Monthly Archives: April 2015
In John 15, Jesus provides the imagery of Himself being the vine and the rest of us as the branches.
Joh 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
I don’t know how comforting this is. I think that we have this internal desire to want to go it on our own. We want to be independent, and we want to be self-sufficient, but here is Jesus Christ telling us that we cannot do anything outside of Him. In context, we are talking about a bearing fruit as a follower of Christ, so we certainly can do evil without Christ, but if we want to see these positive fruits coming out of our lives and in to places in the lives of people around us, then Jesus is telling us that it needs to come from Him.
I sometimes think that we want Christianity on our own terms. We want to do what we want to do; we want to see fruit when we want to see fruit. We need to abide in Christ. Like a branch draws life from the vine, we need to draw our life from Jesus Christ. We cannot draw that life from ourselves; it needs to come from someone beyond us.
I still like the idea of independence. I still like the idea of wanting to the master of my own fate at times, but that is not what we are called to do. We depend on Christ for everything, and without Him, we can really do nothing.
We live in a world of tolerance, and it seems to me that people are becoming less and less comfortable with affirming that certain views might be wrong. For Christians, this unpopular view comes with the territory. If Christianity is right, then if we take John 14 seriously, then other worldviews are wrong.
Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
There are two possibilities here. Jesus is right, or Jesus is wrong. If Jesus is wrong, then Christianity is wrong. After all, it would be hard to sustain the belief that Jesus Christ is the perfect son of God if he was indeed not perfect. Therefore, in that perspective, Christianity would be wrong.
If Jesus is right, then a lot of other worldviews are bound to be wrong here. Jesus did not say He was one possible way. He explicitly says that no one is getting to God without Him. As a result, does the cycle of reincarnation and the positive acquisition of karma get you to God? Isn’t that just another path up the same mountain? If Jesus is right, then that simply is not true.
I think that this tells us something about the world today. We’re uncomfortable with commitment. We like to make decisions that have no potential consequences. Choosing a worldview is a decision that has consequences. If Christianity is right, there are implications that go along with that. The same applies to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism or any other belief system. They all make claims about the nature of reality as well as what we need to do. They all cannot be simultaneously true because some of those claims directly contradict each other. Don’t get me wrong, there are some moral values that overlap between the various religions. I’m not denying that, but I am saying that there are also substantial differences. We cannot broadbrush and simply say that all religions are the same. That would be blatantly false.
Therefore, we have to make a choice. If Jesus right, or is Jesus wrong? Is Jesus the only possible way to God?
John 13 really draws out the humility of Jesus Christ.
Joh 13:4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
Joh 13:5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
Jesus did what the servant would normally do. In an age and location where sandals were the preferred footwear, it is obvious that people would need this kind of washing. However, Jesus, the master, did what would be performed by the servant.
Later on in the passage, and Jesus expands on that point.
Joh 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
Joh 13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
Joh 13:16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
Joh 13:17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Humility was to become a hallmark of the Christian community. If Jesus, the undisputed master, was willing to do this for His disciples, how much more should the disciples be willing to serve each other or by extension other Christians as a community of peers?
Of course, pride is a powerful thing. We don’t like to lower ourselves before other people, but that is what we are called to do. Jesus demonstrated that, and we ought to do that for each other. I know that foot washing is not nearly as popular now as it was in Jesus’ time, but that we need to take away here is definitely the lesson and apply it in our everyday lives.
I find it interesting in John 12 the people wanted proof of what Jesus had done. I think that we can sometimes put on chronological snobbery and assume that people in the past were incredibly gullible and willing to believe anything. However, I wrote about that two days ago, so I’m not going back there again other than to point out verse nine.
Rather, I want to focus today on the disciples regarding Palm Sunday. It stands out to me that John reports the fact that the disciples did not recognize the fulfillment of prophecy until later on. As they were experiencing the events that were going on, they apparently did not put the pieces together.
Joh 12:12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
Joh 12:13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Joh 12:14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,
Joh 12:15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.
Joh 12:16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
I think that it shows us something about the value of memorizing Scripture as well as the value of reflection. The disciples clearly put the pieces together because they knew the prophecy. If they did not know the Bible, they would not have been able to figure that out. The obvious implication for us is that we need to know our Bible as well or we might miss something important.
Secondly, the disciples remembered this later. They were clearly thinking about their experience with Jesus, and they were then able to put together the Bible and the event. Do we actually consider our past and then reflect on where God is at work? Maybe we don’t have specific prophecies that relate to our individual lives like this one about Jesus’ life, but we do have things like the fruit of the Spirit. As we grow nearer to Christ, these qualities should become more evident. How are we doing? Are we growing? Are there things that we could be improving on?
The disciples were clearly human, and they were not perfect by any means, but I do think we can learn from their example.
Reading about the priests in John 11 makes me think about many people in the world today.
Joh 11:47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
Joh 11:48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
Joh 11:49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,
Joh 11:50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.
Caiaphas seems that made a rather wise decision on the surface (please read to the end until you leave me bad comments about how I could possibly say this). After all, in most situations, it does seem to be smart to stop someone who was deviating from Judaism. There had been other situations in the history of the Israel were following God had been challenged and the leadership had to step up and not allow the people to go off in the wrong path. I think about even Moses in the wilderness. Calling for death seems to be too far, but I can at least identify with why he felt the need to protect the people of Israel from a guy who was not only challenging religious authority but also potentially causing problems with Rome. Leadership does have to make decisions at times.
However, the problem is that the priests entirely miscalculated in this particular situation. They missed out on the fulfillment of all of their own prophecies. They missed that Jesus Christ was the one who was crushing the head of the serpent. Jesus Christ was there to change everything, but He was not the problem that the people identified Him as. Judaism did not need to be protected from Jesus.
People today are no different. They might not want to change their lifestyles, and they miss out entirely on the fact that Jesus calls for a radical change. We are not perfectly fine as we are. As much as the priests were missing the Messiah, people today are missing the Savior.
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.