, we need to find out on what basis He will declare a human sinner to be righteous.)

Definition of Righteousness

In Genesis 15:6, we see that Abram “believed God, and God credited it to him as righteousness.” And, as we read through the rest of the Bible, we discover that this is the only means by which any sinner has ever been declared righteous by God! We are declared righteous on the basis of faith in God’s plan of redemption.

Faith and Righteousness

In Adam’s case, he believed God’s promise of the coming Savior, the Seed of the Woman. In Abraham’s case he believed the promise of God regarding the coming offspring, and of the promised land. We discover later that he also believed God regarding the resurrection, but that is more obscure. And, he brought blood sacrifices to God on a regular basis.

The Children of Israel found safety, trusting in the Blood of the Lamb, at the first Passover, when they struck the blood of that lamb on the lintel and the two doorposts. In Romans 3:25, we find confirmation that He, Jesus, became the propitiation (the satisfaction of God’s righteousness) through faith in His Blood!

Safety in His Blood

You see; that specific blood sacrifice, offered by God’s Grace, is God’s only plan for the redemption of the lost Human Race! (Jesus is “Plan A,” and there is no “plan B”) And we lay hold of His plan through faith in His blood. Then, in keeping with his promise, He declares us to be righteous in His sight, on the basis of that faith.

It has absolutely nothing to do with our works, either before or after the fact. And what is the “Cure rate?” 100% of all those who trust in Him for their salvation are eternally saved!

What Does Jesus Say About our Safety in Him?

I think it is important that we see His promises as they were given: In John 1:12, Jesus said that the way to be born into His family is to place our faith in Him…receive Him. Believe on His name. In John 3:14-16, Jesus compared the bronze serpent Moses made and hung up by God’s command, to His own ministry.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Judgment and Faith

You remember, that old bronze serpent was hung up to represent the fact of God’s judgment on the sin of Israel, in the form of thousands of migrating vipers that He sent through their midst. People were being bitten and were dying! He told Moses to make that bronze serpent and hang it up high on a pole, so that whoever looked to God’s solution—the bronze serpent—instead of their own solution, would not die! They still had the bite-marks, the pain and the other symptoms of the bites, but they would not die.

Jesus said that He Himself was to be lifted up in similar fashion, so that whoever believed in Him—as God’s solution for their own sin—would also not die. But in this case, the life they gained was eternal life. We still bear the marks of our old sin nature, but we will not be lost.

A Specific Promise in Three Parts

In John 5:24, Jesus promised that whoever heard His Words, and believed on the God who sent Him,

  • HAS everlasting life (Present tense: it’s yours today…no waiting to see if you were “good enough!”)
  • And SHALL NOT come into condemnation (Future tense: it will never happen. God will never again condemn you! Your whole eternity is covered in that promise!)
  • But IS PASSED from death into life (Past-Perfect tense…it’s a “done deal,” and can’t be reversed! You can’t be “un-born again,” or go back to being “un-redeemed.”)

What Works are Required?

In John 6:28, 29, the people asked Jesus “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” (This tends to be our question, too, as we insist on believing that “There must be something we can do, to make God like us!” …to make ourselves righteous. The fact is, it can’t be done…and there is nothing we can do to change our nature as lost sinners!)

Jesus gave a very clear reply: He said, “This is the Work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (That’s it! Faith in Jesus, and His finished work!)

How Secure is that Promise?

In John 6:37 Jesus said, “37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Under no circumstances will Jesus turn away those who have come to Him in faith. Under no circumstances will He subsequently reject them and cast them back out! That is very solid ground! We are not left standing on a “sand foundation!”

Years ago, my younger brother pointed out that most sand is made of tiny fragments of rock…very hard rock, in some cases, such as quartz. But in fragmented form that rock is useless as a foundation. The solid rock we have been given, on which to base our faith, is the Eternal Truth of God’s Word and the Promises of Christ. If we depend upon the fragmented “truths” of the world’s wisdom and human philosophies, we are building upon sand. If we trust the Living God and His Truth, we have built upon the Rock.

No Believers will be Lost

In John 6:39, Jesus made an even more specific promise: 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”

Do you see why that was “more specific?” He said that, not only will HE not “cast” us out, but that He will lose none of us, regardless of cause. Some argue against this, citing the case of Judas Iscariot: but, in John 13:10, 11 Jesus pointed out that Judas had never been “washed”… he was never cleansed. He was not a believer. Judas never was saved, so he did not “lose his salvation:” he never had it to begin with!

In John 15:3, after Judas left, Jesus confirmed this, telling the remaining disciples, “Now ye (plural) are clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you.” Judas had heard all the same words the others had heard. Faith was the difference: they believed, and Judas did not!

Shall Never Perish

But, in our text, here, today, Jesus says perhaps the most powerful of all the promises: He says, 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

“I give unto them Eternal Life, and they shall never perish!” How long is never? How secure is that promise? It is exactly as secure as the character of the One who made the promise. He is utterly perfect and He is THE Truth, so we depend on His Promises as being the truths upon which we base our faith.

They Follow Me

Yes, the normal result of our faith is that we follow Jesus. But, as we saw in the lives of Lot, and David (not to mention Balaam and Samson,) once a person has become one of God’s flock, Jesus, the Great Shepherd, will not lose a single one of them.

We are eternally secure in His promise. Salvation is a gift, not a reward. The gift is ours by God’s Grace, through faith. But if we want Eternity to hold rewards for us, beyond that initial gift of eternal life, then we need to learn to follow Him, and serve as His ambassadors: His hands and feet; and the light of His Hope, in this dying world.

How can we see that Security?

It is interesting that He concluded, 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one.”

If I see the hand of Jesus cupping us from one side and the hand of the Father from the other, and His final word, “The Father and I are one,” then I can understand that we are safe between the two hands of the almighty God who has redeemed us from sin and is calling us to walk with Him in obedience. We are safe in His hands, for eternity!

Lord Jesus, teach us to trust in Your promise, and to follow You in obedience, and to extend that promise of eternal life to all around us, serving as Your ambassadors, and the light of Your Love in this dark world.

The Authority of Jesus

The Authority of Jesus

I lay down my life that I might take it again.

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 10:17-21

Introduction:

We need to teach scriptures in the context in which they were given. If we look back to John chapter 8, we see that Jesus had healed a man who was born blind. There was quite a flap over it. Some people condemned Jesus for having healed on the Sabbath. Others pointed out that if God wasn’t backing Him, He couldn’t have done it at all, regardless of the day He chose. The healed man testified to that effect, as well, saying that only a man sent from God could have healed him. All the rest of the things in this context occurred on that same day, as extensions of that specific conversation.

The pharisees followed Jesus to argue with Him at length. They claimed that they had good spiritual vision. But Jesus pointed out that because they claimed to see, their sin remained upon them. They were rejecting His Word, not in ignorance, but in rebellion.

Regarding the Shepherd

Jesus then began teaching about His relationship to Israel as a whole, and to the World as a whole. He explained that He came by way of the “Door into the Sheepfold.” We saw that as a reference to the fact that He fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. In that way, He showed His proper “credentials’, and His “pedigree,” as the Savior of the Human Race: the Messiah, and the Shepherd of Israel.

He taught the difference between the Good Shepherd (Himself) and the false Messiahs throughout the ages. He also pointed out the difference between a good human shepherd and a bad one. The good one protects the flock and cares for the Flock. The bad one protects himself and cares for himself, instead of caring for the Flock of God. And Jesus said that He was the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for the Flock.

Jesus has Authority over Life and Death

17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

We struggle with the teaching in this passage sometimes. In other passages, we see that God the Father raised God the Son from the Dead. But in this passage, we see that Jesus claimed to have the power (authority) to lay down His life, and to take it up again, Himself.

The real struggle we are having there is with the word “power.” The word in this passage translated “power,” in the King James Bible, is one of several New Testament Greek words which can be correctly translated “power.” But this one is not the more common Greek word, “dunamis,” from which we derive words like “Dynamo” and “Dynamic.” This is the Greek word, “exousia,” which simply means “authority.”

He said that He had been given the authority to lay down His life and take it up again… and that it was by the commandment of His Father that He was to do so. What we are about to see, here, is the full agreement of the Trinity. There is no “competition” or “power-struggle” between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are in perfect agreement.

So, when Jesus exercised His authority to lay down His life, and to take it up again, at the commandment of His Father, then the Father would back Him completely.

The Power of God

Please turn in your Bible to Ephesians 1:18- 23

18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

There, in verses 19 and 20, we read that God exerted His power to resurrect Jesus. He first says that God has “exceeding greatness” of power toward believers, to bless and to keep us. But it also says that He exercises that power “according to the working of His mighty power, with which He raised Jesus from the dead.” In modern English, that sounds a bit redundant, and an unnecessary repetition of the word “power.”

Different Words for Power

But it turns out that, in that passage, the first word for “power” is the more common Greek word, “dunamis” which speaks of His sheer ability and strength, while the second was the Greek word, “kratos,”which speaks of His dominion over the entire creation: He is the Eternal King. He is the “Most High.” He is God.

