I have heard it said that the people during the time of Jesus were perhaps more gullible people today, and that is why, as our scientific knowledge expands, it seems to be the case that atheism is the rise. However, it seems in John 10 that all the people of Jerusalem were guilty of was considering the possibility that the supernatural existed.
Joh 10:19 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
Joh 10:20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
Joh 10:21 Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
It is not that the Jewish people immediately thought that Jesus was the son of God. Maybe He was possessed by a demon, or maybe He wasn’t. Maybe God was working through Him, maybe God was not.
It does not seem to me that these people were immediately ready to jump on the bandwagon and proclaim Jesus was the Messiah. Even though they seemingly had evidence of Jesus healing a blind man, they needed to find some explanation because that does not normally happen.
I draw a parallel to today. Christians can easily get sucked into a “God of the gaps” fallacy. We see something that science does not have an answer for yet, and we immediately point back and say that God did it. The only problem with that is when we find a natural explanation for that phenomenon, our atheist friends will argue that the room for God is getting smaller, and eventually it will disappear.
For the Jewish audience, they talked about the possible options. They had a miracle they had seen. They now needed to figure out what happened. They were open to the possibility that perhaps the supernatural was at play here. They didn’t immediately believe it, but they were open to the possibility.
I think about that today as a Christian. Even though I love GK Chesterton who argued in Orthodoxy that perhaps God did not create the universe to run in a certain way and everyday makes an individual, creative decision to have the sun rise again instead, it does seem to me that there are certain laws that do seem to keep the universe regular. Gravity seems to apply approximately the same way whenever something falls off the table for example. Of course, if there is something like gravity, then we need to wonder where it came from. Could there be a natural explanation? Sure. There could be. Could there be a supernatural explanation? Sure. There could be. Could Chesterton’s hypothetical situation be right? Sure. It could be.
So many people get caught up in the idea that the supernatural is impossible by default. Maybe there is a perfectly satisfactory natural answer for whatever question we might be talking about, but I would encourage people to have an open mind when they approach these types of questions. What if God is the best answer? Let’s look at the evidence, look at our options and find where the evidence points.
John 9 gives us a great story of Jesus healing a blind man. Jesus told him how he could be healed, and it is incredibly significant that he went without question.
Joh 9:6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
Joh 9:7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
I wonder what the man thought. I wonder if he knew that Jesus was a miracle worker. It was certainly a strange prescription. If I went to my doctor today and he told me something like this, I’m sure I would be a little bit skeptical. Blindness was also a permanent condition in this case, so I wonder what he expected would happen.
Regardless of what he thought, the man went. That is incredibly important here. He heard what Jesus told him, and he did it. I think that’s what we need to take away from this passage. Jesus told this man to do something that was impossible for all intents and purposes. This man knew that he was blind and surely anticipated being blind forever, but he followed Jesus despite that.
I think about us. Are there things that we think are impossible? It doesn’t need to be physical like this situation with the blind man. We can try to put limits on God at any time, and that really is not right. We need to be like this man. We need to be willing to do what Jesus calls us to do. If it is true that God has a plan for every life and if it is true that God plays an active role in the world today and every day, then when he tells us to do something, we should do it.
Jesus was never a man to avoid controversy, and in John 8, He made what very well might have been one of His most controversial statements.
Joh 8:57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Joh 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Joh 8:59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
Jesus appears to have used grammar badly right here, but He was clearly alluding to a title for God himself from way back in Exodus when God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush.
Exo 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
That also explains why the people became so mad in verse 59. They wanted the stone Him right there, but then the rest of the chapter, it doesn’t seem that that tension was there. It was when He identified with the title of God that the people became a little bit upset to say the least.
I mentioned these verses because there are people who claim that Jesus never claimed to be God, and Christian simply impose that on Him. However, just because we do not necessarily understand the cultural reference Jesus was making does not mean that He never claimed to be God. Clearly the Jewish people understood what He was doing there. They wanted to stone Him. Even if we might not pick up the reference is easily today, the effects should tell us something.
This is not the only example of Jesus identifying with God, but I just wanted to point it out because if Jesus told us who He was and if He proved that by rising from the dead, what are we going to do with that? It is an important question.
In John 7, we see the beginnings of the plot to condemn Jesus to death, but even within the Pharisees, there was some dissension about what needed to be done.
Joh 7:45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
Joh 7:46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
Joh 7:47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?
Joh 7:48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?
Joh 7:49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
I point this out because the Pharisees thought they were the intellectual elite, and to be fair they were. They had studied the law, and they had been given their position in large part due to their knowledge. However, in verse 49, we see them claim that Jesus was nothing more than a deceiver of the simple. These people did not know the law, so they were drawn in by the miracle worker.
