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John7(1)

July 9th, 2018
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 We will be trying to answer an important question In John7.

We will see two types of unbelief displayed in John7. First we will see the unbelief of Jesus’ brothers. Then we will see the unbelief of the Jewish Temple leaders and those they influence.

While they on the surface take a very different form, there is a common source of their unbelief.

So the question we are trying to answer is what is the common source of unbelief they share?

This will help us understand what is true belief. Please read John7:1-52

Lets start today’s message.

John7:5

5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

John intentionally shocks us by telling us that Jesus’ brothers do not believe in him. And he shocks us even more by telling us what their unbelief looks like.

This is James and Joseph and Simon and Judas (not Iscariot), mentioned in

Matthew 13:55

‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?

His brother James would be one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and would write one of the books of the New Testament.

The apostle John knows all this. He knows James became a great believer and leader in the church. So he knows this is shocking.

But John is not aiming merely to shock. He is aiming to teach about unbelief.

Yet James’ and his brothers’ unbelief still has a certain kind of excitement about Jesus’ miracles.

They have seen some of them, and they want other people to see them as well.

John7:3-4

3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’

Notice carefully the connection between their unbelief in verse 5 and their excitement in verses 3–4:

And why did they want Jesus to seek to be known openly and show himself as a miracle worker to the world?

Verse 5: “Because not even his brothers believed in him.”

If it had said, “We don’t think you can do these miracles; we think it’s all smoke and mirrors; we don’t want to be associated with you; we are embarrassed by what you are doing” — if they had said that, we would understand if Jesus said that they said it because they don’t believe.

But they believe in his miracles. They believe he can do these things. They are amazed. They love it, and they want him to make an appearance in Jerusalem to win more amazed followers. And Jesus says that this comes from unbelief.

So that’s one kind of unbelief in this text.

The other kind on the surface seems to be almost the opposite.

The Jewish Temple leaders in Jerusalem are not excited by Jesus’ miracles. They are threatened by them, and want to see him dead.

1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him.

So this is the second kind of unbelief — very different from the unbelief of the brothers. Or is it?

They certainly look different. One is excited about his miracle working and wants it to be more public. The other is threatened by his miracles and wants them stopped, even it means killing Jesus.

We immediately recognize the second response as unbelief. But Jesus wants us to see his brother’s kind of excitement as unbelief as well.

How are they both unbelief? What is the common cause?

Why does it matter?

The short answer is that believing on Jesus is how we receive eternal life. So we want to have true belief.

We must always remember what John’s purpose was in writing his gospel.

John20:31

 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

So it matters.

Knowing what unbelief is, and knowing what belief is, is a matter of eternal life and death.

So lets go back to our question: How are these two responses to Jesus both unbelief — the excitement of the brothers that Jesus is doing miracles, and the anger of the Temple leaders that Jesus is doing miracles on the Sabbath?

Is there a common source for these two unbelieving responses that will help us spot unbelief in our own lives?

Today we will focus on the brothers unbelief.

Here are four pointers to the nature of his brothers’ unbelief.

Read more…

Message for the Day

John6(4)

July 4th, 2018
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The sixth chapter of John’s Gospel begins with 5,000 men following Jesus. And it ends many of his disciples leaving him. The resistance to Jesus in this chapter gets stronger and stronger, until a large many abandon him. So it looks like resistance is winning. It looks like failure.

So what’s the point of the chapter?

Whenever it appears that resistance to Jesus is winning in this world, the people of God need a very clear vision of God’s control over all things, including resistance to Jesus.

When it seems to be in our life that Jesus is not winning, whenever it seems as though he’s not triumphing over our enemy, just at that point and at that time, we need a clear vision of God’s rule over us and all the realities of our life.

And this becomes particular true in the violent persecution of Christians happening right now in the world. And for the increased hostility to the Christian voice in our increasingly secular nations.

There is a question from today’s message: why does Judas plays such a prominent role at the end?

Judas hasn’t done anything in this chapter. He doesn’t say anything or do anything. But John brings him up in verse 64, and Jesus brings him up in verse 70. They don’t have to mention him. Why do they?

How does this help us to see God’s control over all events?

To answer these questions, let’s go back now and walk through the text (verses 52–71). Let’s see the magnificent offer Jesus was making, and how the unbelief and resistance grew stronger and stronger.

We will see how, with that increasing resistance, Jesus made clearer and clearer that God was in charge working out his purpose.

John 6:52-71

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’

Again they are taking him literally on the physical level. Notice the increased intensity in their reaction to Jesus.

So it would sound like someone saying you must become cannibals.

One of the biggest reasons the church was persecuted by the Romans revolved around their belief that Christians belonged to the most immoral cult in existence!

A major reason the church was labeled immoral: Christians spoke of “drinking the blood of Christ” and “eating the body of Christ.” Knowing that the Christians’ Christ was (at one time) a baby, Rome wrongly assumed that Christians were also cannibalizing infants.

This misrepresentation illustrates the the danger of rumours and assuming you know what someone’s believes and practices. A little bit of information gets expanded into confirming our fears and prejudices. This can happen to any religious group or belief.

And Christians can be as guilty of this as anyone. We can do it to Muslims for example. Or to Jews as German Christians did.