Jesus is God the Son, and during His earthly ministry, He temporarily set aside most of His prerogatives as God, and functioned as a human. But he was given the command of God the Father to “lay down” his life, and to “take it again.”

None of us have been given any such command. But Jesus was authorized by His Father to do exactly that. So, Jesus, God the Son, exercised His authority (as commanded by the Father.) God the Father then exercised His unimaginable power and rulership to confirm and support the authority of Jesus.

The Full Authority of Jesus

So, when we see in other places that humans “killed” Jesus, that was completely true from their perspective, and from the perspective of any human. And in terms of guilt, it was certainly true, as well.. But they could not “take His life” against His will: He had absolute authority over His life, (and, ironically, over theirs as well.) He is the Eternal Judge that each of them—and we—will face.

Furthermore, in the remainder of the passage in Ephesians, we notice that it says God the Father has placed Jesus as the Master over all the universe, far above every other ruler, or authority, including all the angelic host. (That is what those names mean, though I can’t tell you the difference between the various levels of authority named there. However, it also includes the fallen angels.)

And, finally, it says, that He is the Head over all things, to the Church, which is His body. (That means us!) This person, of unimaginable authority and power is the Head of the Church…us!

Results of Authority

Here is a side note: when Jesus was about to ascend back to the Father, He addressed His disciples, saying “All power is given unto Me, in Heaven and in Earth…go ye therefore and teach all nations….” The word, “therefore” means, “on the basis of that.” On the basis of what? Was it on the basis of the fact that “Jesus had power?”

It turns out that the Greek word translated “power,” there, is exactly the same as the one we just read, here, in John 10:18. It is the Greek word “exousia.” We can see in John 10:18 that He has authority over life and death, but in Matthew 28:18, we see that He has ALL authority, in Heaven and in Earth! And He gives His commands on the basis of that authority!

Division:

19 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. 20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? 21 Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?

There has always been a fairly sharp “division of opinion” regarding Jesus. There are those who see Him for who He is, and choose to worship Him and obey Him, and trust in Him for all things. And there are the “others.”

Circumventing the Judge

Some simply ignore Him, wanting nothing to do with Him, because they do not understand that ignoring Him is not one of the options. Several years ago, I asked an elderly man how he would respond if God were to ask him, “Why should I allow you into Heaven?” He said, “I wouldn’t answer Him at all! I would just go around Him and go my own way!

It was obvious that he wasn’t thinking clearly: one cannot just “go around God, and go one’s own way.” But the reality is that most people are thinking that, though usually not verbalizing it. They assume that if they refuse to address the matter, then, they have not really “rejected” Him, they just circumvented Him. But it is rejection just the same.

Resenting God

There are others who resent His Authority, even if they agree with much of His justice. They want to be their own master…and, as it turns out, that is also “not one of the options.” There is only one true “Master” of all things, because He is the sovereign God over all the Universe.

He is the One from whom all the Universe emanated, in the act of creation. He spoke it all into existence, including all the material and immaterial creation. Bodies, spirits, souls, inanimate objects…all of it. And, as He is the Creator, He is the only Supreme authority. His authority supersedes all other authority. And, as sinners, we resent that, because we don’t want anyone “telling us what to do.”

Hating God

There are also those who allow their resentment to grow into an open hatred for God. In reality, it is only a “full-bloom” version of the general disdain for God that the whole human race tends toward. In Psalm 14, God says that there is no one who seeks after God. That is repeated in Romans 3:9-12. Most people would deny harboring hatred toward God, but the fact is that the lesser forms of rebellion are the same noxious “weed” at an earlier stage of development.

Repentance

The group of people about which we are reading also included those who said, “He can’t be demon-possessed: He doesn’t talk like one possessed of a demon, and besides, we just saw him heal a blind man! A demon couldn’t do that!” Bear in mind that these were part of the same group who had been arguing withJesus. But these were starting to realize that He just might be exactly who He said He was! His words and His actions matched one another. He was acting in a manner consistent with His words.

It seems that they were about to change their mind, regarding Him. We call that “Repentance.” The Greek word usually translated “repent” is “metanoia,” and it literally means, “change your mind.” They were repenting of their earlier opinions about Jesus. That is the beginning of change, the beginning of repentance, that could turn into rebirth!

What about Believers?

Repentance is also needed in believer’s lives. Each of us has areas in our lives that are not in agreement with God. We are saved sinners, and we still have our sin-nature. So, when the Holy Spirit alerts us to behaviors, attitudes, or thought patterns that are dishonoring to God, we have two choices. We can resist, or we can repent. We can change our minds regarding the things God has asked that we abandon. Or, we can attempt to circumvent the Holy Spirit: to ignore His prompting, and just “go our own way.” (Honestly, folks: that really is “not one of the options!”)

What about us?

We have seen His total Authority and His absolute Holiness. We have seen the fact that God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are in complete agreement with the commands and teachings of God the Son (Jesus.) So, we simplyneed to drop our resistance, and choose repentance.

We need to change our minds regarding our unbelief and we need to learn to trust Him: We need to change our minds about our resentment and our rebellion, and learn to obey Him. We need to change our minds regarding our self-centeredness, and pride, and learn to walk in humility, as Jesus walked, and reach out to those around us, as the ambassadors of Christ. That is our assigned job, as Christians.

Lord Jesus, work repentance in each of our hearts. Teach us to actively trust You to lead us by Your Word. Teach us to look for Your fingerprints in our lives, and to rejoice at the work You do in our hearts and lives. Lead us as Your flock, and use us as Your ambassadors. Make us the men and women of God You have called us to be.

Jesus said, “I Am the Good Shepherd”

I Am the Good Shepherd

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 10:10-16

Introduction:

Last week we discovered how we are to enter into a relationship with God, “through the door of the sheep.” We noted that it was not the same as the door through which Jesus entered as the Shepherd. He entered by “the door into the sheepfold,” which is the door of fulfilled prophecy. We enter through Him by His Grace, and through Faith. He is the Door of the Sheep.

Jesus said, “I AM the Door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” And we found that we are to enter through Him by means of Faith in His shed blood.

But we walk with Him, “going in and out, and finding pasture,” living in the world, and finding our sustenance and protection in Him, by means of Faith and Obedience. We sing the hymn, “Trust and Obey,” and as we study our Bibles, we find that that hymn is true! There truly is “…no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey.” So, Who is it that we are to trust and obey? It is Jesus! He is the Good Shepherd.

The people had difficulty with the idea that Jesus entered by the “Door to the sheepfold.” Now they were struggling to understand the idea that they were to enter in “through Him.”

But the next thing Jesus told them, was that He himself is the Good Shepherd. We need to explore what that means.

John 10:10-16

10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

What defines the Good Shepherd?

When asking what defines a good employee, a good job, or a good automobile, we are usually given a fairly vague list of positive characteristics, But, in discussing those ideas, there usually turns out to be a fairly detailed list of things to avoid. There are negative things to look for in a résumé, neagtive things to look for in a company, or in an automobile, all to be avoided if possible.

When we begin to ask, “What makes a good shepherd?” God gives us both the positive list (in detail) and the negative list (also in detail.) We can clearly see not only that He Himself is that Good Shepherd, (the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd,) but also see what constitutes a good human shepherd in the local assemblies. We see bad shepherds in contrast with God, and we see good human shepherds exhorted to “get on with the job” of tending to the flock. And He explains what that means.

Bad Shepherds

Jesus began by listing the motives and behavior of false teachers, false prophets: bad shepherds. He said that the thieves (who did not enter by the “door into the sheepfold,” which is the fulfilled prophecies) came with evil motives: they came to steal, to kill and to destroy. Ironically, they don’t even have to be “bad people,” to have those motives.

Ann and I knew a pastor who outwardly seemed a fine pastor: He was kind, and friendly and hardworking, and very well educated. But it turned out that he did not believe the Bible is the Word of God, and he taught others to doubt it, too. He was stealing the Grace upon which people needed to rest, and killing unbelievers by convincing them there was no real need for a Savior. Finally, he was destroying the faith of weak believers by teaching them that “much of the Bible is simply mythology.” Jesus specifically warned against that kind of man.

The Contrast

He contrasted His own behavior with theirs, saying first that His motive is different: He came “that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” If you want life, Jesus is where to find it.  Then He said, “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He said that the hireling, (someone who sees the ministry as “just a job”) is not committed to the flock. If trouble comes, they will not protect the flock, but rather will protect themselves.

We knew a man like that, as well: He had made a serious error on his taxes prior to our ever having known him. But when he got into financial trouble, because of it, he threatened to “Split the church” if we did not bail him out. He had zero commitment to the flock. But Jesus said that He Himself is the ultimate “Committed Shepherd” who lays down His life for the Sheep.

So, short of actually “dying for the flock,” (which is seldom required of pastors,) what else is the human shepherd supposed to be doing? The responsibilities of the human shepherds are laid out most clearly in Ezekiel 34:1-11, where (just as Jesus did) God first shows the behavior of some “bad shepherds,” and then He contrasts it with His Own behavior.

