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.

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.

Go, and Sin No More

Go, and Sin No More

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:1-11

Introduction

The opening passage, here, in the beginning of John chapter eight, touches my heart, every time I read it. We were reading in the previous chapters about preaching and promises, ministry and miracles, friends and enemies. But, here in John eight, some enemies show up during His teaching, with a test for Jesus: They brought to him a woman caught in adultery. (Nothing is said about what they may have already done to the man with whom she was found. That sort of thing tended to be dealt with rather summarily.)  But the test they brought was really a trap:

If He condemned the woman, thus agreeing with the Law, then He would seem harsh to the people. They would see Him in league with the Pharisees, their oppressors. Thus, they would probably reject Him as their Savior.

But, if He said to not stone her, then He would be denying God’s Law, and the Pharisees, the scribes, and the chief priests could condemn Him for that. It looks like a classic “damned if you do and damned if you don’t ” type of trap! But let’s read through the passage and see how Jesus handled this situation.

The Teacher and the Accusers

John 8:1-11

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

Jesus “camped” on the Mount of Olives, overnight, and He returned to the temple, early the next morning. Remember that He had been teaching there, the day before and He had promised the living Water to anyone who believed on Him. The officers (sent to arrest Him) heard Him speak, and refused to arrest him, because of the Spirit with which He spoke. But everyone eventuallywent home. Jesus had gone to the Mount of Olives, to sleep.

But, early in the morning, Jesus was back in the temple, teaching again, and all the people had come again, to hear Him. God does not tell us what He was teaching that morning, but the enemy interrupted the teaching that morning. His enemies came to disrupt his teaching and to test Jesus, trying to find a means by which to accuse Him of sin, and entrap Him.

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

Enemies and Tempters

These men tried to catch Jesus in a disagreement with the Law of God. (It isn’t going to happen: He is the Author of the Law of God!) Jesus initially acted as though He had not heard them: He stooped and wrote on the ground with His finger. (I do wish I knew what He was writing!)

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

You, see, they offered only two possibilities: but Jesus gave then a third option. They thought that He would have to either agree with their interpretation of His Word, and call for the woman’s execution, or deny the Law altogether, and disobey God. Either way, they thought they had Him trapped. But Jesus presented a third option: Obey God, and condemn her for breaking God’s Moral Law, if (and only if) you, yourself, are worthy to extend condemnation to another…being free of sin, yourself.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Dismissing the Accusers

I find the result pretty astonishing: As humans, we usually feel pretty free to condemn one another. We almost never stop to think whether we have either the authority to accuse, or the secure platform of personal moral purity, from which to condemn someone else.

Jesus simply stood up, and told them, “Whoever among you is sinless, let him cast the first stone.” And then He stooped again and continued writing on the ground with His finger! (What was he writing? We are not told! I don’t think it is wise to make guesses, either.)

But somehow, His quiet authority served to reach their consciences, and to convict their hearts. One by one they slipped away, beginning with the eldest and working toward the younger men, until no one was left to accuse her.

Standing before the Judge

Why was the woman still there? I believe she recognized Jesus as “the Judge of all the Earth.” Abraham saw Him that way, in Genesis 18:25, and Jesus confirmed Himself to be the Judge, in John 5:22. He is the Judge! She could have run away, or perhaps just faded back into the crowd. But she stayed and she waited for His decision, waiting for His judgment concerning herself.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

When Jesus asked her where her accusers had gone, and whether no one was left to condemn her, she answered, respectfully, that they were all gone. But she was still standing there, waiting for His word. She knew His authority, somehow. The woman threw herself on His mercy, and trusted in Him as her faithful Creator, as it says in 1st Peter 4:19.

Her actions demonstrated that the accusation was true. She was awaiting judgment from Jesus. (Yes, she “called Him Lord,” but that phrase was often taken very lightly. It usually meant no more, to most speakers, than the word “sir” means, today.) So, her actions are the heaviest statement, here: She stood and waited for Jesus to address her case, as her Judge. And in so doing, she met Him as Her Savior!

Grace and Truth Came by Jesus Christ

We saw the contrast between Law and Grace, clear back in John 1:17. It says, “The Law came by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.”

The scribes and Pharisees came as proponents of the Law, demanding Judgment against this woman…demanding her execution. Jesus did not deny the Law: He offered Grace in its place. He did not deny the truth of her guilt: He offered Grace in spite of her guilt.

What is Grace? Grace is unearned favor: Unmerited favor. She had no merit to which she could point, saying how she had earned God’s forgiveness or blessing. Apparently, her accusers also recognized their unworthiness, but they did not stay and wait for Grace: they simply left, knowing they were not in a position to accuse. She stayed: her actions confessed her guilt and confessed that Jesus was her Judge. And she received Grace and forgiveness. Not because she deserved it. We don’t know the circumstances, nor do we need to know. Grace and works are completely separated.

The Same Grace is Extended to Us

The fact is, we are each just as guilty as she. We may not necessarily be guilty of the same sin: but read through the extensive list in Romans chapter one. If we are  honest about our hearts, then the truth is, we are all guilty of the same kinds of sin, and we were also condemned before God and hopelessly deep in guilt.

By the time we read as far as Romans 3:19, we see that the whole world is lost, and that Jesus is our only hope. This woman saw herself that way, that morning: she was inescapably caught in sin, for which she expected capital punishment. And she correctly saw Jesus as her Eternal Judge. She silently placed her faith in His judgment, trusting in Him to extend Mercy if it was available. He acknowledged the Truth of her guilt (and, by extension, ours,) but He chose to extend Mercy and Grace.

Grace is Honest and Free

Grace tells the truth: it recognizes the “bad news” of our fatal illness, called Sin, and it offers the only cure for that disease, the Blood of Jesus at the Cross. And that is “Good News!”

Grace is free to us, but it came at a terrible price for Jesus, the Creator God in the Flesh. The Holy, Righteous God of the Universe, the Creator, God, the Son, became Sin for us, so that God the Father could pour out all His righteous wrath upon our Sin, without destroying us: the Sinners.

2nd Corinthians 5:21 makes it clear that He, God the Son, became Sin for us, so that we could be made the righteousness of God in Him. What an incredible trade! He took all my sins and gave me all His righteousness! That is beyond my understanding, and beyond my imagination.

Imputed Righteousness

I can’t see this woman’s heart (nor anyone else’s, for that matter) but it seems that, somewhere along here, she placed her faith in Jesus…both as her Judge and as her Savior. Abraham did exactly the same thing, and he was declared Righteous on the basis of his faith. The Thief on the Cross did exactly the same thing, and he was promised, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise!” So… How does this happen?

Romans 4:8, (quoting Psalm 32:1, 2) says “blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven…unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…” How can God fail to impute iniquity to someone who, beyond question, is clearly guilty? The fact of “forgiving sins” presupposes that there are sins to be forgiven. So, right here in this context, we have a hard question. How can God not only forgive sins, but render the sinner permanently righteous: beyond further accusation?

The Unsalvageable Old Man

God says my old sin nature cannot be saved…it cannot be repaired. It is not subject to God, and it cannot be subject to God. Romans 8:7 flatly states that to be the case. So, since my old nature cannot be saved, the only way for me to stand before God at all is through the new birth! God had to give me a new nature. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, in John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” It is the simple truth!

So, in John 1:12, He says He gives the new birth through faith: believing in Him personally, trusting in Him as my Savior. I recognize that He is my Judge, and I fear His devastating Holiness, just as every other honest sinner before me has done. But I also trust in Him as my Savior. I have no other Hope. Either His full payment of His blood at the Cross is sufficient, or I have nothing whatever to offer.

Jesus is the Wise and Gracious Judge and Savior

The Woman stood before Him condemned by her own sin, and confessing that she was a condemned sinner. But she was also submitting herself to Him for that judgment, and trusting in Him to deal mercifully with her. And He did!

That’s what it is all about; right there, my friends!

Can you explain that simple story to your friends and family? To your neighbors? To a stranger?

This is a priceless account of a precious soul for whom Jesus died.  And His counsel to her, on the basis of the received Mercy and Grace, was: “Go, and Sin No More!” That is His counsel to us, as well. Let’s take it seriously.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to understand Your Gospel well enough to share it with those around us. Free our hearts to serve You in humility and Love. All we have to offer others is what You have already given to us. Mercy, Grace, and Eternal Life, all through faith in Your shed blood!

Ye shall seek me and Not Find Me

Ye shall seek me and Not Find Me

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:31-36

Introduction:

Last week we examined Jesus’s disclaimer that “My doctrine is not Mine but His that sent me.” We were able to see that the doctrine we are assigned to teach is also not ours, but His (Christ’s) who sent us. John 20:21 says, “Peace be unto you: As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you!” And, in Matthew 28:19-20, we see that the command is given in a self-perpetuating form. The Apostles were to teach their students (us) to do exactly as Jesus assigned them.

In spite of the crowd’s general response to His teaching that He was the Son of God (They attempted to “nab” him) some were actually beginning to absorb His message, and look at His miraculous works, and believe Him!

Some Believed!

31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

These who believed were asking the others, in effect, What would it take to convince you??” They were satisfied in their own minds that this “Jesus” was fulfilling the prophecies, and that He very likely was the “real deal!” And, whether openly or secretly, it says that many believed His message… they believed in Him as their Messiah.

Some sought to silence Him!

But that sort of talk spreads! It quickly got back to the ears of the Pharisees and Chief Priests. They were not interested in investigating His claim. They wanted Him silenced. So, they sent officers to arrest Jesus. (Now, is it possible, that, at this time, that this is how they might have begun an investigation? Theoretically, perhaps it is possible.

But they proved, a little later, that it was never their intent to honestly investigate His claim that He was truly the Messiah. They wanted Him silenced! How do I know? Because when He publicly raised the dead, in John 11, those same enemies were there, and their response (in John 12) to a “bona fide” raising to life of an unquestionably dead man, was that they conspired to kill both Jesus and Lazarus!)

 32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.

Remember, we already saw, last week, the result of sending those officers. They went back empty handed. But, in the few verses immediately following lasts week’s message, we see Jesus perplexing the crowd once again:

33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. 34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

Ye shall seek Me and not Find me!