I think about this in context today. How many times have you heard that people who believe in God are deceived? How many times have you heard that people who believe in God are just foolish? I don’t think the atmosphere has changed very much. Followers of Christ are still criticized by some for believing what they would deem as impossible or unbelievable.
I like these temple guards though. Why didn’t they capture Him as commanded? Basically, there was no one like Jesus. They had never heard anything like this. That is also still true today. There is no one who can compare with God, and even if we don’t understand everything immediately, there is something about the message of Jesus Christ that is like no other.
John 6 is a controversial one. I am not an expert on debating things such as transubstantiation and the presence of Christ in the elements of communion. However, I was reading through this passage a few more times again to give the topic some additional thought, and these verses stood out to me. I didn’t want to skip over this topic simply because it is challenging or people might disagree.
Joh 6:52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
Joh 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Joh 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Joh 6:55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
Joh 6:56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
Joh 6:57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
Joh 6:58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
I read this, and I thought back to John 3:16.
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Now, we have two things that bring eternal life. If you eat the flesh and drink the blood, then you have eternal life. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you have eternal life. Therefore, that seems to beg a question. Is eating the flesh and drinking the blood the same thing as believing in Jesus Christ? Are they two separate ways to salvation? It does not seem that there can be two ways since Jesus Christ said He was the Way, so somehow these have to be reconciled it seems.
From a symbolic perspective, it is easier to reconcile my previous questions.
Communion is a ceremony ordained by Christ that we do in remembrance of His sacrifice for us. It is not something to be taken lightly whatsoever, and I do not mean to diminish that.
However, John 6 would then be talking about something different rather than communion. If believing in Christ is the same thing as eating and drinking His body, then it could refer to something like Jesus Christ being our sustenance. If we are not living with Jesus Christ as our centerpiece, but then we are not saved. If we do not believe in Him for that type of a life essential, we are not Christians. If we are not drawing our life force from Jesus Christ, then we are not followers of His. John 6 would not necessarily then speak about the physical taking of elements, but it would rather referred to the position that Jesus Christ has in our lives.
This symbolic language of getting our life form Christ especially when compared to the people of Israel who received life of a different sort from God while in the wilderness seems to make a lot of sense to me.
Again, I am not an expert, and I am particularly not an expert on how this works out for people who believe in the necessity of taking communion for salvation, so feel free to comment no matter what side of the debate you fall on. However, it does make sense to me that understanding this symbolically is consistent. I don’t know that it is right to apply John 6 directly to the communion.
It is easy for people to miss the obvious when they become too focused on the particular, and we see that happen with some Jewish people in John 5. Jesus had just healed a man who was unable to walk, and even though you would think that everyone would be happy for the obvious good news, the people were not.
Joh 5:9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
Joh 5:10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
Joh 5:11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
I think about this because the obvious good news is that the man was healed. Healing is a great thing. However, rather than focus on that overarching happy event, it became a question of whether or not he should be carrying his bed on the Sabbath.
I find it interesting that Jesus was making a very strong statement. He obviously knew it was the Sabbath, and He would’ve known that in Jewish culture it was considered to be a sin to carry any type of a burden on the Sabbath.
However, He would have also known that the Sabbath, while entirely Biblical and important as a direct commandment from God, had become entirely legalistic in Jewish culture. The Shabbat Laws are actually really interesting to read about, and they seem to be based upon how to understand the prohibition on “work.” Because of the different understandings of what “work” meant, a system of laws was developed to outline what was permissible activity on the Sabbath.
On one hand, I admire the effort. I think that we all should do whatever we can to try to follow what God has for us. God said not to “work” on the Sabbath, so it does make sense to try to understand what that means so that we can conform to what God has for us. However, what seems to have resulted was a system of man-made laws on top of the baseline commandment from God, and based on the complexity of that law, no one would be able to follow it perfectly I have a feeling.
What then would Jesus perhaps be talking about here? Maybe this is what happens when we try to impose our own guidelines on top of what the Bible has taught us. Maybe Jesus is saying that keeping the Sabbath is good, but maybe our human structure of how to go about doing that was not quite perfect. After all, Jesus would not command this man to sin, so if the law understood this as a sin, and then it was a human error rather than one on the part of Jesus.
Maybe then we need to think about our own lives. Maybe, like this man, we need to be more concerned about following what Jesus tells us to do than putting our own system in place.
I am enjoying reading the gospel of John particularly this time because the relationship between Jesus and His disciples seems to be coming out more strongly to me. Here in John 4, the disciples are concerned that Jesus was not eating, and rather than answer obviously, He created a teachable moment.
Joh 4:31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
Joh 4:32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
Joh 4:33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
Joh 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Jesus was obviously human. He needed to eat. However, He was making a more important point here. Jesus had just interacted with a Samaritan woman, and she went back into the city and told everyone to come and see Jesus. Jesus had a choice. He could sit down and have dinner, or He could preach to these people who had come to listen to Him.