Ezekiel 34

1And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.

My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;

Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; 10 Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.

Seven Responsibilities of The Shepherds

  1. Feed the Flock
  2. Strengthen the diseased
  3. Heal the Sick
  4. Bind up that which is broken
  5. Bring again that which was driven away
  6. Seek the Lost
  7. Protect from predators (implied in verses 5 and 8…but spelled out in Acts 20:27-30)

God goes on, in the rest of Ezekiel 34, to say how He will take over the job of the shepherd and dismiss those shepherds who were failing to attend to the needs of the flock. Notice, too, that the shepherds in question, were the leaders of Israel, but especially the spiritual leaders.

The “healing” involved (v. 4) is not physical healing, as, except the few prophets through whom God chose to show His authority, the civil and religious leaders of Israel never had the authority to heal diseases of any kind. And, the true Shepherd of Israel is God the Son: Jesus, our Great Shepherd.

The Shepherd of Israel

In Psalm 23 we see the LORD described as the Shepherd, and His behavior toward His flock is described: He is said to “lead us by still waters” (safe places to drink water,) and to “make us to lie down in green pastures. (I am told that Sheep usually only lie down after they are done eating.) And; He restores our souls. So, his primary behavior toward the sheep is to see to their sustenance and their safety…and to meet their spiritual need for a Savior and a Shepherd.

Isaiah 40:11 gives a picture of the Shepherd tenderly caring for His Flock. “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead them that are with young.” And Jesus is inviting us to be that flock. We have entered in by faith, but to benefit by the Shepherd, we have to hear Him and follow Him.

What about His Flock?

Looking ahead, in John 10:27, 28, He says, His sheep will be known by Him and will hear His voice and will follow Him. He says, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish!” Thehuman Shepherds should be able to confirm that truth, teaching confidently because of the clear promise of God. If they can’t, then they do not believe His Word.

The more we learn about Jesus and the more we see Jesus in the Old Testament, we begin to see that Jesus was always the “Shepherd of Israel.” (Psalm 80:1) When Isaiah says, “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd ….”—it is talking about Jesus! He is the one who cared for them and He is the one who cares for us! In Matthew 23:37-39, we can see that it was always Jesus, down through the ages, sustaining Israel, and grieving over them, as His lost sheep.

So, when Jesus said (John 10:16) 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd…” we can see that He was referring to the Gentiles: this is the beginning of God’s fulfillment of His promises to the Gentiles! This is where we come into the picture! Not that the Gentiles would become Jews, but that both Jewish and Gentile believers would be joined in one new Creation; the Church: the Bride of Christ.

What does a Good Human Shepherd Look like?

A good human Shepherd seeks to feed the flock on God’s Word, as that is what God has defined as good “sheep food.” This is the ground rule: feed the Flock on God’s Word!

  1. He Feeds the Flock on God’s Word (not opinions, politics, or philosophy: the Bible!
  2. He seeks to strengthen the believers who have been weakened, either by neglect or by wrong teaching: how? Again, by the Word of God!
  3. He seeks to correct the spiritual illnesses caused by wrong teaching, wrong thinking, and wrong understanding of the Word of God, through sound teaching.
  4. He helps people overcome the spiritual wounds they have received in life and to grow strong, through faith in God’s promises and His wise counsel.
  5. He understands that wrong social interaction within the flock can drive believers away from a church: so,  he seeks to bring back those who were driven away, and to quench the unrest, unkindness, strife or bitterness that drove them away.
  6. He seeks the lost, and offers them the same things Jesus offered: Eternal life, “freely bestowed on all who believe.” Salvation, by Grace, through Faith. He helps the new believers grow by feeding them wisely, so that they are strengthened against the temptations of the World and against the ravages of Satan’s influence. He teaches the whole counsel of God’s Word.
  7. He seeks to thus defend the flock against predators, the false teachers who have plagued the church since the very beginning of the church age. When false teachers attempt to divide and destroy the flock, he is quick to “confront the Wolf,” so as to safeguard the flock. He does not turn a blind eye to predators.

He is in constant fellowship with The Chief Shepherd (Jesus) and with the other human shepherds in the flock, not seeking preeminence for himself. He seeks to raise up faithful men and women to serve God with their lives and to imitate the Great Shepherd in all things.

How do we find such people?

There is no way we could recognize these traits in any person who we don’t know very well. No letter of recommendation, or well-crafted résumé, could ever hope to replace getting to know a person well enough to see all these things in action, as a living reality. That is why we are told to raise up leaders from within the church, not to call for résumés. (2nd Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:5.)

We see all of these characteristics and behaviors demonstrated flawlessly in Jesus, and the longer each of us knows Him, the more we see the perfection of His character. A human shepherd will never be perfect. Personal humility and a clear recognition of one’s own shortcomings and flaws go a long way toward overcoming those flaws, as the human shepherd, pastor, elder, submits himself to Jesus and allows the Lord to live through him, thus overcoming the natural weaknesses of his own humanity.

How Should We Respond?

On a personal level, as individuals, our primary goal is to develop and maintain a proper relationship with Jesus, the Chief Shepherd. He said, “My sheep hear my voice…and they follow me.” That is where we need to start: hear His voice, coming from the written Word of God, and follow Him, in faith and obedience. Then He is free to work in each of our lives, and to build His church as He promised.

Lord Jesus, quicken our hearts to hear Your Voice in the Scriptures, and to Follow the Leading of Your Holy Spirit, so as to learn to walk with You in obedience. Raise each of us up as Your true disciples, and raise up shepherds from within Your flock so that the church will be strong, shining for You in this dark world, offering Life to those who are dying.

“I AM the Door!” The Door of the Sheep:

I am the Door of the Sheep: “I AM the Door!

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 10:6-9

Introduction:

This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

Jesus had just described himself as the true Shepherd who entered by way of the “Door into the Sheepfold,” presenting Himself to the doorkeeper, “the Porter,” as the true Shepherd, evidenced by the fact that he entered by the correct door.

We saw that the door into the sheepfold represented the fulfillment of prophecy; Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies regarding His genealogy, His place of birth, the nature of His life and ministry, and, eventually, His manner of death and His resurrection, specifically after three days and three nights. We saw, in fact, that the fulfilled prophecies, (in many cases supernaturally fulfilled) collectively, are the Credentials of God, and the Pedigree of the Messiah.

Another Door

Now Jesus says, “I am the Door of the Sheep.”  Notice He did not say, I am the “door into the Sheepfold.”

Jesus entered by the “Door into the Sheepfold:” the fulfillment of prophecy…all of it!

But the Sheep do not enter by that “door.” We enter through Jesus. Jesus had a very high “bar” to pass in order to enter as the Shepherd. Ours is easy: Jesus calls and we enter by faith, through Him, as the Door of the Sheep.

The invitation is open: “I am the Door: if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.” We are to enter through Jesus, and then walk with Him. Remember, in verses 3 and 4, He said that He leads His sheep out. (Out where? Out into everyday life!) We still have to live in this world: Jesus wants us to walk with Him, and He will lead us to where He wants us, and feed us there.

Jesus said “I am the Door of the Sheep”

Perhaps it is important to note that the invitation is not only “inclusive,” in the sense that “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” But it is also “exclusive,” in the sense that only those who believe in Him, placing their trust in His shed blood, can enter through this Door! And there is no other door.

Please turn in your Bible to Romans 3:25. In Romans 3:25… (Speaking of Jesus, he says,) 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,”

Paul makes a quiet point, which is echoed all through the scripture, but which is “spelled out” here: Jesus satisfied the Righteousness and Holiness of God (That is what “propitiation” means: “satisfaction of God’s Righteousness”)…But how? It becomes a working reality through faith in His Blood.

There is nothing we can “do,” on our own, to seize upon His sacrifice, nor to “earn” God’s Grace. Grace is specifically unearned favor. What Jesus accomplished at the Cross was to open to ALL people, the way into God’s presence. But the way to enter in is by faith in His blood. Not by adherence to His commands, but by faith in His Blood.

Faith is how we enter in, and how we are saved!

Obedience is how we walk in fellowship with the living God.

By a New and Living Way

(Please turn in your Bible to Hebrews chapter ten, verses 19 and 20.)

In Hebrews 10:19, 20 we see this truth laid out in very stark, plain terms.

19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

Take note of several key words and phrases:

  • Brethren…enter…into the Holiest…by the blood of Jesus
  • Through the veil…His flesh.

Remember that the veil in the Temple, which blocked the way to the Holy of Holies, was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died, thus opening the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. Here in Hebrews 10:20, we see that the veil was a “picture” or a “prefiguring” of Jesus’s physical body: That is, until His body was offered as a sacrifice, and His Blood was shed, the way to approach God was still closed.

At His death, the way to approach God was opened. But we still enter in through that one way: “through the veil…His flesh.” And we enter in by one means: “by the blood of Jesus.”

We are still saved by Grace (it is never something we can earn.) and we are still saved through faith (this is the means by which we lay hold of the promise: we believe it!) But the faith is specifically to be in Jesus’s shed blood, as we saw in Romans 3:25.