That in itself is a lesson for us to not jump on bandwagons of hate or fear.

53 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

In other words, feeding on Jesus is the way we have eternal life.

Verses 55 and 56 give two reasons for this.

55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

Real food and true drink mean that the food and drink we ordinarily take into our bodies will not give the true life he is talking about. Only Jesus is the kind of food and drink that gives true life, eternal life.

And verse 56 explains why that is: “ 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them”

As we said last week : the taking of another into our bodies gives the idea of indwelling, or becoming part of him. This is permanent and lasts throughout our life.

57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

This kind of eating and drinking means that Jesus is in us and we are in him. That is, this eating and drinking is the way we have union with Christ so that his life becomes for our life.

Since Jesus continues in our humanity, this life is his perfectly obedient human life as the faithful human Son of God.

It is a powerful metaphor of the intimacy of our life with Jesus. We have a new identity which cannot be separated from Jesus. Just as Jesus’ identity could not be separated from his Father.

There is no eternal life except in union with Jesus. We of ourselves will perish no matter how good we try to live.

I was listening to a devout Bangladeshi Muslim in Lakemba describing his observance of Ramadan. It was an impressive description of self control and seeking to live a way of life pleasing to God.

And I couldn’t but think of Colossians 2 and its warnings about a lot of religious behaviour – whether Jewish or pagan – and in particular these words:

Colossians 2:20-23

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’?
22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.
23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

But that is not the Christian emphasis. We are receiving the fullness of Christ. It is the Father’s gift to us.

What does eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking the blood of Jesus mean? This was incredibly offensive language. As we have already noted it sounded like cannibalism.

Notice the very close parallel between verse 40 and verse 54.

Verse 54: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Verse 40: “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The offer is this: Anyone may have eternal life if they will receive Jesus and trust in Jesus and treasure Jesus and be satisfied with all that God is for them in Jesus.

And we can be more specific about how Jesus gives us eternal life. When he says in verse 51, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” he is referring to giving his flesh as a sacrifice for the world.
In other words, he is pointing forward to the cross.

Receive him as one who gives his life for you.

Eternal life is possible for sinners like us is not only because we receive Jesus. It is because the Jesus we receive suffered in his flesh and shed his blood. Why? So that our sins could be blotted out because Jesus took our place. We receive him as our perfect substitution.

This we professed at our baptism. We died and were buried with him, but also we rose with him into his resurrected life.

John 6:58-59

58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.’ 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

The religion of Israel could only serve them in this physical life. It requires the gift from heaven to actually share in heavenly realities.

Now the resistance to this truth increases throughout the chapter.

In verse 41, they are grumbling because of what he said. In verse 52, they are disputing and questioning.

In verse 60, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

In verse 64, Jesus says, “There are some of you who do not believe.”

In verse 66, it says, “Many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”

And in verse 70, one of the inner circle is a devil.

It looks as though God calls to faith in his Son, and man says no and walks away. So humans seem to be able to frustrate God’s purposes.

On the surface it looks as if the devil is winning.

No. That is not the way it is. And John makes it clearer and clearer as the resistance rises, that the resistance itself is in God’s hands. He can overcome it any time he chooses. The devil is not in charge. And humans are not in charge. God is in charge.

Lets go back to John 6:44

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

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Message for the Day

John6(3)

June 26th, 2018
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Jesus is teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum (verse 59), and the resistance to his teaching is increasing. The more he reveals who he is, the angrier the leadership of the temple becomes.

John6:41-51

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ 42 They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven”?’

Instead of getting more and more clarity and more and more agreement, Jesus is getting more and more resistance. This resistance in verse 41 is called grumbling.

That was a common attitude during the events associated with the Exodus and afterwards. Things are not making sense to their natural way of seeing things.

And the content of their grumbling is that what he says about himself doesn’t fit with what they think they know about him. “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” In other words, he can’t be from heaven, because he’s from earth. We know his parents.

So the words of Jesus about himself collide with human perceptions and human reasonings about what is possible. “You can’t be from heaven, because our eyes and ears and minds tell us you are from earth.” And so they resist what Jesus says.

We can subtly do that too. The full implication of who Jesus is amd what is means for our relationship with God can be diluted into a more culturally acceptable form.

Jesus becomes the free enterprise champion of capitalism and thus success is the message of the gospel in countries like the US.

In leftist social justice movements he becomes the militant resistance to the conservative forces. We saw that in Latin America.

In Empires he becomes the Monarch who creates a hierarchical order underneath him which is God’s order. We saw that in the Holy Roman Empire and other European Empires with the divine right of Kings.

But Jesus cannot be used and fitted into our earthly worldviews.

And throughout the book of John, he refuses to submit to the expected ideas about the Messiah because he was from heaven and no one counsels God.

43 ‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered.

Jesus knows what is going on around him.

Now skip down to verse 47. Here he reaffirms what has made them grumble in the first place. But he adds one more statement that raises the loudness of their grumbling to the point of disputing or, literally, almost fighting

John6:47-51

47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.

So far there is nothing new. But then in the last part of verse 51, he says, This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’

We will save this for another sermon. But you can see that now he is talking about his flesh (which he hasn’t done until this point), and he says he will “give” his flesh — indicating his sacrificial death. They are being led into deep waters.

Read more…

Message for the Day ,