How would we have taken this remark, today? There have been numerous people in our times, who simply “dropped out of sight:” They disappeared for many years, in some cases, and were thought to be dead. But they were later discovered in another place, living under a different name. Perhaps we would have thought that to be the case, here. All someone has to do today, is abandon their identity, get on a bus, hitchhike, walk, etc., and put down roots elsewhere. To do it permanently, of course, requires some illegal measures to assume the identity of someone else.

But, in those days, travel was not easy, cheap, or fast. There were no identity cards, and no computers, so, there were no “magic tricks” needed, in order to change names. The problem was that travel was slow, and dangerous…and there was always someone who would recall having “seen someone,” and put the pursuers back on the trail again.

So, the Jews had legitimate questions as to how Jesus intended to “disappear.”

35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? 36 What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?

It is interesting that, the very next day, He was teaching almost the same things, and they were asking similar questions, and getting a little closer to the correct answer, thinking that somehow He was predicting His own death.

In John 8:20-24, it says, 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. 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.

Deaf Ears and Blind eyes

Jesus once again informed the people that He was about to leave, and that they would not be able to follow. The previous day, they supposed that perhaps He was going to travel to the Jews in the dispersion among the Gentile nations….and that they simply would not be willing to follow. But they have had time to think it over, and have realized “that can’t be it.”

However, they seem to have ignored what He had plainly told them!  He said, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me!” He told them where He was going! They utterly ignored that part of what He said! They were so committed to the opinion that He was Not “God in the Flesh,” that His clear statements as to His origin and destination fell on deaf ears!

Remember, several times, in the last few weeks, we mentioned that it is possible to become “judicially blind” if we disregard the Light of God’s Word. It is also entirely possible to become “judicially deaf,” if we ignore His Voice long enough. God calls, constantly, and the human race has either ignored His voice or fled from His presence. In John 10: 27, 28 Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish!”

How can we recognize those who “hear His voice?” John 1:12 says they “received Him.” They accepted Him for what He said He was. They took His Word for the things He taught. They heard His voice, and they followed Him.

John 3:19-21 “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

So, the Light of Christ is shining in the World, and some turn to that light. Others flee the light. Those who respond favorably to the Light of God’s Truth become increasingly sensitive to light, and they begin to seek more light; stronger light, so that they can better see the path before them. Those who hate the light, and reject it, eventually deny that it exists: they prefer to hear echoes of their own hearts, rather than hear answers from the heart of God.

Hearing Echoes of Our Own Hearts

I remember reading of an exchange that happened on a golf course, outside the clubhouse. A wealthy, self-important golfer was asking the resident “Golf Pro” for advice about his swing. The Pro initially tried to give honest, clear answers, but the man kept arguing, saying, “No, I think the problem is (…something else.)” (Whatever it was…)

Another golfer was listening, nearby, and noticed the change, when the Golf Pro began to agree with the wealthy patron, that his self-analysis was correct. Eventually the wealthy golfer walked away, satisfied. Then the second golfer privately questioned the Pro: “Why did you agree with him? Everything he said was wrong, and you knew it!” The Golf Pro replied, “Mister, I learned a long time ago to not give ‘answers’ to someone who is only looking for ‘echoes.’ He didn’t want correction; he wanted confirmation! So that’s what I gave him!”

In Romans 10:3, we see what the problem was: “For they, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” They were so intent on establishing their own “rightness,” that they were blind to the overwhelming “Rightness” of the Son of God!

Jesus had told them where He was going, but they were already blind to His Deity, and blind to the evidence that He was the true Messiah. So, He warned them that where He was going, they could not follow. To his disciples, in John 13:36, He said, “…you cannot come now, but you will come later!” But to these unbelieving Jews, he flatly told them that they could not come.

John 8:22-24

22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. 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.”

The next day, in answer to the same question, He told them that He was not of this World, but that they were of this world. And He clearly warned them that if they failed to believe that He was who He claimed to be, they would die in their sins!

What does the Future Hold?

In 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 we see that something is coming, which we call the “Rapture.” We speculate about the different possible responses the World may have to the disappearance of millions of people. But what we know, (from 2nd Thessalonians 2:11, 12) is that (future tense) God will send the World a strong delusion, so that they will believe a lie.

They will not recognize the truth and “believe,” after having seen the rapture, though I have heard people say, “Oh, if I see that, I will believe!” No, they won’t! The only ones who will believe during the Tribulation are those who either did not hear or did not understand the Gospel, before the rapture. A careful reading finds that the (future tense) strong delusion, is directed to them who (past tense) “…did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

This is why the Jews were warned, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins!” They had the most powerful witness to the truth of God in the history of the World: And they were blind to it!

What About Us?

We don’t want to be blind to the provision of God in our lives, nor to His correction, as He uses His Word to convict our hearts and to change us into His likeness. We don’t want to be deaf to His pleading, as He attempts to lead us in the paths of righteousness. All through the Bible, we see the warning that there will come a time when God allows us to “go our own way,” and we, like Samson, will reap the consequences of our sin. (Remember, Samson was a believer!)

Among the groups to whom He spoke, some of the people actually believed. We will meet them someday, as they eventually became the early Church. But others, in every generation, have rejected everything He said, and hated Him for saying it!

We see that today, as well, as we try to share our faith with others. But, Jesus said, “If the World hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

Left Behind, and Lost

Jesus was about to go back to His Father, and He warned the unbelievers that they would not only be “left behind,” but that they would “die in their sins!” I’m not sure that we can fully grasp the hopelessness of one who “waits too long,” and “sees the door close,” so to speak, knowing that God is no longer extending His mercy, and only eternal judgment remains.

That is not a comfortable message, but it is the “Ultimate bad news” making the “Ultimate Good News” of the Cross to be Good News at all! If it were not for the enormity of our sin, and our lost estate before God, then the Salvation He offers would seem of lesser importance, and His death would seem tragic instead of being the greatest act of heroism the universe has ever seen.

Once we realize our lostness, and see Jesus as our only Hope, then the Gospel of Christ becomes the center of our lives.

May God help us to focus on the Person of Christ, and see ourselves reflected in His face, not seeking our own way, but truly seeking His!

Separating believers from unbelievers

Separating believers from unbelievers

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 6:60-66 (context; verses 52-59); John 5:24; John 10:27, 28

Introduction:

We have come to a “crisis,” in John chapter 6: Jesus had just taught that His flesh and blood were necessary for people to have eternal life. Earlier, we explored why this was such a hard thing for the Jews to accept. But there are different options in how we respond to hard teaching. Knowing that a teaching is either true, or partly true, or false, we have to decide how to respond. We can compare against God’s Word to see if it is true. That is what the Berean believers did in Acts 17:11. But, even after we know it is absolutely true, we have to decide how to respond.

Balking at Hard Teaching

60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

We already read the context for this passage: the verses immediately before: That was a hard passage to understand. But, for two reasons, this is also rather hard to grasp, even for believers today: The first reason is the sadness we feel, as we read that many of Jesus’s disciples abandoned their devotion to Him. They walked no more with Him! Yes, that is sad…and it still happens today! The other thing that makes it a hard passage, is that we tend to equate salvation with discipleship, and the two are not the same.

Salvation and discipleship are not the same

This is a hard concept, but let’s consider Judas: he was a disciple, but was not a believer! Jesus pointed this out in John 13:10, 11, when He said “ye are not all clean.” And after Judas left, in John 15:3, He said to the remaining eleven “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” All twelve had heard the same words…the difference was that Judas had not believed in Jesus as his Savior.

There are others in scripture who were believers, but who were not disciples. Lot was a saved man, but did not walk with God: he did not “follow Jesus” (that is what a disciple is…a follower.) And there were many others. Why might someone fall into that category?

Other Biblical Examples

Are there Biblical examples of real believers “balking at hard teaching?” Are there Biblical examples of real believers who “ran away from God?” Sure, there are!

  • John the Baptist initially refused to baptize Jesus, saying that he himself needed to be baptized by Jesus. But he changed his mind, and he went ahead and obeyed.
  • Peter initially refused to have Jesus wash his feet…but he changed his mind and obeyed.
  • Jonah initially refused to go to Nineveh, but (with some convincing) eventually he changed his mind and went…(still in a bad frame of mind, but he went and he obeyed.)

Do you see a pattern there? These were genuine believers who stumbled over the command of God, but they repented. (That is what “repentance” is…changing your mind: turning around, going back, and doing what you should have done.)

Believers or Unbelievers?

So, as we read John 6:60-66, are we reading about believers or unbelievers? Notice that it says they were disciples. Remember that the word “disciples” only means “followers.” They were following Jesus, but their reasons for following varied wildly. He had just taught that his flesh and blood were necessary for their eternal life. That specific teaching was difficult enough that people still struggle with it, today.  But they had a choice to make:

  • They could accept it (and accept the fact that they couldn’t fully grasp His meaning),
  • They could argue about it, trying to force it to “make sense” to human minds, or
  • They could flatly reject it as unthinkable.

Some argued, and complained that it was a hard saying; difficult to grasp. But Jesus knew their hearts: He knew who believed and who did not. He also knew who would eventually betray him. If we sneak a peek at the verses ahead, we see that Judas was there, as one of the Twelve: He stayed with Jesus when others left! But he still was not a believer. So that is not necessarily the dividing line. So how did Jesus respond to their complaint that this was “a hard saying?”

Jesus had just told them that His flesh and blood (as pictured in the Passover Lamb) were absolutely necessary to their salvation, and that faith in Him was the only entrance into eternal life. They had a hard time with that statement. There are many, still today, who struggle with the concept that Jesus is the only way God offers for Salvation. They argue against it, saying “all the billions of people who do not believe in Him cannot all be wrong: they could not all be lost!”

Is there anything “wrong” with Jesus being the only way of salvation?

This is an emotionally attractive, but completely illogical reply: As far as we know there is only one “cure” for many deadly diseases. What shall we say of all the millions who have died from malaria, the plague, polio, or any other deadly disease? “Well, it just isn’t fair: there must be another way!” No, the hard truth is: they either get the medicine to save their life, or they die.

There is a new treatment available that can cure Hepatitis C: it is effective on a high percentage of people, but it is extremely expensive, so it simply will not be available to all those who suffer from that disease. (Lesser treatments can hold it at bay, but cannot cure it. But this cure is financially out of reach for most people…The Gospel is free, to all!)