What was “New and Living” about this “Way?”

We (all of us) enter in often, continually… via a living Savior; whereas, in the Old Covenant, only the High Priest could enter, and only once a year, and always with the blood of a freshly sacrificed lamb. And the sacrifice could not take away sin. Only Jesus can take away sin.

Look at Hebrews 10:4, while we are still in Hebrews: It says that it was not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. Animal sacrifices cannot take away sin: they never could. They provided a temporary covering, through faith, looking forward to the Cross. But when John the Baptist introduced Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the Sin of the World!” That is new!

How many “doors” are there? Two Gates:

Another word for a “door” is “Gate.” Jesus pointed out two gates, in Matthew 7:13, 14.

Matthew 7:13, 14 “13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

The Narrow Gate

The Narrow gate is Jesus, and His blood sacrifice. It is wide enough to include anyone who is willing to trust in Him for salvation, but it excludes all who try to enter in by some other means.

We can see only one name on this gate: there is only room for one. Acts 4:12 says, “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved.” That was Peter, speaking to the Jews, regarding the Name of Jesus. Philippians 2:10, 11 says that a time is coming when “at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess…to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus: That is the Name on the Narrow Gate.

The Broad Gate

But the Broad Gate has lots of room, and the name of every other “way” is posted there.

Going back to John 10:8, we see that Jesus said all the other “saviors” who parade themselves as the “way” to God, or who claim that “all ways lead to the same God,” are “thieves and robbers.”

Now, that sounds harsh, and judgmental, doesn’t it? But you want to remember that this is Jesus, God in the Flesh, warning us that there are enemies in the world and that the result of following those enemies can be eternal loss.

Theives and Robbers!

There was a fellow named Jim Jones, back in 1974, who claimed to be a savior, but he taught communism, and by 1978, he had moved 900 of his followers to Guyana where he forced them all to commit suicide, and those who resisted were shot to death. They had entered in by the broad gate, following someone who specifically had rejected Christianity: Jim Jones threw his Bible down, publicly saying, “You don’t need the Bible! You need me!” And they all died!

There was another fellow, before him, who called himself “Father Divine” and claimed to be God. There have been hundreds down through the years, who have made similar claims. Some were famous, like Sun Myung Moon, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Others were less famous, like Roy Masters, of Oregon, who claimed he “could do no wrong.” But all of their names comfortably fit on the “Broad Gate.”

Some are not even names of people, but rather, of organizations, churches, creeds, secret societies, clubs, world views, etc. That is really not an important difference: Either you ARE placing your faith in Jesus, and His shed blood; trusting in His completed work at the Cross, or you are not! If you are not, then you are attempting to enter by the “Broad Gate.” And there are countless names there!

But Jesus is the only name on the Narrow Gate…He is the “Door of the Sheep.”

“Oh, but, that’s Narrowminded!” (But, is it?)

This is a point of contention to a lot of unbelievers, as they immediately begin to complain that this is an unreasonable restriction; it’s very “narrowminded,” and that “all the millions of other ‘religious people’ can’t all be wrong!”

Unfortunately, truth is not determined by a vote: things either are true, or they are not. As an example: all of us depend on oxygen, every moment we live. No one sees fit to rebel against that, or to complain that they ought to be able to live in a pure helium environment, or any such thing they choose.

Embrace Reality!

We are aware of many things that are “just the way it is,” where arguing doesn’t help. Some such things we cheerfully accept, others regretfully. We appreciate gravity, most of the time, but we don’t like that fact that we all die. Yet both are universally true. We have to embrace reality!

Jesus truly is God’s only provision for the salvation of the Human race. If you think that is a “bad thing,” you can argue with Him about it, if you want. But do bear in mind that He doesn’t “owe” us anything! Throughout our history as a Race, we have consistently rebelled against God, our Creator, at every step of the way. We only get worse, not better, and we still think that though God provides our very lives, and all our sustenance, we don’t need or want Him to have anything to do with directing our lives. We want to be our own boss!

God’s Choice

So, the amazing thing, to me, is that He chose to offer us His Grace at all. It does not surprise me that there isn’t a “grab-bag” of different ways to approach Him, or a “smorgasbord” from which we can select the things we want, and reject the rest. God is Holy! He is the Ruler! There is no other God, and He does not owe us a thing! It is amazing that He offered us anything at all! But it leaves us with a choice.

Our Choices

We can choose to be eternally safe with Him, trusting in His promise, or we can choose to be eternally separated from Him, in our rebellion and unbelief. Those are the choices.

Jesus said, I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

He does not “demand” that you do anything: He only invites you to enter.

In John 14:6, however,  Jesus makes a claim, that we must not ignore: Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”

So, when you (or anyone you know) is making that choice, it is important to know that Jesus said “no other way will lead you to God.” You can accept that, or reject it: but that is what He said.

Sebsequent Choices

Once you choose to believe, and enter in by the Door of the Sheep (Jesus) you are eternally His, and He invites you to walk with Him, in faith and obedience, reaping the blessing of that ongoing relationship. Sheep need the Shepherd: In the next verses we will see how Jesus presents Himself as that Good Shepherd.

But for today, we will stop with just knowing the choice that must be made. Some of you have sought to share your faith with others. Perhaps these things we have read today will help you to do so.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts and minds to the urgency of the Gospel, so we can see the vital need to make good choices, and to begin by choosing Life in Christ. Then help us to make choices that honor You and that cause us to shine as lights in this dark world. Glorify Yourself through Your Church.

Finding Freedom in Christ

Finding Freedom in Christ

© 2022, C. O. Bishop

John 8:33-47

Introduction:

We addressed the issue of discipleship last week, but only the fact that Jesus wants us to transition from just being His offspring, having been born again into His family. He asks that we grow up, into full-grown mature sons, who can actively follow Him in true discipleship.

He concluded by saying that they would know (experiential knowledge—”gnosko“) the Truth, and the Truth would make them free. We determined that, since the word He used for “know” was the experiential “gnosko,” as opposed to just knowing a fact, that He was inviting them to learn to know Him, through an ongoing, permanent relationship, and that that relationship would set them free. But, the Pharisees found this promise offensive. They said that they were already free, and always had been!

Freedom From What?

33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

Now, they were talking utter nonsense! It was denial of the silliest kind: Why? Because, as they spoke, they were currently a slave-state to Rome, and they had been enslaved to other enemies, listed in scripture, at numerous times throughout their history! But Jesus did not address their political history. Jesus addressed the real issue: their Spiritual Slavery.

What Does His Name Mean?

Go back and see why Jesus was named “Jesus,” in the first place: in Matthew 1:21, the Angel of the Lord commanded Joseph that he would “…call his name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their Sins.” (This promise adressed the reality of original Sin! It was a more precious promise than the promise of the land, or the promise of the kingdom!)

Save His people from what? The Roman government? Some “internal political danger?” No, it was far more basic and powerful than that: the entire Human race has been enslaved to Sin, and, through sin, we are also enslaved to the fear of death, ever since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. The Law of Sin and Death has shown every single one of us to be enslaved to sin, in all ages, through every culture.

Who are His People?

He came to save His people from that slavery! So, who are His people? We can pretty much guarantee that those who originally heard that promise would have assumed He meant them: the Jews! (“Well, obviously, WE are the people of God!”)

But; remember the earlier chapters of John: who did we see Him claim as “His people?” He claimed the believers, not only there, but throughout all History! Before the Jews existed, He claimed the believers! In every country, He chose believers! Naaman, the Syrian, became a believer, and God accepted him. The thief on the Cross became a believer, and Jesus accepted him. Abraham, who lived three or more generations before the name “Jews” was ever used, believed God, and God credited it to him as righteousness.

And, yet, as we read those histories, we see that those individuals were not “free from sin.” They still sinned. Some of them sinned a great deal!

What does Jesus mean, then?

“Positional truth versus Conditional truth” may be part of the answer: God said that in the believer’s case, He would no longer remember their sin. That is true, but it isn’t very satisfying, by itself: we want a practical freedom from sin.

34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Conditional Slavery

So, here, Jesus begins to answer that question: He said whoever “practices sin” is a slave to sin. The King James Version translates that word as “commits”…we use the word “commit,” to indicate any single offense. (Either I have or I have not “committed” a crime.) But that word “poiōn” is almost always (353 times) translated “do”, and only nine times is translated “commit.” And, in this particular passage, it is a present tense, active verb: it is someone practicing sin in the “continuous, present-tense” sense of the word.

So, while positionally, I am no longer a slave to sin, the warning is, that when I exercise my will to practice sin, then I have placed myself back under the authority of my old sin nature, and I have again become currently enslaved to it. My condition is terrible at that point, but my position is still unchanged.

Positional Freedom

The people to whom Jesus actually was speaking were positionally free already, because they had already believed in Him (see verse 30.) The Pharisees who were rebelling against His words were positionally enslaved: they had never laid claim to Jesus as their Savior: they did not believe in Him.