Therefore, Jesus pointed out that there was something more important in His life than physical sustenance. He needed to consume actual food like we do. However, when it was time to preach the gospel, it had to be done. His sustenance was based upon doing what God the father had in His perfect will.
I then think about this for all of us. Just like Jesus, we do need to physically eat, but that is not what ought to drive our lives. There are things more important than the here and now. Jesus had an opportunity right here to preach to a large crowd of people, and for all I know, maybe He was incredibly hungry at the time. However, there was a much bigger reason for Him to be on earth. Jesus knew that was what He had to be doing.
John 3:16 is the most popular verse in the Bible I suppose, and that is where I want to focus our attention today along with the surrounding verses.
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Joh 3:18 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.
I know that many people try to make Christianity into one path to God among many. They will argue that we are all climbing up the same mountain, but we are going up different sides. The end result will be the same.
I honestly have no idea how they can come to that conclusion.
First of all, if we look at verse 16, it is clear that believing in Christ will give you eternal life. Therefore, Christianity is at least a path to God. That verse does not show us the exclusivity yet, but it does show us that following Jesus and believing in Him for our salvation will get us to heaven. Verse 17 reinforces that. We are saved through Jesus Christ.
Verse 18 then brings us to the exclusive part. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are condemned already. Therefore, we have a dichotomy here. Either you believe in Jesus Christ and will be saved, or you do not and are condemned.
Now, I haven’t done anything yet to show you why you should believe in Jesus instead of all other gods, but I hope I have at least challenged you to think about how Christianity rises or falls on its own. The Christian cannot support the idea that many paths will bring us to one God. As we will see later in John, Jesus is the Way.
I find it very interesting that in John 2, it seems as if Mary is expecting Jesus to do something miraculous even though He had hardly begun His ministry.
Joh 2:3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
Joh 2:4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
Joh 2:5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
I first of all find it interesting that Mary came to Jesus. She didn’t ask Him to go buy more wine; she simply outlined the situation. Jesus asks her what she wants from Him, but Mary does not really give Him an answer. She simply tells the servants to do whatever He says.
Jesus was not the host of the wedding. It was not His responsibility to provide for all the guests, but Mary came to Him. We don’t really know why, but simply by the fact that she did come to Jesus, she was expecting something. Since it doesn’t seem like he would be the natural choice in this situation, there must’ve been some type of special circumstance that brought Mary to her Son.
I’m not sure I have an answer for you, and I don’t want to fall into speculation, but I was thinking about Mary, and I was thinking about how we sometimes come to Jesus when it doesn’t seem to be the natural choice. There are times where we feel like we can handle everything ourselves, but we end up needing Jesus because we can’t do it on our own. For some reason, Mary did not go to the host, but she came to Jesus seemingly because He was who He was.
There are problems that only Jesus can solve, and what Mary, we need to come to Him and tell Him what we need. It is a relationship, so we need to keep that dialogue open.
There are many people who will argue that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This was brought out mainly by Carl Sagan, and the main point is that for something extraordinary like a miracle for example, the evidence needs to be substantial.
John 1 brings us to the reaction of Nathanael.
Joh 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
Joh 1:48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
Joh 1:49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Joh 1:50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
Nathanael had been skeptical at first. He did not believe anything good could come out of Nazareth, but Philip invited him to come and meet Jesus for himself. The claim was pretty extraordinary. We have found the Messiah that has been prophesied for many years.
Nathanael did not specify that he wanted an overwhelming amount of evidence, but he did not believe immediately. He wanted to experience Jesus himself, and all it took was a very simple miracle. Even Jesus points out that there were a lot greater things coming down the road, but this was apparently enough for Nathanael to believe.
I think about this then in the context of extraordinary evidence. For Nathanael, Jesus knew something that He had no place in knowing. He was too far away to have seen the conversation under the fig tree. How could He do that? There was no real reason for it. However, it happened, so there needed to be some type of explanation.
I often times think about this in the context of extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Extraordinary claims still need explanations. Nathanael ran into that. He could have said that maybe there was a network of people watching Philip speak to him under the tree, and they relayed the message back to Jesus very quickly so that He could give the appearance of divine power. He could have thought that the entire thing was a lucky guess. After all, fig trees were rather common.
However, apparently those thoughts did not enter Nathanael’s mind. The evidence made sense one way, so even though it seemed rather extraordinary, of the possible explanations, there was only one that made sense.
People who demand extraordinary evidence often times do not need anything extraordinary. They simply need something that makes an explanation more possible than any other explanation. It is a question of more evidence rather than particularly extraordinary evidence. Eventually, the cumulative case becomes so heavy that the balance needs to turn.