Today, there is a single, “collective antivenin” which is effective for about 85 of the 140 different species of venomous creatures in Australia. The government has tried to make it as widely available as possible, so people who are bitten have a chance to get it and save their lives: but if they can’t get to where it is, or, if they refuse to accept it, they will surely die! There is no other way! That is just reality! Romans 5:12 may not sound “fair,” either, but it is a fact: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death by sin, thus death passed upon all, for all have sinned.”

The Blood of Jesus was shed, once for all, as God’s only solution for the lost state of the Human race. The Church has tried, over the years, to make that Salvation available worldwide. There are only two barriers: our reticence to share it with others, and their unwillingness to believe in it. And that’s the teaching they stumbled over, in John 6:31-51.

Jesus Tested the Character of their Faith

Jesus asked, “You think that was hard? What will you think when you see Me physically ascendback into Heaven where I came from?” Why is that a test? They already balked at the “hard teaching” that “faith in His blood is our only hope for salvation.” Now He pointed out why He was their only hope: He is God in the flesh! He was the Deity they claimed to worship.

You see, so long as we see Jesus as “strictly human,” no matter what else we may attribute to Him, we will struggle with His authority, we will question His unique, exalted position, and we will resent the fact that other people are actually worshipping the Person we see as a man. I once had a pastor tell me, “I don’t want people praying to Jesus!” (Why did he say that? Evidently he did not believe Jesus was the true God, in human form.)

Can a true believer deny the deity of Christ?

Is it possible to be a believer and not know that Jesus is God in the flesh? Yes, it is, and there are many who do struggle with that concept, but it requires that one be seriously ignorant of God’s Word, to miss that point.

On the other hand, some do see that truth in Scripture: but they struggle with it, and eventually rebel against it, denying His Deity. In their case, I question the reality of their faith in Him as the Savior, since they reject the fact of His Person; the fact that He is truly God in the Flesh. Is it possible that they are really believers, and just badly deceived? Yes…I believe it is possible. But I would be very concerned about how they arrived at that point.

The Jews, who heard Him, actually should not have had a struggle with that idea: They had the prophecy from Isaiah 9:6 saying that “the Son” who was promised to them, would be called “The everlasting Father!” Give that some thought! I cannot “explain” how the Son should be called the “Everlasting Father!” But there is no argument: It is simply stated as a fact, and it is to be simply accepted! (Or…you can reject it, and walk away. And that is what many of them did.)

The Question of the Deity of Christ

The fact that Jesus truly is God is a core teaching of the Bible. (John 1:1, 3, 14, 18)

  • He was the Creator God who made all things material or immaterial. (John 1:3)
  • He was the Speaking God who walked in the Garden in the cool of the day, and spoke with Adam and Eve. (John 1:18)
  • He was the Promising God who ate Abraham’s food, and talked with him face to face.
  • He was the Judging God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18, 19)
  • He was the Miracle-working God who judged Egypt and rescued the children of Israel.
  • He was the Creator of all things, the Eternal Judge of all things, and the Promised Savior. (John 1:3; 1:14; 5:22; 5:24; 10:27, 28)

Either this is all true, or the Bible is not true. Either this is all true, or Jesus is not the Savior. That is a simple fact. There are no “degrees” of truth here.

Why reject this doctrine?

All of the cults speak highly of Jesus, calling Him a Mighty Spirit Being, a Great Teacher, a Prophet, even a “lesser god,” in some cases, but they can never admit that He is literally the Sovereign, Almighty God!

You see, if they admit that Jesus is truly God, then they also have to admit that they, themselves, are not the servants of God. And they have to face the facts: they, themselves, are under His Judgment. Jesus hinted at that, by stating that they were going to see Him ascend back into heaven. And they decided that was just too much! So, they quit!

How can I know I am saved?

I have known people who apparently were genuine believers, but who abandoned their faith. Their lives reflected that loss. They were sad wrecks of what once had been a glorious reflection of God’s Grace. Are they still saved? How can we know for sure, in our own life?

If there has ever been a time in your life when you placed your hope in Jesus’s blood as your only hope for salvation, trusting in Him alone for forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, then you are saved, and you cannot be lost. (John 5:24 says If you have believed in Him, then you have eternal life, and you shall not come unto condemnation, but have crossed over from death unto life”)

1st John 5:11-13 clearly teaches that God wants you to KNOW that you have eternal life.

What happens if I don’t follow Jesus?

Even if I truly am “one of His sheep,” if I do not walk with the Shepherd, I am in constant danger of attack by my enemies and I cannot avail myself of His protection. I am “enlisted in His army,” but I am refusing to wear the armor He commanded me to put on!

Jesus said, “My Sheep hear my voice, and they follow me, and I know them, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

“Following the Shepherd” is the normal walk for a believer. Failing to follow Him does not negate His promise of eternal life, but it does “void the warranty” on his guidance and protection.

There are consequences!

If I fail to follow Jesus, then the very least I can expect is unfruitfulness. The next thing I can expect is the absence of Joy and Peace. You see, even though I am a believer, if I am no longer walking with Jesus, then I am not benefitting from the relationship “in the here and now.”

That is what happened, here in John 6:60-66. Some of those disciples may have been true believers…but some were not. Jesus knew which were which. We do not. But we can examine our own hearts and see where we stand with God…and decide where we ought to be, and what we need to change, to get there.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to our own condition as believers and encourage our hearts to change, to repent, to go back and follow you.

Are You “Out of Uniform?” What does the “uniform” look like?

Are You “Out of Uniform?”

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 13:34, 35; John 17:21; Matthew 5:15, 16; Galatians 5:22, 23

Introduction

Sometimes, we hear about someone impersonating a police officer, and trying to assert the authority of the badge. Invariably, they are caught, arrested and either fined or imprisoned, depending on what they were doing while impersonating a Law-enforcement officer.

What is worse, is when we hear of someone who actually is a member of the organization whose uniform he is wearing, but abuses his position to commit a crime. Fortunately, it is not a common occurrence, but it does happen. There is a compounded evil, here: the public hears of the crime, and either grieves that the integrity of that organization has been damaged by a criminal in uniform, or, tragically, they jump to the conclusion that the entire organization is corrupt.

During and after Hurricane Katrina, the whole world saw videos, captured by surveillance cameras, of two uniformed officers in New Orleans, looting a store, loading the stolen goods into a marked police car, and driving away. There was no question what happened: it was undeniable. But, is this evidence that everyone in Law Enforcement is inherently corrupt, or is it evidence that, just as in every other human endeavor, criminals canput on the uniform? Obviously, the latter is a more reasonable conclusion. To choose the other option and to use it evenhandedly, we would have to conclude that anyone in any official capacity anywhere is automatically suspect.

Then we must ask ourselves, “Since so many people NOT serving in any official capacity are dishonest, immoral, or violent, mustn’t we then conclude that all who do not serve in any official capacity must also be corrupt? It’s odd: no one in the general public takes that stance, though I have met a few Law Enforcement officers who were so jaded as to feel that way. But both assumptions are wrong, unless we simply agree that all humans are sinners. (And we are!)

What is The Purpose of Uniforms?

What about military uniforms? They are to identify the troops that are on “our side.” It is always illegal to impersonate a member of the armed forces, wearing that uniform falsely. (Incidentally, anyone impersonating a member of the armed forces in times of war is liable to be shot as a spy!) But a true member of those military organizations, who has the right and the duty to wear that uniform is also responsible to wear it correctly. If he is wearing it incorrectly, he is said to be “out of uniform” and he or she is subject to discipline of one sort or another. But it does not change the fact that he or she is part of that organization: it just causes am unpleasant disruption in the relationship between the individual and the organization. They are “in trouble” to one degree or another; but the impersonator, with a perfect uniform, is in far worse trouble: possibly so much as to be imprisoned, or even executed.

Is there such a thing as a Christian “Uniform?”

Yes! The World is given three means by which to recognize a real believer:

  1. John 13:34, 35  the Agapé Love: Jesus said that is the means by which the World is to recognize us as His disciples.
  2. John 17:21 Supernatural Unity: Jesus said this unity, demonstrated in the lives of His disciples, is the means by which the World is to know that He was sent from God.
  3. Galatians 5:22, 23 The Fruit of the Spirit…the Holy Spirit produces this in us.
    1. Matthew 5:15, 16 Good works because of the Holy Spirit in us: Jesus said they are to reflect well upon God the Father, and bring Him Glory. (Where? “Among men”…it is reaching the World, again. This is an integral part of our testimony!)

Do you notice anything odd about these three items? They don’t usually lend themselves to “Impersonation.” You can’t just go “buy a Christian uniform” and put it on, and then go out to be seen as a member of the body of Christ. The outward reality is based upon an inward change, and a continuing inward relationship which transforms the outward life. We recognize each other that way, too. Sometimes it seems that the indwelling Holy Spirit in one believer simply “bears witness” to the indwelling Holy Spirit in another, and instant fellowship is established.

Can it be faked? Do some people put on a façade of “piety,” and pretend to be “good, god-fearing people?” Surely, they do! But usually, it only goes so far before someone sees “wolf-tracks” behind and beneath the “sheep’s clothing,” and unveils their true identity. The problem with that situation is that those observers may assume that “all Christians are phonies.” Humans all tend to make generalizations; some turn out to be accurate, others do not.

Is it possible for a real Christian to be “out of uniform?”

Absolutely, it is possible! Look back over the “Uniform parts,” and consider: which parts can be missing without our being “out of uniform?” The simple answer is, “None!

If I am not behaving in accordance with Agapé love, or if I am allowing (or causing) disunity between myself and other believers, or if the Fruit of the Spirit is not evident in my life, then I am out of fellowship and “out of uniform.” (Examine your heart in this “self-inspection:” How are you thinking?) If I am blatantly “out of uniform,” then the World has no reason to believe my testimony, and every reason to suspect my motives when I attempt to do the good works that have become a regular part of my life. My heart isn’t in it anymore because I am out of fellowship with Jesus. And (believe it or not) people are remarkably good at spotting that!

Remember: Jesus said that these are the means by which the World is to identify the real believers. We need to be careful about our associations as well as our own testimonies.