He offered that practical freedom only to those who believed, according to verses 31 and 32…He tells us, as believers,that we can walk in holiness and obedience. How? By immersing ourselves in Him! By continually building that relationship, and with it, the relational, experiential knowledge of the God we serve, we allow the Son to make us Free! That is what sets us free! An unbeliever can’t walk with Him at all! That offer can’t even be made to them, except in the smallest sense. If they chose to know Him as their Messiah—their Savior—then they would have been positionally clean; Positionally free.

Spiritually Enslaved

But the unbelievers were not qualified to even begin that journey! They were truly enslaved to Sin. They proved it by their response to the Light that He was shining into their lives. Jesus had already warned them that unless something changed, they were going to die in their sins. He went on to address the Pharisees as a group:

Who is your Father?

37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. 38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

Jesus said that He, Himself, was imitating His father: and that they were failing to do so, because they were imitating their spiritual father, whom He has not yet identified.

39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

The Jews claim Abraham as their father…so do the Arabs! And both are technically correct, in terms of physical genealogies! Abraham was the father of Ishmael, through Hagar, and he was the father of Isaac, through Sarah. And, relationally, it wasn’t doing either group a bit of good! Neither group is emulating their physical forefather, Abraham.

You are acting like your Father!

Jesus pointed out that they were not acting like Abraham’s children. Abraham demonstrated real faith in his life, and, when confronted with Melchizedek, he accepted Him for who He was, and he brought an offering. Jesus revealed that they were not acting like that, thus they must have a different father than whom they claimed.

 41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

Now they increased the stakes, and claimed God as their Father! So, what is wrong with that? I have lost count of the number of times I have had someone tell me, with great piety and dignity, that “Everyone is a Child of God!” (Well, we are about to discover that it is simply not true!)

Physical Behavior reveals Spiritual Parentage

42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

Response to the Light reveals Character

43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

You are probably getting tired of hearing me repeat J. Vernon McGee’s story about the animals’ responses to his lantern, in the barn: they reacted differently to the light, because they were different inside. The rats fled from the light because they were rats, creatures of the night, and they saw the young man with the light as their mortal enemy. The birds in the rafters sang when they saw the light, because they were creatures of the day; creatures of the light, and they thought the lantern was sunrise!

Spiritual Heritage

Jesus said that His detractors were behaving just like their spiritual father.

44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

He said their spiritual father was Satan, and that their incompatibility with truth (and therefore light) as well as their insatiable desire to kill anyone who called them on their sin, were the evidence that proved their parentage. They were at that moment (and repeatedly) showing themselves to be liars and murderers. I remember the first time I read this, thinking, “But Satan never killed anyone!” Then I realized that when he convinced Adam to sin, he killed the entire human race! Yes, Satan was a murderer from the beginning! The question is, what are we going to do about our spiritual heritage?

Why Did they Not Believe?

45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. 46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?

When the woman caught in adultery was accused, in verses 1-11, Jesus dismissed the accusers by suggesting that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone. Here, He did no such thing: He simply challenged them to make the accusation. (“What sin am I accused of? Which of you can rightfully accuse me?”) Then He pressed it further, saying, “and if I have been telling the truth all along, why have you not believed Me?

We are uncomfortable with this exchange, because it accuses us as well. (If I know that God’s Word is true, then why do I still rebel against it? Why do I not agree with it across the board?) The problem is that I still sin: I still have a sin nature, and I am prone to deciding, “Well, this is ok! This is small! I can do what I want, here! I’m the one in charge right now!”

Who is in Charge?

But that sort of thinking has no real stopping point: once I decide that I can rebel against the truth, there is no logical stopping point. I declare myself to be the Sovereign in my little sphere, and I effectively attempt to “evict God”…or, at least, “dethrone” Him!” At that point I am as surely enslaved to sin as if I had never been saved!

The only saving Grace is exactly that: Saving Grace. I have peace with God, in the sense that He will never again treat me as His enemy. But I do not have the Peace of God! I am not experiencing that love-relationship that He promised would free me from my sin. Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus said,

 47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

The Pharisees were proving their parentage. We, as believers, need to carefully consider what we are demonstrating: In our lives, every day, we have choices to make. How we make those choices at least shows “who is on the throne” in our lives. Our old Sin nature is still there, and it will still “take charge” if we allow it. It will then manifest itself in our resulting behavior. We will behave in a self-centered manner, thinking primarily of how things affect us, rather than how we can affect others for good.

How I respond to God’s truth, as a believer, demonstrates my condition: am I in fellowship with God, or am I just living the self-willed life?

Peace and Freedom are for Believers!

Jesus spoke to the believers when He made the promise of Freedom! Peace with God can only come to those who have received Gods Grace. The Peace of God can only come to believers who are in fellowship with Him and are living in His Grace.

You have to decide. I have to decide, moment-by-moment and day-by-day, “Will I choose to experience His Peace, and His Freedom from the tyranny of Sin in my life?” The Freedom He promised only comes as we walk with Jesus in faith and obedience. Yes; as born again believers, we belong to Him. But we still need to live as His disciples, by Faith and Obedience..

Lord Jesus, we desire to be free from our slavery to sin. We desire to experience your Peace and Your Freedom. Free us from our sins and teach us to walk with You by Faith. Teach us to Obey by faith. Teach us to Love by Faith. Make us your disciples in Truth.

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:21-30; (John 8:21, 22; John 8:23-27; John 8:28-30)

Introduction

Last week we examined Jesus’s observation that the Pharisees and their group did not know anything about the Father or the Son: They lacked even a rudimentary knowledge about His Character and His Person, let alone any sort of personal, relational or experiential knowledge.

Obviously, this proud, supposedly well-educated group of Pharisees did not want to hear such things, and they were not going to take it lightly. As we saw back in John 7: 32, 45, 46, they really wanted to have him arrested and done away with…but they had been unable to do so. We saw last week, in John 8:20 that the reason they were unable to arrest Him is that He was the One in control: They could not lay hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come.

And, in the meantime… Jesus was not done telling them “what’s what!” He let them know the consequences of their unbelief.

I go My Way and Ye shall Seek Me.

John 8:21, 22

21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. 22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.

Jesus led up to a challenge, of sorts, and a prophecy concerning the near future. He told them that He would be leaving, and that they would seek Him. Jesus said they would die in their sins, not having found Him. He further said that where He was going, they could not follow.

The Pharisees had no idea what Jesus was talking about. They jumped to the conclusion that He was planning to commit suicide, because He said they would not be able to follow Him. But that only underscored the fact that they had no idea Who He really was.

So, Jesus added to their confusion, but, at the same time He explained Who He was to the other listeners. (Remember, He had been teaching in the temple—there was a crowd present.)

Ye are from Beneath, I am from Above

John 8:23-27

23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. 25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. 27 They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.

Jesus began to rebuild the foundation for people to believe in Him. He had told them who He was, as the Savior, as the Son of God, as the Eternal Judge, from the beginning. But the Pharisees had ignored the truth all along, so  they literally did not know who He was. The rest of the people, however, had been gradually catching on, and some believed.

But Jesus had to make a sharp delineation between the status of a natural human being and the “God-Man,” (Fully God and Fully Man) of supernatural birth and Heavenly origin.

He plainly told them, “You (plural) are from beneath: I am from above.” The origin of each was critically important. Our Deliverer could not be a slave to Sin, Himself. The rules for the Kinsman-Redeemer were very clear:

The Kinsman-Redeemer

  1. He had to be a near relative. (Jesus was physically born into the Human Race for this express reason. He had to be “one of us,” in that way. The promised “Seed of the Woman,” predicted in Genesis 3:15 had to be born of a Woman…but not of a man. Jesus was the only One who could qualify.
  2. He had to be free Himself. A slave could not redeem another slave. Jesus was not a slave to Sin, being born without a sin-nature. (Evidently, being without a human father meant that He did not inherit the sin nature from Adam.)
  3. He had to have the Price of Redemption. In Boaz’s case, in the Book of Ruth, it simply meant he had to be physically wealthy enough to purchase the land and take on the financial responsibility involved. In Jesus’s case, however, it meant that He had to have a perfect life and a perfect blood-sacrifice…His own blood, from a sinless Man.
  4. He had to be Willing. Boaz was willing, whereas the other (potentially better qualified) relative, was not willing. Jesus willingly went to the Cross. He voluntarily laid down His life: He said, “No man taketh my life from Me…I lay it down of my own will and I will take it up again of my own will.” (John 10:17, 18 summarized)

If Jesus was not “From Above,” because of His supernatural birth and parentage–If He was not thereby free from the baggage of guilt and sin with which the entire Human race was burdened, then He could not be the Redeemer. He would not be Free Himself, and regardless of whether He was willing to be our Redeemer, He would not be qualified!

“If ye believe not that I am He, Ye shall die in your Sins”

Jesus connected the fact that He was “not of this world” to the fact that they would die in their sins: It was not just the fact that He was from one source, and they were from another: The issue was their unbelief: and it always has been! In Numbers 13:11, The LORD asked Moses, regarding the children of Israel, “How long will it be ere they believe me?

Unbelief is always the barrier. Jesus said, in John 3:18, “…he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Rejecting Light

Part of the problem is that the door to the truth has always been the Will, not the Intellect. People who have heard the Gospel usually don’t need “more light” as badly as they need to respond to the light they have. Jesus went on to say, in John 3:19, that “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the World, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

People reject the Light of God’s Word, out of hand, because they are offended that it exposes them for who they are: it shows them to be sinners. Having rejected that Light, it is senseless for them to stand around, demanding more light: they already have rejected the Light!

If they somehow come to a point of repentance, and are willing to receive light, then things can change. They can begin to see things through God’s eyes, and see the Truth of His Word. But these men were actively rebelling against the Light that Jesus was shining into their lives.

Who is Jesus?

So, when they asked Him again, “Who art thou?” Jesus just reminded them that they had already had that answer, repeatedly. Jesus had presented Himself as the Son of God: He had shown His power in miraculous healings and other ways; providing food for thousands, and miraculously providing wine for a wedding feast. He had even revealed that He was the eternal Judge of all the Earth. Finally, He had told them that He, alone, was the Light of the World and the Bread of Life.

So, now, He only said, “I’m Who I told you I was, from the Beginning.” He went on to say that He had a great deal to tell them, and that the things He was saying were true, because the One who sent Him was true: Jesus was only going to share what the Father told Him to share. They still did not understand that He was referring to the Father, so, Jesus made it more specific, and said that they were not really going to understand until it was too late.

When Ye Have Lifted up the Son of Man

John 8:28-30

28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. 30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.

In verse 28, Jesus predicted His own Crucifixion. Compare this passage to John 12:32, 33, where Jesus used the same phrase: it specifically explains that he was referring to the crucifixion, that He was predicting the manner in which He would die.

He said that then (after His death) they would realize who He was, and that He had only done as the Father had directed Him. Jesus said that the Father was continually with Him, so that He was not alone.

“Modern advantages”

Now: we “modern Gentiles” have two advantages, if you want to call them that:

  1. We were not born Jews, so we do not feel any resentment at the accusation that “we have killed our own Messiah.” Some Jews have freely recognized and confessed the national error, and have embraced their slain Messiah, as their Risen Christ…the Living Messiah, and their Living God in the Flesh.

    Yes, they are grieved at the tragedy, but they rejoice in His victory! But most of us, as Gentiles, never had that as a stumbling block to begin with. (Of course, the other side of that coin is that we also never had the blessing of being one of the chosen people of God. We did not grow up with the heritage of the Law and the Prophets.)
  2. We did not live back then, so ALL of our view of Jesus is “after the fact.” Also, we did not have to wait for the crucifixion: It already happened. Thus, we see His whole ministry in past tense, including His life and death and burial and resurrection, and it all fits! We believe it!

Who is responsible? (And How do We Reply?)

The truth, though, is: He died for the Whole World: there has never been a human being, (other than Jesus Himself,) whose sins were not on that Cross with Jesus. No one needs to feel “more” guilty of His death than anyone else. On the other hand, none of us can feel “less” accountable to God for His sacrifice. The question in every person’s life, is “What are you going to do with Jesus?”

As an unbeliever, I faced that question because I ignorantly and arrogantly rebelled against Him. But the time came when I saw myself as a helpless sinner. I was unable to “keep the rules” even if I made the rules! It was finally obvious to me that I needed Him as my Savior. I did not understand much else, initially: There is no way I could have explained the Law of the Substitute, nor had I ever heard of the Kinsman-Redeemer. I just knew I needed a Savior, and that Jesus was the One!

The Question For Every Day

Today, as a believer, that question is still at the forefront, every day: Will I respond to Him as my Master, in obedience, as God, in worship: as my Sustainer, Provider and Protector, in faith, prayer, and active trust? Or will I forget He is there at all, until a crisis arises of some sort?

We live long after the time of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We know who He is and what He has done for us. But we are among those in verse 30, where it says, As he spake these words, many believed on him.”  They placed their faith in Jesus. So have we!

“Shoe-Leather Faith”

But, what did they do later? We are not told. In the next chapter, we will see the story of one man who believed, and who suffered persecution for his faith, but he went on to become a worshipper of Jesus in the midst of that persecution. He “put shoe-leather on his faith!”

What God asks all of us to do, is to “put shoe-leather on our faith.” Put it into practice! “Walk the walk,” as people sometimes say today.

In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul begs us to “…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” He goes on to explain what that means, in terms of how we relate to one another. In fact, Paul spends most of the rest of the Book of Ephesians, teaching what that means in every part of life.

Possible Outcomes

Some of the people who believed would go on to be martyred for their faith. Others lived long, quiet lives, blessing those around them and honoring the Lord in every area of their lives. Some did neither: they eventually slipped back into the World’s way of thought and behavior. We can read about each kind of believer throughout the book of Acts and the Epistles.

Choosing Shoe-Leather

Each of you has a will: you make choices. Each of you has an intellect: you think and learn. You can read your Bible to intellectually learn what God wants you to do. But, ultimately, “The door to the truth is the Will, not the intellect.”

You have to decide, day by day, and moment by moment, what you will actually do with Jesus. I have to make that same decision, too, every day. Use your Intellect, but use your Will, as well, to choose to “put Shoe-leather on your faith.”

Lord Jesus, teach us to make right decisions, and to walk with you in the light of your Word, every day. Shape us into your likeness, and use us as tools in Your hands. Let us reflect Your light in all parts of our lives.

“Ye Neither Know Me nor My Father:”

Ye Neither Know Me nor My Father

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:13-20

Introduction

Last week, we examined the statement Jesus made, identifying Himself both as the Light of the World, and (because of His use of the “I AM” phrase,) as God. Anyone who heard Him and who was willing to consider the implication of His words would have seen that He was claiming to be the Creator, as well as the Judge, and the Lawgiver—the Light of Israel, and their Savior. From their response it is pretty clear that the majority did not see those truths.

The only verbal response of the Pharisees, to that simple statement, was that since he was bearing witness of himself, His testimony must not be true. That is illogical, as, ultimately, every testimony regarding oneself (including the times they demanded that He identify Himself) have to be one person confessing their own identity. But Jesus didn’t argue with them regarding the lack of logic: He addressed the real issue: He was telling the truth, and there were other witnesses to His identity as well.

13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. 14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. 16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. 17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. 20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

My Record is True

Jesus’s first defense is that He Himself actually knew where He had come from, and they did not. They couldn’t ascertain the truth of His testimony, as they made no investigation as to His lineage or place of birth, let alone to see what other prophecies He had already fulfilled. They tried to brand Him a liar, simply because they wanted to silence Him!

I have several times heard people denouncing the Bible as “fairy tales, fiction, lies, etc.” Why were they saying such things? Because the Bible offended them, and they wanted to silence it. But, in every case where I was able to question the accusers at all, it turned out they knew virtually nothing of what the Bible actually teaches, and understood nothing of the little they knew. They were acting exactly as the Pharisees acted, and for the same motive! We know from 1st Corinthians 1:23 that the Gospel will always offend people. What they do about that “offense” will ultimately determine the outcome in their life.

Why does the Gospel Offend People?

As we have mentioned in the past, every example of “good news” (that is what “Gospel” means) is predicated upon some pre-existing “bad news.” In this case the “bad news” is that the entire World is condemned, and guilty before God for two reasons:

  1. Because of the Sin of Adam, (what we call “Original Sin) which plunged us all into spiritual death, being separated from God, and unable to approach Him or fellowship with Him, and,
  2. Because of our personal sins, which we commit by choice. Romans 1:18-32 outlines the overall slide of the Human Race, down through History, away from a relationship with God.

Responding to Guilt and dealing with Sin

There are four possible responses to that fact of guilt:

  1. We can simply deny that Sin exists, and thereby brush away any such accusations. To achieve this, one has to deny that there is such a thing as “right and wrong,” Most people have a pretty clear recognition that right and wrong exist, even if they can’t quite define either one of them. Therefore, since most people do see “right versus wrong” as a legitimate concern, most will not choose this response.
  • A second option is to admit that Sin exists, but deny that it really matters, because “God is so loving and forgiving that He surely will not judge us harshly.” (Funny…that is exactly what the Serpent told Eve, in Genesis, too! “Thou shalt not surely die!”) But, since most people also are aware of a concept of justice; that “wrongs should be righted:” that “Evil should be punished,” and “Good should be rewarded,” most people are also uncomfortable with saying “sin doesn’t matter.” (They know it does matter!)
  • We can deny that we personally are sinners, angrily “wrapping ourselves in the rags of our self-righteousness,” saying “Well, yes, there is Sin in the world, but I’m GOOD!” This requires deep self-delusion, to ignore the marks of sin in our own lives. So, most world-religions start with this idea and go just a little further, saying, “Well, yes, we are sinners, but not very “bad” sinners, and what little guilt there is in our lives, we will overbalance by our good works!” Human Religion builds upon this concept: “I can DO things to make God accept me!” It ignores the concept of God’s Holiness: it assumes He can be “bought off” by our trivial human works. Paul addressed this idea in Galatians 2:21I do not frustrate the Grace of God, for if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain!”
  • The fourth response is full confession of both who we are, as lost sinners, and the fact that we cannot save ourselves. We don’t like that! It offends us! We want to claim the “innate goodness of the Human Race,” when God says quite the opposite: He says, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags!” (Isaiah 64:6)
    You see, the “Bad news” is that “All we like Sheep have gone astray, and have turned every one to his own way!” But the Good news is the other half of that same verse: “The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all!” (Isaiah 53:6)

Embracing the Cross

Do you see the difference in that fourth response? It does not deny that Sin exists. Nor does it deny that Sin is serious. It does not deny personal guilt, nor does it claim that we can somehow save ourselves: Instead, it confesses that Jesus alone can take away my sin and give me a right standing before God. It places my only hope right where it belongs, casting myself completely on the Mercy and Grace of God, which He provided for all sinners, at the Cross.