People judge us by several things:

  1. What we do,
  2. What we say,
  3. Who our friends are, and,
  4. Who our enemies are.

Hopefully, what we do will match what we say: That is pretty fundamental to integrity. But the people we associate with—who are seen as being those with whom we are really comfortable, will also register in people’s minds. And, if they see that the people who despise us are themselves despicable, well, that is one thing. But if they discern that good, honest wholesome folk want nothing to do with us, then our testimony is shot, and we have become useless as a tool in God’s hand. He cannot use us in that condition.

What happens to Believers who are “out of Uniform?”

So, what happens to a believer who is habitually out of fellowship with God; “out of uniform,” so to speak? We can look at the scripture and clearly see that he or she does not lose his or her position in the body of Christ: salvation and eternal life are gifts, not something we can earn. But they do lose the rewards they could have gained.

Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is a great Old Testament example of someone who was “blessed with every blessing, along with faithful Abraham:” but he lost it all in Sodom and Gomorrah. He was saved, but barely so: He literally lost everything in that judgment.

1st Corinthians 3:11-16 tells us that our spiritual reality is similar. A believer can waste his life in such a way that his rewards are effectively non-existent, “but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” (Some newer translations read “…as one escaping through the flames.”)

Ephesians 1:3 says that we, too, have already been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, in Christ.” Can we “squander that blessing” by wallowing in the World, just as Lot did in Sodom and Gomorrah? You’d better believe we can!

Further, we need to recognize that, just as Samson was drawn away into captivity and physical blindness by his own foolishness and sin, we also can be drawn away by our sin until we are blind to God’s leading, and, ultimately, end up working for our enemy, just as Samson did.

We will not lose our position in Christ, but we will lose the Joy, and Peace, and the sense of purpose that is ours when we walk with Him.

What happens to Unbelievers who are “in Uniform?”

Obviously, it is impossible to misappropriate a “uniform” that is only given by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but there is certainly such a thing as counterfeit “spirituality.” In the Old Testament, we saw it in the false prophets, and even among the people who pretended to be responsive to God’s Word, but only used it for entertainment, as we read in Ezekiel 33:30-33. In the New Testament we saw the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were all very respected in their religious circles, though they hated one another. The Pharisees were the religious conservatives of the day, and the Sadducees were the religious liberals of that time. They were opposed to one another, but they were completely united in their rejection of the Messiah, and their desire to kill Him.

Jesus warned against “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in Matthew 7:15, saying that they would seem to be true believers on the outside, but inwardly they were “ravening wolves.” Paul warned of false teachers, using those same words, saying that “grievous wolves” would arise within the church, specifically from among the leadership, and would lead the church astray. We may find it difficult to recognize such predators, but Jesus sees right through their disguise.

In Matthew 7:22, 23, Jesus warned that those who “claim His name,” and even do “good works” in His Name, but who are not His sheep, face condemnation. John 10:27, 28 says He knows His sheep and He gives eternal life to them. Obviously, He also knows those who are not His people. He does not say to those pretenders, “I once knew you, but you didn’t serve well enough, so I kicked you out:” He says, “I never knew you: Depart from me, you that work iniquity.” And, in Luke 13:27, He reiterated that just being part of the nation of the Jews wasn’t enough. He said that the unbelieving Jews would protest at the judgment, saying “You preached in our streets; we knew you!” And He will respond, “But I don’t know YOU!”

“Vaccinated against the Gospel”

You see, putting on the false robes of Human righteousness and piety will quickly convince you that you don’t need Jesus: that you are “just as good as anybody else,” and that you do not need Forgiveness and Grace. It will inoculate you against the Gospel, rather than leading you to faith. That’s why I don’t usually try to persuade unbelievers to “come to church.” I will instead invite them to “come to Jesus.” I share the Gospel: they don’t need church; they need Jesus.

But, if they really don’t want the Gospel, then they really don’t want Jesus. And if they don’t want Jesus, then the worst thing they could possibly do is to start acting as if they were His followers. They will become convinced of their own righteousness, and stand at the final Judgment without Hope. They were “impersonating a believer,” and Jesus will tell them, “Depart from Me, ye Cursed, into everlasting Fire.” What a sad ending for those who very likely thought they were doing “good things!” And yet, Jesus said it is extremely common.

Wasted Works—Useless coverings

This is the pattern of the World. As unbelievers, we declare ourselves righteous, and we claim to be sufficient unto ourselves. But God says we are poor, and blind, and naked and lost. Whatever we hold up as our “uniform” will be utterly ineffective, just as the Fig-leaf garments produced by Adam and Eve proved useless. Remember: the garments “covered their nakedness,” when only the two of them were involved. But when God entered the picture, the garments did nothing. They fled from the voice of God because they knew that they were naked, in spite of their works. Good works accomplish nothing toward gaining a right standing before God. Faith in Jesus’s finished work is the only path to God.

“DO vs DONE”

The biggest snare to the souls of humans seems to be human religion: specifically, works-based religion. The religions of the world all say, “DO these things and God will accept you!” But the Mosaic Law was given specifically to prove the impossibility of that task! Romans 3:19, 20 states that the purpose of the Law was to make every soul guilty before God. Paul concludes that by works of the Law shall no flesh be justified (declared righteous) in God’s sight.

The Voice of God says the Work was completed at the Cross: “It is finished!”  And we are called to place our faith in His finished work. Someone pointed out that the World says, “DO!”, but Jesus says, “DONE!” The work was truly completed right there at Calvary.

What about the Uniform, then?

What value does it have for us? At the very least, it is a “litmus test” for us: we can inspect ourselves according to God’s Written Word, and ask God, by His Holy Spirit, to search our hearts and reveal our sin to us.

Ultimately, though, we must desire to walk with God. If we are so calloused that we are satisfied to just stay out of fellowship, and wallow in our sin, then we are in far deeper trouble, and the “uniform” is so tattered as to be unrecognizable to anyone but God.

The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son is a good example of a believer who wandered away from God, and was deeply embroiled in the World. During his descent into the filth of the World, he was pretty smug: He was living the high life! He had drinking buddies! He got attention from women!

But when the money ran out, so did all his buddies. And then a famine came, and he had nothing upon which to fall back. He ended up getting a job feeding pigs, and the pigs were better fed than he himself was. Here is the point: He was a son when he took his leave from the father. He was a son when he was acting like a winebibber and a lecher. He was a son when he was in the pigpen. And, finally, had he died in that pigpen,he would have been a dead Son, not a dead pig.

But somehow God got through to him, and he realized the mess he had made of his life. He repented (he changed his mind about his values and his lifestyle: that is what “Repent” means) …and he went back to his father’s house. He only hoped to be received as a servant: But he was received as a Son!

Look in the Mirror!

Don’t allow yourself to ruin the blessings God has given you! Take a look in the mirror of God’s Word and check out the Uniform that Jesus gave you. Ask God what needs to change. Then submit to His call and change the things that are wrong. We are encouraged to use God’s Word as a mirror, for precisely this purpose: to examine ourselves before God and look to Him to change us into His likeness.  

Ephesians 4:29-32 tells us some things to look for:

  • How we talk, and the motive of our hearts when we speak.
  • Whether we are willing to grieve the Holy Spirit who, ironically, is the very One who keeps us saved, sealed in Christ!
  • Whether anger, or malice or bitterness, and any evil speaking are part of our lives.

In contrast, Kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness are to be the normal behavior for believers.

Go ahead and take the time to look in the Mirror of God’s Word.

Then, check over your uniform, and see how Jesus leads you.

Lord Jesus, we freely admit that we spend a great deal of time out of fellowship with You. We are so self-centered that we don’t even want to walk with You…we want You to bless our Sin, when our sin is what took You to the Cross. We ask that You create a genuine repentance in our hearts and change us into Your likeness. Enable us to serve You with our lives, and fill us with Your Joy.

Why Two Resurrections?

Why are there Two Resurrections taught in the Bible?

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 5:28-30; 1st John 2:2; 1st Corinthians 3:10-15;

Introduction:

Last week, we touched on the fact that there are two resurrections, and that the resurrection of the believers is prior to that of the unbelievers.

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

So, while most of us may simply accept the Divine Order as just being “how it will all work out,” perhaps the question might arise as to why there are two resurrections as opposed to just a general resurrection wherein all the “sorting” can happen at once. Perhaps the best way to begin would be to address the various “judgments” in the scriptures. In Hebrews 9:27, it says that “It is appointed unto Man once to die, but after this the judgment.” So, we need to think that through, and ask, “What judgment is in view?”

How many Judgments?

  1. The Judgment of Sin (the sin of the whole Human Race) was carried out at the Cross.
  2. The Judgment seat of Christ, where the works of believers are in view, will be carried out after the rapture, but before the physical return of Jesus.
  3. The Judgment of the Living Nations (the survivors of the tribulation) will be carried out at the physical return of Christ, at the beginning of the Kingdom age.
  4. The Final Judgment (of all the unrighteous dead of all time) will be carried out at the Great White Throne, after the Kingdom age, after the destruction of this earth, and immediately before the revealing of the new Heaven and new Earth.

Judgment of Sin

As we have learned in the past, all the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament from Genesis 3:21 onward, were all “looking forward to” the one all-sufficient sacrifice Jesus made at the Cross. Since He became sin for us, dying as a substitute for every human who would ever live, His blood literally satisfied God’s judgment upon the sin of the whole human race. (1st John 2:2)

In John 3:18, Jesus said that those who believed in His Name (placing their trust in His finished work) would not be condemned, but that those who did not trust Him as the substitute for their own life, and their own sins, were not “going to be condemned,” but are already condemned. So, as a rebellious young atheist, I was already condemned, and effectively “on death row:” I was headed for Hell, and without hope, until I became convinced that I was lost, and that I needed a Savior. Finally, I placed my trust in Him, and was permanently placed under His blood. I have no other offering…there is nothing to be added to His Grace.

Judgment of our Works: The Judgment Seat of Christ

(Only Believers are at this Judgment.)

Works have zero effect on salvation, but they have great effect on our ongoing relationship with God in this life, and our reward in the next. 1st Corinthians 3:1015 tells us how God will “grade” our works: our works will be judged “by fire.”

Anything showing “eternal value” by surviving that “Refiner’s Fire” will result in reward. All the works that “looked good,” during our lifetimes, but turned out to just be something we did on our own initiative, and which did not originate with the Spirit of God, will be consumed in that flame, but the believers will not be harmed. They will simply be “as one escaping through the flames.” They will have lost what they thought they had gained, but they themselves are safe.

What are the Rewards?

I really don’t know. There are five different “crowns” (Greek, “stephanos”…victor’s wreaths) which are named, but not clearly described. There are also places where a reward is described as “ruling over a city.” So, that would evidently be a reward of authority and responsibility. But the conclusion I would have to call the “bottom line,” is what Paul said: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what the Father hath in store for them that love Him.” (That’s it! He says we don’t know! So, I’m going to drop it right there.)

Judgment of the Living Nations:

(Living Believers and unbelievers: “What did you do with Jesus and His Family?”)

This Judgment is described in Matthew 25:31, ff.  This is the one where, immediately after the Tribulation, and Jesus’s physical return, His throne is set up on earth, and all the living nations (Gentile nations) are brought before him for judgment. The Judgment seems to be based upon how they treated the Jews and the Gentile believers during the tribulation.

One could make the mistake of thinking that this describes a works-based salvation: But what we are seeing, here, is proof that “works are the result of faith.” They all acted upon their beliefs:

  • Those who denied Jesus’s authority and who despised His Grace, and sought to destroy His people are revealed by their works as being unbelievers.
  • Those who took the risk of either siding with, or at least helping those persecuted people of God, are also revealed by their works, as being believers.

The result of this judgment is peculiar, in that, since the people being judged are not dead, the passage in Hebrews 9:27 is not directly applicable. Those who were judged to have been believers, as revealed by their works, are admitted into the Kingdom age (along with the remnant of the Jews, and the believing Gentiles who survived the purges of the tribulation.)

Those who were judged to have rejected the Savior, as revealed by their works, are sent into the place of the dead, (called “Sheol” in the Old Testament: “Hades” in the New Testament, (mostly translated “hell,” in both Testaments.) All it says in Matthew is “everlasting punishment.” (The reason we know that it is not the Lake of Fire, is that Revelation 20:11-15 tells us about that specific judgment, and hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire.)

The Final Judgment: The Great White Throne

(Only unbelievers are at this Judgment.)

This judgment occurs at the very end of the Kingdom age, after a final rebellion has been put down by God the Father. The old “heaven and earth” have just been destroyed, as seen in 2nd Peter 3:10, 11. A Great White Throne appears in space…it says, “heaven and earth flee away from the Face of Him who sits on the throne.”

The old Heaven and Earth are evidently destroyed in this moment. All the remaining dead stand before the Judge. (The righteous dead are already eternally with the Lord.) Who is the Judge? In John 5:22 we see that it is Jesus! We have a hard time with this: We have been taught to think of Jesus as such a tender, forgiving person that it is difficult to imagine Him in this role. But He is the only Judge, and always has been!

All the dead are seen as being checked in God’s Records (the “books are opened”…) and they are judged accordingly…and all of them end up in the lake of fire. Are there “degrees of punishment?” Evidently there are: Jesus said so! How does that work? I really don’t know. Different writers have hypothesized at different times, sometimes quite famously (e.g. Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, in 1320.) But God does not explain this at all, except to say that it is so.

Why Different Resurrections?

Given the huge difference in destination, it seems pretty sensible to me to arrange the resurrection in two waves. In 1st Thessalonians 4:11-18 (along with 1st Corinthians 15:51, 52) we see that the resurrection of believers (their dead bodies being restored to life) will come at the same time as the Rapture. The dead believers will receive their bodies back, immortal, and in the next instant, we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds, as it says in 1st Thessalonians.

All of them, together, receive their “resurrected” or “transformed” bodies at that time. The “Awards ceremonies” as we might consider the “Judgment Seat of Christ” to be, will happen after that point, but before His physical return to Earth. However, there is another group, in Revelation 20:4, who were beheaded during the Tribulation for the sake of Christ. They will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation or beginning of the Kingdom age, and will reign with Christ for the duration of the Kingdom: 1,000 years. Together, this group with the ones resurrected at the rapture, seem to comprise the “first Resurrection.” (Revelation 20:5, 6)

After the First Resurrection:

The Judgment of the living nations, at the end of the Tribulation, doesn’t involve a resurrection at all: they are all living people, who either will live on the restored earth for the next 1,000 years, or will be summarily dropped into Hades, to await the resurrection of the lost.

Finally, after the Kingdom age, and the crushing defeat of Satan and his army, the only people left to be resurrected and judged are the unbelieving dead. We may feel that “They weren’t all bad,” but Jeremiah 17:9 says that the human heart is “desperately wicked.  God’s view of their hearts is the standard by which they will be judged, not our opinions.

What follows is the Final Judgment of the unrighteous dead. Some had just recently died by fire in the rebellion which had just been crushed. Some had died in the wars during the tribulation. Others had been dead for thousands of years, just awaiting final judgment. In either case, we need to remember that Our Savior, Jesus, the Messiah…is the One seated on that Great White Throne. Jesus has never misjudged anyone. And He never will.

Time Lapse Between the Resurrections

According to Revelation 20:5 there is a 1,000-year span between the end of the first resurrection and the beginning of the second. Also, (apparently) time ends right then. The eternal state has begun and there is no further need to measure time. (We saw in Genesis 1:14 that the reason for the Sun, Moon and stars was partly to give light, but primarily to tell time. And the sun and moon will be gone, in the new heaven and earth!)

So, how long do the judgements take? I don’t know. God is sovereign, and omniscient (all-knowing) so, He could complete it all in an instant, and it will have been done perfectly. Or, He could carry on individual conversations simultaneously with every single person who ever lived! (No waiting!) But, since He doesn’t tell us any details, we must choose to be satisfied with His Word, and trust His perfect character, wisdom, and justice. No one will be misjudged.

No Confusion Needed

It would be easy to be confused by the account in Matthew, revealing the Judgment of the Living Nations: we have not had much teaching along those lines, so we tend to think of this as being the final judgment. But it’s not! This is the judgment of living people: Some (the righteous) will enter the Kingdom (not heaven) in their natural bodies, in whatever shape they are in after surviving the Tribulation. They will live in that glorious world in peace, for 1,000 years, where Jesus is ruling, in person.

The rest, who are condemned in that judgment, will join those already in the place of the unrighteous dead (not the lake of fire), and wait for the second resurrection. In Revelation 20:14, at the culmination of the Great White Throne Judgment, we see death and hell (Hades) will be cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the final Judgment—the Second Death.

Separation:

God has moved to keep His people separate from the lost, throughout the ages. During our lifetimes, we are only separated spiritually: he sends us among them as ambassadors, as lights in the darkness of this world. But, once we are released from this world, we are separated permanently.

So, the only Judgment in which the saved and lost are together and being separated, is the Judgment of the Living Nations in Matthew 25. All those who have died are kept entirely separate. There is no more mingling after that point. So, the final reason for two separate resurrections is the completion of our eternal separation from sin. The resurrection of the believers is past: all the righteous dead of all ages are finally home with God, and in their eternal, glorified bodies.

There is no further outreach to those who have rejected God’s offer of Grace. That door is closed. If we remember the Ark, in the Genesis Flood, we recall that the building of the Ark evidently took 120 years. During that time, God says Noah was a preacher of righteousness. But the day came when God closed the door to the Ark. The Flood came and all outside the Ark were swept away.

The Deadline is Coming:

Jesus reminded his hearers of that account, in Matthew 24:37-39. He was using it to warn of a different “deadline,” but the principle is the same: the day is coming when God will close the door. After that time, no further decisions will be offered or accepted. Those in the second resurrection, the resurrection of damnation, will be eternally separated from God and from us. That is the bad news: The Good News is that there is still time for us to offer God’s Grace to anyone who will hear.

Jesus is still in the business of reaching out to the Lost, and offering them eternal life. And He only does so through His people: It always requires that we take the time (and risk) of sharing His Grace with others. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by Hearing, and Hearing by the Word of God.” You may be the only source of light in someone else’s darkness: Don’t deny them that light! Open your heart to care enough to open your mouth and offer them the Grace of God and eternal life, through the Gospel.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to allow Your compassion to flow through us to the people around  in our lives. Give us the compassion to care and the courage and conviction to speak. Fill us with Your Spirit and allow us to serve.

Who are “the Dead?”

Who are “the Dead,” in John 5:25-29?

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 5:25-29

Introduction:

Some of the passages we have read in the Gospel of John have required some thought, and even some “digging into the rest of God’s Word,” to arrive at a reasonable level of understanding. Some are very straightforward and clear. (John 5:24, which we read last week, is one of the “very clear” variety: No one need have any question about his or her eternal destiny, or how to have assurance of Eternal life.)  But: the next five verses do give cause for some careful thought and for asking some questions:

John 5:25-29

25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

What is happening, here?

Taken as a whole, that passage could be pretty confusing: It rather sounds as though Jesus is planning a “preaching tour among the graves,” that some of the dead would hear him and live, that ALL would hear and exit the tombs and that the “good people” would have eternal life, and the “bad people” would have eternal condemnation.

There are several problems with that assumption:

  1. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is given unto man once to die, and after this, the judgment.”
    1. (That pretty much excludes a “second chance.”)
    1. Luke 16:19-31 tells of a man who clearly “believed” from the tomb, and it did him no good at all! There was no “second chance.”
  2. Romans 3:12 says “there is none that doeth good: no, not one!”So, whatever we think about “good and bad” people means very little.
  3. Luke 23:42, 43 tells of a man who definitely did evil with his life, and was in the process of being executed for his crimes. But he placed his trust in the living Christ, and was given eternal life, as a gift.
  4. Ephesians 2:8, 9 says we are not saved by good works: that it is always a gift, and
  5. Galatians 2:21 says, if it were possible  to be justified (declared righteous) by works, then Jesus died for nothing!

So, perhaps there is more than one type of “dead” in this passage. Perhaps the preaching is not done “among the tombs,” but among the “dead.” That alone would make the last verse easier to understand, but there is still a problem with the “Works” issue. So, let’s examine the passage:

Who are the Dead?