We embrace God’s chosen sacrifice by faith. Every saved person in history has done exactly the same thing, from Adam and Eve, being clothed with the Blood Sacrifice that God made for them in the Garden of Eden, to the Children of Israel huddling under the Blood of the Passover Lamb, and trusting God to save them from the coming Judgment, and the Thief on the Cross, trusting in Jesus for Mercy. And every single one received the same promise in return: Eternal life, freely given and never revoked. Jesus said, “He that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.”

Make it Personal

We make it personal, by personal choice. The people at that first Passover knew that God was judging Egypt that night: They killed the Lamb, and they dipped a bundle of hyssop in the blood of that Lamb, and they struck the blood onto the lintel and the two doorposts. But that wasn’t all: remember, every individual in each house personally ate of that Lamb. They did not just sit back and say, “I approve of this sacrifice!” They confessed that the Lamb was killed for their sake, personally, by eating of the Lamb, personally.

It is one thing to agree that “Jesus died for the Sins of the Whole World,” but entirely another to recognize that “He died because of my sins.” I need to personally embrace the Cross by faith, confessing that His sacrifice is for me, personally, not just a nice “theory” about which we all should “feel good.”

Embracing Truth

Jesus said (v. 15) that the Pharisees were “Judging after the Flesh.” They had corrupt motives and they judged accordingly. In this particular ministry (v. 16,) Jesus was not judging people: He came to offer Grace. (We saw that, exemplified, in verses 1-11.)

The amazing thing about that verse, though, is that He really is the Holy and Eternal Judge of all the Earth! He was temporarily setting aside His position as our Judge, in order to offer us His Grace. He said “I’m not judging anyone, but when I do judge (and He will!), My Judgment will be true, because it will be in full agreement with God the Father.

The only way for us to survive that judgment, is to embrace the truth: Embrace the fact of our sin, and embrace the fact that Jesus’s blood takes away sin. Embrace the “Bad News” that God hates sin, and that Judgment is coming… but also embrace the “Good News” that Jesus Saves!

Knowing The Father and the Son

Interestingly, this passage does not use the Greek word “ginosko,” which means an ongoing, experiential, relational knowledge. I had always assumed that was the “knowledge” Jesus said they didn’t have. But this is the other Greek word for “Know,” (“oida”) meaning simply knowing as a fact, or knowing about someone or some concept. Jesus was saying “You don’t know even who I am nor do you understand who my Father is at all!”

One place we see both of those words used, side by side, and contrasted, is in what I find to be a hilarious passage in Acts 19:11-16 There were certain unbelieving Jews who had been selling their services as “exorcists.” They saw that Paul was “the real McCoy,” so to speak, so seven of them attempted to use the Name of Jesus, as Paul did, to cast out demons.

They stood before a demon-possessed man, and said to the evil spirit, “We command you by the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” And the evil spirit answered, saying (KJV) “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?!” And He jumped on them and savagely beat them all, so that they ran away, bleeding and without their clothes! (Ha! I love that story!)

Two Ways to Know

But what was really happening there? The spirit actually said “Jesus, I know personally (“ginosko:”) I have experiential knowledge of Him. And I have heard of Paul (“oida”) I know about him. But you are not connected with either of them: you have zero authority!”

So, Jesus, far from only saying they lacked experiential, relational knowledge of God, was saying that the Pharisees knew nothing about Him. And they knew nothing of Jesus, as well! He effectively told them “If you knew anything about My Father, you would also know about Me!”

The Pharisees weren’t just lacking a “relationship with God:” they were so far removed from the truth that Jesus said they knew nothing about Him! But some believed, as we see in v. 30. And, in verse 20, we see that they couldn’t take him prisoner, nor attack Him, because He was the One in control: His hour had not yet come.

Experiential Knowledge

Once a person has confessed that they need a Savior and has placed their full trust in Jesus as that Savior, they have the “knowledge” Jesus addressed here: But from that point forward, we are encouraged, and admonished, and commanded to grow in the other kind of knowledge: the experiential, relational, personal, ongoing knowledge of the Holy God who has chosen us to be born again. He reached out to the whole world, and paid the sin-debt of the whole world, offering eternal life to the Whole World.

We entered in by faith, and by a free choice, having seen the clear invitation, “Whosoever Will may come!” But once inside, we looked back at that same door through which we entered and see that on the inside, it says “Chosen in Him from the foundation of the Earth!”

And now He says to follow Him, trust in Him, learn from Him! This is how we gain experiential knowledge of God. We study His Word, that we may grow thereby (He commands this!) We learn to use the tools He has given us, and the Light, by which to walk with God.

Embracing Jesus

Most religions give some sort of “lip service” to “honoring Jesus:” they declare him to be “a great teacher, a philosopher, a prophet, a mystic, or a miracle-worker.” They may declare Him to be a “Mighty Spirit-Being.” They may even be so bold as to declare Him to be “a god.” But they will not confess that He is the Almighty Creator; God in the Flesh: God the Son. Eternally God, and the eternally “Anointed One” (Messiah.) “The Lamb Slain from the foundation of the World.”

And that is the Jesus we are confessing: The Biblical Jesus. Not some imaginary, created being, whom we may see with great respect, gratitude, or love, as if He were simply a Human Hero.

No! He is God! He is the Creator who spoke the World into existence. He is the King. He is the Master. (We don’t like that concept, but here it is: He is our Master!)

Each of us still has a sin nature, and we don’t like the idea that “someone else is the Boss!” We still desire self-realization, self-direction, self-rule. We say, “I want to be my own Person.” In strictly Human terms, that sounds fine, but this craving for autonomy actually began in the rebellion of Lucifer, which destroyed him as a holy angel, and destroyed us, through Adam. We can read Lucifer’s five statements of self-will in Isaiah 14:12-15. He wanted to be his own boss!

Embracing the Master

Embracing Jesus” means embracing Him as our Lord! Embracing Him as our Master!

“Embracing Jesus” means embracing the tasks He gives us, on a day-by-day basis, as well as the overall Job He has given us, as Ambassadors of Christ.  We are to shine in this dark world, as we noted last week. How? Well, Jesus said, “So let your light shine before Men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven!”

Every winter I  eventually notice that the headlights on my car seem to be getting more and more dim. Finally, I get out of the car and check the headlamps, and sure enough, they are so encrusted with road grime that the burning light on the inside is hardly able to get through the dirt on the outside. We need to check ourselves on a regular basis to see that we are not becoming so “spotted by the world” that the Light of God’s Love is no longer visible. It can happen!

So, we address the “Dirt”…the Sin that is dimming the light in our lives, by confessing it to God. 1st John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1st John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”

That is why He calls it “walking:” there is no coasting, or gliding: it is a “one-step-at-a-time” walk of faith and obedience.

Lord Jesus, cleanse our lives and teach us to walk in obedience to Your Word and to Your Spirit. Let our lives shine as quiet testimony of your Grace, and open our mouths to share the Gospel with those around us.

“I AM the Light of the World!”

I AM the Light of the World

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Introduction

We addressed this passage over a year ago, as a part of our treatment of John 1:4, 5, where we saw regarding the Word, that, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men, and the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness was not able to extinguish it.”

I was tempted to just skip over John 8:12, since we covered it so recently, but it seemed good to reexamine the passage, since, for one thing, it is the very next passage after what we studied last week, but, especially, because it is one of the seven “I AM” statements in the book of John.

Seven “I Am” statements

There are seven places in the Book of John where Jesus used the “I AM” phrase, identifying Himself. The “Title” and “Cornerstone” of those seven  “I AM” statements is an eighth example, at the end of this chapter. It leaves no question as to what is being said. We will address that one (John 8:58)when we get there, but it says, Before Abraham was, I AM.” (Not “I was:” I AM!)

The other seven “I AM” statements, identifying Jesus, are given in the following order:

  1. I am The Bread of life (John 6:35, 48, 51)
  2. I am The Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. I am The Door (John 10:7, 9)
  4. I am The Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14)
  5. I am The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
  6. I am The Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
  7. I am The Vine (John 15:1, 5)

We have already addressed the first one: we saw Jesus as the Bread of Life in John chapter six. We need to give some thought, today, to the fact that He is also the Light of the World.

What is “The World?”