The first question we really need to answer, then is “Who are the dead, to whom Jesus was calling at that time (and to whom He still is calling today?) The best place to find answers about questions in God’s Word is in God’s Word!  So, let’s see what we can find out about the “dead” to whom Jesus is “calling:”

  • Ephesians 2:1, speaking to the Gentile believers at Ephesus (and us!), says “You hath He quickened (brought to life) who were dead in trespasses and sin.”
    • They were dead in sin (spiritually separated from God. (Ephesians 2:11, 12)
    • Jesus brought them to life.
    • They were living believers when Paul’s letter reached them.
  • Colossians 2:13, speaking to another Gentile church, says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
    • They once were dead, but now were alive, through the forgiveness of all sins.
    • And we already saw that Ephesians 2:8, 9 says it was by Grace, through Faith.

So, from these passages, what answer can I give to the question, “Who are the Dead to whom Jesus called?”

25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

We Were Dead in our Sins

The “dead” to whom Jesus calls are the unbelieving people of the whole world. We were all dead in sins until we heard the Gospel: we somehow heard the call of Jesus, over the noise of this dying world, and we placed our faith in Him, at whatever level of understanding we then had.

The Example of the Thief on the Cross:

The thief on the Cross was surrounded by the howling, mocking crowd, and filled with his own agony, as well, but he somehow saw the Holiness of Jesus and His Forgiveness and Love, and he repented of his earlier arrogance against God. He cast Himself upon the Mercy of the Living Christ. He died a short time later, just after Jesus did, and he entered Paradise with His Savior.

He was (literally) dead in his sins, and being executed for his crimes! He was dying as a condemned criminal. But: he heard the voice of Jesus, and lived! The only sense in which his condition differs from each of ours is the degree of immediacy: he knew he was dying and he had no hope of respite or reprieve. He was looking at Jesus face-to-face. He cast his only, desperate hope on someone he had only moments before been mocking along with the crowd. So, how does that compare with my own experience?

My Own Example:

  • Had I seen Jesus face-to-face? (Nope!)
  • Did I know for sure when I was going to die? (No, but I was pretty sure that I would die.)
  • Was I aware of my sin and the consequences of sin? (Theoretically, yes, but certainly not to the same degree as that man was. I had a growing conviction that I was a condemned sinner, and unable to please God.)
  • Did I know what Jesus could do for me? (In some ways I knew more than the thief on the Cross, but not much more: I knew that I was lost, and that Jesus was my only hope.)

How Did Jesus Call us to Himself?

Our individual stories vary a little, from person to person, but really only in the “details.”

For example, Abraham believed God and God declared him righteous (Genesis 15:6.) That is the core truth: God speaks, we place our faith in Him, and He declares us righteous.

In the New Testament, the believers heard the Gospel (the good news of the substitutionary sacrifice Jesus made for us: His death, and burial and resurrection,) and they believed God, that He was the true Savior, promised from the beginning of the world. And they were not only declared righteous (“justified,”) but were assigned a permanent position in the Body of Christ.

The only thing God names as His power to save us, the sinners, the spiritually dead of this world, is the Gospel of Christ. Romans 1:16 says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the Power of God to save them that believe!” And it is the only thing so described in Scripture. He offers no other hope.

How does He call?

In Abraham’s case, He evidently called in an audible voice. (Abraham never saw a Bible.) In other biblical cases, He sometimes called in a vision, sometimes in person, face to face.(None of those people had a Bible, either, though some had seen the Torah scrolls.)

But after the apostolic age, increasingly, the primary way has been through the written Word of God. The epistles circulated widely during the first century, and there were tens of thousands of copies made, during the first few centuries. Each was laboriously hand-copied onto Papyrus sheets. Some of the copies were pretty poor quality, as the people who painstakingly wrote them out were only barely literate. But they valued the written Word enough to risk their lives for it, so they certainly were trying to be very careful. And, overall, the record is very good, partly because of the many thousands of surviving copies still extant today.

How did He call You?

So…in your case; did you hear the Gospel from a friend? Perhaps from a neighbor, or a family member? They were quoting (or at least referring to) the authoritative Word of God. They were not “making things up as they went.” Perhaps you believed on the spot: perhaps you required dozens of repeated contacts (as I did,) before you changed your mind (that’s called “repentance“) regarding who Jesus is and was.

Regardless of how the message came to me, it was through the Word of God. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” And, of course, when we began this study in the Gospel of John, in the very first verses we found that Jesus is the Word! He is the Living Word. And, how you respond to the Written Word reveals the reality of how you respond to the Living Word.

How do we Respond?

Pastor Richard Banham once attempted to share Christ with an older woman, but she angrily replied, “I don’t care what the Bible says! I have my experience!” Her response to the Written Word was utter rejection. Specifically, she utterly rejected the Gospel of Christ.

And God says that the Gospel, being believed in, is His only power to save sinners. Jesus calls, and they who “hear His voice” shall live. What does it mean to “hear his voice?” In John 15:3 Jesus told the eleven remaining disciples (Judas had already left) “Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.” But two chapters earlier, in John 13:10, 11, He had said they were not all clean, and it says he was referring to Judas Iscariot.

Judas “heard” all the same words the other disciples had heard: why was he not clean? Because he rejected what he was “hearing.” He heard the sound and understood the words, but he rejected the message. The other eleven “heard Him,” and received what He said as being from God. Jesus had “called to the spiritually dead” and some had responded in faith. Those who responded in faith were made alive. Those who did not believe, simply remained dead, unless (as in my own case) they later repented (changed their mind) and believed.

The Authority of Life and Judgment

26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

Philippians 2:5-8 shows us that Jesus was the eternal God: He was God the Son, but He did not cling to that position with all its privileges. He was born into our world as a baby, grew up as a man, and lived out a perfect life before God. But, through all that experience, He never set aside His Holiness as God, nor did He set aside His wisdom.

He mostly chose not to use His limitless power, but He occasionally revealed it through the incredible miracles He performed. Though I am usually most impressed by His stopping the storm, the greatest miracle, of course, was when He raised the dead. He physically raised the dead on several occasions. The most exciting example was Lazarus, in John 11. In all these things he proved the truth of this verse. He has the authority of life, and of Judgment. He is specifically our Judge, because of His Humanity.  We are being judged by a righteous God who has lived with all the restrictions of a human life, and has been victorious. But He also is our Savior, offering a free pass through the judgment, by His Grace, through Faith.

But, What about the Graves?

Remember, He also mentioned “those in the Graves:”  What about them? He said, 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

So, all those in the graves when Jesus gives that final call, will come out! We can read in the book of the Revelation how that will happen: the call will first involve the righteous dead. The Old Testament saints are already with Jesus, today, but at that time, their old physical bodies will be raised, perfect and incorruptible.

The same goes for all the New Testament believers as well: their bodies are currently wherever they ended up. Some were buried, and were consumed by various creatures of the earth. Some were lost at sea, and digested by various types of marine life, large or small. Some were burned, and their ashes were blown away by the wind. But God will bring all of them back to life, to face eternity!

Job knew all about this!

In Job 19:25, Job said that he knew that “after his death, though worms would consume his old body, yet he would see his Redeemer face-to-face, with his own eyes and not another.” The fact is, at the resurrection, ALL those who are physically dead WILL come out to face Jesus, either as their Savior or as their Judge. All their bodies will be restored, regardless of what had become of them, and regardless of whether they are saved or lost. There are no exceptions.

But, the resurrection of the unrighteous dead is described in Revelation 20:12-15 They will receive their old body, eternally renewed, just in time to spend eternity separated from God! Jesus spent a fair amount of time and effort warning about this resurrection. In fact, He spent more time warning about the coming Judgment and the Lake of Fire, than He did telling us about what Heaven will be like.

(Christian preachers are often accused of “spending too much time preaching about Hell.” But, if they want to follow Jesus’s example, they will do it more, not less!) The Good News of the Gospel would not be good news at all, if it were not for the bad news of human sin and the coming judgment. (What do you think we are being saved from?)

But, What about the “good deeds?”

Jesus did say, “…they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.What “doing good” was he referring to?

In John 6:28, 29, the people asked Jesus, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” He answered, “This is the Work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.

That is the only “good work” that results in salvation: placing your faith in His Sacrifice: Jesus’s finished work at the Cross.  In John 3:18, Jesus said, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Don’t We Need Good Works?

Are there “Good Works” subsequent to salvation, which might apply, here?  In a way, yes! Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created unto good works which He hast before ordained that we should walk in them.”

As long as we recognize that the only “good work” which can result in salvation, or affect it in any way, is the work which Jesus did for us at the Cross, then we can talk about the eternal rewards God promises for our obedience to Him after we are born again. But those rewards are not a gift: they are rewards. Salvation is truly a gift, given freely by Jesus.

Conclusion

We will talk about rewards at a later time. For now, I think it is enough that we understand that we were the “dead, who heard the voice of the Savior and responded in faith.” As we share the Gospel with others who also are dead in their sins, Jesus continues to call them, through His Word, inviting them to eternal life and to peace, and to joy.

And, eventually, (if the Lord’s return does not come first) we all will be among “those in the graves,” who answer the call to the resurrection of the just: to see our Redeemer face to face! We have that Blessed Hope, by His Promise!

Lord Jesus, fill us with Your Joy, as we contemplate the absolute security we have in You. Fill us with the knowledge that you have called us to be your voice, on earth. We are to call to the spiritually dead, and to offer them eternal life. Fill us with Your compassion for the lost, and send us to do Your will.

Jesus: The Judge of All the Earth

The Judge of All the Earth

© 2022, C. O. Bishop

John 5:15-23

Introduction:

We have been studying through the Gospel of John, and we have come to a place where a fairly heavy doctrinal question is posed: “Who are we really dealing with in the Person of Jesus?”

In the context, here, Jesus had healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and the man had responded by “turning Jesus in” to the Jews…probably the religious rulers. So, in verses, 15 and 16, we catch the initial sense of “what is happening.”

15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

The man identified Jesus as being the one who had healed him (more specifically, the one who had told him to take up his bed and walk) and we see that the immediate response of “The Jews” was to persecute Jesus and seek to kill him. I always have inferred that the passage referred to the religious leaders, but, as I read it over again, I see that it does not specifically say that. It just says, “the Jews.”

However, we want to remember that this happened in Jerusalem, and the Jews in Jerusalem seem to have had a different response than did the Jews of smaller cities and villages, as a rule. And Jerusalem was ultimately the key response for the entire nation. Bethany received Jesus as the Promised King and Savior, but Jerusalem clamored for His death!

The Initial Accusation

So, the first accusation they made was that Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. This is apeculiar thing, as He seemed to deliberately heal on the Sabbath to further challenge His accusers. The word “Sabbath” means “rest!” And Jesus was giving the sufferers Divine Rest, through the healing He provided.

He delivered them from the bondage of their illness, paralysis, or demon-possession, and He gave them rest! In Hebrews chapter 4, we will eventually see that Jesus is our Sabbath: And, having received Him as our deliverer, we now “labor to enter into His Rest,” on a day-by-day basis.

Jesus did not try to explain any of this to His accusers. He simply stated His claims and continually demonstrated His authority. What incredible authority; to speak and cure paralysis! To speak and cast out demons (who recognized Him and called Him by name!) To speak, and raise the dead! To speak, and calm the storm! And their only response was to try to kill him! What an amazingly wrong-headed response! It was bad enough that they continually argued against Him, but to want to kill the only one who had the power of life seems incredibly short-sighted!

Jesus’ Reply, and the Second Accusation

Jesus’ spoken reply to His accusers made them even more determined to kill Him:

17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

You see, now they really thought they had him cornered: He was convicted by His own words! They correctly understood that He was claiming Deity. He was not saying, as a person today might say, “My Heavenly Father (in contrast to my biological or human father) is watching over me.” They correctly understood that He claimed to be the Heir, God in the flesh!

The odd thing to me, there, is that in their own Scriptures they had that express promise made to them. In Isaiah 7:14, God said that “The Virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” The name, “Immanuel” literally means “God with us!” That sounds like a pretty precious promise, to me!

So, if someone came along, claiming to fulfil that promise, wouldn’t the logical response be to “check His credentials?” There were lots of prophecies they could turn to, to check Him out, but they did not bother to do that. They just assumed He was lying, and they attacked Him.

19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

He pointed out the illogical character of their response, saying, in effect, “Look at the Works!” He later said, “if you don’t believe my words, believe for the sake of the works!” He showed that the works themselves had to come from the One who had the authority to heal! At the very least, they should have been able to see that He was sent from God.

In John chapter 9, we see that this precise argument was raised by the man who had been born blind, and whom Jesus healed. He said, “No man can do such things unless God is with Him! From the beginning of the world, it has not been heard that a man received sight who had been born blind!” And, again, the response of the Jews was only to accuse the man who was healed, and to cast him out of the temple, rather than confess the strength of his argument. They were not willing to see Jesus for who He truly was, even when confronted with irrefutable truth.

Jesus went on to describe the relationship between the Father and the Son:

20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. 21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

He described the Love relationship between the Father and the Son, and further said that the miracles were about to increase, specifically so that they should “marvel”—be filled with amazement. And raising the dead was what he said was coming up.

Now, they had not yet seen Jesus raising the dead, but He offered a preview, of what was going to happen: speaking to those who were His sworn enemies, He offered the resurrection! He claimed the authority to raise the dead at will. What proof could He give of that authority? They would see the proof, but, so far, He had not done such things. In John 11, he publicly raised to life someone who had been dead long enough to begin to decay. And, in John 12, their response was still to want to kill him!

If someone who has already demonstrated that He could heal people who were completely wrecked by disease, makes the claim that He can raise the dead, He should at least be given the opportunity to prove His claim. But that was not their response. Nor is it the usual response today. I have had someone declare to me that if they saw someone raised from the dead, they would have to believe. But, in Luke 16:31, Jesus said that is not true, either: He said that “if they will not believe Moses (God’s prophet…God’s Word) then they would not believe, even if they saw someone raised from the dead.”

The Universal Response

So, what is the usual response of Humanity to God? We see in scripture that the Jews’ response was not unusual for the rest of the World either. So, we should be cautious about condemning the Jews for their response. Jesus taught that very few would actually enter in by faith…that most people would choose the path toward destruction.

Keep in mind that their response is by their own choice. Even in the Old Testament, God says that the voice of Wisdom calls to the simple and the foolish, to turn from their ways, and also that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But the depravity of the Human race is universal. Our egos war against God, by nature.

In Psalm 14:2, 3, God said, The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

We want to “re-write” such a passage to say, “…not very many…” but God says, “No, not one!” Collectively, we have rejected God. He has pursued us with His Grace and Love and Kindness and attempted to reconcile the World to Himself. Also, that passage from Psalm 14 is quoted verbatim in Romans 3:9-12.This is not an “Old Testament problem.”

God’s Solution

God saw that Human reasoning and Human “wisdom” would never result in a right relationship with God. (1st Corinthians 1:21 says, for after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” ) So, He chose, before the foundation of the World, to receive a specific group: those who would respond in faith to the Good News of God’s Grace.

Jesus said in John 12:32 “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” He gave Himself as the “magnet” to which people would either respond in faith or not. Some may respond with indifference. Others may be “attracted,” but still unwilling to believe, because of the offensive nature of the Cross. Some may respond in ridicule, saying that the entire message is utter foolishness. Still others may respond in anger, claiming that they are “Good People!” They see no need for a Savior and are insulted that we would suggest they need one!

But, still others will respond in faith, choosing by faith to lay their hands upon God’s chosen sacrifice, and see Him as their only hope. Faith is a choice. To those few who choose to believe God, He gives eternal life and eternal forgiveness of their sins.

So, Jesus has named Himself as the one through whom the resurrection is to be had. He has named Himself (back in John 3:16-18) as the only Savior, and said that the only requirement is faith. He said that those who believed in Him (as their Savior) would not be condemned, but that those who refused to believe were already condemned, specifically because they do not believe. But what else does he say, here in John 5:22, 23?

Jesus, the Judge of all the Earth

From Human perspective, we have been told that God is the eternal Judge: and so He is! But we frequently fail to consider the triune nature of the Godhead. John began to investigate this truth, way back in John 1:1 – he said that “the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Now, in any other context, that statement alone is contradictory—paradoxical: Something (or someone) cannot be with another being, and simultaneously be that other being.

So, we had already begun to see that this “Word” who was later identified as Jesus, was in some mysterious way to be seen as being God, Himself. That is an important point to grasp. Later on, Jesus brought it to everyone’s attention that only God can forgive sins, and that, while a human may say “your sins are forgiven,” it becomes the ultimate in “cheap talk” unless they can prove that they have the authority to forgive sins. So, He proved His authority to forgive sins by demonstrating His authority to heal a paralyzed man. (He simply spoke, and healed him!)

But what else does that suggest about Jesus? If He has the authority to forgive sins, does He not also have the authority to not forgive? That makes Him the Judge! And Jesus confirmed that truth, in the next two verses; also warning the hearers of the consequences of unbelief:

22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

Here are four points to grasp from that statement:

  1. God the Father does not judge.
  2. God the Son does judge…and all judgment has been committed unto Him.
  3. The goal of God is that people will honor the Son as they honor the Father who sent Him.
  4. Whoever does not honor Jesus in the same way as the Father, does not honor the Father!

Where does this leave the people who say that they believe in Jesus, but see Him as somehow less than God in the Flesh? Many people say they believe Jesus is the Son of God, but deny that He is God. This is a stumbling block to all the cults: they want to appear to honor Jesus, but they balk at admitting His deity. And, the person they are dishonoring is the one who is their Judge.

Old Testament Evidence

What evidence do we have that I am not just misinterpreting Jesus’s words? Genesis 18:25 sees Abraham pleading with God in the Flesh (to whom he had just served lunch…beef, bread, butter and milk…and who had eaten it) and addressing Him as “the Judge of all the earth!

Well, so long as I see that person as God (and it is) there is no information there to support what Jesus said…except that, there is one more New Testament passage that caps it: John 1:18 says “No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” So, yes, that was God, but not God the Father!  Abraham called God the Son “Judge of all the Earth!”

If I compare the two passages, where Jesus claims to be the only Judge, and where Abraham called Him that to His face, then I begin to see that the person the Jews were hating and seeking to kill, was literally:

  • God in the Flesh
  • The only Savior who would ever be offered on their behalf, and
  • The Eternal Judge before whom they would stand if they rejected His offer of peace.

It is hard to imagine being so hard-hearted as to not see the joy of the people Jesus healed, and to not hear the pure wisdom He taught. But to be confronted with the reality of His authority, and to deny it as though he were only a political rival, seems insane. And yet, that is where we all have stood, originally, and it is where the vast majority of the world still takes its stand, today.

How can we apply this truth?

So, what can we do with this knowledge? If we have already received Him as our Savior, then perhaps it will remind us of the importance of daily seeing Him as our Lord: our Master. Perhaps it can give us greater drive to share with others our hope of redemption, our only hope of forgiveness and eternal life.

Remember that evangelism is nothing greater (nor less than) one beggar telling another beggar where to find free food and shelter. We came to Christ as beggars, condemned and unclean. He gave us a new life, completely holy before Him. But we still have nothing, outside of what He gives us. So, we offer that gift freely, without any condescension… we are just saved sinners ourselves. We aren’t looking down our noses at anyone. But the one we serve is the true Master of all things…the only Savior and the Eternal Judge. Take it seriously and pass that Grace to others!

Lord Jesus, change our hearts to truly see You as the only hope for the world, and more specifically, the only hope for every individual sinner in the world. Help us to see through Your eyes, and care with Your heart. Make us to serve as Your hands and feet and to speak as Your voice.

What Happened at Bethesda?

What Happened at Bethesda?

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

John 5:1-18 compare John 9:34-38

Introduction:

Last week, we talked about the situation (John 4:46-53) in Cana, where a man’s son was healed from 16 miles away, and another in Mark 5:21-43 where a woman was healed by touching Jesus’ garment, and a child was raised from the dead. We were able to see that the healings happened by the will of Jesus, and often in company of the faith of the sick person…but not always. (The little girl’s faith was never in question: Jesus told her father to believe, but only commanded her to “get up.”)