Who or what is “the World?”There are various concepts in the scripture regarding “the world.” One, of course, is the planet, itself: Two words are used to denote the land, as the world: One is the Greek word “Ge” from which we get geology, and geography. It always means the planet.

Another is the Greek word “oikoumene,” which refers to the habitable portions of the earth, and from which we get the word ecumenical. It is a very old word, and it implies all the peoples of the world and their home places.

But, for instance, when a statement is made regarding the “end of the world,” the Greek word translated “world” is actually “aiōnos” meaning eon, or age. The world we live in has a “shelf life,” or a “pull-date.” (We are probably getting close to that “pull-date,” but we do not know when it will come.)

So, when Jesus said, (in the King James Bible) “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” what it really says is “…until the end of the age.” But, this world we live in is about to be replaced, so, the “end of the age” actually is the “end of the world,” as well.

“Kosmos”

Another word which is virtually always translated as “world” is the Greek word “kosmos.” (It is used 188 times in the New Testament, and 187 times it is translated as “world.”) Sometimes it means the people of the world: John 3:16 says “God so loved the World…” and the word, there, is “kosmos.”

1st John 2:2 says that Jesus was the propitiation for not only our sins, but also for the sins of the “whole World.” And, again, the Greek word is “kosmos.

However, sometimes, the exact same word is used to mean the “World system of thought, and its moral stance, etc.” Thus, when John says (1st John 2:15-17) “…love not the World, neither the things that are in the world,” the same word, kosmos, is used. But, in that passage, John also makes it clear that the things he is speaking of are all the sinful practices, motives, thoughts, and desires that are in the World at large. Not the people of the World, for whom He died.

It would have been easier for us, perhaps, if the language were a little more specific, so that we could clearly distinguish the meaning. Which passages are speaking of the people of the world, whom we are commanded to love and to whom we are commanded to offer the light of Christ, and which passages are referring to the evil world system of thought and practice? But we are forced to examine the context to see which is which.

What is the meaning?

As you may have suspected, the word translated as “world,” here in John 8:12, is also “kosmos.” So, from the context, which aspect of the word “kosmos” would you say it means?

Is Jesus “the Light of all the sinful practices, motives, thoughts, and desires that are in the World at large?” Or is He more likely saying that He is the light of all the people in the World, for whom He came to give His life?

In reality, He shines His light on both: Effectively, He is the light of those He came to save, but the light shines for everyone, whether people accept it or not.

What is The Light?

The Greek word translated “light” is phōs” from which we get the words photons, photograph, phosphorescence, and others. It is used widely in the New Testament, covering some uses where it is obvious that literal, physical light, is in question. It covers others where spiritual, moral, or intellectual light is in context. There are other words which specifically mean a lamp or a light-source.

But this word “phōs,” is used 72 times in the New Testament, and all but two times it is translated as “light.” (And in those two, it is translated as “fire.”) So, again, we have to examine the context of each passage and see whether the light is in reference to mere physical light, or something else.

What is the Context?

When Jesus makes this statement: who is He talking to, and what is He intending to convey? We are not given the option to believe that He is talking about the mere physical light of the Sun, though we know (ultimately) He is the source of that light, as well: He is the Creator and sustainer of the Sun, and all other matter.

It is interesting to see that in all but a few passages in the New Testament, the word “light” is always in reference to spiritual light, not physical light. In the few passages where the meaning could go either way, the context shows that spiritual light is the true meaning. But, for instance, when it says “whatsoever maketh manifest is light,” the physical light is used as the practical demonstration of the principle that “light dispels darkness.” And the context shows that the spiritual, moral light of the Holy Spirit, indwelling the believers, is the light that dispels darkness around us in this world.

In Philippians 2:15, we are told to “shine as lights” in the world. The words in that passage, translated “lights” and “world,” as you may guess, are from the roots “phōs,” and “kosmos.” We are to be a constant, reliable source of moral and spiritual light, dispelling darkness in the lives of the people of the World.

What about Jesus?

How is Jesus the Light of the World? He is the One who dispels darkness. He offers the only true light, and people either turn to it, in hope, and faith, or they turn away from it. Jesus said that the majority would reject His Light, reject His Word, Reject His Love. He says that He is the Word, that He is the Light, and He is Love. So, the sad reality is that most people will reject Jesus.

But Jesus still is the Light of the World

He alone shines in the darkness of this world and offers the hope of eternal life: He offers peace with God: He offers rest from our striving to rise above our circumstances, and from our attempting to earn the salvation that is already offered as a gift.

He is the Creator and maintainer of the physical light, by which we perceive the physical world. He is the only true source of the spiritual light by which we can see the way to God, and by which we can read and understand His Word.

He is the One who takes up residence in the life of the believers, and who fills their lives with the Light of God. He is the One who gave us the second birth—being born again— through which we have become “children of the Light,” and we are called to live as children of the light.

He is the Eternal Light, shining in the center of History, to whom the Old Testament saints looked in faith, longing to see Him face to face. He was frequently referred to as the “Light of Israel.”

He was the light in the world; physically present in Israel, temporarily, for the 3-1/2 years of His Earthly Ministry. John the Baptist was a reflection of that light, and Israel rejoiced to see His light…but when Jesus, the True Light of the World arrived, they eventually rejected Him, as a nation, just as they had rejected all the prophets He had sent to them in the past.

How does the World respond to the Light?

We know from John 3:19, 20 that the general response of unbelievers to the light of Christ, shining in the World, is to reject it and to flee from it. Jesus said “…This is the condemnation, that light has come into the World and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

We can observe this truth every day, in the world around us. The darkness is very deep, and it seems to be getting even darker. That makes perfect sense: over the last century, the light of Christ in the people of God has grown more and more dim. We have allowed ourselves to become spotted with the filth of the world, to the extent that our light is coated in grime, and it is sometimes hard to see the light of God in our lives as believers.

I have frequently noticed on a winter evening that the headlights on my car seem to have become dim. But, when I got out and checked, it turned out that the lamps had become encrusted with road-grime, until the light inside could hardly get through the dirt. The light source was as strong as ever, but it was nearly covered by dirt.

Our lives are supposed to show forth the light of Christ. (1st Peter 2:9 specifically says that we have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light…and that we are to show forth the praises of Him who called us.) He is our light source! Can people see Him in us?

What about Us?

“He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

He is the Light of the World today, shining through His creation, through His Word and through His Church. We are only reflections of His light: that is part of our Job as ambassadors of Christ.

But, Jesus did not say, “everyone who has been born again will shine brightly, and not walk in darkness:” He said those that follow Him shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. That agrees with 1st John 1:6, where it says, “If  we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.” Walking with Jesus on a day-by-day basis is what it takes for us to shine as lights in the darkness.

Remember Gideon

When I look back to Judges 7:16-22, I see something peculiar: Gideon’s soldiers were told to do three things: Do you remember what happened? God first trimmed down Gideon’s army from many thousands (who were already vastly outnumbered by the enemy) to a mere 300 so that the battle was utterly in God’s hands. All they had to do was obey. And what they were told was:

  1. Stand fast,
  2. Shine a light,
  3. Sound an alarm.

They were commanded to “surround” the enemy camp, sparse though they were, and stand fast.

Each man, in his left hand, had a torch inside a jug: it was hot, and smoldering, but unable to get enough air to burn brightly. They also had a sword on their belt, but it didn’t get touched, because they had a trumpet in their right hand, so both hands were full! They waited for Gideon’s signal, then they all broke their jugs, allowing a fresh flow of air to the hot firebrands inside, so that they all flared up and shone brightly. They shined a light.

Simultaneously, they sounded an alarm: they began alternating between blowing their war-trumpets, and shouting “The Sword of the LORD, and of Gideon!” That was their alarm!

We are called to do the same things!

  1. Ephesians 6:10-18 says that we are to stand fast, wearing the full armor of God.
  2. Philippians 2:15 says we are to shine as lights in the World…in the midst of a corrupt and perverse nation.
  3. 1st Peter 3:15 says that we are to “sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and be ready always to give an answer” Sound an Alarm! Share the Gospel! Warn people of the coming Judgment! Offer them the eternal life that Jesus offers!

If we really believe that Jesus is the Light of the World, in every aspect of that truth; and if we really believe that He has called us to do those three things: (Stand fast, Shine a light, and Sound an alarm)…then what should we do about it?

Walk in the Light

It seems to me that each individual has to seek God’s direction as to the specifics, but the core list is the same for every one of us: If Jesus is the Light of the World, then we are called to stand fast in Him, shine the light of a changed life and good works, and sound the alarm of the Gospel. That’s it!

Apart from His Holy Spirit working in us, we can’t do it at all: we know that! But each of us is called to make the necessary choices, daily, to see that “core list” becoming a growing reality in our lives. That is called discipleship! That’s what it means, to Follow Jesus!

Lord Jesus, we know that You have called us to be your disciples: to walk in obedience to you, learning from Your Word, and submitting ourselves to Your Holy Spirit. Draw us closely enough to You that we hear the Heartbeat of God, and that Your priorities become our own.