So, in the next chapter, there is a strange situation: Jesus went to the pool at Bethesda, where it says that there was a “great multitude” of people seeking healing.

In the situation in Mark chapter five, we decided that the reason only the one woman was healed was that she alone had come there for healing, in faith that touching the hem of Jesus’s robe would provide her with healing. We observed that none of the others were there for that purpose, except the man to whose house Jesus was going, in order to heal his daughter. OK…that seems evident, because Jesus confirmed that “thy faith hath made thee whole!” But at Bethesda, there were many present: and evidently every single one was there because they believed that if they could get into the water FIRST after the angel disturbed the waters, then they would be healed. So what actually happened?

What actually happened at Bethesda?

1After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

So, the first and most obvious question would be “Why heal just the one guy? They were all there in faith, right? And Jesus never even confronted that particular man about faith: just whether he wanted to be healed.”

And my next question would be, “Why that particular guy?”

So, let’s look at the facts, as laid out in the scripture, and try to discern what happened:

  • There was a pool called Bethesda, meaning “House of Mercy.”
  • At certain times an angel went down and disturbed the water in that pool,
    • People try to make this just a “fable,” or a “superstition,” attempting to explain by natural means what happened at Bethesda. The scripture does not allow for that possibility: It flatly declares that an angel did disturb the water, and that whoever jumped in first after that disturbance, was healed. We do not have the option to say that it was just a subterranean spring that occasionally “burped” and disturbed the water. We do not have the option to say that “the healings were psychosomatic.” God says they were real, and that it was an angelic action, not geological. He also says that whatever disease they had, the healing was available. To deny any of this is to deny God’s Word. Further, if it had not been observably true, then there would not have been a crowd there, knowing that only one would be healed each time. (Sad, really.)
  • There was a great multitude gathered there… a crowd of people, all believing that, if they could just be the first one into the water, they could be healed.
  • Jesus asked one man, who had been there a long time, “Do you want to be healed?”
    • That seems a rhetorical question: he wouldn’t be there if that was not his desire: But Jesus did ask. However, there was no question regarding faith. Nor did God mention anything about his faith or lack of it. Jesus just questioned his desire, and the man responded as to why he was not getting healed. (He could never get there first, because he couldn’t walk, and had no one to put him into the water.)
  • Jesus commanded the man to “ Rise, take up thy bed and walk.” And the man didn’t question it: he just obeyed! (Odd thing, here: there was no “walking and leaping and praising God,” in this account. There is not even a mention of gratitude, or joy.)
  • Finally, It was the Sabbath. (This may actually be the key fact in the whole account.)

What was the Result?

10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

It was completely predictable that the other Jews (especially the scribes, pharisees, priests, etc.) would accuse the man of breaking the sabbath: even the common man was aware of this law. They seemed especially good at accusations of this kind. And rather than saying, “Yes, I know! I was just healed after 38 years of paralysis! I will go to the priest and bring a sacrifice!” he shifted the blame to Jesus, saying, “The one who healed me told me to carry my bed!”

So, they wanted to know who told him to carry his bed, not, apparently, who healed him. But, as it happened, he couldn’t tell them because he himself had never focused on Jesus even enough to recognize him, let alone get his name so he could thank him properly. He just plain didn’t know! And that didn’t seem to bother him very much, until found that he couldn’t point him out to the accusers. What an odd response to having been granted instant relief after 38 years of disease! I am grateful to get well after being sick for even a few days!

The “Second Chance” Meeting

 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

The man had a “second chance to get to know Jesus,” there in the temple: Jesus found him again, (notice that it is God who seeks us, not the other way around: see Romans 3:11) and He told him, in essence, “you need to get your priorities straight, so something worse doesn’t happen to you!” (Was Jesus threatening the man? No: the man evidently did not have a saving faith at all, and Jesus was simply warning him of the coming Judgment.) Bear in mind: There was another (later) healing where the healed individual also did not know who Jesus was, but it was because he had been blind from birth, and had never seen anyone, let alone Jesus. And when Jesus found him, and identified Himself, that man fell at the feet of Jesus, and worshipped Him! (John 9:38)

So, what did this man do with that warning? He departed! He left Jesus, and found Jesus’s enemies, and pointed out Jesus to them! (Real gratitude, there!) Now, nothing more is said about this man. I can’t tell you what ended up happening to him. Did he later repent and become a believer? We are not told, and I will not speculate: But his responses seem to be those of an enemy, not a grateful recipient of a blessing. Keep that in mind.

How did the Jews Respond?

16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

Their response was not, “seek to question Him as to His authority, and investigate whether He was, in fact, the Messiah:” Nope! Their first response was to try to kill Him! And they were persistent about it, too. This response occurs repeatedly during Jesus’s earthly ministry.

Notice, also, that the priorities of the Jews did not include finding the One who could heal them of all diseases, but rather seeking to kill Him, because he healed on the sabbath day. (How strange!) It specifically says they initially sought to kill Him because he had healed on the sabbath. This actually comes up over and over, in the Gospel accounts, and this particular incident just seems to be the “opening round.”

How did Jesus Respond?

17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

Jesus simply stated the source of His authority: “My Father!” We are going to see this challenge made to them over and over, as well. All the religions of the World run head-on into this barrier: The Deity of Christ! And what is their response?

 18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

Even more vehemently, they now desired to kill Jesus because He claimed to be deity! Consider: We might simply have thought that Jesus was “claiming God as His Heavenly Father,” as anyone might say today. But they understood that the issue went much deeper: Jesus was not claiming to be “A” child of God. He was claiming to be “THESon of God. And they knew it! They also knew that if it were true, then He was quite literally equal with God, as the Heir!

Isn’t it interesting, that in the various parables where Jesus talked about a King, or a landowner, sending emissaries to receive the tribute due Him as the owner of the land, the people beat those emissaries, stoned them, and killed them. But when He sent His Son, they said, “This is the heir! Let’s kill Him, and then WE will own the land!” (What?? How do you figure that? All that would do is make you all guilty of a capital crime, as murderers!)

But that was their response! And the parables were referring to these very people whose forefathers had killed the prophets God sent, and who now sought to kill Jesus, the author of life and healing, as well as the ultimate authority in the Universe!

Now: do I understand the Trinity? Nope! I freely admit that I do not! Isaiah 9:6, 7 tells me that “the Son … shall be called…the Everlasting Father!” And yet, Jesus said “My Father is greater than I!” I cannot make those two statements agree, by human reasoning: I would have to alter the truth to make them somehow “fit.” From Human perspective, it seems paradoxical, at best. But both statements are clearly taught in the scripture, and both are equally true. I am not required to understand them, nor to explain them: but I am required to faithfully teach them. And, I do not have the authority to change the truth of God, to make it more palatable to human reasoning. God says it, and it is true. Deal with it! (And, next week, we are going to see just how far the Authority of Jesus reaches.)

I happen to believe that Jesus “handpicked” that man at Bethesda, knowing how he would respond. The Jews were only beginning to see what they were up against: The conflict began right here in John 5! (But then…)

How Should We Respond?

I doubt there is any chance that any of us will respond to Jesus in the way the man at the pool of Bethesda did, or at least not to the extent that he did. And I think there is even less chance that any of us will respond with the animosity that Jesus’s enemies displayed.

But I do think that we should take a lesson from the sharp contrast between the response of the man whose sight Jesus granted, and the one who had been unable to walk for 38 years. The one wanted to know who Jesus was, and immediately gave Him worship, let alone ordinary gratitude! He saw Him as God in the Flesh! The other showed zero gratitude, and only wanted to know who Jesus was so that he could shift any blame for his having broken the sabbath onto Jesus. What a contrast!

Now, it seems to me, that as God’s born-again children, those already redeemed from among the dead, and guaranteed Eternal Life, through the promise of God, our response ought to consistently be more like the man who received his sight.

I know that I tend to take for granted the blessings of God, and to not fully contemplate His supply, let alone the enormity of His saving Grace at the Cross. I want to respond in genuine gratitude, not with a casual, “Oh, that’s cool!” and then immediately forget what was done for us. But today is especially not a good time for any of us to take a casual attitude toward God: For one thing, we are in a time of social upheaval; of serious health threats, as well as the political turmoil of our times.

But, even more importantly, as we approach Christmas, it seems especially important that we not forget what that tiny child in Bethlehem came to do!  He didn’t just come to be a cute, precious baby. He didn’t come to just live a perfect life, nor just to be a perfect example for us, nor even the powerful teacher and prophet that the Jews were struggling to deal with: He came to die!

This was God the Son; Immanuel…”God with us;” the “Word made Flesh:” The Lamb of God, chosen before the foundation of the Earth for ONE eternal purpose: to be the substitutionary sacrifice for the entire Human race.He cameto satisfy forever the Holiness and Righteousness of God, by His blood at the Cross.

That is why we refuse to replace Jesus Christ with any of the World’s ideas about Christmas. But in the midst of that mental and spiritual conflict, we also need to “pull back” from the struggle and give our heartfelt thanksgiving and worship to the Christ who came to give His life for us. Are we thankful for healing, when it happens? Absolutely! Are we thankful for His abundant supply? Surely, we are! But apart from everything else, even when things are hard, we need to be thankful for Who He IS, as our God and Savior!

You see, even if the man at Bethesda was grateful to some degree (and it doesn’t appear that he was,) his desire to clear himself before other humans evidently superseded whatever gratitude he may have felt.

The other man, who had been born blind, went far beyond simple gratitude, and recognized Jesus as the Creator God. How do I come to that conclusion? He was a Jew: he knew the very first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve!” So, for him to offer worship, he had to be sure that Jesus was that one God! How did he know? It must have been by revelation: Jesus only called Himself the “Son of God” in that passage, but that man clearly made the correct connection: he had already seen the proof, and now he knew the source!

We know the source, and we are constantly seeing the proof! I hope we will learn to consistently respond in gratitude, worship and praise!

Lord Jesus, lift our eyes out of the pit of this world, above the dirt and struggle and bickering strife that we see daily in this life. Lift up our eyes to see You: heal our diseased spirits, the eyes of our hearts, and raise us to a clean worship and thanksgiving before Your throne. Fill us with Your Joy and Peace. Amen!